My family took our first holiday trip to Kansas City recently, and one of the more technically impressive experiences was the immersive DreamWorks “Ultimate Santa Adventure.” Located inside the Oak Park Mall in Overland Park, it’s the mall Santa experience to beat all others.
Since this is the closest the “Ultimate Santa Adventure” gets to Omaha, Visit Overland Park invited my family to visit so I can tell you guys about it. It will be at Overland Park Mall each holiday season through 2019, so you have some time to plan.
It is a bit of a mystery when you first see the place: A large gingerbread house with walls of LED screens stands tall above all other things on the mall floor. There’s Princess Fiona in a window? What’s going on?
You’ll find out soon enough. Suffice to say DreamWorks teamed up with Santa for this experience.
Kids are totally entertained by the videos on these screens – Shrek or Gingy might open a window, a snow storm might blow through. This helps with the wait if you didn’t purchase a boarding pass ahead of time.
What to expect
Your family gets a boarding pass with an assigned time. Be there a little early – they recommend 10 minutes before boarding.
You’ll likely enter the house with another group, depending on how many people are in your party. You can be like me and just ignore them. 🙂
Once inside, Shrek and Donkey greet you from a TV screen and welcome you to your sleigh ride to the North Pole. But shoot, there’s a problem. Your kid’s going to have to fly everyone there. So in the first room, your kid works on getting a pilot’s license.
The next room is pretty sweet – you’ll take a virtual sleigh ride through the air to the North Pole. The sleigh you sit on moves with the movie you watch. In the movie, Shrek and Donkey (who are riding the dragon, of course) lead the way to the North Pole. It’ll even start to snow in the room.
This part, by far, was the most exciting for the kids (and me).
When your ride ends, you’re now at the North Pole, and you’re ushered into a waiting room. You’ll make your own digital gingerbread man while you wait.
Then it’s show time with Santa.
After a chat and pictures, he’ll hand out elf hats and help you return back to the mall, magically of course.
You’ll collect your pictures with Santa, printouts of the pilot’s license and your cute gingerbread man at the little shop near the exit.
You can buy extra souvenirs like stuffed animals and frames on the way out.
The entire experience is less than 30 minutes (depending on how chatty kids are with the big man), though I imagine the wait can be lengthy as Christmas nears.
The condensed recap
A visit with Santa is now a high tech experience, and frankly, this is way better than the typical mall Santa experience. Being enclosed the entire time removes the mall chaos and allows everyone to accept the magical possibility of visiting the North Pole for a short while – complete with snow and some witty banter from “Shrek” characters.
Considering how much we usually pay for Santa photos, this package was worth a little more for the entire experience.
If you go
DreamWorks Dream Place “Ultimate Santa Experience”
Where: Oak Park Mall, 11149 W. 95th St., Overland Park, Kansas (there are several locations throughout the country)
When: Through Dec. 24. The Ultimate Santa Experience will return each year through 2019.
Cost: $35-$75 (more money goes toward more copies of the kids’ picture with Santa and digital copies; every package includes printed photos with Santa, and a printout of your gingerbread man and pilot’s license)
Tip: Definitely buy your package ahead of time, because you can go online here to customize the experience. I was able to add a family photo, which appeared on our boarding pass, plus add the kids’ wish list. Santa greeted the kids by name and surprised them by telling them he knew what they wanted for Christmas.
Side note about Oak Park Mall
Heads up shoppers, this mall is huge and has tons of stores not found in or near Omaha, including Lego Store, American Girls Store, and the Disney Store (sorry, I’m in total mom-shopping mode for Christmas and only looked for stores with kid gifts in mind…). And, to entertain kids after the whole Shrek & Santa thing, there’s a carousel and for the youngsters, a neat little play area.
Customize your family’s next visit to the Kansas City area! Check out some of the places we went on our recent visit:
Museum at Prairiefire (Overland Park, Kan.)
Lego Store in Overland Park (Oak Park Mall in Overland Park, Kan.)
Science City (Union Station in Kansas City, Mo.)
Crown Center dining & entertainment (Kansas City, Mo.)
DoubleTree Hotel (Overland Park, Kan.)
Sheraton Kansas City (at Crown Center, Kansas City, Mo.)