Santa (and his helpers that look just like him) can be found all over Seattle this time of year, and most people will head to the larger department stores in downtown or their local mall. That’s easy. But in doing so, your kids will have to wait in line for, like, forever before they get the chance to chat with him. This can be stressful and burdensome for all involved. So, the trick is to find a Santa off the beaten path where the wait time is minimal and the Santa interaction worthwhile. Here are five of the best non-mall alternatives to try.
Seattle Space Needle
400 Broad St.
Seattle, WA 98109
(206) 905-2100
www.spaceneedle.com

The Santa that hangs out at the Space Needle is a nontraditional one. Instead of a sleigh, he rides around in a space ship and while he sports the traditional red, he wears a space suit. The Space Needle says that he is the “coolest, hippest Santa Seattle has ever seen” and actually may be less intimidating for younger children. Santa hangs out on the O-Deck along with professional photographers that will give you a free digital download of your visit the Mr. Claus. However, a trip up to see him will cost you. Tickets start at $13, but you can order them online and save yourself a lot of time from waiting in line out in the cold. Santa will be around each weekend until Christmas from 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Swansons Nursery
9701 15th Ave. NW
Seattle, WA 98117
(206) 782-2543
www.swansonsnursery.com

Swansons Nursery holds its own Reindeer Festival during December so there is more to do than just meet the Jolly Old Elf. Special guests include Dasher and Blitzen (who also enjoy getting their picture taken, which is a good alternative if Santa is too scary for your little ones) and Curley the camel. Feeding times for all three animals is 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. The Reindeer Festival also includes live music, a model railroad display, a sleigh photo opp, plus lots of Christmas trees and gift ideas. The festival continues through Dec. 24, but Santa will only be around on Saturdays and Sundays and a few select days through Dec. 22, so it would be best to call ahead before your visit. You can also pre-order photos online too.

Molbak’s
13625 N.E. 175th St.
Woodinville, WA 98072
(425) 483-5000
www.molbaks.com

Molbaks’s Santa can be found surrounded by a large group of poinsettias and is happy to pose with you, your children and even your pets for free, but you will need to bring your own camera. The plus side to this is that lines tend to be shorter, but your photos will be taken by you. While there, be sure to pick up a complimentary Danish Kringle and hot beverage. Santa is open for visiting from 2:00 – 5:00 p.m. on Dec. 19 and 20.

Related: 5 Kid-Friendly Holiday Party Activities

Christmas Creek Tree Farm
15515 468th Ave. SE
North Bend, WA 98045
(425) 888-2099
www.yourchristmastree.com

If you haven’t purchased your Christmas tree yet, why not make a day of it? Visit the Christmas Creek Tree Farm on the weekend and see Santa at the same time. Photos are free with a purchase of tree ($5 otherwise) and you need to bring your own camera. The plus side here is that Santa is a bit more relaxed here, at least at certain parts of the day, so he can give your children a lot of personal attention. (You might want to call ahead to see what might be the best time to come.) He’ll be there each weekend until Dec. 20. Cookies and hot beverages are available as well.

Ivar’s Acres Of Clams
1001 Alaskan Way, Pier 54
Seattle, WA 98101
(206) 624 – 6852
www.ivars.com

Okay, he’s not Santa – he’s a clam – but you can get your picture taken with Santa Clam for free on Dec. 19 from noon – 3 p.m. It’s definitely a one-of-a-kind photo opportunity that families with teens will appreciate and just might be a good sport for this kind of family portrait. Plus, through Dec. 31, the Seattle Waterfront is offering up to three hours of free valet parking (through the Lux app) which will make getting through the nearby construction worthwhile.

Related: Best Holiday Lights Shows In Seattle

Jeffrey Totey is a freelance writer living in Seattle. He has a love for the arts and is a student of pop culture. He covers stories about the performing arts, theater, museums, cultural events, movies and more in the greater Seattle area. His work can be found at Examiner.com.