When Santa rides his sleigh into town during the Credit Union Christmas Pageant, you can find him all over town. Shopping centres, community groups, and even councils all hold their own meet and greets with St. Nick, but Santa's most famous location is the Magic Cave on the top floor of David Jones in Rundle Mall.
It's crazy to think, but the Magic Cave has actually been around since 1896. It was originally part of the John Martin's department store, but after John Martin's closed down David Jones continued the tradition.
For some, the annual Santa photo is a cherished tradition but for others, it's more like a chore. Joining the sometimes 2 hour long queue at the Magic Cave can often feel like the latter. The wait is almost always long, and it's worth putting in a tag team effort. When you've got at least two adults, there's always someone to hold the spot in the line while someone else can rush kids to the toilet, take them for some lunch, or try and keep them entertained inside the actual cave.
The one bit of entertainment in the actual queue is Dave the talking tree. The youngest kids still stare at him wide eyed as he says hello and answers their questions, but for the older kids Dave is their opportunity to try and trick the talking tree into revealing he's actually a casually employed teenager.
Finally it's time to meet the jolly man in the red suit, photos are out of the way with minimal fuss, and then Santa asks the all important question, "now, what do you want for Christmas?". The kids are on their way with a small colouring book and a paper hat that never stays together.
Once you've seen Santa, the kids can be let loose on the rest of the cave. Thankfully most of it's free, although you'll need an iron will to refuse the many pleas for balloons, popcorn, fairy floss, and of course, the lucky dip.
The rides are slow, but it's amazing how they still manage to captivate small children. Nipper and Nimble add their own touch of nostalgia; Nimble was part of the original Magic Cave back in the late 1800s. Then there's the merry-go-round with it's choice of horses, giraffes, kangaroos, and other animals. These are all free, and the wait is never too long.
At times it seems like the foam elves that are placed around the Magic Cave are more animated than some of the staff that work there. Through jaded adult eyes it appears the Magic Cave has lost some of it's magic, but there's no denying that it's still a pretty magical experience to a lot of the kids who pass through there.