Sensory-Friendly Santa Visits in Metro Detroit and Ann Arbor

Santa tones down his holiday decor and makes himself available to kids with special needs during these sensory-friendly Santa visits around town.


During the holiday season, Santa pops up just about everywhere in metro Detroit and Ann Arbor. And that includes some very special sensory-friendly Santa appearances for kids in southeast Michigan.

After all, this Christmas tradition can be a bit overwhelming for children with special needs.

Santa appearances in metro Detroit and Ann Arbor tend to be higher energy events filled with holiday music, lines of eager kids and bubbly helper elves ushering kids into a wonderland filled with sugar plums and twinkling lights – all topped off by a visit with the jolliest elf of them all.

It’s a scene right out of a storybook that most kids adore.

And, thanks to some unique sensory-friendly Santa events, little ones with special needs can most definitely get in on the festive fun, too.

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This year, Santa is offering local “caring” events that are toned-down and tailored to kids with sensory-processing disorders and other special needs. Browse our list to find a special needs-friendly Santa event near you.

Note: Be sure to check ahead; in some cases, registration is required – and further ensures the experience is a memorable success for your child.

Caring Santa at Briarwood Mall in Ann Arbor

Nov. 18 and Dec. 2, 2018

  • Address: Briarwood Mall, 100 Briarwood Circle, Ann Arbor
  • Phone: 734-769-9610
  • Time: 9-10:30 a.m.
  • Cost: free/visit, fees/photos

Santa offers a private photo experience that caters to the sensory, physical and developmental needs of all kids at this event. Photo package price ranges. All abilities welcome. Registration required.

Santa Cares at the Southland Center in Taylor

Dec. 2, 2018

  • Address: 23000 Eureka Road, Taylor
  • Phone: 734-374-2800
  • Time: 8:30-10 a.m.
  • Cost: free/visit; fees/photos

Treat your child to a private photo experience with Santa Claus in a safe and friendly, sensory-mild environment. Registration is required. Photos are available for purchase.

Santa Cares at the Macomb Mall in Roseville

Dec. 2, 2018

  • Address: 32233 Gratiot Ave., Roseville
  • Phone: 586-293-7800
  • Time: 9-10:30 a.m.
  • Cost: free/visit; fees/photos (sold out for 2018)

Kids on the autism spectrum and their families enjoy a free and private visit with Santa before the mall opens. Registration is required in advance. Note: This event has sold out for the 2018 season.

Santa Cares at Westland Shopping Center in Westland

Dec. 2, 2018

  • Address: 35000 W. Warren Road, Westland
  • Phone: 734-425-5001
  • Time: 10-11 a.m.
  • Cost: free/visit, fees/photos

Kids with special needs enjoy a private photo session with Santa and their families. Photo packages are available for purchase Registration required.

Deaf Santa at Lakeside Mall in Sterling Heights

Dec. 2, 2018

  • Address: 44945 Woodridge Drive, Sterling Heights
  • Phone: 586-247-1590
  • Time: 2-5 p.m.
  • Cost: free

Kids with hearing loss can speak to this special Santa in American Sign Language.

Sensory Santa at Twelve Oaks Mall in Novi

Dec. 2 and 9, 2018

  • Address: 27500 Novi Road, Novi
  • Phone: 248-348-9400
  • Time: Dec. 2: 9-10:45 a.m. Dec. 9: 8-9:45 a.m.
  • Cost: free/visit; fees/photos

Register in advance for a time slot to visit with Santa in a private session set in a sensory-friendly environment. Photo packages are available starting at $26.99.

Sensory Santa at Great Lakes Crossing Outlets in Auburn Hills

Dec. 2 and 9, 2018

  • Address: 4000 Baldwin Road, Auburn Hills
  • Phone: 248-454-5000
  • Time: 9:30-10:45 a.m.
  • Cost: free/visit, fees/photos

Santa sets up shop at this regional outlet center to visit with kids who have sensory needs. Find a calming and sensory-minimal environment where kids can give him their wish lists. Registration required.

Santa Cares Sensory Santa at Oakland Mall in Troy

Dec. 2 and 9, 2018

  • Address: 412 W. 14 Mile Road, Troy
  • Phone: 248-585-6000
  • Time: 10 a.m.-noon
  • Cost: free/visit, fees/photos

Santa and his helpers take extra care to make sure they’re providing a safe, supportive and sensory-friendly environment to visit with kids. Photo packages are available for purchase. Registration required.

Sensory Sensitive Santa at Apollo Elementary School in Highland

Dec. 7, 2018

  • Address: 2029 N. Milford Road, Highland
  • Phone: 248-676-8390
  • Time: 4-6 p.m.
  • Cost: $5

Kids get 10 whole minutes to visit with a sensory-friendly Santa Claus in a sensory-friendly environment. Register in advance to claim your time slot.

Soothing Santa at Fairlane Town Center in Dearborn

Dec. 9, 2018

  • Address: 18900 Michigan Ave., Dearborn
  • Phone: 800-992-9500
  • Time: 8:30-10:30 a.m.
  • Cost: free/visit, fees/photos

Santa offers kids a private meet-and-greet perfect for kids with sensory, physical or developmental needs. Register in advance online for a time slot. Spots fill up fast.

All is Calm Soothing Santa Photos at The Mall at Partridge Creek in Clinton Township

Dec. 9, 2018

  • Address: 17420 Hall Road, Clinton Township
  • Phone: 586-226-0330
  • Time: 9-11 a.m.
  • Cost: free/visit; fees/photos (sold out for 2018)

Autism Speaks, Macomb Orthodontics and The Mall at Partridge Creek partner with Santa’s North Pole helpers to offer a calming environment for kids with sensory needs – and an accessible one for those with physical or developmental needs. Registration is required. Note: This event has sold out for the 2018 season.

Santa Cares at Eastland Shopping Center in Harper Woods

Dec. 9, 2018

  • Address: 18000 Vernier Road, Harper Woods
  • Phone. 313-371-1500
  • Time: 10 a.m.-noon
  • Cost: free/visit, fees/photos

Eastland Center and Autism Speaks work together to provide kids with a calming and sensory-friendly space to visit with the big guy. Families should register in advance to claim their spots.

Deaf Santa at Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Dearborn 

Dec. 9, 2018 

  • Address: 800 S. Military St., Dearborn
  • Phone: 313-565-4002
  • Time: 1-5 p.m.
  • Cost: Call for details

A very special Santa communicate to kids with hearing loss at this special Santa event.

Holly Jolly Holiday at the Madison Heights Community Center

Dec. 12, 2018

  • Address: 29448 John R. Road, Madison Heights
  • Phone: 248-424-7081
  • Time: 6:30-8:30 p.m.
  • Cost: $12/participant, $6/caregiver

Adults, ages 18-plus, with developmental disabilities and their caregivers enjoy an evening of holiday music and dancing, topped with a visit from Santa. Registration required.

Looking for even more special needs events for kids in metro Detroit? Check out the Metro Parent calendar