VIRGINIA BEACH — The countdown to Christmas has begun, and for one Virginia Beach real estate agent that means frosty nights filled with hot cocoa and searching for the area’s best holiday lights.
Scoping out neighborhoods for the Southside’s Christmas light displays has become a holiday tradition for Sam Sansalone. By the end of November, the 33-year-old had already spent about 15 hours driving around the area searching for sparkling homes, lighted lawns and — his favorite — holiday Minion-themed decor.
Recently Sansalone decided to put his research to good use. He created an interactive map and blog that pinpoint’s his favorite holiday light locations and provides routes for families looking to fit the most Christmas magic into a single outing.
“I think it really can help people,” Sansalone said.
So far Sansalone has mapped about 75 homes in Virginia Beach, Chesapeake and Portsmouth. He plans to travel to Norfolk soon to add the Mermaid City’s light displays to his collection.
The map is color-coded into three sections: A green pin indicates that the home is a “must see,” while a blue pin means that the light display is “very nice” in Sansalone’s opinion. A yellow pin indicates that the house has a Minion from Universal Studio’s “Despicable Me” series on display.
Each route that Sansalone has mapped is planned around a blue pin — what he calls an “anchor home” — that allows people to see a grouping of holiday lights in close proximity to each other while making sure they visit at least one of what he considers to be the very best displays in that area.
The blog also lists each address included on the map with a description of the decorations at the houses for the adventurous who want to forge their own trail.
Sansalone’s absolute favorite Christmas display? A Chesapeake home on Woodland Drive that he describes as having an “acre full of lights” with more than 100 inflatable decorations.
“You can get out of the car and walk through the yard,” he said.
But Sansalone isn’t under the impression that he’s seen all of the Christmas lights the Southside has to offer. That’s why he wants residents to submit the addresses of their favorite holiday light locations to him so he can add them to the map.
To submit a location near you, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor’s note: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified Sansalone as a Realtor.
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