While Drive-in movie theaters have made a comeback, Covid has popularized a new form of performing arts entertainment with many drive-through experiences you may see popping up around town. We can keep our distance while also traversing through new worlds and stories all from the comfort of our own car, not unlike some of our favorite rides at amusement parks we visited in the good old quarantine-free days.
First up for the holidays is The Elf on the Shelf Journey, based on the immensely successful toy of the same name. This simple concept of sitting an “Elf on a Shelf” for your child to find every day has morphed into this holiday phenomenon that takes the throne with many other beloved characters like Rudolph, Frosty, and the Nutcracker. I had no idea just how huge a beast this property had become. There are even animated specials that have expanded this franchise’s universe… and I’m discovering more and more of it being a relatively new parent.
We’ve covered the announcement for this event, and you can find our article Here, but before we go into the details of the preview, we want to once again remind people that we are still within the thralls of a pandemic, and recommend people check out our article on ”If You Should Go Out” Here. This event is distanced, so as long as the people inside the vehicle are your family, now let’s talk about the preview!
Once you purchase your tickets, you will receive a confirmation email and a more detailed email containing useful information like where to go, when to show up (15 mins early), safety information, and a waiver that you are agreeing to by purchasing the ticket. They also give you a link to their custom-made app, which you will need in order to know what’s happening in the story. The app itself helped carry the story, as you go through 16 chapters to save Christmas. The narrator himself, Scout Elf Tiny Tinkerman, had a delightful voice and dad-joke demeanor, and the music and sfx make the audio representation of the story more immersive. Although everything is explained very well on the app, there are Santa’s helper elves around if you have any questions related to anything regarding the event.
The story is a familiar one we’ve heard time and time again when it comes to Christmas tales. Santa had an emergency landing on the Fairplex because his sleigh ran out of Christmas magic, which is fueled by Christmas cheer. What an “elfastrophe!” With Christmas cheer being at an all-time low this year, it’s up to us to save it, and we have to shrink down to elf-size to do it. This requires us to, firstly, help the scout elves locate the sleigh bells that have been scattered all around the Fairplex; and secondly, we have to gather the ingredients of Christmas spirit in our hearts: faith, hope, and love. Yes, with our Christmas spirit soaring we can bring back Christmas magic in Santa’s sleigh bells, which brings flight back to his sleigh.
After you check-in and get situated, you are given some goodies and prompted for the start of your journey. For those like me who were gifted tiny bladders, you can relieve yourselves before and after your journey at the porta-potty zone. Then head back in line for the adventure to begin! Since you’re only allowed to drive at 1 “fun” MPH, I had my toddler on my lap so she could enjoy the show as well. And my heart filled up with Christmas joy seeing her eyes and smile light up as she looked around at the twinkling lights and masked elves dancing. Yes, everyone involved in the show was wearing a mask, even if they were more than 6 feet away and flying solo. So you can rest assured that they take Covid safety protocols seriously.
The journey lasts approximately 1 hour, but being that it was a preview night, I was wondering if there was a hiccup somewhere in the planning as it took us about an hour and 15 minutes to drive through. Granted, the delay makes sense since we were at a standstill which felt reminiscent of the parking lot of the 405 at some points. This wouldn’t feel as stagnant if they had only filled in some of the dead zones with more eye candy, or even Santa’s helpers walking around selling hot cocoa, popcorn, mistletoe, merch, anything! (Speaking of food, I advise you to eat before you arrive or have some snacks in the car with you because we were starving afterward.) This delay also caused us to lose track of the story at times. While the app was great about walking us through what was happening, we also missed a few signs displaying the chapter numbers. An easy remedy could be adding a light to call attention to the sign to keep you on track. Meanwhile, the actors didn’t say much, but they had more of the acrobatic and juggling chops than Oscar-winning performances. The elves conducting our spirit meter added a charming touch, though there were one too many. And while our spirit was being measured, this could have been the perfect moment to be more interactive, perhaps with having people laugh and cheer in their cars. Yet, given the circumstances of Covid, we understand those limitations and possible safety violations.
Despite these small road bumps, there were some beautifully decorated sets. There was even a moment I felt like I was driving down Christmas tree lane or like I was on the ET ride that I used to love at Universal Studios. True, it could feel like you’re driving down your Christmas-lit neighborhood, but there are some extra elements that make this experience much more memorable. Huge “Elf on a Shelf” fans will enjoy a little nod to the Elf Pets as well as the actual toy. There was also a nice little keepsake you can take home to remember the time you saved Christmas. If you are in the mood to buy some merch, there are retail lanes at the end of your journey, as well as an area to drop off any unwrapped gifts for Toys for Tots or Children’s Hospital LA that you brought along. How’s that for spreading the Christmas spirit? Speaking of which, I saw many families being extra festive and expressing their holiday cheer by dressing up like their favorite Christmas characters or dressing in matching plaid. Some families even decked their cars with lights and candy canes strung about to add to that extra cheeriness…. Because, let’s face it, Covid times are scary and unpredictable but don’t let it chase away your Christmas spirit this year. We can go out and enjoy holiday events like this safely.
If we’ve interested you in this event, you can get your tickets for this event Here!