The scenes at the two main shopping malls in Knoxville paint two very different portraits of the holidays.

At West Town Mall, cars crowd the parking lots and a steady stream of holiday shoppers fill the stores. In the middle of it all sits Santa Claus in high demand.

Santa Claus West Town Mall
Santa Claus at West Town Mall in Dec. 2018.

West Town Mall uses a "Santa Fast Pass" online reservation system so adults and children can avoid long lines for a picture with St. Nick.

Across the city at Knoxville Center, the mall has endured some well-documented struggles. Many of the stores are shuttered at the mall many people online refer to as "East Towne" out of habit. The property has new owners who say their revitalization plan could take 10 years to complete.

Lonely Santa Scotti Simmons photo Knoxville Center
Scotti Simmons shot this photo of a lonely Santa Claus at the mostly-vacant Knoxville Center.

Knoxville Center is not empty. You will still find stores for shoes, sporting goods, jewelry, games, and so on. In the middle of the mall beneath the food court sits Santa Claus.

The jolly old elf is certainly not as busy at Knoxville Center as West Town. A picture of Santa sitting alone and surrounded by vacant stores pulled at the heart strings of some people on Facebook who shed online-tears at the sympathetic sight.

Vacant Knoxville Center Santa Claus
Santa Claus surrounded by shuttered stores at the mostly-vacant Knoxville Center in Dec. 2018.

It's not entirely a Santa sob-story at Knoxville Center. Some people online suggested rallying crowds to visit Santa and take advantage of the smaller crowds. There was at least one small girl who stopped by to quickly share her Christmas wish-list with the big man Monday afternoon.

While we're certainly not telling anyone where to spend their time and money, it's clear there are several options and methods to conveniently capture a snapshot with Kris Kringle. He's just as real regardless of the option your family chooses.

Santa Claus girl lap Knoxville Center
A child visits Santa Claus at Knoxville Center in Dec. 2018.

Here is the schedule for Santa Claus at the two main malls in Knoxville:

Knoxville Center

  • Mondays through Saturdays, 11 a.m. - 8 p.m.
  • Sundays, Noon - 5:30 p.m.
  • Christmas Eve, 11 a.m. - 6 p.m.

West Town Mall