Each year, over 200,000 visitors bundle up and flock to Santa’s Wonderland in College Station, Texas to enjoy a spectacular holiday lights display and fun winter activities. Santa’s Wonderland is a full Texas Christmas Experience with new and traditional attractions like Texas Santa, Marshall Frostbite (the seven-foot-tall snowman mascot), and a hayride.
In addition, the annual event features bands, shopping, food, movies, and plenty of places to sit and relax. If you go, be sure to allow plenty of time to enjoy all the festivities and Christmas shopping.
This year, Santa’s Wonderland is open through Dec. 20. Check out our list of 11 things you need to see and know before visiting Santa’s Wonderland in 2022.
- Santa’s Wonderland plans to be open November 11 – December 30, 2022.
- Hours will be Monday-Thursday 6 – 11 pm, Friday 6 pm -midnight, Saturday 3 pm midnight, and Sunday 3 – 11 pm.
- New photo opportunities will be coming! We’ll share them with you soon.
- Hay rides will have capacity limits.
- All horse and carriage rides will be private carriages (only one family or group per carriage so you won’t ride with strangers). It’s a great year to upgrade that ticket and get this premium experience for your family.
- More than 100 dining tables will be added to provide more space for people to spread out.
- You can review Santa’s Wonderland Health & Safety Promise HERE.
1. It takes a really long time to see Santa if you don’t plan your arrival time right.
When we visited Santa’s Wonderland the first time in 2018, we didn’t know about all the offerings, so we came later. We didn’t want to hang out for too long before it got dark enough for the lights to show up in our photos. Big mistake. Santa “opens” the park each night, which we never got to see.
In retrospect, we should have gotten there at the 3 p.m. opening. Here’s why:
Santa is a hot commodity. We should have arrived at 3 p.m. and gone straight to the Santa line. The addition of the kiddie train behind Santa’s Cottage helps with entertaining those waiting in queue but for little kids, it is still a long wait which gets longer as the day goes on.
Going right when it opens would cut the wait time and knock it out right at the beginning.
As it should be at a place called Santa’s Wonderland, the Santa is really impressive. I heard amazing feedback about the kids’ interactions with him, so the long wait is worth it! (My husband wrote about his side of the story and thinks that folks should skip Santa. We’ll see who wins that showdown this year.)
2. Consider paying for parking.
While there is free parking available on a first come, first serve basis, you might save time in the paid lots. Free parking is located at the Southside of Post Oak Mall. Enter from Holloman Drive for the 2022 season. Free roundtrip shuttles will run nightly to and from Santa’s Wonderland 30 mins prior to park opening to park closing.
There are three paid parking lots on the side of the highway where Santa’s Wonderland is located. My advice would be to factor in the cost of parking so you don’t leave anything to chance if you are visiting on a weekend or in December. Pay for parking and walk in without worrying about a shuttle or spacing out parties.
If you do NOT buy VIP parking when you get off the exit for Santa’s Wonderland, get in the left lane! The right lane of cars that isn’t moving? They’re waiting to turn into the VIP parking lot.
3. If you can go to Santa’s Wonderland on a weeknight, DO IT!
Weeknights are far less crowded than weekends, and I highly recommend aiming for a weeknight for your trip. There is also VIP parking available for an extra cost. We had no issues parking but we went early in the season.
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4. Purchase tickets online!
This will save a lot of time when you arrive. I always search Santa’s Wonderland on Groupon to see if there are any Groupon deals. Snag one and you’ll save you a ton. You can also check Living Social.
Tickets may give you sticker shock if you’ve never been. Prices vary, but generally, pre-season adult tickets are $32.95 and $27.95 for kids. Regular prices are $52.95/adults, and $47.95/kids. The other activities round out the full experience and make it worth it. If you are looking for an upgraded experience, opt for that private carriage ride being offered in 2022 rather than the socially distanced hayride.
5. Consider turning a Santa’s Wonderland trip into a long weekend.
The College Station/Bryan area has a ton to offer families. If you’re coming from out of town, plan to stay a few days if possible. There are museums, libraries and of course Texas A&M to see in the area. In addition, many hotels offer partner packages with Santa’s Wonderland.
6. Plan to Christmas shop (bring your wallet) and save time for other activities like movies and music.
There were some really cute shops with a lot of merchandise that I haven’t seen anywhere else in the area. Next time, I’ll plan time to shop and check some people off my Christmas list.
While most attractions at Santa’s Wonderland are included, there are some that cost extra, like the petting zoo, pony rides, and picture packages. And, of course, there is food to be had. Those on special diets may want to plan ahead, as lines can be long to wait in just to ask about allergy info. I’d recommend emailing ahead of time to identify what you can eat.
Plan time to sit down. There are movies playing and the live music was one of our favorite parts. The girls loved the music. They danced nonstop through the whole set. Grab a cup of hot cocoa and some cinnamon spiced pecans and let them go to town!
7. Overwhelmed by Christmas?
There’s a winery for that. Wonderland Winery is on site, offering local wines to drink and to buy for home. That takes care of half of my Christmas list! There are two locations at Santa’s Wonderland. The first is the “full winery” experience that is located in the main entry gift shop. There is also a satellite wine tasting location over near the dining area.
8. Dress warmly for Frostbite’s Mountain snow tubing and to play on the Snow Playground!
While Texas is still fairly warm this time of year, it gets colder at night and we do have cold snaps. We happened to visit during a rare cold snap and wore coats and gloves. Many families bring a fleece blanket for the hayride.
Frostbite’s Mountain gives you one more reason to dress warm. This eight-lane snow tubing experience with it’s adjacent Snow Playground allows Texas kids the rare chance to play in the snow. Both are included in the price of admission. Be sure to bring your camera to capture those snow pictures.
9. Contain the littles.
Whether you use a stroller or carry your baby, bring a way to keep the kiddos close while waiting in line for the hayride. There were also some smart families with folding wagons that the kids sat in. The strollers can be a little tricky in the gravel of the hayride line, but they’ll work everywhere else.
10. Get your picture taken in front of the giant Texas flag of lights.
It’s a tradition!
If you haven’t been in a few years, you may notice that it looks different. Not only have they restrung the lights (it looks spectacular) but they added a proper queue so that the wait is orderly. You may notice the professional photographer taking images and think it’s a pay only opportunity, but that isn’t true. Just wait in the line and have a friend take the picture when you get up to the front.
11. Enjoy the lights!
Above all else, enjoy the lights displays. They are unique and varied works of art!
BONUS TIP for Santa’s Wonderland Texas:
The first year we went with just our young daughters. On our second visit, we brought our then 12-year-old. I was skeptical as to whether he would enjoy himself or not. He was a huge fan of the hayride, the mechanical bull ride (FYI a parent has to sign a release, so don’t go far while they’re in line), and his favorite discovery? SO MANY POKEMON. He was in his glory wandering around catching them all. Apparently, the concentration of people ups the amount you see and his only regret was that he didn’t stockpile more pokeballs ahead of time.
Overall, Santa’s Wonderland was great fun and something we’ll be repeating annually as a family. As not the most Christmas-y person around (my husband says the Grinch is more festive), I was on board the second I saw snow flying in Texas. Plan extra time to just hang out with your family, listen to the fabulous bands and make Santa’s Wonderland your family tradition.
Christmas Lights Displays Across the USA
Have you been to Santa’s Wonderland? Share your tips in the comment section below.