Curious shoppers asked the staff why Santa HQ was being constructed by The Oaks Mall elves as early as the first weekend in November. It did seem a bit early to see Christmas decor and candy and gifts put out on the shelves of stores that soon. But in this case, while yes, The Oaks is getting into the spirit nice and early, they wanted to provide families a meeting place with Santa soon enough to get those priceless photo memories in the works for holiday cards and gifts.
Seems legit to me.
It’s no ordinary mall Santa setup, either. HGTV’s Santa HG installation, which appears at 15 locations around the country (so glad they came to Thousand Oaks!), features Santa’s actual workshop where visitors can see the blueprints for toys and an observatory where elves monitor the sleigh’s ride around the world.
There’s a naughty/nice meter that kids can stand in to be scanned, and then immediately added to the appropriate list. Finally, Santa himself is happily sitting on his sleigh waiting to meet with children and have their photo taken together.
But that’s not all! There’s an awesome interactive element to this whole situation: Elf-Ray Vision. It’s an augmented reality app that you download for free (luckily the wifi at the mall is strong enough). Then you point your smartphone camera at an “Elf Trigger” to activate hidden delights: elves making toys, the ceiling of the observatory transforming before your eyes, and more.
Santa HQ opened last weekend in the JC Penney court (near the food court and kids’ play area) and it will be there until Christmas Eve at 6pm. You can bring your 4-legged pet, too, on Wednesdays through December 7 from 5-8pm. Visit ShopTheOaksMall.com for daily posted hours. Visits to the HQ are free, and photo packages for photos with Santa include 11 prints plus a digital download for a fee, plus you can order photo gifts online.
There will be a charity toy drive and special guests throughout the season, so check it out while you are at the mall getting holiday gifts and supplies, or go there just for Santa HQ alone. It’s a lot of fun, and got my big boys into the spirit of Christmas nice and early. I needed no help in that department!