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‘Holidays in Your Car’ is safe, family-friendly way to make the season bright

"Holidays in Your Car" at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.
“Holidays in Your Car” at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

We can all agree that it’s not your average holiday season. The COVID-19 pandemic and spike in cases means that decking the halls needs to be done from at least six feet away and nobody’s sitting on Santa’s lap this year, at least not without a mask. But that doesn’t mean you can’t experience the magic of the season – you just need to do it in a safe and socially distanced way.

Enter “Holidays in Your Car,” a drive-through immersive holiday light show currently running through Jan. 2 at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. Billed as a “drive-through holiday light spectacular,” “Holidays in Your Car” does what seems nearly impossible in 2020: spreads a little bit of holiday magic, despite the limitations of remaining in your car.

"Holidays in Your Car" at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.
“Holidays in Your Car” at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.
(BRITTANY BERGGREN WWW.BBPHOTOSITE.COM)

Upon entrance to the Del Mar Fairgrounds, cars are routed through a winding maze of lit pathways that lead to a concessions area and check-in stand. There’s no need to ever leave your car (in fact, you’re not allowed to exit your vehicle), as costumed employees sell typical fair fare like funnel cakes and popcorn to patrons as they drive through.

Cars are encouraged to turn off their headlights in order to enjoy the full light experience. Cars can go no faster than three miles per hour down the 1.5 mile route. It takes about an hour to drive through the whole experience. Various lighted activations and holograms are placed along the path depicting different holiday scenes, some standing up to 40 feet high. There’s Santa and his reindeer, elves, Christmas trees, Sugar Plum Fairies, snowmen, nutcrackers and a Grinch, all lit up and synchronized to a soundtrack of Christmas classics found on a radio station given to patrons at check-in.

Several spectacularly lit tunnels dot the route, which was a highlight. At one point, cars enter a giant tent with interactive holiday scenes and lasers projected on the sides, making you really feel like you’re part of the show and not just driving around the fairgrounds in your car.

“Holidays in Your Car” is ideal for kids and families. My six-year-old nephew was awestruck by all the lights and sounds, and the fact that he got to wear his Christmas PJs and eat junk food in the car on a school night.

In addition to “Holidays in Your Car,” two stage shows are also being performed at the fairgrounds, drive-in movie style: On Dec. 12 at 4:30 and 7:30 p.m. is “Santa Saves Christmas!” and on Dec. 19 at 5 and 8 p.m. is “The Nutcracker” by City Ballet of San Diego. Both shows are in addition to the drive-through light show and are ticketed separately.

"Holidays in Your Car" at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.
“Holidays in Your Car” at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.
(BRITTANY BERGGREN WWW.BBPHOTOSITE.COM)

Organizers are also giving back to the community this holiday season: $1 from every ticket purchased will be donated to San Diego charities (the Emilio Nares Foundation and Shelter to Soldier), while canned food donations in partnership with the San Diego Food Bank are being collected from Dec. 6 through Dec. 13. Donations are accepted at check-in, with the goal of collecting 3,000 canned items.

Tickets are priced per car. Cars with up to four people are $49 and cars with five or more people are $64. Kids under two do not count towards your total. For more information or to purchase tickets to the drive-through light show or the stage shows, visit holidaysinyourcar.com.


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