Two years ago, I discovered that we could visit Santa at Bass Pro Shops (at Gurnee Mills Shopping Center), and it changed my life. Not only is their Santa’s wonderland set up great for photos before or after you see Santa, but the staff is very nice and patient with both kids and dogs!
Before I even had a child, I had this tradition of taking my dogs to see Santa every year. That meant finding a mall that had select “Pet Photos with Santa” days, which were few and far between. Once we found out when it was, we ended up waiting in a very long line, with dogs getting increasingly anxious (as well as my husband!). It was just not an overall great experience, just for a cute photo. Once I had a child, we were, waiting in a long line with not only the dogs but also a baby. Not a good time at all.
Now, all that has ended since we found the Santa at Bass Pro, and dogs are welcome inside Bass Pro Shops every day! The employees have been so welcoming each time I’ve taken my dogs there. They come over to pet them and talk to them, it’s a great experience for everyone!
Visiting Santa at Bass Pro Shops
There are a couple of things to take note of before heading to see the big elf for photos. Santa visits are not first come first serve, waiting in line kind of thing like with the mall Santas. You will need to plan ahead a bit and get a free ticket for a particular time to come line up to see Santa. You can just show up and take your chances. If there is no one in line, they will take you. But if there are people in line, you may have to wait a while, and there is no guarantee you will even get to see Santa.
How Bass Pro Shops Santa Pass works:
A certain number of tickets are given out for time slots every 30 minutes during Santa hours. For example, if you get a pass for 3:30 p.m. on Friday, you show up at 3:30 p.m. and get in line. If you are early, they have you wait until 3:30 p.m. As long as you are there before 4:00, you can get in the line. At 4:00 p.m. the new ticket session starts.
On busy days the tickets go fast and sometimes they are out of tickets for the rest of the day and evening by 3 p.m.
We took a risk one time on a Thursday at 6 p.m., thinking there wouldn’t be anyone there. However, it was packed! We didn’t have tickets, so we left, and I picked up a pass the next morning for Friday afternoon. I thought after school on Friday would be prime time, but when we arrived there was hardly anyone there!
Once you get up to see Santa, everyone is very patient, and we have never been rushed. Trying to organize 4 dogs and a child this year took some finagling, but we ended up getting a pretty good picture. They also take multiple photos and let you choose which you want. My friend brought her 4 dogs as well for a photo, and after we had our picture, they allowed us to take a photo with all 8 dogs and my child! Santa was great with both my daughter and my dogs, and he held my 15-year-old terrier very gently.
You are not obligated to purchase their photos. Still, I have to say they are excellent quality and much more reasonably priced than the mall Santa photos. They also allow people to take pictures with their cell phones.
If you have not been to Bass Pro around the holidays, you may want to check them out. In addition to Santa, they also have a bunch of holiday activities and crafts for kids to do. It’s a fun place to walk around, and the decorations are fantastic.
Santa’s Wonderland at Bass Pro Shops
November 16 – December 24
Bass Pro Shops at Gurnee Mills
6112 West Grand Ave., Gurnee, IL 60031
See website for Santa and activities hours.
Find more Christmas events and activities at Christmas in Lake County.