Christmas in the Park in San Jose launches re-imagined holiday experience amid the pandemic

Christmas in the Park in San Jose officially kicked off Friday night with a new look and at a new location.

Instead of downtown, it has moved to History Park. And this year, it's a drive through, not a walk through.

People can enjoy the exhibits only from their vehicles due to COVID-19 concerns. 

This new pandemic drive-through version sold out on opening night. 

"We thought it was exciting and safe since we can stay in the car and not have to have contact with anyone," says Lisa Moreno of Castro Valley. .

Some families say it's their annual tradition to visit this holiday display. Now, it's a new expericne.

"I'm really excited to kind of drive thru. Anxious and excited," says Vincente Barriga.

Guests enter this winter wonderland enjoying displays choreographed to a soundtrack that plays on FM radio as they drive. 

"It brings cheer to a time when things are uncertan and disappointing. It really lit up the city," says Cynthia Perez of San Jose. 

The bright lights and displays of holiday cheer, combined with nostalgia, are designed to bring comfort.

"We want people to kinda get somewhat of a return to normalcy," says Jason Minskey, executive director of Christmas in the Park. 

He says it takes anywhere from 15 to 25 minutes to drive through depending on the flow of traffic.

"Have memories that they're creating this year and remember the good times past," says Minskey.  

The tunnel of 325 feet of pixel lights is one new highlight, along with other light displays. They are  additions to the traditional exhibits. 

Germaine Albano of Hayward says she loves everything about the new Christmas in the Park, "The lights. The closest thing we'll get to Disneyland."

Event organizers say 1800 vehicles came through Friday night.

Santa Claus was situated toward the end of the drive through, greeting the carloads of families with young children,"Don't forget cookies and milk. Okay?"

Christmas in the Park will be up through Jan 3.

Minskey says tickets are selling fast.

It’s $20 per vehicle.

If interested, book online in advance. No tickets will be sold onsite.