Macy's annual Santaland experience is going virtual, so kids around the world can join the magic.


It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas will be very different this year, including at Macy’s, which is reimagining its Santaland experience from an in-store event to a virtual one.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Macy's has been forced to tweak the popular annual program in which kids line up to meet the big man himself — as they have since 1861 — creating a first-of-its-kind interactive digital experience families can access online. The virtual experience, which starts with a greeting from Santaland’s elves at the North Pole-bound train station, will be available from Nov. 27 through Dec. 24, according to the company.

“At Macy’s, the safety of our customers and colleagues is paramount,” Susan Tercero, Macy’s vice president of branded entertainment, said in a statement, adding that, for many, the tradition “has become a long-standing highlight of the holiday season.”

Santa Claus during the Thanksgiving Day Parade
Credit: Gary Hershorn/Corbis via Getty Images

The new experience — renamed “Santaland at Home” — will bring visitors through Santa’s village and workshop with interactive games placed throughout. At the end of the journey, people will “meet Santa” through an interactive video in which kids are encouraged to share their holiday wish lists and take selfies with Mr. Kringle.

While Macy’s typically draws more than 200,000 annual guests at the company’s flagship location in Herald Square, Tercero said this virtual experience has the potential to “ensure even more families can enjoy this treasured experience safely during this festive time of the year.”

In addition to meeting Santa, Macy’s will translate two more of its signature holiday traditions into online experiences. The company will create a digital version of Dickens' Village from the Macy’s Center City in Philadelphia as well as recreate its Christmas Light Show online, featuring stories from "The Nutcracker" and "Frosty the Snowman."

While Macy’s is going online with its holiday celebrations, some are determined to continue in-person events. The Gaylord Hotels, for example, is looking to welcome visitors with over-the-top, life-size walk-throughs of favorite yuletide movies. And while Disney World has canceled two of its seasonal events (Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party and the Candlelight Processional at Epcot), the theme park will still look to welcome guests with festive decorations and seasonal food and drinks.

Alison Fox is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure. When she’s not in New York City, she likes to spend her time at the beach or exploring new destinations. She hopes to visit every country in the world. Follow her adventures on Instagram.