While Col. Harry Shoup sat at his desk at the United States Continental Air Defense Command at the height of the Cold War, he was probably hoping not to receive many calls. The number was a direct hotline put into place to warn of an attack on U.S. soil. Yet, on a chilly December day, the phone sprang to life.

Without hesitation, Shoup snatched it and put the receiver to his ear, undoubtedly fearing the worst. Only it wasn’t the gruff voice of a senior military officer on the other end of the line. It was a little boy, quietly asking, “where does Santa Claus live?”

At first, Shoup thought he was the subject of a prank. But when the kid started bawling, he realized this was no laughing matter. Without missing a beat, Shoup put on his best Saint Nicholas impression for the youngster. Then he asked to speak to the boy’s mother.

“You haven’t seen the papers yet?” she said. “There’s a phone number to call Santa. It’s in the Sears ad.” Shoup looked it up, and in the middle of a Sears advertisement was the direct line to his phone, billed as a direct line to Santa Claus himself. It didn’t take long for calls from other kids to start flooding in. In response, Shoup put a couple of his men on the phones to masquerade as Santa.

Today, the Continental Air Defense Command is known as NORAD or the North American Aerospace Defense Command — continued to play along, and the game escalated from there. When Christmas Eve came around in 1955, Shoup called up the local radio station to alert them of an “unidentified flying object.” “Why it looks like a sleigh!” he said. For the rest of the evening, the radio stations called Shoup’s operation center nearly every hour, asking how to track Santa Claus.

How you can make Christmas more enjoyable for the kids this year? Along with decorating your home with beautiful LED Christmas lights and decorations, you can download one of the best Santa tracker apps. Here's everything you need to know about the tools available when monitoring the man in the big red suit.

norad tracks santa

The Birth of the First Santa Claus Tracker App

You can read Shoup’s whole story at NPR’s StoryCorps here, as told by his kids. But by their accounts and many others, Shoup had no idea that one day, his efforts to make a few hundred kids’ Christmases a little brighter would turn into the widespread, official Norad Tracks Santa program.

What Is the Best App to Track Santa?

Norad Santa Tracker

Back in the day, kids and imaginative adults alike would tune in every Christmas Eve to listen as the NORAD apparatus traced Santa’s exploits around the globe. Today, the program continues, albeit in a much more high-tech incarnation, with games, GPS updates, and an accompanying mobile app. During the countdown to the big day, NORAD provides users with all kinds of fun activities. Once Christmas Eve finally arrives, you can check the system anytime during the evening to see an exact GPS position of Santa and his sleigh, flying from the arctic circle, rendered in “real-time” 3D graphics. You can even watch clips of Santa as he swings by major landmarks and world cities — the perfect tool to make a believer of even the young skeptics in your family. NORAD has even partnered with Amazon to sync up the program to your Echo. Just ask “Alexa, where’s Santa?” and she’ll give you up-to-the-minute updates.

NORAD is widely considered the original when it comes to Santa tracking technology, but it’s hardly the only option available. Today, a search on the Google Play store yields dozens of applications purporting to provide the latest and greatest in Kringle-related updates.

Google’s Santa Tracker

Google’s Santa Tracker sports colorful new designs and activities for kids every year. With an advent-calendar style set-up, each day unlocks a new game or experience to engage in, with all kinds of educational opportunities that young kids will love. Then, like NORAD,   they begin broadcasting his journey live on Christmas Eve. Your kiddo can learn to write simple code, learn about holiday traditions from around the world, and even learn a few words from a language spoken in one of Santa’s destinations.

santa tracking with appReindeer Cam Live!

Reindeer Cam is also worth checking out, which offers a live stream of Santa’s reindeer around the holiday season. While it’s not always the most thrilling display you’ve ever seen (it’s a farm, after all), Christmas-obsessed kids will thrill as they watch Santa himself feeding his trusty steeds during one of the scheduled times. The comment feed allows kids to post a message directly to Kris Kringle, and parents can submit their names to have them show up on the site’s ticker. Occasionally, “Santa” will even read a heartwarming viewer-submitted story on air!

Speak to Santa

This interesting app lets you talk to Santa. You can even simulate a video call with Santa Claus and customize your conversations for the young ones. Have Santa say your child’s name by properly setting up the phone call before hopping on.

When used correctly, this Santa app makes your child feel like Santa is really on the other end of the phone. He’ll ask questions such as your kid’s favorite fruit, color, vegetable, and birthday. You can also use the Speak to Santa app as a disciplinary measure. Set it to “naughty” and Santa will let them know (in a nice, playful way, of course).

The Speak to Santa app displays Santa’s origins in Lapland, Finland, and tracks his sleigh movements throughout his Christmas Eve journey.

Christmas Countdown and Santa Tracker

The Christmas Countdown and Santa Tracker is a simple app that still provides significant value. The countdown clock is the first feature you’ll notice after downloading this app. Once it’s over, the app reveals Santa’s location all over the globe.

The app is simple, effective, and convenient, you don’t even need to install it until the final hour. The best part? It’s free.

Santa Tracker Christmas

The Santa Tracker Christmas app comes with a substantial amount of content. It features a blog, calendar, and other subscription-only features you can add. The unfortunate aspect of this app is that it doesn’t run as smoothly as you might expect. You might have some issues navigating the menu. However, it’s free and you’re not risking anything by trying it out.

searching for santa and sleighConclusion- The Best Santa Tracker App

Considering all the advances we’ve made in recent years, it may seem like slim pickings for Santa tracking tech, but hey — Santa defies science, so what do you expect? Just make sure that whatever Santa tracking app you use, you don’t stay up too late staring at it. You wouldn’t want him to miss your house!

Make sure your house is lit up bright for Santa's arrival with bright, beautiful LED Christmas lights. We're here for all of your residential and commercial Christmas light needs. Whether you need RGB Christmas lights or animated Christmas trees, we can help you create the Christmas display of your dreams. Contact us today to find out what Christmas Designers can do for your Christmas display.