Family Scavenger Hunt: Christmas Light Edition

I love the movie Christmas Vacation, with Chevy Chase. My favorite part of the whole movie is the Griswold house, all lit up and tacky! I remember watching that movie as an elementary school student wishing that I could get up on the roof and staple gun thousands and thousands of little lights to the house! I wanted the 50 light-up lawn ornaments in the front yard and the Santa Claus popping out of the chimney. However, my childhood home didn’t have a chimney . . . sigh. And my mom would never have allowed our house to be the Christmas Vacation house on the block . . . sigh. She didn’t even like blinking lights on the Christmas tree . . . sigh.

Even though our house wasn’t “that house” in town, we would drive around in the weeks before Christmas and look at the lights and figurines other people had set up in their yard. We’d undoubtedly find a house that could give Clark Griswold a run for his money! My personal favorites are the ones that are either programmed to music or the ones that have yards so full of light up figurines you can’t even figure out how people walked through the yard to display them all!

christmas light scavenger hunt
We found this one, this year! Santa driving a sleigh lead by dinosaurs!

This tradition of driving around to see Christmas lights is one I have continued with my children and husband. This year, however as we went on our annual Christmas Light Drive around the greater Iowa City area, something heart-breaking happened! My 7-year-old and 5-year-old started picking at each other in the backseat, the 2-year-old fell asleep in her car seat, and then, about five minutes into the drive the 7-year-old says:

“What are we doing driving around in the dark? Can you turn on a movie to watch?”

“No, I said. We’re not watching a movie! There’s Christmas music on the radio and we are looking at the Christmas Lights!!” (I probably could have added, “And you will have fun, darn it!”)

OK, so the Annual Family Christmas Light Drive was headed downhill, and fast. In a moment of panic I said, “I bet you can’t find a house that used only blue lights.” And when they did, I said, “I bet you can’t find a house that used only red lights.” And you know what? They bought it! They did! They played along and started looking for the random things I was telling them to find! I saved Christmas! (OK, maybe I’m going a little overboard here, but you know what I mean!) As long as they were on the lookout for something specific, the Annual Family Christmas Light Drive continued peacefully.

So, I’d like to share with you a Family Christmas Light Scavenger Hunt. My challenge to you and your little ones is to try to check each and every one of these off of your list. Give yourself 1 point for each item you find and post your scores in the comments section. If however, you happen to find a Hawkeye-themed Christmas light display, give yourself an extra 5 points.

Happy Light Display Hunting! May your Christmas Light Hunt be filled with quiet backseats and well-behaved children.

Family Christmas Light Scavenger Hunt

Work together and see if you can find:

  1.  4 houses in a row with Christmas lights
  2. A house using only white lights
  3.  A house with blue icicle lights
  4.  A reindeer and a manger in the same display
  5. Lights programmed to music
  6. Candles in the window
  7. 3 things on the roof
  8. 5 blow-up figures in the same yard.
  9. At least 3 trees in the same yard wrapped in lights
  10. Snowflakes
  11. A message in lights (like Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, etc., etc.)
  12. Lights strung higher than 6 feet in the air
  13. A Christmas Vacation house
  14. A house with lights hung, but not plugged in
  15. Red, Green, and White lights

     Bonus: A Hawkeye display of lights

Do you know of any must-see displays around town? Any neighborhoods that would be great for crossing some of these items off our list?



Kate lives in Iowa City with her husband (Matt) and three kids, ages 7, 5, and 2. She works at the Belin-Blank Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development at the University of Iowa. She earned her PhD in Curriculum and Supervision in 2012. Prior to working at the University, she taught high school mathematics at many public schools in Iowa. Kate has also coached junior high and high school cheerleading squads for 10 years. Kate has a personal blog . . . stop by and relive your junior high and high school mathematics classes! (without the anxiety or the homework :) )


  1. The Santa house in coralville! It’s on valley view dr, off of holiday rd. It’s great fun with hundreds of Santa figures and lights. There is also a house just down the street with light up trees that “dance” to the sound of Christmas music on the radio! Tune in and watch the light show!!

  2. I love this idea! With it getting dark at 4:30, we frequently drive around at least once a week to see different neighborhoods. My oldest is 4.5 so mine are still pretty entertained by the lights but I like the focused idea for when they get restless.
    Also where in IC is the dinosaur display? We haven’t seen that one yet.


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