Location: The Legends at Village West, approx. 110th and Parallel in Kansas City, Kansas. My Santa Experience is located in a black-front store space (I think it used to be the Kansas Sampler store?) between Harry and David’s and the Game Stop.
Cost: $29.99; I believe this is a per-child price, but you might want to call to make sure. Reservations are required.
Web site: http://mysantaexperience.com/index.htm
Shortly before 4 p.m. this past Saturday, we joined a line of eager parents and children waiting for the free open house at My Santa Experience at the Legends. This would be Peanut’s first Santa experience when he could see–we didn’t realize he had vision problems when we saw Santa last year–and the information I’d found online made it sound like a really neat place. Unfortunately, what we thought would be an open house turned out to be a sales pitch; although all the employees were very nice, and they did help us try to get pictures of Peanut in front of their Christmas trees (and were tolerant when he pulled off a bulb or two!), it was really set up so kids could see what they couldn’t do.
My Santa Experience is a neat idea, but it doesn’t play out well in practice. The biggest thing lacking is space. The five areas of the experience–writing post-cards to Santa, meeting Santa, making an ornament, filling a treat bag and playing in the snow–are crammed into a converted storefront. Although the tables and chairs in each of the kids’ areas are sized for little ones, which is nice, the space would be more comfortable for elves than children and their parents: Dilbert has more space in his cubicle than Santa does in front of his electric fireplace. If your child needs any sort of adaptive devices, this is not the experience for you. It was hard to make it from “room” to “room” with an umbrella stroller. I have no idea how you would make it with a wheelchair.
The mailbox that takes the kids’ letters has a really loud blower that clicks on when the mailbox is opened, and similarly loud blowers are in the snow room; I think part of what drew Peanut to that room was the loud, mechanical whirr. The snow room looked neat, but I’m concerned about how safe even sighted kids would be in there: there are those blow-up yard decorations and lighted Christmas trees, plus the snow-blower, and I have no idea how well all of those cords are taped down. The faux snow is the same brand as the stuff we received in our Dots for Tots kit; I can attest that it cleans up easily, but it’s also pretty slick. If you had more than one kid in the space, the others would have to cuddle a snowman so that the first one could make a snow angel like on the Web site, and if they started to play, it would be really easy to slip and fall–and there wasn’t any clear indication of whether there was padding under the snow, or if it was just the tile floor.
Admittedly, we didn’t have the real Santa experience–we got to meet Santa as we went through a quick sales-pitch walk-through of the store. The lasting impression I left with was the cramped-ness of the space: there was a lot crammed in a really small area. I think you can have just as meaningful of a Santa experience by doing some arts and crafts at home and visiting Santa somewhere else.