Find Santa Off The Beaten Path in OC

Posted December 06, 2011 by Brenda Wasnok

There are several wonderful traditions that surround the Christmas season.  Some of my favorites include baking cookies, hanging colorful lights on the house, and of course, going to visit Santa Claus.  I always had my list ready to go and confidently marched up to greet Ol’ Saint Nick.   I tried to remember to ask how Mrs. Claus was doing, and if the elves had a good year as well… didn’t want Santa to think that I had forgotten my manners! 

However, one downside to visiting Santa every year was waiting for a long time in that line at the mall.  I was always a little suspicious of the assistant elves who looked a lot like the girls who worked at Hot Dog on a Stick the week before, and I wasn’t always sure that Santa Claus enjoyed sitting outside of The Gap and Naturalizer when he was accustomed to the charming villages of the North Pole.

There are two beautiful spots in Orange County that have invited Santa Claus to visit this year.  Roger’s Gardens in Corona del Mar is always a treat to visit, and it truly is breathtaking at Christmas.  They have the original Disneyland bandstand gazebo in their gardens, and Santa Claus brings his sleigh and a healthy supply of candy canes to hear every child’s wish for this Christmas season. Visitors take their own pictures with Santa, and I’ve found that while chatting with other guests, they are happy to take one of my daughter and me with Santa, too!  After you have happily passed on your wishes to Santa, don’t forget to stop by the Christmas gallery, where 22 beautiful theme decorated trees and rooms bursting with décor greet visitors of all ages.  Santa Claus visits Roger’s Gardens every Saturday and Sunday in December from 12:00 PM to 6:00 PM.   Santa will NOT be there on Saturday, December 24 since he will be busy in the North Pole.  Roger’s Gardens is located at 2301 San Joaquin Hills Road, and is open daily 9AM to 8PM through December 23.  There is no admission fee to the gardens or to visit Santa Claus.

Another fun place to visit Santa Claus is at Irvine Regional Park located in Orange.  They are presenting the 16th Annual Christmas Train, which will depart from the brightly lit station and drop passengers off at the North Pole.  Children will share their wish list with Santa and have their photo taken with him, either with personal cameras or with the option to purchase a picture taken by the staff.   The Christmas Train will take a magical ride through the beautifully decorated park, including the “Tunnel of Lights” on the way back to the station.  Guests can also enjoy carnival games, stories with Mrs. Claus, cookie decorating, and festive holiday picture backdrops.

Santa will visit the park on December 2-4, 9-11, and 15-23.  The Christmas Train costs $10 per person, and children 2 and under are free.  Parking for Irvine Regional Park is $3 per vehicle on weekdays, and $5 per vehicle on weekends.  Parking for the Christmas Train is free after 5:00 PM.  

Enjoy your visit with Santa, and don't forget to leave a plate of cookies for him on Christmas Eve!

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