UPDATED 2019: While this post is from 2017, Santa is still recruiting elves at Santa’s Flight Academy at the Westfarms Mall. Head over to the mall any day until Christmas Eve to enjoy this awesome experience and get a great picture with the big guy in red! For updated hours, visit Westfarms online.
Well, we finally reached the year where this child isn’t terrified of Santa! Because last year was rough!
I enjoy the obligatory mall Santa visit and photos. Even though you do pay an arm and a leg for them, there is something traditional about it. This year, I decided to try somewhere new, and we headed down to Westfarms last week.
We parked over by Macy’s Men and Furniture. Even though it was 12:30 p.m. on a Thursday, the mall was hopping! It’s that time of year, right? The most wonderful time of the year!
This actually ended up being a great spot to enter the mall since right outside of Macy’s in the center of the mall sat Santa’s Flight Academy.
Each child is invited to join Santa’s Crew at Santa’s Flight Academy. They will each receive a personalized cadet badge, have a chance to be measured and try on a virtual flight suit, learn how to operate the sleigh, and dance under the snowfall. After they receive their training, they finally visit with Santa (and sometimes Mrs. Claus)!
As I mentioned, we arrived just around 12:30 p.m. and unfortunately, we caught Santa on his milk and cookie break. So we took that half hour to grab our own lunch and walk around the mall (well, as much as you can “walk” around the mall with a three year old that doesn’t understand why he has to wait for Santa). My suggestion: don’t go during lunch time!
We also took some photos in front of this huge tree while we waited for Santa too!
By the time we returned around 1 p.m., there was already a little line. It’s a popular event! I have heard that during peak times (weekends especially), there can be a wait. So either plan for that, or go during off hours! You can also save time by going online and making the badge ahead of time (they’ll print it at the mall) or even reserving a slot with Santa so you can skip the line. Since we went on a whim, I had not thought to do either of those things!
The entrance is located on the opposite side of Macy’s.
The first thing you do when you enter Santa’s Flight Academy is make your cadet badge. There is an elf working at this part of the Academy, and she will help you make the badge. The camera is high up, so you’ll have to hold the shorter children! They’ll also ask for a parent’s email address – make sure you provide this – it’s worth it!
The badge is printed and put on a lanyard so your child can wear it throughout the Academy. Make sure you keep it handy since you’ll be using it a lot!
Before you enter Santa’s Flight Academy, you’ll encounter the first place to scan your badge. Make sure you do this! Because if you look up, you’ll see that they put your child’s name on the screen!! (I crossed my boys name out for this post but it appears under the WELCOME sign).
You’ll then head into the Academy where you’ll find tons of fun activities!
Stop and measure your feet and hands, and check your height! You’ll want to make sure your Flight Suit fits just right!
After you have been properly fitted, head over to try on your flight suit! Make sure you scan your badge first; and then smile for the camera!
*The reason I emphasized giving your email address above is because I was surprised when I came home that night and in my inbox was a video of my son trying on his flight suit. It was too stinking adorable!!
Once you have your flight suit on, now you can head to the sleight to learn how it works! You’ll need to be properly trained to help fly the sleigh, navigate the globe and deliver the presents!
Around the corner, you can hear a ELF version of your voice! This was very entertaining for him!
Make sure you check the engines too!
Once you have taken the time to understand all that it takes to run a sleigh, it’s time to go under the dome! Make sure you scan your card first!
When you enter, you’ll see your child’s name on the screen again! I actually missed it as we entered, but he saw it and was very excited!
There are several things going on inside this area, including activities on the walls. But honestly, we did not pay any attention to that since it was SNOWING! Make sure you look up! He had so much fun playing with the “snow”. He made snow angels, blew snow into the air, threw it up in the air, danced in it; he was in heaven! But a word to the wise, that snow is hard to get off your clothes! I spent a lot of time dusting that off his legs especially!
It took some prying but we were able to leave the snow. Right outside, we found a virtual reality experience that everyone is welcome to try out! Both my son and I had our first experience trying out virtual reality! He was very confused by the whole experience! He may have bumped into the wall (and I may have laughed a little more than I should have)!
We finally made it the grand finale! Who do we see!
They ask that you refrain from using your camera to take photos. So make sure you tuck that away.
Before you send your child over to Santa, have them scan their badge one more time. They’ll be surprised when Santa knows their name!
He had a lot of things to tell Santa, including his wish list which includes every single PJ Masks toy in the whole universe, or as far as he is concerned, all the ones that they sell at the Christmas store (aka Christmas Tree Shoppes). We were delighted to see Mrs. Claus there too! Her appearance varies so you may or may not catch her during your visit. We lucked out that day! He liked showing her his badge and playing hide and seek! We managed to get him to finally pay attention to the nice lady taking photos! It took a few tries but we had a few winners!
While he continued to badger Santa for lots of toys, I paid for our photos. They have several different packages available. The prices range from $26 to $52. You can also add on a digital download to any purchase for $10 (the download is not available individually). You can pay with cash or credit card.
Make sure you grab your photos!
We were told by the elf worker at the checkout counter that we could continue to play in the snow (and at the Flight Academy) for as long as he wanted. So we ended up covered in more white fluff. We spent almost an hour between the multiple trips through Santa’s Flight Academy, two visits with Santa and one photo op.
I know that there are a lot of options for taking photos with Santa. Some are free, some cost. I liked Santa’s Flight Academy because it included more than just photos. It was a whole experience, and honestly I would have paid for that alone. There was no charge for visiting Santa’s Flight Academy, including getting the badge. I never felt pressured to buy photos or to buy a fancy package. I thought Santa and Mrs. Claus were a delight, and the elves were all friendly and helpful. I’d suggest going during off hours if you can, to avoid the crowds; and remember to not go during the lunch hour!
This about sums it up…
Monday – Friday: 10 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Saturday: 8 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Sunday: 9 a.m. – 7 p.m.
December 24 – 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Guests must be in line to receive a ticket by 5 p.m. when line closes.
- Strollers can be brought in
- Consider visiting on weekdays during off-peak hours (during the morning or early afternoon) to beat the crowds. Otherwise, expect that you could wait in a line.
- Be mindful of Santa’s breaks (including lunch and dinner)
- Santa’s Flight Academy features a chance to make your own cadet badge, try on a virtual flight suit, play in the snow and visit Santa (no extra cost)
- Cash or charge for photo packages
- Plan ahead and save your spot in line with Santa online, or make your badge ahead of time online
- Free Parking at Mall
- Best entrance is near Macy’s Men’s/Furniture
- Bathrooms available throughout mall