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One of the most popular ways to jump start the holiday season is a visit to Macy's Santaland, which is why Gothamist generally avoids the place. This year, however, with Gothamist baby in the picture, it seemed like just the thing. (Spoiler alert: Santa myths exploded below.)

Macy's Santaland is not the run-of-the-mill mall Santa. It is a complex staging that involves a lot of staff, both human and animatronic. You enter on the 8th Floor through a holiday train set-up and are surrounded by toys, lights and winter scenes for the length of the line. At the end of the line you are escorted into one of many (but, shhhh, don't mention it aloud!) Santa "stalls".

santaland1.jpgGothamist visited with three separate Santas; our best guess is that there are maybe 5 or 6 total. The whole process is meticulously orchestrated and abundantly staffed. While visiting Santa, you will be assisted by a photographer elf as well as a child wrangling elf, for maximum holiday expediency. And while you are encouraged to purchase the official photo (you can choose several package options from 2 digital photos), an elf will happily take a picture with your own camera as well.

Note: If you request a photo of your child screaming on Santa's lap they won't do it. They refuse to take the photo until everyone looks happy. One Santa actually explained the psychological damage involved in allowing a child to be 'Santa-assaulted'. Gothamist was just disappointed at the lost photo op. From the visitors' perspective at least, everything was cheery and above board. Santa(s) was(were) nice and not sketchy looking at all; no need for SNL's famous SantiWrap though the thought did enter our mind.

On the 9th Floor, Brooklyn based Puppetworks is running a holiday puppet show. Showtimes are just about every hour and admission is $4. The show is penguin themed, perfectly timed for all those kids who enjoyed "Happy Feet".

santaland2.jpgHere are the logistics... The line between 9 and 9:30 am on a Wednesday was nonexistent. You could be in and out in five minutes no problem. However, by 10 am it was pretty long. Word on the street is that it's killer on weekends. You can also expect the line to increase as we get closer to Christmas. The wait isn't so bad though since there is plenty to look at while you do. Every kid (even the big ones) gets a cardboard Santaland puzzle and the option to buy a photo. The cheapest package, one 5x7 print, is $15.99. You can get a CD with both pictures for $10 more.

For those not willing to commit to the line, there is the option to "peek at Santa". Near the entrance there is a sideshow barker elf inviting you to come catch a peep. For no wait at all you get to look through a window and watch Santa conducting his business. And if you just can't bring yourself to even make into the store, there's always the interactive holiday window displays. Not willing to even leave the house? You can always check out Santaland Diaries" by David Sedaris, an account of his days as a Macy's elf.

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