Last night my husband and I thought we would do something totally wild and go check out the Christmas lights display at the Holiday of Lights in Del Mar. We wanted to get off the couch for the evening and get some holiday cheer before the crowds and lines start up later in the month. For years we have driven by the Del Mar fair grounds during the holidays and I’ve always wanted to see what the lines of cars were all about, and finally we decided to cough up our $14, succumb to temptation, and see some Christmas lights.

I was anticipating a beautiful display, something along the lines of Buchart Gardens in Victoria B.C. where they light up a huge park with Christmas lights and holiday displays, and you can walk around and get cocoa and cookies, and stop and listen to live music and Christmas carols, and take a spin around the ice skating rink. Now granted you pay around $20, but I thought for $14 the Holiday of Lights in Del Mar should at least elicit some oooo’s and aaaah’s and light the Christmas spirit fire within so I might feel like braving the malls later.

The cool thing was, when we arrived there was not a single car. Nice! After we paid they gave us a free calendar. Bonus! Then they told us to turn off our headlights so our eyes could fully adjust to the dark and we would get the maximum enjoyment from the Christmas lights display. I asked if we could park the car and walk around because we wanted to take some photos and video with our new Canon EOS 7D, and doing so at night would require a tripod. We were told that no, we had to stay in our cars and keep driving the whole time. I couldn’t help thinking this seemed so Southern California, a drive-thru Christmas lights display. Hilarious! But then again, it could be cool if they like, surround your car with tons of flashing lights and santa zooms down like he’s going to crash into you, and there’s reindeer jumping over the windshield. Especially if this was all synchronized to music!

Driving without headlights proved to be the most interesting part of the experience. We had to drive really slow to avoid hitting the one million orange cones lining the entrance. Thank god for the dude in the reflective orange coat and the glow stick! We turned on the radio to 96.1 like the lady at the booth told us to. Now I love Christmas music but this was bad – they played the dog-barking Jingle Bell song, oh my dog – I mean god. This was not looking good.

Once we entered the grandstand, disappointment swept through me like a cold winters night. Basically what we have here is a whole bunch of random characters made out of Christmas lights, some of them that seem to “move,” all of which are spread around the middle of the del mar tracks at such a wide distance as to have absolutely no visual impact upon first glance. It reminded me of the neighbors across the way who will put like one lit-up reindeer on one side of their lawn, and then an inflatable light up Santa on the other, and then strew around some Christmas lights to try to tie it together. It was just totally random.

As you can see by the video posted above, it was pretty much impossible to get any good shots of the Christmas lights display from the moving car. And the lights were so far away in the middle of the field that we had to use our zoom, which is even shakier when moving. We defied the rules and stopped a few times, but then the attendants would walk up and start flashing their flashlights at us so we would keep driving. Seriously? There was not a single other car on the track.

I was going to try to write a little about some of the individual displays I remember, but honestly the whole thing was so lame I just wanted to go home and eat a quesadilla. The best part was the end where you drive through the tunnel of lights. See! I told you, they really just need to surround our cars with Christmas lights and we’ll be happy.

Del Mar, this is strike 2 against you in my book – the first one was the horribly expensive parking ticket I got last year because I had to go to an office Christmas lunch and ALL the parking around the restaurants was 90 minutes. Come on! I’ll stick to my neck of the woods for going out, and the free neighborhood Christmas light displays where I can get out of my car, off my rear end, and interact with actual live people!


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