Santa HQ by HGTV Is Already Open at The Oaks

Santa HQ at The Oaks

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.

Santa HQ entrance

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.

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Santa HQ Naughty Nice meter

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.

Santa HQ photo opportunity

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 boy playing app

Santa HQ Elf-Ray Vision

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!

Vintage Grocers Open in Westlake Promenade

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Last weekend the new Vintage Grocers market opened at Westlake Promenade where Bristol Farms used to be. The Grand Opening featured a live band, tastings, a ribbon cutting ceremony, and gift bags for the store’s first 500 shoppers.

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Owner Paige Laurie and market director Eric Fuchser cutting the ribbon at Vintage Grocers Westlake Village

(Jonathan Leibson/Getty Images)

This is the latest local new business I’ve gotten to check out and share with you. Market director Eric Fuchser led a group of local media around the store about an hour before it officially opened, and we could tell that there was buzz building because would-be shoppers were trying to enter early!

Vintage Grocers crowd

(Jonathan Leibson/Getty Images)

This is only the second location of Vintage Grocers, the first being at the old Trancas Market site in Malibu. It’s what I like to call “last chance groceries” before heading up to camping at Leo Carillo or Sycamore Canyon, or when we used to accompany my husband when he surfed at County Line. (It’s been a while!) Recently on the way to a camping trip I had to stop at the Malibu store to get peanut butter. And jelly. And bread! What is normally a frugal meal cost way more there, so I was curious to see what prices are like at this new store.

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At first I wasn’t even looking at prices, because the Westlake Vintage Grocers is impressive in its size, spanking brand new-ness, and pretty things to look at every way you turn. There are several fresh food counters including a juice bar, a sushi bar, a hot meal deli and burrito bar, a fresh poke bar, a butcher counter with an impressive spread, an olive bar, a private wine tasting room, and more!

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Private wine-tasting room, with giant TV for watching the game (not shown)

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The market is proud to source their produce, meat, and seafood as locally as possible. In fact, they source many other products from local makers as well, including Malibu honey, bloody mary mix, and even tequila, samples of which were in the most impressive media gift bag I’ve ever received.

vintage grocers gift bag

Unbagging this was fun!

But after the sparkles in my eyes wore off, I did peek at some prices to see how they would compare to my normal grocery store visits. A large tub of greek yogurt: $4.79 (at my usual store, $4.99). A 6-pack of Mike’s hard lemonade: $9.99 (at my usual store, same). There are plenty of things that are much more expensive, but I can survive on those two things, at least if I’m stopping in to get some items on my way out of the Promenade after a movie or a browsing session at the book store.

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The addition of Vintage Grocers to the Westlake Promenade seems like a good one for our community. Not only do they provide a great place to stop in and get anything under the sun, but they also employ about 85 people from the surrounding area. The store carries some unique items, and I look forward to going back for lunch or dinner to try their fresh foods.

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Vintage Grocers is celebrating its grand opening all week long with activities that are open to anyone each day:

Tuesday, October 4 – Mommy & Me (11am – 1pm)
Bring your kids for a complimentary Mommy & Me experience.

Wednesday, October 5 – Farmer’s Market (5pm – 7pm)
Meet our local artisans and enjoy demos and tastings around the store.

Thursday, October 6 – Sports Night (5pm – 7pm)
Enjoy craft beer tasting and our Build Your Own Burrito Bar before the big game. Show your team spirit for a discount.

Friday, October 7 – Date Night (5pm – 7pm)
Bring your significant other to the Wine Room to enjoy the oyster bar, desserts, etc.

Saturday, October 8 – Kids’ Carnival (1pm – 4pm)
Bring the little ones for an all-day event featuring face painting, music and prizes.

Vintage Grocers
7:00 AM – 9:00 PM daily
100 Promenade Way
Thousand Oaks CA 91362

Have you been into the new store? What do you think?

Save With Groupon Coupons

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Did you know that you can search Groupon not just for deals at local retailers or services, but for coupons and discount codes at thousands of retailers? Before you click “Check Out” on that website on Cyber Monday, first search Groupon Coupons for special deals or coupon codes at your favorite store.

For example, Toys R Us. I pretty much make a pilgrimage to this store once a year, and often on Black Friday. I know, seems dangerous, right? But I usually wait until later in the day, call ahead to make sure they have the item in stock that I’m looking for, and then breeze in and out because the crowds have all come and gone.

This year, neither of my kids has a specific toy in mind, but I know they love LEGO’s (who doesn’t?) so a building kit is a sure bet. (And maybe Santa will leave a pair of these foot-protecting slippers under the tree for me:)

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Right now the Groupon Coupon page for Toys R Us lists all the deals that are going on at their website, including a pre-Black Friday sale that Toys R Us Rewards members can access.

Unlike other coupon code websites, the Groupon Coupons site is clean and well-organized and easy to navigate. Make this page a part of your cyber-shopping routine.

Thank you, Groupon, for sponsoring this post!