Every child looks forward to whispering their special wishes in the jolly old elf’s ear this time of year, but many of Santa’s appearances can be noisy, crowded and include really long waits in line. So, we rounded up a few great places with special Santas eager to hear those wishes just from kids with special needs and their families. But these events are always popular and spots fill up quickly.
When: Nov. 24, 8-10 a.m
Where: Fashion Outlets of Chicago, 5220 Fashion Outlets Way, Rosemont
Enjoy meeting Santa in a controlled, sensory-friendly environment before the Fashion Outlets of Chicago opens. Tickets must be reserved in advance. Accommodations are made to support all sensory, physical, and developmental needs.
When: Nov. 24, 8-9:30 a.m.
Where: Northbrook Court, 1515 Lake Cook Road, Northbrook
Kids with special needs can visit and take photos with Santa at Northbrook Court. Advance registration required.
When. Nov. 24, 8-9:30 a.m.
Where: Water Tower Place, 835 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago
Water Tower Place is hosting kids with special needs, in partnership with Autism Speaks and Cherry Hill Programs, for time with Santa. 8-9:30 a.m. Advance registration required.
When: Nov. 24, 9-10:30 a.m.
Where: Southlake Mall, 2109 Southlake Mall, Merrillville, Ind.
Kids on the autism spectrum can meet with Santa for a private photo session. Advance tickets required.
When: Nov. 25, 8-9:30 a.m.
Where: Oak Brook Center, 100 Oakbrook Center, Oak Brook
Kids can meet with Santa in a quieter atmosphere before the mall opens to the public. Advance tickets required.
When: Dec. 1, 8 (9-10:30 a.m.)
Where: 122 Hawthorn Center, Vernon Hills
Hawthorn Mall’s Santa will meet with families with special needs before the mall opens to the public in the new “The Elf on the Shelf: Santa’s Magical Photo Adventure” set. Advance registration required.
When: Dec. 1, 8 (8-10 a.m.)
Where: Woodfield Mall, 5 Woodfield Mall, Schaumburg
Kids with special needs, particularly with those with autism, can enjoy meeting a Caring Santa at Woodfield Mall, sponsored by Autism Speaks. Advance registration required.
When: Dec. 4, 3:30-8 p.m.
Where: Wilder Mansion, 211 S. Prospect Ave., Elmhurst
This annual party for children with special needs includes a visit with Santa, cookies, arts and crafts and a Lego room. Every child goes home with a keepsake photograph with Santa and a gift bag.
When: Dec. 2-4, 12 (5-8 p.m.)
Where: Riverwalk at Jackson Avenue and Webster Street, Naperville
Santa’s little house on the Naperville Riverwalk will be occupied by Santa and kids can visit and have their photo taken. Free, photos $8 or two for $15.
When: Dec. 6, 5-8 p.m.
Where: Blackberry Farm, 100 S. Barnes Road, Aurora
Enjoy all the fun of Blackberry Farm’s Holiday Express in a low-sensory environment. No waiting in lines. Instead, guests will experience a setup that’s sensitive to special needs families, with reduced lighting and music. Blackberry Farm is ADA compliant, but the hay wagon is non-handicap accessible. Food and drinks available for purchase.
When: Dec. 7, 1:30-3:30 p.m.
Where: Arlington Heights, Chicago (Lakeview) and Northbrook
Autism Home Support Services invites families to their Chicagoland autism centers for a fun-filled festival. Kids will able to enjoy holiday games, treats, crafts and a special visit from Santa.
When: Dec. 7, 10:30-11:30 a.m.
Where: The Archery Place, 1725 Crescent Lake Drive, Montgomery
Kids with special needs get a unique time with Santa learning basic archery skills. Limited spots available. Parents may be asked to help depending on their child’s needs.
When: Dec. 8, 9-11 a.m.
Where: Chicago Ridge Mall, 444 Chicago Ridge, Chicago Ridge
Santa visits just kids with special needs. Advance tickets required.
When: Dec. 8, 9-10:30 a.m
Where: Northfield Square Mall, 600 N. State Route 50, Bourbonnais
Kids with special needs can have time with Santa. Advance tickets required.
When: Dec. 8, 9:30-11 a.m.
Where: Fox Valley Mall, 195 Fox Valley Center, Aurora
Visit with Santa in a quieter atmosphere set up with kids with special needs in mind.
When: Dec. 8, 7:30-9:30 a.m.
Where: Yorktown Shopping Center, 203 Yorktown Center, Lombard
Enjoy time with Santa. Advance registration required.
When: Dec. 8, 9-11 a.m.
Where: Gurnee Mills, 6170 W. Grand Ave., Gurnee
Kids with special needs will find a Santa who appreciates them in a quieter time at the mall.
When: Dec. 11, 5-8 p.m. (Three time slots)
Where: 220 N Euclid Ave., Oak Park.
Families with sensory issues can spend time with Santa at the Cheney Mansion thanks to the Park District of Oak Park and WSSRA. In addition to activities, there will be cookies and milk. Make sure to bring a camera. Spaces are expected to fill up; register in advance.
When: Dec. 13, 10 a.m.-1 pm. and 4-7 p.m.
Where: Indiana Welcome Center, 7770 Corinne Drive, Hammond, Ind.
Santa is making a special trip for kids with autism or other special needs. He will be positioned off “Santa’s Mountain” for this event. Kids can write letters to Santa, make crafts, enjoy the lighted Christmas trees and the exhibit, “A Christmas Story” Comes Home.”
When: Dec. 14, 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m.
Where: Archer Park, 4901 S. Kilbourn Ave., Chicago
Children with all types of hearing loss will meet and eat with Santa. $5, free 5 and under.
When: Dec. 14, Dec. 15
Where: Romeoville, Chicago
Autism Eats is sponsoring a unique lunch with Santa where all behaviors are accepted. Dec. 14 is 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. at Mistwood Golf Course, 1700 W. Renwick Road, Romeoville, Dec. 15 is noon-3 p.m. at La Villa Restaurant, 3638 N. Pulaski Road, Chicago. $10+.
When: Dec. 21
The annual Autism Family Foundation’s celebration includes a visit with Santa and craft making. Free but advance registration required by Nov. 30.
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