Virtual Holiday Party Ideas so You Don't Have to Cancel All Your Plans

You can still make memories and share lots of laugh, even if you're connected over computers and not across tables.

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Video call on a laptop screen during Christmas
Photo: FilippoBacci/Getty Images

Though a lot of us are experiencing Zoom fatigue, what with business meetings and social get-togethers moving online for the better part of the year, many of us will be opting for virtual holiday gatherings this season. In fact, a recent AAA study shows that at least 34 million fewer people will travel this holiday season compared to last year, a decline of at least 29 percent.

We've pulled together a handful or virtual holiday party ideas, from arts and crafts to surprise special guests. With a pinch of planning and dash of inspiration, you can easily elevate your virtual holiday gathering to brighten the season and make memories that will last well into the New Year.

Plan Game Time

A simple game of bingo can quickly change Zoom time into game time, whether your guests are kids, adults, or a mix of both. Mail holiday-themed Bingo cards and chips to cover squares (like these from Amazon) to your guests ahead of your call. Encourage your guests to fix a mug of hot chocolate or adult beverage of their choice, and when you're on your call and ready to play, start the game and see which of your guests calls BINGO! first.

Remember, too, to play games aside of the classic straight line, like postage stamp (all four squares covered in the upper right corner of the card), blackout (all squares covered), or four corners (each of the four squares in the card's corners are covered.

Get Crafty

Bring out the inner-crafters in your guests by hosting a make-an-ornament party. Send ornament kits (like these from Target) to your guests, and get ready to get crafty. As you chat during your call, have your guests create their own ornaments. Towards the end of your video call, host a show-and-tell and have each person show the ornament they've created. It'll be fun to see what everyone has made through their individual creativity, and will be terrific memories of your time together when the ornaments hang on your guests' trees for years to come.

Design an Ugly Sweater

Ugly sweaters have a new spin this year with a cookie kit from Target. Just like with the ornaments, your guests have an empty canvas on which to let their creativity flow as they design their own ugly sweaters… on cookies!

Start designing at the beginning of your call, and invite your guests to show their "sweaters" as they complete them. Laughs are sure to abound, as are sweet bites.

Sing a Song

Caroling is a big part of a lot of holiday get-togethers, and your Zoom celebration doesn't need to be any different. Before the call, email you guests lyrics to some of your favorite seasonal songs, or invite them to send in their favorites, too, so everyone's a part of the planning process. During the call, let the singing begin! You may not all be in key or in time with each other, but the spirit will be there!

Have Storytime

"'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house. Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;…" Add to your guests' library with a copy of ″The Night Before Christmas″ by Clement C. Moore, which was first published in a newspaper in upstate New York in 1823. Ask each guest to read a page, and end all together with "Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!"

Shortsville Reindeer Farm
Courtesy of Shortsville Reindeer Farm

Reveal a Surprise Guest

Everyone enjoys a surprise guest, especially on Zoom calls. This year, invite a llama or reindeer to join your party!

Through December 24, either of these adorable animals will be happy to pop in and make a cameo appearance to surprise your holiday guests. More than 50 alpacas make their homes at the Lazy Acre Alpaca Farm, and four social reindeers live at Shortsville Reindeer Farm.

The $100 for 10 minutes fee supports the open-air farms, which provide the animals with specialized around-the-clock care, treatment facilities, and ample grazing room.

Invite Santa

What bigger guest could there be this time of year than the big man himself, Santa Claus? Imagine your holiday virtual guests' squeals of delight — whether they're kids or adults — when jolly Saint Nick pops onto the call to wish everyone a happy holiday season.

Plenty of virtual Santa stand-ins are ready to help out, while the North Pole Santa himself gets ready for his annual one-night trek to homes around the world. Doorstep Events has Santa on stand-by for either pre-recorded messages or a real-time visit (from $75/$150 respectively), and Vermont-based Green Mountain Santa is ready to greet your guests with a video message or virtual visit (from $15/$25 respectively). Book early, though — we know how busy Santa is at this time of the year!

Cheers to the New Year

Gather your wine-loving friends around their computers for a virtual wine tasting with a wine educator from Inglenook, one of Napa Valley's first wineries. After receiving their 100mL bottles of wine for individual servings, your wine educator will guide you and your guests through tasting notes, answer any questions, and share insider advice on tasting wine like an oenophile. Pricing from $45/person.

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