Disclaimer: I received product and/or services in exchange for sharing my experiences. All opinions are my own.
Fair Oaks Mall has a little bit of flight magic in store for the boys and girls visiting Santa this year, and I got a sneak peek.
I attended a family-friendly influencer event put together by Andrea Khoury of Khoury PR + Media Group and Fair Oaks Mall to check out Santa’s Flight Academy before it opened to the public. The morning started out with a complimentary breakfast at BRIO Tuscan Grille where the boys tucked in to bacon and apple juice and I enjoyed some french toast and got them pre-registered for their visit with Santa. Towards the end of our meal, a special guest made round to each of the tables to introduce himself.
The look on G’s face when I told him someone special was standing behind him was priceless. I managed to capture the end of it.
After we said hello to Santa, we made our way to the mall’s central court. I printed out the boys’ flight crew badges at the Santa’s Flight Academy kiosk, and was blown away that they were actually printed on plastic cards. They boys now have a personalized memento to keep for as long as they want to.
We were guided in groups through the Academy by various Santa’s Helpers. They explained what each activity was and encouraged the kids to participate. For several kids, the card readers were not working properly but it seemed to me it was because we were sliding in cards faster than the computer could think. In an effort to help the children have the best experience possible, the helpers took a little extra time trying to get the card readers to work.
Children use their badges to “enter” the different parts of the Flight Academy. They really loved seeing their names appear on screens before being granted access to the academy. After entering, the kids got fitted for virtual flight suits which they could see themselves in on a big screen.After checking flight maps, the weather, and making sure Santa’s sleigh is ready for flight, kids get some of their wiggles out at a dance party in the 22-foot-tall sleigh. Their names appear here as well, which was a huge appeal in the group I was in. It was quiet enough that our group of kids got to scan their cards twice just to see their names. This might be more difficult during peak visiting times.There were two activities that bothered G because of how loud they were: the weather forecast on the navigation board and the Power Station. Now, once he figured out what the Power Station did, he had a great time seeing how loud of a cheer he could make. But, for kids with sensory issues, I could see these being stressful for them. I was glad to learn Fair Oaks Mall is going to be offering a few Sensory Santa events.
These events will be quieter, with lower lights and sounds. I’d recommend taking your children to one of these if they’re sensory sensitive. Space is limited and each family that attends will receive $10 off their photo package during this special event. Registration can be done here.
Santa really took his time with the kids. L, who has had a fascination with “Ho Ho” for almost a year, was scared to be in his presence. The photographer assured me this wasn’t going to be a problem and as long as I took a step back and didn’t talk, Santa would help L come out of his shell. Santa suggested that G go up and talk with him first and then engaged in a conversation with both boys as L clung to my leg. It wasn’t working as well as we hoped, so just sat L next to Santa and hung off to the side.
The photographer said she could crop me out, but that wasn’t necessary. I was able to back away slowly, but it took a couple tries to get L to simply look up. Everyone was trying to get L to smile, but this picture pretty much sums up the boys and I told the photographer it wasn’t necessary continue trying. She seemed grateful that I was realistic in my expectations.
This definitely beats standing in line to wait your turn to see Santa. My kids usually complain their bored, no matter how long of a wait it is. The activities along the way kept them engaged until it was their turn. The boys have been playing with their crew badges and talking about their experience all weekend. It was definitely the best visit we’ve had with Santa yet!
Santa’s Flight Academy at Fair Oaks Mall will be available November 11 through December 24. I highly encourage visitors to pre-register their children for an entrance badge online before arriving. You can do this via the mall’s website, or through the mobile app available for both Android and iPhone platforms. It was definitely a time saver for us having completed this step at breakfast because it involves taking a picture of you child and personalizing their badge. Pre-registering meant we just needed to print the badge out when we arrived at the kiosk. But if you find yourself at the mall and want to do this on a whim, registration will also be available onsite at Santa’s Flight Academy kiosks.
Click here for $3 OFF a photo package from Santa’s Flight Academy at Fair Oaks Mall!