CHANDLER, AZ - An Arizona couple is trying their hands at helping other families create magical moments, perhaps to even create a new tradition, around the holidays with a Santa's workshop-type experience in the East Valley.
Watch the video in the player above for a sneak peek inside.
Marius Mitrea and his wife, Flavis, are the curators behind "Christmas Adventure," a new family-friendly Christmas attraction in the Whole Foods shopping center near the Loop 101 and Ray Road in Chandler.
"We want to establish a tradition. We want to reach out to the community and establish this as a tradition. We're not corporate backed. It's just me and my wife," said Mitrea.
They took over an old Spirit Halloween store and turned it into their vision of Santa's Workshop. Elves lead hourly tours through Elvesville where children and parents can read a book together, help Santa fill his bag with stuffed animals, and write a letter to Mr. Claus and have it stamped with wax before getting a picture with the big man himself.
At "Santa's Surveillance Department," kids will help the elves with cases to see if a child should be on the naughty or nice list based on simple good or bad behaviors, such as cleaning their room or being nice to a sibling.
"We think core values and moments is something to cherish. Around the holidays, it's good to slow down. And we're putting this together and trying to do that so we can slow down, so we can have time to enjoy our kids," he said.
Their 8-year-old daughter was part of the inspiration for the experience. Most parents would likely say time goes by fast, especially with kids -- one day they're one and in the blink of an eye, they're eight years old.
"We thought photography is a way to freeze that youth in time. And when life settles down and everything slows down, its the memories you turn back to," said Mitrea.
Marius and Flavis do not work in the entertainment industry. They have full-time jobs in different industries and decided to do this project on the side, in addition to helping their daughter with homework and extracurricular activities.
They've brought in more than 160 Christmas trees, both lighted and not, and decorated them with ornaments, ribbons, and decorative snow. There are a half-dozen "Elf homes" built out of foam and painted. On the other side of the space, there are four Christmas-themed photo backdrops that parents will be able to take as many pictures as they want using their cellphones.
"If a picture captured here makes it into your album, we've accomplished our goal basically," he said.
The final stop is an official photo op with Santa. An 8x10 printed photo is included with admission. The other photos will be texted or emailed digitally at no additional cost.
General admission is $20-$25 per person depending on when you go. Evening times and weekends are more expensive than weekday afternoons.