If you're traveling over the holidays, don't worry about missing Santa Claus. This year, St. Nick will make extra efforts to reach his pint-sized admirers by showing up on skis, trains, boats, and more. These unique Santa meet-and-greet experiences offer more than just the chance to report good behavior and make special gift requests!
1. Santa's Workshop, Colorado
This North Pole is actually at the foot of Pikes Peak in Cascade, Colo., and it's where you'll find Santa's Workshop, a Christmas-themed family amusement park with more than two dozen rides, games, shows, shops, eateries, a petting zoo and an arcade. At the village center you can touch the ice-covered North Pole. You might catch Santa riding the miniature train, antique carousel, or aerial tram, but a visit is guaranteed in Santa's House. A fire pit for roasting marshmallows was recently installed, and Santa has been known to stop by there as well.
2. North Pole Experience, Arizona
You can help elves build toys in Santa's workshop. During the North Pole Experience in Flagstaff, Ariz., visitors board a trolley from The Little America Hotel, then travel through a magic portal aboard the Candy Cane or Snowball Express trolley to reach the workshop. After attending Elf University and seeing Santa's Toy Invention Hall of Fame, kids sit in on story time with Mrs. Claus and then meet her hubby. New this season is Area 47, Santa's top-secret sleigh hanger. Lodge packages are available to make it an overnight stay.
3. Santa Claus, Indiana
You can find Santa's spirit throughout the town named for him: Santa Claus, Ind. You'll find Claus at his usual haunts, including the Santa Claus Christmas Store and Santa's Candy Castle. You can also have dinner with him and the missus at Santa's Lodge. After dark, families enjoy driving through the 1.2-mile Land of Lights "Family Christmas Light Adventure" to learn the story of Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer. At the top of every hour, "Santa's Great Big LED Tree of Lights" illuminates Kringle Place Shopping Center. While you're there, send your mail from Santa Claus Post Office for the official Santa Claus postmark.
4. The Polar Express
You can ride The Polar Express on several railways this season. These excursions typically include storytelling, carols and refreshments before stopping to meet Santa at the North Pole. The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad departs from Bryson City, N.C.; Grand Canyon Railway runs from the Williams Depot in Ariz.; the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad rolls out from Durango, Colo.; and the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad offers departures from both Akron and Independence, Ohio.
5. California Surf, California
Trading his sleigh for some water fun, Santa returns to Capitola, Calif. on November 24 to hang ten in the surf capital of the Golden State. Followed by reindeer, he rides the waves in a canoe to Main Beach, and meets children at his beach chair while Donner, Blitzen and the others pass out candy. Further south in San Diego, also on the 24th, Santa sails into downtown Seaport Village on watercraft, wearing board shorts and flip-flops, and taking photos with visitors on his giant surfboard. The same day, kids will line the docks of the Petaluma River Turning Basin in historic Petaluma, Calif., awaiting the arrival of Mr. and Mrs. Kringle, who float into the downtown harbor aboard a festive tugboat. After disembarking, the couple distributes candy canes from two antique thrones.
6. Skiing the Slopes
No stranger to snow, Santa can be found skiing the slopes at several resorts this season. On "Santa Sunday," December 2, at Sunday River in Newry, Maine, some 250 skiers in red suits can be seen from the South Ridge base area, and a similar crowd flocks to New York's Windham Mountain for Sking and Riding Santa Day on December 16. A Claus crowd cuts up Canyon Resort in Park City, Utah on December 22, when it's "Santa Skis Free Day" and the first 50 guests in full costume get a free lift ticket. On Christmas Day, Santa will ski with guests at the Moonlight Basin resort in Big Sky, Mont., and at Shanty Creek Resorts in Bellaire, Mich., where you can ski free at Schuss Mountain.
7. In and Around Atlanta
At Stone Mountain Park near Atlanta, the annual Christmas celebration includes a nightly parade with Santa, as well as the Snow Angel, who flies over the crowd before the fireworks finale, select dates through January 1, 2013. Visitors to historic Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Ga., can meet Santa in the Christmas Village every day through December 25, then enjoy the drive-through "Fantasy In Lights" show with eight million lights.
8. Stylish Arrivals
Accompanied by Chuck Berry's "Run Run Rudolph," Santa zooms into the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Ky. on December 9, driving a bright red Corvette. Get a picture with the man in red, and even go for a ride with him in his "sleigh!" Near Asheville, N.C., Santa will rappel down the 315-ft Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park on December 8 and 15. Families are invited to watch Santa's daring climb and go to the top themselves to check out the 75-mile panoramic views. In the Florida Keys, Santa is often seen floating by in the lighted boat parades in Largo's Blackwater Sound and Key West Harbor on December 8. Santa sails into Waikiki, Hawaii%3C/a> in an outrigger canoe on December 8, greeted by children performing hula. Afterward, he'll take pictures with his fans in the lobby of the Outrigger Waikiki on the Beach hotel.
For more holiday family fun, see 5 Festive Holiday Light Shows and 10 Magical Hotels for the Holiday Season.