driving around and looking at Christmas lights is a family tradition
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How To Make Driving Around & Looking At Christmas Lights Extra Magical

Pack some hot cocoa, cookies, and a heated blanket. It's time to get cozy and festive.

Driving around and looking at Christmas lights is a time-honored tradition for many families. This year, because drive-through light shows are one of the few reliably safe activities for us to enjoy, cities are going all-out, making huge displays and opening more drive-through "shows" than ever before. And why not make things a little more magical by really padding out the experience? I have some ideas.

Whether you want to have your own little holiday wonderland in your car, or you just want a few extra treats, there are plenty of options available to you. Think of old carriage rides and the ambiance they create. Sure, you're riding around in your Honda Odyssey and not a velvet carriage, but you know what you have? Heated seats and climate control. Take that, Victorian romance. Make that minivan a real comfy entertainment center complete with cozy blankets and warm beverages. Your kids will be enthralled with the lights and you can have 30 minutes where they're not begging for more Robux and fighting over who's using too much wifi. I'm calling that a win, even if you doze off a time or two in the passenger seat. Who could blame you after this year?

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Cocoa Canisters

Steel sippy cups aren't just for milk and water. Warm (not hot) cocoa is the perfect beverage to bring along with you on your trip through the lights. And hey, if it spills, I can tell you with great experience that Shout Advanced gets cocoa out of just about anything. (Including one gorgeous cashmere scarf I thought was ruined forever.)

Make Your Car A Snowy Wonderland.

This stuff is great for a million reasons. But what I'm envisioning is cutting it up and draping it over the seats, the back dash, and even over the floor if you have a minivan. Make your car a real winter wonderland.

Treat Bags

It's been like, a year since your kids have gotten a good, old-fashioned treat bag. Fill the bags for your kids with themed items like mini toy binoculars to look at the lights, popcorn balls covered in white chocolate to look like snowballs, soft peppermints, and maybe a little snow globe to commemorate the occasion.


Why Oreos? First off, they come in myriad holiday varieties. Secondly, they're delicious with cocoa. And finally, if you don't love Oreos, I fundamentally don't understand you as a person. They are one of the world's most perfect cookies, and not seeing them for the blessing they are is unfathomable to me. Plus, it's easy to keep a pack in the backseat for easy access.

Heated Blanket

Even if your car is toasty warm, there's nothing like a heated blanket. This one plugs right into your car and warms up quickly. If, like me, you grew up getting in your parents' 90s nightmare that took forever to warm up, you'll cozy up with this wishing you had one as a kid.

A Very Special Playlist

Make a Spotify playlist that's special to you and your family. Yes, "All I Want For Christmas Is You" and "Underneath the Tree" should be included, but you can also add classics like "Frosty the Snowman" and maybe some killer Trans-Siberian Orchestra.


Set up a GoPro or similar camera on the dash to record your kids' reactions to the lights that you can view forever. Watch their eyes light up when they see the huge reindeer with moving head, and hopefully you'll avoid the 1998 damage that I took mentally when I saw Santa going to the bathroom behind the mall in Ohio.

Scavenger Hunt

Set up a scavenger hunt for your kids and let them check off items as they see them. Items could be "candy canes," "tree with only green lights," "Rudolph," or even funny ones like "Words with letters not fully lit." "M rry Chr stmas, Everyone!"

Matching Outfits

I will never miss an opportunity to make my husband dress on a theme. This year, we're all in red and black buffalo check and Rudolph noses and he's going to love it. Make sure to get that selfie.

Toys For Tots

Many of these light shows have a Toys for Tots box at the end. If you can, one way to make this night special not only for you, but for others as well, is to have your kids pick out and buy a toy for the Toys for Tots box that they get to drop in. It's a really good feeling.

Make "We Love Your Lights" Cards

Whether you want to write them on index cards, on strips of paper you cut, or print off some cute stickers, make a bunch of these that just say something like, "We love your lights!" or "Thank you for sharing your Christmas joy!" and pop them in the mailboxes of the houses you love the most. Go all out. Everyone needs a dose of happy this year.