Adventure to Santa opened live at The Parks at Arlington mall this week. Taking the kids to have photos made with Santa Claus just reached a whole new level!
In years past visiting Santa went a little like this: stand in a long line surrounded by impatient children, cram everyone onto Santa’s small lap or around his small chair, then rush to capture a fake smile (if you are lucky) before the kids quickly tell him what they want for Christmas as they are being guided towards the exit for the next family.
This year DreamWorks Animation joined together with General Growth Properties to create an unforgettable journey to the North Pole – a first-of-its kind, interactive, holiday adventure that starts with Shrek, ends with Santa and features a 2,000-square-foot immersive experience to be enjoyed by family members of all ages.
You start your adventure with your own personal elf.
Once your guide opens the door to see Santa, you quickly realize he is gone. An interactive screen turns on that features Shrek and Donkey sharing the good news that there is no need for worry because since Santa has gone home they will take us on a trip to the North Pole to see him instead!
Your family will then move into the second room of the interactive cottage. Going through a secret passage that is for Santa’s helpers only. I was extremely impressed with all the little details. I know I wasn’t able to take it all in and look forward to going back again with the kids to see what I missed!
With each room I felt like we really did venture further than 10 feet. The whole experience will be exciting for little kids. I felt DreamWorks Animation and General Growth Properties did an amazing job at putting a lot of thought and details into making the cottage look like what we could only imagine to be Santa’s workshop or a place for his elves to travel between.
Shrek and Donkey explain that since we are now visiting the North Pole we need a way to get there. Which means designing a sleigh, of course!
Our family gathered into a small room that was filled with little screens so each person could design their own sleigh. We were given options to decorate our sleigh like one of the DreamWorks Animation characters from the movie Shrek: Donkey, Puss in Boots, Fiona, Shrek, Gingerbread Man, etc. We could select colors, fancy pipes and even pick out the holiday words for our license plate.
I enjoyed this part just as much as the kids. It was fun comparing each of our sleighs and seeing how unique each family member’s vision was.
Once all the sleighs were crafted on the screens, everyone moved into the next room. Our elf guide explained to us that all of our ideas were mashed together to create the sleigh we would be riding in.
Each doorway we went through became more elaborate.
Now comes the fun part. The room with the sleigh had a large screen. Have you ever taken the family to a 4D movie/ride at a theme park? This interactive experience was very similar to that, minus the 3D glasses.
We all piled into the sleigh for our ride to the North Pole with our interactive guides: Shrek and Donkey.
On the screen in front of us Shrek and Donkey were flying on the dragon from the movie, Donkey’s wife. There are appearances from the other characters from Shrek, including Fiona. It felt like our sleigh took off with wind blowing in our faces, a slight mist in the air when we went through ice or snow and the visuals and sounds coming from the screen that surrounded us made it even more realistic.
We flew through the sky, all the way to the North Pole where the elves reported everything being iced over from a snow storm causing our landing to be a little slippery. Which made things even more fun and exciting for the kids.
After landing at the North Pole we exited through another door to see Santa in his office. The office looked like a library and was the most detailed room of all. The wall behind Santa was filled with books like a library. His chair was massive and there was enough space for kids to sit on both sides of him as well as adults to stand behind. We easily fit all five of us in the photo and had room for more.
We didn’t take photos of Santa’s secret room. I thought I would leave that part as a surprise to those that plan to visit the attraction in Arlington. After our visit with Santa was complete our elf guide worked a little magic and took us through a door back to the mall, home from our visit to the North Pole.
One of my favorite features is the reservation process. Instead of standing in a long line to see Santa this year, you can make a reservation online on the mall’s website.
Full Disclosure: My family was invited to a special press preview of the Adventure to Santa experience. We received a complimentary photo with Santa Claus of our family. All opinions are 100% mine. I recommend the fun and FREE adventure for your family. The rooms are small but are handicap accessible. PLUS Santa looked real and genuine.
Does your family take photos with Santa Claus each year?