A visit to Santa’s workshop is a dream come true for many kids, including my own. Making a trip to the North Pole, though, is too far for most families. Luckily there’s a portal to Santa’s workshop in Flagstaff, Arizona. It’s called the North Pole Experience and is one of the best holiday things to do with kids!
My family has visited the North Pole Experience a couple of times. I am happy to share my experience with you along with some tips for visiting the North Pole Experience. Read on for an idea of what to expect during your visit to Santa’s workshop and a few more things to do with kids near Flagstaff.
North Pole Experience
The North Pole Experience begins at the Little America Hotel, where the launch station for Santa’s magical trolleys is located. Naturally, an elf drives the trolley through the magic portal to Santa’s workshop. The ride itself only takes about 10 minutes and is kept festive with stories from the elves on board. Once you arrive at Santa’s workshop, there are many things for kids to do inside.
I was impressed with the North Pole Experience from start to finish. Even Santa’s front door is magnificent! The tour is well orchestrated and starts with a stop at the Toy Hall of Fame. Take a peek at Santa’s original workshop, where the children get to help the elves make and test toys. From there, you visit the impressive toy sorting and gift wrapping room. It’s definitely eye candy for anyone who appreciates festively wrapped packages.
The next stop is Santa’s bakery for hot cocoa and cookies before heading to a class at Elf University (EU). EU was the most unexpected stop on the tour but really quite fun! Check out the video below for a peek at our experience at EU.
After EU, everyone heads to Santa’s mailroom, where the kids write a letter for Santa. Another unexpected part of the tour was seeing Santa’s impressive sleigh up close in Area 47! It proved to be a nice distraction before we headed to see the big man himself for a private meet-and-greet. I loved that each family met with Santa individually. New for this year, each child with a paid ticket will receive a commemorative teddy bear from Santa. The whole experience lasts about 95 minutes from trolley departure and arrival back at the Little America Hotel.
Tips for Visiting The North Pole Experience
Book As Soon As Possible
Book your North Pole Experience tickets as soon as possible. Popular tour times sell out quickly, especially on weekends. Check their website and facebook page for last minute availability and tour additions.
Consider an Early Tour
I recommend booking an earlier time slot if you have little kids. An 8 p.m. tour would result in a late night for young kids. There’s no need to encourage a meltdown by staying up later than normal. Day tours are almost identical to the evening ones. The only difference is the lack of holiday lights outside of Santa’s workshop. All the real magic happens inside though, so earlier is the way to go with little ones. Tour times start as early as 8 a.m. on weekends.
Bring a Portable Battery Pack
Make sure your camera or phone is fully charged and bring a portable battery back just in case! You will want to capture everything your child experiences during this magical tour.
Santa Photo Included
A family photo with Santa is included in the price of the experience. They hand you the USB drive of the photo as you leave. So don’t worry about taking pictures during the visit to Santa at the end of the tour.
Fully Immersive Experience
Stay at the official hotel, the Little America, for a fully immersive experience. The trolley picks you up and drops you off near the lobby of the hotel. You can even add on breakfast with Santa. Note the special holiday dinner doesn’t include Santa because he’s busy meeting kids at his workshop at that time. In addition, the Little America Hotel features over a million holiday lights on their 500+ acre property.
Strollers Are Allowed
Strollers are allowed on the tour, but must be folded and stored under the trolley during the ride to Santa’s Workshop. I think babywearing might be a better option if you are so inclined.
Things to do with Kids
Besides the North Pole Experience, there are plenty of other fun holiday happenings in Arizona. If you stick around in Northern Arizona, check out the Polar Express in Williams, Arizona for more Santa fun. Northern Arizona has lots of regular things to do with kids too including Bearizona a drive-through wildlife park, also located in Williams. Or spend a day learning to ski or snowboard at Arizona Snow Bowl. During the summer you can hike or ride the ski lift to enjoy the amazing views. If your kids are adventurous, check out the Flagstaff Extreme Adventure Course. They offer a kids course geared toward 7 through 11-year-olds.