The management of Westfarms Mall is hoping that shoppers this holiday season will have an unexpectedly hassle-free experience, and have added amenities and special events to meet the needs of all of their customers.
"We try to demystify holiday shopping – making it fun and super easy," said Westfarms Director of Marketing and Sponsorship Christa Allen.
Families will enjoy visiting the Ice Palace which once again fills the center court area. This year, the theme is based on the 20th Century FOX movie "Ice Age: Continental Drift" which is due out on Blu-ray™ and DVD on Dec. 11.
"It's definitely different than your typical trip to the mall to see Santa," Allen said. Although this is the third year that Westfarms has used the 30-foot ice palace dome, a mainstay of the display, the interactive elements of the overall experience are brand new.
While waiting for a turn with Santa, children may get snowed on inside the giant snow globe that is the ice palace. "It's 'actual' snow, completely natural and safe," said Allen.
Visitors can also leave their handprints in ice, "help" Ice Age character Scrat find his precious acorn, measure their height compared to several Ice Age characters, and enjoy a laser light show.
Of course there are the requisite professional photos on Santa's lap, but there is also an opportunity for the entire family to pose for a portrait on the ice throne, which Allen said is not really made of ice but is actually cold to the touch.
Thousands of visitors pass through the center court display at Westfarms every year, and Allen said that Santa's elves typically hand out 18,000 give-aways.
And those who come to see Santa on Dec. 6 will find that he is communicating a bit differently than he usually does.
"'Signing Santa' will be a really fun and meaningful day," said Allen.
The day will start off at 11 a.m. with 50 VIP elementary school students from West Hartford's American School for the Deaf who will be treated to lunch, photos, face painting, and balloon artists as they communicate with Santa using American Sign Language.
From 1 to 8 p.m., Signing Santa will be available to other members of the public, who are invited to tell him what they want in sign language. Allen said that Westfarms management has reached out to children throughout the area who are deaf or hard of hearing.
She said they decided to do the first ever Signing Santa event at Westfarms because it was a good fit with the Ice Age movie which has a sign language picture-in-picture option in the Blu-ray™ version.
Allen said that American School for the Deaf has been a great partner in planning the event. "It will be very close to all of our hearts," she said.
Allen also highlighted some amenities that Westfarms shoppers should know about this holiday season:
- Parking: Complimentary shuttles are available beginning Nov. 23 from Tunxis Plantation Golf Course and Tunxis Community College in Farmington for those who don't want to drive. Valet parking is also available beginning Nov. 23, and on weekends as well as for the entire week before Christmas.
- Wrapping: Available for $2 per gift in the lobby outside J. Crew on the upper level. "Your presents will be beautifully gift-wrapped," said Allen, and the money will all be donated to Hartford HealthCare's Cancer Connect.
- Gift Cards: Westfarms sells American Express gift cards which can be used at the mall as well as anywhere in the nation that takes American Express. If you purchase three or more, you get a special gift – a glass cheeseboard set, she said.
- Ticketmaster: Tickets are available to area musical performances or other shows.
- Hartford HealthCare Wellness Lounge: Available if you need a break and some relaxation, in the same area as the gift wrapping center.
Santa arrived on Nov. 8, and will stay through Dec. 24. "Of course Santa gets very busy after that," Allen said.