Santa’s Wonderland Texas: Tips for the Making the Most of a Visit

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wood sign at exit to santa's wonderland in texas reads "Merry Christmas to y'all and to y'all a Goodnight." in white letters on a red background
Santa’s Wonderland wishes everyone a very Texas farewell with their “Merry Christmas to y’all and to y’all a goodnight” sign. Photo Credit: Nasreen Stump

With more than 4.5 million bulbs sparkling on the Trail of Lights, it’s no surprise that more than 200,000 people visit Santa’s Wonderland Texas every holiday season. This College Station Christmas town features fun for the entire family. You can take a holiday light hay ride, pose for bigger-in-Texas Christmas light photo ops, see snow in the South, watch live music and more.

The 2024 dates when “Texas Santa,” Mrs. Claus and Marshall Frostbite (the seven-foot-tall snowman mascot) have not been announced, but expect the celebration to start in mid-November and run through the end of the year. In addition to all of the winter activities you’ll also want to plan time to shop, snack, watch movies and relax near the fires.

Here’s what you need to know before you go to Santa’s Wonderland in 2023.

1. Arrive Early and See Santa First

When we visited Santa’s Wonderland for the first time, we came later. The big attraction for us was the lights. We thought why bother coming before it’s dark. The photos will be better in the dark right? Clearly I didn’t realize everything else that they offered! Big mistake. Santa “opens” the park each night, which we didn’t get to see. People then immediately line up to see him. That line just gets longer and longer over the course of the evening. We learned our lesson and in later years arrived for the 3 p.m. opening.

Game changer. Why?

Santa is a hot commodity. Arrive for opening and go straight to the Santa line. Over the years they’ve added things to make the queue more fun, including a kiddie train ride behind Santa’s Cottage. The line won’t die down until late in the evening and by then most kids are past their “I look pleasant in photos” window. So if part of your planning for The Best Christmas Ever is a great pic with Santa, arriving early is key!

As it should be at a place called Santa’s Wonderland, Texas Santa is really impressive. The kids loved chatting with him, so the long wait is worth it!

Can You Make Reservations to See Texas Santa?

Potentially. Santa’s Wonderland has added new verbiage on their site saying that on select nights reservations can be made for a time slot to see Santa on-site at Santa’s Station. There’s no info on cost (I’m assuming it will be an add-on). We’ll update as we get more information! In the meantime, plan to arrive early since this option may not be available to you.

Read More: My Husband’s Hot Take on Everything NOT to Do at Santa’s Wonderland

barn lit up with red christmas lights and a white star a movie is playing inside on a large glowing screen with people sitting watching it
Need a break at Santa’s Wonderland Texas? Sit down and watch part of a Christmas Classic movie. Photo credit: Nasreen Stump

2. Go to Santa’s Wonderland on a Weeknight

Say it with me: AVOID WEEKENDS. Weeknights are far less crowded than weekends. If you have young kids, going on a weeknight can mean a late school night out, but weeknights early in the season are the best! Low crowds, quick wait times and better photo ops. It’s worth it if you can make it work. The attraction opens earlier on some weeknights (listed below).

What are the Hours at Santa’s Wonderland Texas?

Expect them to be similar to the hours in 2023:

  • Monday: 6pm-11pm
  • Tuesday: 6pm-11pm
  • Wednesday: 6pm-11pm
  • Thursday: 6pm-11pm
  • Friday: 6pm-midnight
  • Saturday: 3pm-midnight
  • Sunday: 3pm-11pm

Read More: Christmas Light Displays to See in Texas and the Southwest U.S.

holiday lights displays at Santa's Wonderland - this one features christmas polar bears and fountains made out of white lights with blue lights as teh back drop
Located off of Highway 6 a little over an hour north of Houston, Santa’s Wonderland gives you the Texas Christmas Experience y’all are looking for! Photo credit: Nasreen Stump

3. Purchase Santa’s Wonderland Tickets Online!

Don’t wait- the early-release admission tickets are the cheapest. During the 2023 early ticket sale, the cost was $34.95/adult and $29.95/child, saving roughly $15 on regular tickets. Children 2 and under are free.

You can also search Santa’s Wonderland on Groupon and Living Social. Both have offered deals over the years. You’re rolling the dice if you wait for a deal like this though. There is no guarantee that tickets will go up on a discount site.

Regular online prices in 2023 were $54.95/adults, and $49.95/kids. If you wait to purchase at the gate tickets are more expensive. Prices have stayed fairly stable over the last few years with only minor increases and numerous additional activities have been added. As a parent, I do appreciate this! The other activities round out the full experience and make it worth it.

4. What Add-Ons are Worth it at Santa’s Wonderland?

As with pretty much any theme park or attraction these days you have opportunities to purchase express passes or additional experiences.

What Does General Admission at Santa’s Wonderland Include?

The general admission ticket to Santa’s Wonderland Texas includes enough to keep you very busy! Your family will enjoy:

  • Trail of Lights Hayride
  • Walkable Trail of Lights
  • Snow Tubing and Snow Play
  • Frostbite’s Merry-Go-Round and the Texas-sized Snow Globe (this one used to be an add-on!)
  • Opportunity to meet Texas Santa and Mrs. Claus
  • Tons of photo opportunities
  • Rides like the Jumping Pillows, train rides, bull rides and more
  • Enrollment on the Naughty or Nice List

Is the Santa’s Wonderland Ultimate Express Pass Worth It?

Santa’s Wonderland offers a limited quantity of Ultimate Express passes. Think of them as “cut the line” passes. They shorten wait times for Santa’s Hayride Tour, West Pole Express Train Ride, Frostbite’s Snow Mountain, Mechanical Bull and give you free admission to the petting zoo.

At a cost of $29.95 extra per person, it’s only worth it if you’ll be visiting on a busy day AND will be utilizing all of the attractions multiple times. Personally, it’s not an add-on we splurged for since we always try to visit on weeknights earlier in the season.

Other Ways to Skip the Line for the Hayride at Santa’s Wonderland

If you think the $29.95 extra per person is too high because you won’t utilize all of the attractions, consider buying an Express Hayride Pass. At $9.95 if you buy online, this pass gives you a reserved Hayride time slot. You head to the Express line for your designated time and skip the waiting.

If you’re visiting with a party of 6 people, you can reserve a private Horse & Carriage Holiday Lights Ride. You’ll be pulled by draft horses and enjoy hot cocoa as you view the light displays. The $139.95 price tag breaks down to roughly $23.33/person if you use all six available seats. It’s definitely a unique way to see the lights! If you want great pictures, I recommend this. The carriage ride drivers slow down and stop more for a stable shot.

Santa’s Wonderland Add-Ons To Skip

Yes, Santa’s Wonderland offers the Illuminations ice skating add-on, but at $16.95/person it is solidly not worth it for me. With so much to do at Santa’s Wonderland it takes time away from everything else. If the kids really want to skate this winter, you’ll get more time at a better cost at a local ice rink or mall. Be aware that you must have socks on to skate and the smallest skate size available is a Youth 9.

Should I Pay for VIP Parking at Santa’s Wonderland?

While there is limited free parking available on a first-come, first-serve basis, you might save time in the paid lots. Free parking is located on the south side of Post Oak Mall. Enter from Holloman Drive for the 2023 season. Parking systems have changed over the years. For the 2023 season, the free roundtrip shuttles from Post Oak Mall parking lot will run nightly starting when the park opens. This means you won’t be able to use free parking and be lined up when Santa opens up Santa’s Wonderland.

Parking permits are sold ahead of time for the paid lots. There is a time slot associated with your pass, so be sure you know when you’ll be arriving before you book.

The grandly lit entrance to Santa's Wonderland in College Station, Texas includes santa's wonderland spelled out in twinkling white and red lights on the front barn - SheBuysTravel.
The grandly lit entrance to epic Christmas town, Santa’s Wonderland in College Station, Texas. Photo credit: Nasreen Stump

5. Be Aware of Height Restrictions

Some of the smaller kiddos may not be tall enough for all activities. Some attractions also have weight and age limits. Bring or wear socks. Some attractions require them.

Here’s a list of things you should be aware of:

  • Frostbite’s Very Merry-Go-Round – 12 and under only, 1 rider per tube
  • Lone Star Christmas Pirate Ship – 12 and under only
  • Santa’s Farm Tractor Bounce – 12 and under only, max weight is 225 lbs, no shoes – must wear socks
  • Jumping Pillows – 12 and under only, must be between 3ft and 6 foot 4 inches tall, max weight is 225 lb, no shoes – must wear socks
  • Snow Tubes – one rider per tube- no sitting on laps, must be 3 or 38″, max weight 375 lbs
  • Mechanical Bull – must be 48″, everyone has to sign a waiver, if under 18 a parent must be with you to sign the waiver

6. Consider Turning a Santa’s Wonderland Trip into a Long Weekend

The College Station/Bryan area has a ton to offer families. Santa’s Wonderland is roughly one hour from Houston, two hours from Austin and three hours from San Antonio. If you’re coming from out of town, plan to stay a few dayse. 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.

My hotel recommendations:

7. Decide Whether You’ll be Eating Dinner at Santa’s Wonderland

It sounds obvious but planning your time and activities involves knowing whether you’ll be eating before you go or at Santa’s Wonderland. There are a ton of food choices and over the years more seating has been added. Lines can still get long and the whole process of procuring food and sitting down can be time-consuming. We usually do snacks. The Chuckwagon offers Frito Pie and DIY s’mores.

A full list of food stands can be found on the website but the menus aren’t posted. Those on special diets may want to email ahead of their trip. You don’t want to stand in long lines just to see if items are allergy-friendly or not!

store at Santa's Wonderland that is filled with christmas merchandise, a large santa sign is in the background and the tops of the walls have christmas lights and glowing green wreaths
Get in the Christmas spirit and shop until you drop at Santa’s Wonderland. It’s a great time to send the kids off with another adult to play in the snow. Photo credit: Nasreen Stump

8. Go Christmas Shopping

There were some really cute shops with a lot of merchandise that I haven’t seen anywhere else in the area. Plan some shopping time so you can check some people off your Christmas list.

Also 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!

9. Work in a Wine Tasting at Santa’s Wonderland

Did you know the North Pole has a winery? Wonderland Winery is on-site, offering local wines to drink there and to buy to take 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 near the dining area.

girl dressed in warm winter gear including a pink vest and black and pink hat holding a snowball with snow in the background
Texas kids will love having the chance to throw snowballs! Photo credit: Nasreen Stump

10. Dress Warmly for Snow Fun

While Texas is still fairly warm this time of year, it gets colder at night. In recent years there have been some evenings where it is downright frigid. We happened to visit during a rare cold snap and wore coats and gloves.  Many families bring a fleece blanket for the hayride. Wear lined gloves or bring an extra pair as hands get wet and cold quickly.

Frostbite’s Mountain gives you one more reason to dress warm. This 12-lane snow tubing experience allows Texas kids the rare chance to play in the snow. Both tubing and Frostbite’s Snow Playground are included in the price of admission. Be sure to bring your camera to capture those winter-y pictures.

SheBuysTravel Tip: Bring a change of clothes and time this activity well. We lived about 40 minutes from Santa’s Wonderland and our routine was always to save the snow play for the end of the night. That way, no one spent too long wet and cold. And we brought warm fleece jammies for the kids to change into for the ride home.

11. 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 pulling the kids in folding wagons. The strollers can be a little tricky in the gravel of the hayride line, but they’ll work everywhere else.

a family stands in front of a giant Texas state flag made out of Christmas lights wood letters in front of them read Santa's Wonderland College Station, Texas
The Texas flag light setup is a popular family picture spot at Santa’s Wonderland. Photo credit: Nasreen Stump

12. Pose for a Photo in Front of the Giant Texas Flag Light Display

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.

holiday lights displays at Santa's Wonderland in College Station, Texas- SheBuysTravel
The American flag holiday light display is a popular photo op on the hayride. Photo credit: Nasreen Stump

13. Enjoy the Lights!

Above all else, enjoy the lights displays. They are unique and varied works of art!

They’ve added a walk-thru light trail so if you’re really into photography it is a great area to wander through to capture all of the displays.

14. Bring the Older Kids Too

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. 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 repeated 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

Looking for more Christmas lights? We’ve got you covered with articles and tips for all areas of the U.S.

Northeast U.S. Christmas Lights

South and Southeast U.S. Christmas Lights to See

Bigger in Texas and the Southwest U.S.: Christmas Lights Displays

Holiday Light Displays in California, Hawaii and the Northwest U.S

Midwest Christmas Light Displays to Put on Your Bucket List

6 responses

  1. I was in Texas 3 years ago and visited Santa’s Wonderland. I learned from your post more than I visited. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I love Texas. Thank you for sharing this great post.

  3. Perfect guide thanks so much! My husband and I are going for the first time this year and will definitely arrive early! Thanks again and merry Christmas

  4. Are there bus tours to Santa Wonderland?

  5. This is an absolutely wonderful guide! I hope you don’t mind but I linked your article to our Facebook post. We rent RVs and constantly look for destination ideas and advice for our renters. Your RV campground suggestion is incredibly useful. You can find us at where you can also find a link to our Facebook age.

  6. 4.5

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