Christmas Light Scavenger Hunt

Christmas Light Scavenger Hunt

There's nothing quite like driving around to look at Christmas lights during the holiday season. This year, make it even more fun by turning it into a scavenger hunt! Get the whole family involved in an engaging game to spot the most extravagant light displays in your neighborhood or town.

How to Do a Christmas Light Scavenger Hunt

One of the most festive and fun holiday activities is driving around town looking at Christmas light displays. You can take it to the next level by turning it into a scavenger hunt competition with family or friends. Setting up a Christmas light scavenger hunt is easy and can provide hours of festive entertainment. Here's what you need to do:

Christmas- Lights- Scavenger -Hunt

1. Plan a Time for Your Scavenger Hunt

Pick an evening when everyone is free, bundle up, and hit the road once it gets dark out. The lights look best against the night sky! Aim for a clear night if possible.

Picking the right date and time is crucial for ensuring your Christmas light scavenger hunt is a success. You'll want to choose an evening when all participants are free from other commitments to fully enjoy the festive fun. Here are some tips for nailing down the best night:

Aim for a Weekend Evening

Weekends typically work best for gathering groups of families, friends, coworkers or other teams. People are free from work and school obligations, making it easier to coordinate schedules. Fridays can also work if you want to kick off the weekend with holiday cheer.

If you absolutely must do a weeknight, opt for later in the week. Mondays and Tuesdays may be too hectic with everyone coming off the weekend. Wednesdays or Thursdays could be preferable.

Pick a Date Close to Christmas

While some homes have their lights up right after Thanksgiving, many residents don't put up their displays until a week or two before Christmas. For the best variety and concentration of decorated houses, aim for 7-10 days prior to December 25th.

This allows you to capture all the procrastinators but still enjoy the lights before they start getting taken down after the 25th. The weekends of December 15th-17th or December 22nd-24th tend to be prime viewing periods.


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Start Once It's Dark Out

Since you'll be viewing and hunting for outdoor Christmas light displays, it needs to be completely dark outside for the full effect. Plan to begin your scavenger hunt anywhere from 6pm-8pm, depending on your location's sunset time and how early night falls.

Monitor the weather forecasts, and aim for a clear, dry evening if possible. While a light snowfall can create a magical feeling, heavy snow, rain or extreme cold may dampen spirits.

Bundle Up!

Nights in December can be quite chilly, depending on your climate. Encourage all teams to dress in extremely warm clothing, including:

  • Base layers to wick away moisture
  • Insulated coats, snow pants, and boots
  • Thick socks and water-resistant gloves
  • Hats or ear warmers

Since you'll be in and out of vehicles, dressing in layers is advisable so people can add or remove items as needed. Having a warm beverage like hot chocolate can also help fend off the chill if stops are involved.

Consider Holiday Schedules

When choosing your scavenger hunt date, be mindful of any holidays or events that could impact attendance or traffic/parking conditions.

For example, doing it on Christmas Eve may mean some families have other traditions. The day after Christmas could work well while people are still on holiday break.

New Year's Eve may be too hectic with parties and celebrations. Avoid dates when your area is likely to be extremely crowded or have road closures.

With some flexible scheduling and advanced preparation for the weather, you can pick a picture-perfect evening sure to make your Christmas lights scavenger hunt an unforgettable holiday highlight! Getting the timing right sets the stage for a fun, festive and memorable night.

2. Print the Christmas Light Scavenger Hunt List

To make your hunt easy, print out our Christmas light scavenger hunt list. It includes classics like nativity scenes, Santa and his reindeer, candy canes, snowmen, colored icicle lights, and more. Grab a pen for each car.


Christmas Lights Scavenger Hunt

To keep things easy and organized for your Christmas light scavenger hunt, be sure to print out copies of a pre-made list for all participants. Having a standard list that everyone is working off of prevents confusion and allows you to control the level of difficulty.

A good option is to use the free printable Christmas light scavenger hunt list provided here. It includes all the classics that you'd expect to see lighting up neighborhoods and houses during the holidays, such as:

  • Nativity scene
  • Santa Claus
  • Reindeer (full 9-reindeer set for bonus points!)
  • Candycanes
  • Snowmen
  • Icicle lights
  • Inflatable decorations
  • Lights synchronized to music
  • Star on a rooftop
  • Plastic lawn figurines
  • Decorated tree
  • Lit-up wreath
  • Multi-colored roof outline
  • Lit-up manger scene

This list has a nice mix of easy targets that can be found aplenty, like icicle lights and plastic Santas, combined with more challenging ones like intricate nativity scenes or homes with lights flashing to music. Be sure to specify if participants need to find a certain number of each item (one inflatable decoration? Or five?)

Before printing out copies of the list, you may want to modify it by:

  • Removing any items you don't want to include
  • Adding fun Christmas-themed line items of your own
  • Determining if teams need to find the actual item or just check a box if they see it
  • Assigning point values to each item based on difficulty

Print out one copy of the list for each vehicle/team that will be participating. Having a printed list in an easily visible location in the car allows teams to quickly check things off as they spot them without fumbling with devices. Be sure each team also has a pen or pencil for marking.

If you have any mobility-restricted participants who can't be running around from car to car, print them an extra copy to document what they see from their vantage point.

To up the fun factor, you can hand out fun Christmas-themed pencils, flashlights or Santa hats along with the list to get everyone in a festive mood before hitting the road.

With a solid Christmas light scavenger hunt list printed and ready to go, your teams will be prepared to celebrate the season in a merry, bright way!

3. Bring Hot Chocolate and Christmas Cookies!

No lights scavenger hunt is complete without snacks! Pack a thermos of hot chocolate and some Christmas cookies to keep everyone energized as you drive around.

Christmas- Lights- Scavenger -Hunt

While hunting for the most dazzling Christmas light displays is fun and festive, it's also a chilly activity being outside in the December weather. To keep energy and spirit levels high, be sure to bring along some hot beverages and tasty treats to enjoy during your scavenger hunt adventure.

Nothing beats sipping a toasty mug of hot chocolate while oohing and aahing over twinkling lights and decorations. Getting a warm beverage station set up before you head out is a must! Here are some tips:

The Hot Chocolate Station

  • Use an insulated container or thermal carafe to pre-make and transport your hot cocoa
  • Make it rich and creamy by using milk instead of water
  • Spice it up with cinnamon, peppermint or orange zest
  • Provide plenty of tasty mix-ins like miniature marshmallows, crushed candy canes, whipped cream, chocolate shavings
  • Keep it warm by preparing a thermos of hot water to refill the carafe if needed

Don't forget napkins, paper towels, and a plastic bag for collecting grounds if you use real chocolate shavings. You may also want to bring along some spoons for sipping and stirring mix-ins.

Christmas Cookie Spreads

Complement that velvety hot cocoa with a platter of seasonal Christmas cookies. This is a great way to get everyone in the festive spirit and energize teams between stops.

You can go all out baking a variety of cookies yourself or pick up some delicious platters from your local bakery. Classics like gingerbread people, sugar cookies decorated with royal icing, peppermint crunch, and Mexican wedding cookies are all fitting options.

If you're driving separately, make individual bags for each car so that drivers can snack safely while stopped. Otherwise, set up your cookie spread in a central vehicle everyone can pick from.

Consider getting holiday-themed disposable plates, napkins and wipes to avoid any crumbly messes in the cars. A plastic tablecloth also helps contain spills.

Bonus Beverages

For an adults-only scavenger hunt, thermoses of spiked hot chocolate or mulled wine also make for festive sipping. Or mix in a little Kahlua or Baileys for an extra kick!

Stash some bottles of water in a cooler as well to stay hydrated between hot drinks. And don't forget to bring along a roll of paper towels and garbage bags to keep cars clean.

With delicious hot chocolate, cookies and other wintry treats available, your Christmas light scavenger hunters will be fueled up and ready to take on neighborhood after neighborhood of dazzling displays. The mix of sweets and warmth adds to the magical feeling of the night. Just be sure to remind everyone not to spill in the cars!

4. Have Prizes for the Winner!

Make it a competition by offering fun prizes for the first person or team to complete the list. Holiday mugs, ornaments, or sweet treats work well.

While the real prize of a Christmas light scavenger hunt is the joy of the festive activity itself, adding an extra competitive element with prizes can amp up the excitement and energy. After all, who doesn't love winning, especially when it comes to holiday treats and treasures?

Determine ahead of time if you want to award a prize to the first individual/team to completely check off the whole scavenger list or if you'll tally up points for each item found. The latter allows you to make some targets higher value based on degree of difficulty.

For maximum fun, offer prizes for multiple achievements, such as:

  • 1st Place Overall
  • 2nd Place Overall
  • 3rd Place Overall
  • Most Festive/Decorated Vehicle
  • Best Holiday Outfit or Costume
  • Smartest Strategy (taking the best route)

Now for the prizes! Get creative with affordable, fun rewards that tie into the Christmas theme. Here are some perfect ideas:

Holiday Mugs - Fill them with hot chocolate packets, candy canes, or small candies

Christmas Ornaments - Pick out a variety of unique, beautiful ornaments

Holiday Candles - Scents like pine, cinnamon or baked treats

Christmas Tree Decorations - Themed banners, skirts, toppers or garlands Baked

Treats - Cookies, pies, candies or other sweets from a local bakery

Gift Cards - For coffee shops, stores, restaurants or online retailers

Bottles of Holiday Wine or Spirits - For an adult crowd

Christmas Decor - Small figurines, tabletop trees, string lights, etc.

Seasonal Socks - Fun patterns and characters

You can pick up many of these at your local discount, craft or Christmas store for just a few dollars each. For bigger groups, buy a few slightly pricier grand prizes then lots of smaller rewards like candy canes or mini ornaments.

Get extra creative by having a "prize wall" set up with all the loot displayed and let winners pick their prize from the options based on their place. Or put together themed gift baskets!

Award ceremonies always make giving out prizes more fun and memorable. Use a toilet paper"red carpet", make certificates, or hand out kitschy holiday costume contest awards like reindeer antlers or elf ears.

Adding prizes provides extra incentive for your Christmas light scavenger hunt teams to thoroughly scour every neighborhood and try their hardest. Just seeing and experiencing all the dazzling displays is a treat, but winning makes it even sweeter!

Christmas- Lights- Scavenger -Hunt

Make Your Own Christmas Scavenger Hunt for Kids

You can create your own custom list too! Think of decorations unique to your town or make an alphabet hunt. Get the kids involved in designing it.

While using a pre-made list is an easy option, designing your own custom Christmas light scavenger hunt can be a fun family activity, especially when you get the kids involved! This allows you to tailor the hunt items to your specific neighborhood's displays and decorations.

Not only does making your own list add a personal touch, but it also lets you control the level of difficulty based on your children's ages. Here are some tips for creating the perfect kid-friendly Christmas scavenger hunt:

Have Kids Make Suggestions

Get the whole family together and brainstorm all the different holiday decorations, lights, and accessories you might see out on display. From classic inflatables and plastic figurines to more unique items like shooting stars or spiral light trees, write down every decoration idea no matter how big or small.

Keep It Age-Appropriate

For younger kids, stick to larger, easier-to-spot items like Santas, reindeer, snowmen, etc. Older kids can handle more complex things like spotting specific colors of lights or complicated yard designs.

Make an Alphabet List

A fun idea is creating an A-Z hunt where each letter corresponds to a different Christmas item (A = Angel, B = Blinking lights, etc.). This helps kids learn their ABCs too!

Include Special Town Traditions

If your town or neighborhood has any unique traditions, events or decor items, add those in as bonus challenges. For example, the town Christmas tree or a street known for its legendary light displays.

Use Visuals for Non-Readers

If you have nonreading kids, incorporate photos, graphics or symbols on the list to represent each item so they can easily identify what to look for.

Assign Point Values

Just like adult versions, you can make some items worth more points than others based on anticipated difficulty or rarity to find. Big ticket items like synchronized light shows could be 10 points while a basic decoration is just 1.

Set Start/Stop Locations

Having a designated start and stopping point adds excitement. You could begin at your home, the town square or even a friend's house and end at a different spot with hot chocolate waiting!

Allow for Mobile Marking

Bring a clipboard and attach the list to it for easy mobile marking from the car. Or load the list into a notes app and have kids check off on a tablet or smartphone.

Award Prizesand Treats

Decide upfront if you'll have prizes like Christmas books, stuffed toys or movies for the winners. Or simply surprise them with hot chocolate and cookies at the final stop!

With a custom-made, kid-friendly scavenger hunt list in hand, your children will be whipping their heads in every direction looking for the next exciting light display. And they'll get a sense of accomplishment checking things off as you go. Let their creativity shine while making wonderful holiday memories!

Things to Include in Your Christmas Scavenger Hunt

For your list, here are some classic items to include:

  • Inflatable decorations
  • Character or object light displays
  • Certain light colors
  • Specific decorations like wreaths or garlands
  • Trees, bushes, or lawn ornaments

When creating your own one-of-a-kind Christmas light scavenger hunt list, you'll want to include a nice variety of different decorations, displays and light setups commonly seen adorning houses and lawns during the holidays. This mix of targets will ensure participants have plenty to look for while cruising around neighborhoods.

Here are some classic items that should definitely be incorporated into your custom scavenger hunt checklist:

Inflatable Decorations

Huge inflatable figures have become increasingly popular Christmas lawn decorations. See if you can spot any giant inflatable Santas, snowmen, characters from movies like The Grinch, lighthearted designs like candy canes or hot air balloons, or even more unique choices like the Buddhas or Boston terriers!

Character or Object Light Displays

In addition to basic string lights, many homeowners use strands to create shaped light displays resembling different characters or objects. Common ones include Santa and his sleigh, reindeer, angels, gifts or present boxes, Christmas trees and the star of Bethlehem.

Certain Light Colors

Make teams keep an eye out for homes with a specific color scheme for their light displays. You could list "all blue lights," "red and green only," "white icicle lights," etc. Or challenge them to find houses with lights in less traditional shades like purples or pinks.

Specific Decorations

Hone in on some of the most ubiquitous Christmas decorative pieces by having an item on the list like "Find 5 different wreaths" or "Spot 3 different types of lawn ornaments." You could also specify garlands around doors, light-up figurines, bows or ribbons.

Trees, Bushes or Other Greenery Outlines

Many residents put immense effort into outlining all the trees, bushes and shrubbery in their yard using stringed lights. Make this a challenge by having hunters look for "pine tree outlined in red lights" or "all bushes/hedges lit up with white lights."

Unique Local Displays

If your town or neighborhood has any iconic annual Christmas displays, be sure to include those as targets! It could be a community center piece, decoration put together by neighborhood volunteers, or even just one lavish homeowner who goes all-out every year that everyone knows about.

You can take this list of classic items and creative options as a starting point, combining them with more unique ideas you come up with as a family. The perfect custom scavenger hunt should include a blend of easy and more challenging things for participants to locate. Most of all, have fun curating your list of festive targets!

Try a Christmas Scavenger Hunt with Clues



Take it up a notch by turning it into a scavenger hunt with clues that lead teams to the next destination with great light displays. Or hide treat prizes along the way.

For an extra engaging and exciting twist on the traditional Christmas light scavenger hunt, turn it into an adventure by incorporating clues that lead teams to the next destination with over-the-top displays. You can even hide small treat prizes along the way to reward clever sleuthing!

Instead of simply driving around aimlessly looking for decorations to check off a list, a clue-based hunt puts participants' problem-solving skills and holiday knowledge to the test. It adds suspense and surprise around each corner. Here's how to set it up:

Map Your Route

First, do a dry run yourself to map out an efficient route that hits all the major must-see light displays and beautifully decorated neighborhoods in your area. Aim for 10-15 stops total.

Write Rhyming Clues

At each stop, come up with a fun rhyming clue that highlights something about that location's lights or decorations. For example:

"This residential winner Is a twinkling dinner, Complete with a light-up Grinch As green as a tinch!"

The clues don't have to be super elaborate - just get creative and have fun dropping hints about details like colors, characters, synchronized displays and more.

Make a Clue Package

Print or write out your clues onto festive stationary or cards and number them in the order they'll be solved. Put together clue packages for each team with the first clue outside and the rest sealed in envelopes.

Hide Treat Prizes

For an added fun surprise, hide small wrapped treat prizes like hot chocolate packets or candy canes at certain Stop locations for the first team to find and claim. Leave a note where you've stashed them.

Set a Time Limit

Determine if you'll have an open-ended hunt or set a time limit, like earning points off their score for every 5 minutes they go over. You could also turn it into a race between multiple teams.

Award Grand Prizes

Come up with desirable grand prizes like gift cards, Christmas games or movies to award to the team(s) who successfully complete the entire scavenger hunt route in the shortest amount of time.

Offer Hints If Needed

If clues prove too difficult, have some extra hints ready to give stuck teams to avoid frustration and keep them moving.

Get family and friends in the holiday spirit with this fun, interactive take on light viewing! It doubles as a test of teamwork, deduction skills and Christmas spirit knowledge. The thrill of cracking each new clue and scavenger hunting for sweet rewards is sure to make memories.

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Christmas Light Scavenger Hunt FAQ

What if it's raining or snowing?

You can absolutely still go, just be prepared with warm layers and an umbrella if needed. Wet roads can make the lights extra dazzling!

How many people do I need?

You can do this with any number! From just your family to a huge group.

Do we have to drive?

Driving makes it easier to cover more ground, but you can absolutely walk around your neighborhood if you prefer.

What do I need to bring?

Make sure to bring a printed copy of the scavenger hunt list and pens/pencils for marking things off. It also helps to have a flashlight or two, a charged mobile phone for light, and blankets or hand warmers if it will be especially cold out. Pack snacks and warm beverages like hot chocolate to enjoy along the way.

How many people can be on a team?

There is no set limit, but we recommend keeping teams to around 4-6 people per vehicle so it doesn't get too crowded. Having multiple "spotters" helps you find things quicker!

Do we have to stay in our vehicle the whole time?

For safety and legal reasons, yes - players should remain in their vehicles at all times during the scavenger hunt. Do not trespass onto private property or go inside homes/businesses.

What if we can't find something on the list?

Don't spend too much time stuck in one area. Make a note of anything you can't seem to locate and move on to the next part of the list. Things can always be skipped and deducted later.

Are there time limits?

This is up to you! Many groups choose to make it an open-ended hunt until the list is fully completed. Others set a 1-2 hour time window and tally up what was found by the end.

Can we take photos for proof?

Definitely! Photos or video can serve as proof that teams located a certain light display or decoration, especially for the trickier ones. But be safe and NO PHOTOGRAPHY WHILE DRIVING.

How do I find good Christmas light locations?

Ask locals for their favorite areas to view lights or check community websites/forums. Neighborhoods with homeowner associations often have impressive displays. But always prioritize safety over covering as much ground as possible.

Let us know if you have any other questions! The scavenger hunt is meant to be a fun, festive tradition so feel free to adjust any rules as needed for your group.

So gather your supplies and get ready for a memorable Christmas lights scavenger hunt! It's a fun way to soak up the holiday spirit.


Christmas Lights Scavenger Hunt

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