Seattle's Child

Your guide to a kid-friendly city

Picture This! Unique Holiday Photos

Make new friends, but keep the old! Traditional Santa photos are a family favorite, for good reasons. St. Nick will always be our go-to guy, but there are other fun holiday photo ideas to consider. Whether you want to add something new to the photo album or take a break from long Santa lines, start a new tradition by visiting Frosty, Rudolph or other holiday friends.

One-of-a-kind holiday photo opportunities are available throughout the Puget Sound area from Bellingham to Tacoma. While the Grinch and Frosty are household names, others have a uniquely Northwest flavor. At this year's 20th annual Clam Lights, Ivar's Santa Clam will charm families with its crustacean-like glory. Swansons Nursery in Ballard, a local institution for 89 years, hosts their 12th annual Reindeer Festival, where families can meet real-life reindeers Dasher and Blitzen along with Curley the camel.


The more formal, sit-on-the-lap atmosphere of Santa visits can intimidate some youngsters. Sometimes a nontraditional approach is more appealing.

"Last year's reaction to Santa was shock and horror!" laughs Duvall resident Jacquie Perez, who took her newborn for his first Santa Claus photo last year. "He cried through the whole thing. We'll try something new this year and see how it goes."

Now in its third year, Bothell's "Fun with Frosty" event is a huge hit with wee ones. Frosty participates in events – such as the Winter Crafts area – before circulating for free photos. Hippity Hop the rabbit also appears as part of the scheduled magic show.

The relaxed vibe of creative photo events is also sometimes more inclusive of the entire family, including pets. Bellingham's Village Books is hosting its seventh annual "Share a Grin with the Grinch" where two-legged and four-legged friends are welcome.

The Grinch set is a snowy, Whoville scene complete with a gigantic red sled, oversized presents and plenty of props for posing: elf hats, ski goggles and antlers.

"I try to offer a variety of different poses – smiles, sad or goofy faces – and my favorite is the out-of-control sled where we have people throwing artificial snow and acting a bit nutty!" says photographer Tim Chandonnet.


Unlike most department store or shopping-mall Santas, many grassroots photo events are frequently more affordable and offer additional activities and community-service opportunities. Village Books' "Grinchmas" celebration includes donations to the Giving Tree program; for every two Dr. Seuss books purchased, one is donated to a child in need.

Alternative photo options are becoming so popular that Woodland Park Zoo is expanding their 2013 holiday programming. During Wildlights, the zoo is illuminated with 575,000 twinkling lights, and holiday mascots – a Humboldt Penguin and Asian Otter – provide hugs and photo opportunities. For the first time ever, the zoo is offering professional photos during select evenings of Wildlights 2013. Three backdrops will be available and photos can be picked up the same night.

The photo is a memorable keepsake, but visits to local sites can also be learning opportunities. Woodland Park zookeepers offer weekend raptor talks. Mr. and Mrs. Claus visit Tacoma's LeMay Car Museum, where families can explore automobile history. See Seattle Aquarium's Diving Santa and learn about Puget Sound water life from naturalists. At the Museum of Flight, Mr. and Mrs. Claus offer kids the opportunity to learn about aviation. The Claus couple leave their sleigh at the North Pole and land at Boeing Field via a de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver propeller plane. This year, Casper Babypants will perform a family-friendly concert.


Cruising with Santa

Where: LeMay America's Car Museum, 2702 E. D St., Tacoma

When: Dec. 14-15 and Dec. 21-22, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Cost: Photos are free with personal camera; admission is required.

Details: The second-annual visit with Mr. and Mrs. Claus is held in a vintage 1906 Cadillac. Santa provides children with gifts: slot car tickets to play in LeMay's Speed Zone.


Diving Santa

Where: Seattle Aquarium, 1483 Alaskan Way, Seattle

When: Nov. 30 through Dec. 1; Dec. 7-8; Dec.14-15; Dec. 21-22; all appearances at noon to 12:40 p.m. and 3 to 3:40 p.m. Timong is approximately a 10-minute greeting and 30 minutes for pictures.

Cost: Photos are free with personal camera; admission is required.

Details: The third-annual Diving Santa takes place in the Window on Washington Waters exhibit, a 120,000-gallon, 20×40-foot tank filled with over 800 forms of water wildlife. Diving Santa swims close to the window for photos while another diver showcases the exhibit. Snowflake lights are projected around the tank and live music is scheduled.


Fun with Frosty

Where: Country Village Shops, 23718 Bothell-Everett Hwy., Bothell

When: Dec. 21-22. Frosty participates in scheduled activities from noon to 3 p.m. Those include: a magic show at noon; Fun & Games on the main stage at 1 p.m.; Winter Craft Projects at Village Bean at 2:00 p.m. Frosty is available for photos after 3 p.m.

Cost: Photos are free with personal camera.

Details: Hippity Hop the Rabbit assists with the magic show and is available for photos prior to noon. Additionally, there is a "Cookies with Mrs. Claus" event at Sankara Imports Dec. 14-15, noon to 3 p.m. Mrs. Claus reads stories and serves freshly-baked cookies. Photos are free with personal camera.


Santa Clam

Where: Multiple Ivar's Locations

When: Santa Clam appears on opening the night, Dec. 6, of the 20th annual Ivar's Clam Lights at Gene Coulon Memorial Beach Park, 1201 Lake Washington Blvd. N.

Santa Clam also makes multiple appearances at Ivar's Acres of Clams, Pier 54, 1001 Alaskan Way, on Dec. 7, 14 and 21, noon to 3 p.m. Check the website for additional community appearances.

Cost: Free. Ivar's provides an on-site photographer and photos are available for digital download. Personal snapshots are also welcomed.

Details: A uniquely Northwest tradition, Ivar's Dancing Clam puts on its festive best for the holidays. Santa Clam appears at the Official Lighting Ceremony for the 20th annual Clam Lights at Gene Coulon Memorial Beach Park. Free treats and music start at 6:15 p.m. The Rainier Yacht Club Parade of Boats launches at 7:30 p.m.


Reindeer Festival

Where: Swansons Nursery, 9701 15th Ave. N.W., Ballard

When: Dasher, Blitzen and Curley and the Camel are available for personal photos during regular business hours now through Dec. 24. Special photo opportunities are available, with a third reindeer named Jingle, Nov. 30 through Dec. 1, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Cost: Free with personal camera.

Details: For staged photo opportunities, families pose in a vintage sleigh next to reindeer. The reindeer visit from Eastern Washington. In addition to photos, learn about reindeer from handlers – why do they have hair rather than fur and why do their feet click when they walk?


Santa's Landing Party

Where: Museum of Flight, 9404 East Marginal Way S., Seattle

When: Dec. 14, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; plane arrives at 10 a.m.

Cost: Outside during plane landing, photos are free with personal camera. Inside with museum admission, photos with Mr. and Mrs. Claus are free; personal camera is required.

Details: Mr. and Mrs. Claus arrive on a de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver propeller plane while the Boeing Band plays holiday music. Inside, Casper Babypants (musician Chris Ballew of band The Presidents of the United States) will perform a family-friendly concert at 10:30 a.m. Family workshops, such as Santa's Sleigh, happen from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.


Share a Grin with the Grinch

Where: Village Books, 1200 11th St., Bellingham

When: Nov. 29-30, 3 to 8 p.m.; Dec. 7-8, noon to 5 p.m.; Dec. 14-15, noon to 5 p.m.

Cost: $10

Details: No reservations required and pets are welcome. Village Books also hosts the Grinch Community Cares project encouraging good deeds. Obtain a card with suggested ideas, complete it and earn a special gift. Also, for every two Dr. Seuss books purchased, one is donated to the Giving Tree program to help children in need.


Snowflake Lane

Where: Along Bellevue Way between N.E. 8th Street and N.E. 6th Street

When: Snowflake Lane characters are available nightly Nov. 29 through Dec. 24, approximately 6:45 to 7:20 p.m.

Cost: Photos are free with personal camera.

Details: Snowflake Lane festivities – drum lines, Jingle Belle dancers, stilt walkers, artificial snow – officially begin at 7 p.m. nightly, but arrive early to meet holiday characters who appear at 6:45 p.m. This year's roster includes dancing polar bears, penguins and holiday fairies. The Holiday Princess Court, located north of the Cheesecake Factory, celebrates its second year. Three sparkling princesses and a winter wonderland backdrop are perfect to capture the magic of the season.


Wildlights with Holiday Animals

Where: Woodland Park Zoo, 601 N. 59th St., Green Lake

When: Wildlights' holiday penguin and otter appear Nov. 29 through Jan. 4, nightly from 5:30 to 8 p.m. On-site photographers will take professional photos at designated locations on certain evenings. Check the website for specific dates.

Cost: Mascot photos are free with personal cameras. Prices vary for professional photo packages by Kaman's Art Shoppes.

Details: Enter Wildlights' photo contest to win prizes. Submit photos via social media – Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – to #WPZWildlights. Wildlights also hosts strolling carolers, visiting reindeer, treats, holiday story times and more. Parking is free this year at the zoo's north, inner north and northwest lots.


About the Author

Deanna Duff