Breakfast with Santa at Robert Mills House

Dylan Skipper, 1 1/2, was more interested in climbing the steps at the historic Robert Mills House on Saturday than sitting on Santa's lap.

Up and down, up and down, the toddler climbed under the close watch of his mom and dad.

"We came out today because I thought I'd be able to get a good picture of him with Santa," said his mom, Michelle Skipper, shaking her head. "It didn't work out that way. He's always moving around. I haven't gotten a good picture of him all year."

On Saturday, the Skippers and about 100 other families with young children gathered at the historic Columbia home for Breakfast with Santa. The first-time event was sponsored by the Historic Columbia Foundation.

Participants ate a continental breakfast in the carriage house, enjoyed Christmas music and crafts and posed for pictures with a Victorian Santa dressed in a green velvet robe.

For those willing to brave the cold, horse-drawn carriage rides were also available through the city's historic home district.

Nicholas Hagen, 6, suspected the green robed Santa wasn't the real deal.

"I pulled his beard, and it came down and I saw his lips," he said. "It's not real at all."

Nicholas' mom, Miranda Hagen, said the event was a good way to kick off Christmas break - whether it's the real Santa or not.

"We're up at 6 every morning, and this is the first day of no school. It's a good way to keep children occupied," Hagen said as Nicholas worked to make a candy cane out of beads and pipe cleaner.

Reed Broderick, 8, ate a cinnamon roll and then told Santa what he and his three siblings hope to get for Christmas.

"I told him we want a Wii," he said.

His mom, Wendy Broderick, said her kids thought they had a better chance of getting what they wanted if they all asked for the same gift.

"That way, they don't overload Santa," she said.

The Victorian Santa is usually only seen by school groups and other visitors to the Robert Mills House, said Sarah Blackwell, the foundation's director of programming.

"This year, we decided to share him with more people," she said.

It worked. Preregistration for the event sold out.

In addition to breakfast, the foundation hosted its monthly family day. Kids shopped and secretly wrapped gifts while parents enjoyed the historic property decked out for the holidays.

One of five national historic landmarks in Columbia, the home was built by architect Robert Mills in 1823 in the Classical Revival style.

Since 1967, the home has been a historic house museum open to the public.

Jim Manning, a member of Richland County Council who attended the event with his great-niece, said the events showcase Columbia's historic jewels.

"It's just another way to bring people to the Historic Columbia Foundation and realize what we have here in the city to offer," he said.