It's that time of year where you take your kids to visit Santa at the mall. Last year, in Michigan, we went to a really high-class mall where you got an appointment with Santa and had a private audience. That was an awesome experience (they took 6 different photos and we got the rights to all of them plus the prints) and it was so beautiful. When we found out we were moving to South Carolina, I was sad, thinking that we'd have a crappy mall Santa like most of America. It wasn't long after we moved that we decided we'd make two trips to Disney in order to experience the decorations and extra magic. We didn't know until we booked the tickets for Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party, that we realized we'd have an opportunity to get pictures with Santa.
Disney has a very cool photo storage system called Photo Pass. We first came in contact with this in May when we went and you have a card that you hand to all the park photographers (in front of the castle, with characters, etc), so you can all get in the picture and have professional quality shots. This is especially important for me because my camera never takes pictures when I want it to and even then, only a few of us could be in the picture. When you get home, you can view all the pictures online and can either order prints of certain ones or get a CD with all the portraits taken and you have the rights to them, so you can print as many as you want and have them on your computer forever. This is the choice I've chosen both times. The more days you stay, the more you get for your money because you have more opportunities for pictures. I had over 200 pictures on my CD this trip (only about 55 last time). Photo Pass put my mind at ease that we'd get several shots with Santa and that they'd be very high quality.
Initially, we meant for Brady to go up to Santa alone and then we'd come in for pictures after he had a few solo shots. That didn't happen. Unlike last year, Brady was a little freaked out by Santa. He does great with the characters because he sees them every day on TV and in his room. Santa is basically a strange, scary, old man. It still surprised me because he's very friendly with everyone we meet and even went up to an older gentleman in the pool once and played with him. Above you can see how freaked out he was even with Andy holding him too close to Santa.
Santa is probably very used to having screaming children on his lap, so he suggested to Andy that he switch him to his other knee so he was a little further away and that seemed to calm him down a bit. The picture above is great because you can see the lit up castle in the background. We got in line right after the parade, but of course so did everyone else. We were still in line when they dimmed the lights to do the projection show on the castle and I was a little worried we would have a pitch black street behind us and the castle in motion and not lit up. Fortunately, while the people in front of us were on Santa, the lights came back on and there was a 10 minute space between the projection show and the fireworks. We got off Santa just in time for the fireworks to start.
Above and below are the pictures from last year at the Somerset Collection mall in Troy, MI. If you're ever in the area, I strongly suggest you check it out. It is on both sides of the highway (connected by an walkaway over the highway). On side is the super upper-class, and the other side is more normal, but still really, really nice. The bottom picture is the picture on my Capital One card. Everyone loves it when I use it in stores.