Between selling our house, preparing to move, the crazy amount of birthday parties we’ve been invited to this month, and sheer laziness; Derek and I have seriously been dropping the ball on holiday festivities this year. Usually I LOVE this time of year and can’t wait to do ALLTHINGSCHRISTMAS, but this year it all felt like a challenge and not worth the effort. Bahhumbug, right?
Still, I wanted to do something to commemorate the season before it was over. Something with lights? The zoo? A local theme park? Anything holiday-ish?! Hmmm….
I researched a decent amount of local events with some great potential, but all I could think about were the insane amount of crowds and how dealing with those crowds with a two-year old would make the event seem less jolly and more like a deep level of hell. Then my co-worker told me she had taken her daughter to the local Bass Pro Shop the weekend before and loved it. She raved how the store went all-out for the occasion and how her daughter was begging to go back again. Hmm…. Bass Pro Shop? I had seen friends posting photos of their kids with Santa at Bass Pro Shop in the past, but hadn’t really given it much thought. Plus, after last year’s terrible Santa experience (exhibit A), I wasn’t exactly over the moon with the idea of taking Annalynn again this year.
Still, she convinced me it may be worth it when she explained all the additional activities, that everything was all indoors (it was a warm weekend!), and the fact you get a FREE photo with Santa (Hey! Santa photos aren’t cheap!). I mean, why not? So, Saturday morning after swim class, I put Annalynn in her Holiday best and we made the 30 minute trek down to Brandon to visit our local Bass Pro Shop.
I can’t tell you the last time I’ve been to a Bass Pro Shop… or if I’ve ever actually been inside one??… but this place was GIGANTIC! Who knew there was such a large need for outdoor gear? My family isn’t really into hunting, fishing, boating, or camping; so I didn’t grow up around any of that. Clearly there’s a whole world out there I know nothing about.
We arrived at Bass Pro Shop around 10:30 (about 30 minutes after they opened for the day), and headed straight to Santa’s Wonderland. Talk about an impressive set-up! On top of being able to meet Santa, there was a whole array of picturesque holiday photo backdrops, activities for kids to build things, shoot arrows, play in dirt with trucks, color, and so on and so on. I headed straight back to Santa to grab our spot in line with a “Santa Fast Pass.” The idea was that instead of waiting in a gigantic line, you were handed a ticket to return during your designated time. This also frees up families to shop and spend $$ while waiting, so I can see this as a win for their marketing department. Our return time was listed as “12:00pm” giving us an hour and a half to kill before meeting Santa.
Unfortunately Annalynn grew bored of all of the activities they had set-up after about 15 minutes. Two-year olds, amiright? It was really, an impressive set-up, but maybe a little better suited for a kid a year or two older than Annalynn. Instead, we headed to the back of the store, where the fish tank oddly enough held her attention much longer than the sea of toys. Go figure.
She’s a climber and immensely enjoyed climbing up and down the rocks. My little adventurer.
We debated leaving the store to get some lunch and return before our time, but since there was already a restaurant on property, we grabbed a meal there. Honestly, we probably would have been better leaving and coming back. The restaurant was “meh” at best. The Cobb Salad I ordered was bland and lacking on the toppings. Derek’s burger was overcooked, while the “grilled onions” on top were undercooked and almost raw. Annalynn’s chicken fingers were pretty run-of-the mill and nothing fancy. Let’s just say we won’t be making another special trip to Brandon just for the food.
However; we did leave the restaurant with full bellies and renewed energy, so that was a major plus. We headed back to Santa’s Wonderland and were able to walk right on to the free carousel at the entrance. Annalynn went from being excited to get on, to fear of being up so high, to pure joy once the ride actually got moving.
After that it was finally our turn to see Santa. Scratch that. It was finally our turn to wait in line to see Santa.
We headed to the back, handed over our pass, and got in a line that was about 15 people deep. The line portion took an additional 20 minutes, which isn’t terrible, but still a challenge with a toddler. We ended up playing Moana music videos on YouTube to entertain her, which worked like a charm. It was getting close to nap time and she kept rubbing her eyes – I was starting to worry that this might end badly. But instead of getting into her usual overtired crazy-antics mode, Annalynn just seemed mellow and sleepy.
As we got closer to the front, Derek started to point Santa out and sort of pre-introduce him to her. We’ve been reading Santa books at home, so she knew who he was and seemed genuinely interested in meeting him.
Finally, it was our turn and Derek set Annalynn down at the entrance to see him. She stood there for a second, then eventually waved saying weakly, “Hi Santa.” I asked if she wanted to take my hand and meet Santa. She grabbed my hand and walked over slowly, on her own terms. Once we got there, I told Santa this was Annalynn and he introduced himself to her as well. He asked if she wanted to get on his lap, and I picked her up and set her there. I noticed a barrel of candy canes sitting next to him, so I quickly grabbed one and handed it to her. Surprisingly, she seemed okay. She wasn’t crying, wasn’t fussing, just being quiet with her candy cane. I couldn’t believe it – this was a complete 180 from last year’s visit!
We took some photos and then Annalynn gave Santa a high-five before saying “Merry Christmas.” They handed us our free 4×6 and I paid $15 for the digital copy (Darn digital copies! That’s where they get you!).
Annalynn rode the carousel one last time and happily chomped on her candy cane.
All-in-all, it was a great visit with Santa. Bass Pro Shop really did a great job setting up Santa’s Workshop, I can understand why it’s so popular every year. We will definitely return next year to see Santa and take advantage of the workshop area.
Oh! And we managed to finish the day with a few more holiday activities. After Annalynn’s nap, we built a gingerbreadhouse.
But I’m not sure Annalynn really minded. I mean what’s the point of having a giant cookie in front of you if you can’t eat it?
(She was also eating the little candy pieces as we were decorating. What can ya do.)
And that evening we put Annalynn and the stroller and went for a walk around the neighborhood to see the lights. It was in the 70s and a great night for looking at lights. I didn’t get any photos, but there were some seriously impressive houses in our neighborhood and it was truly a win-win by missing the crowds and saving our money by keeping it extra local. Yay for new traditions!