What is a cookie crawl?

What would Christmas be without cookies!? Like so many holiday traditions, finding the time it takes to bake cookies can be daunting during the busy holiday season. When you are too busy to bake but still want nostalgic Christmas cookies, you need to find a cookie crawl.

What is a cookie crawl? A cookie crawl is a family-friendly community event where you pay a small ticket fee, receive an empty box, and then go to local businesses and fill the box with cookies. Cookie crawls are a great way to stock up on Christmas cookies (especially if you’re short on time to do baking).

Most cookie crawls support local causes like schools, charities, or community organizations. Many are like a scavenger hunt around town (you might even get a map!). Other cookie crawls are held at indoor venues. Read on to learn all about taking part in a cookie crawl!

Cookie crawl at the coffee shop - decorate your own
This coffee shop had plain gingerbread cookies in addition to the pro-decorated ones. We had the option to decorate our own gingerbread people and reindeer! My daughter absolutely loved it 🙂

All about cookie crawls

Cookie Crawls are a wonderful new family holiday tradition. These family-friendly events let you support local causes while gathering some pretty amazing cookies and treats in the process.

For those of us short on time during the busy holiday season, a cookie crawl provides an opportunity for you to gather a variety of beautifully-decorated cookies in a short time. After paying a set fee, the participants are given a cookie box and map of businesses that will be distributing cookies. Then its time to start collecting cookies!

Cookie crawls are generally organized to raise funds for local causes as well as to provide increased foot traffic to local businesses. In a metropolitan area, this may take place on a single block or it may take place over several streets.

Why go on a cookie crawl?

Cookies are an iconic symbol of the holidays. Perhaps visions of Grandma’s cookies on display bring back memories of your childhood. Maybe you enjoy baking and look forward to the decorating process but don’t have time. Either way, cookies are a part of the holidays and something to look forward to.

On average, baking and modestly decorating two dozen holiday cookies takes five hours. Modestly decorating means just putting simple icing on the cookie after it has baked and cooled. I’m not talking about the intricate decorations that make cookies look too good to eat. Cookies like that can take upwards of 10 hours to start to finish! We made some averagely-decorated digger cookies last year and it took us a total of 12 hours over three days.

Homemade digger heavy equipment christmas cookies
Here are some of the heavy-equipment themed digger cookies that we made. It was so time-consuming that by the time we got to the woodland-animal-themed batch…we just resorted to a plain outline and dots for the eyes. Cookie decorating takes a LONG time!

Whether you are a stay-at-home mom or working mom, this can be just too much time to devote to baking. I know we won’t get around to it this year! In our family, with busy practice schedules, school, activities, and work we aren’t even home for five hours at a time unless we are sleeping. Time for baking is extremely limited! And I feel like we’re not alone in that.

Making cookies for the christmas cookie exchange

How can cookie crawls simplify the holidays?

Cookie crawls are a relatively new concept stemming from the ever-popular cookie exchange. The difference is the time investment required for participants. You don’t have to take time to bake and wrap cookies to share. My brother literally took a full week last year to make 6 different kinds of cookies for a gift exchange. Needless to say, he won’t be repeating that this year!

With a cookie crawl, the only responsibility you have is to pay the fee and make sure you can physically get around to the different locations. Cookie Crawls have allowed us to simplify tradition while still making sweet memories. We aren’t making the cookies, but we are making memories and spending extra hours together for the holidays. A cookie crawl is inexpensive, it’s a great way to get into the spirit of giving and you walk away with beautiful cookies!

We have a busy life, but I refuse to let that take away the joy and excitement of the holiday season. I have fond childhood memories of baking cookies, and to this day, one of my favorite things to do during the holidays makes desserts with and for my family. The only difference is that we simplify when we can. This year – that means buying cookies to support charity instead of baking them ourselves. Everyone wins!

Cookie crawl at bakery - pistachio macarons - green holiday cookies
One time I tried to make red and green french macarons at Christmas. I wish I had pictures for you – the results were not pretty. So…now I just buy them LOL!

Who benefits from a cookie crawl?

Most Cookie Crawls benefit a specific cause – often a school, charity, or community organization. Local businesses take part in the event by providing cookies, and in turn they receive increased foot traffic during the holiday shopping season. Typically, the cookies are donated by local businesses for the event. This ensures all proceeds go directly to the chosen charity.

Participants pay a set ticket fee which allows them to receive an empty box or tin with which to collect cookies. A map is also given to the participants to show them where to collect the cookies. A cookie crawl has a set beginning and end time, however, there is no set time to arrive at each location.

The lack of a rigid schedule makes this a very family-friendly event. The cookie crawl can be completed in as little as an hour or it can take up to four hours. This allows flexibility with already full schedules. And there will be time to enjoy the odd hot chocolate or cup of apple cider!

Cookie crawl choices on a three-tiered platter
Here are more fancy cookies that I definitely don’t have the patience to make! I like that this location had snacks too (you WILL get hungry!) Photo credit: Jane Thomson Photography (https://www.janethomsonphotography.com/)

What can you expect at a cookie crawl?

While on the cookie crawl, you will visit multiple businesses in the town or city. Each business will have a different cookie for you to put in your box. Some cookie crawls focus on decorated sugar cookies while others will have different flavors and types of cookies or even holiday treats.

When preparing to sign up for a cookie crawl, be sure to check out the items you will be collecting. If you are planning to only collect cookies and find out it is a holiday treat crawl, you may walk away disappointed. Keep an open mind and try to be flexible (or decide to re-gift!). When you complete the cookie crawl you can go home and enjoy all the cookies and memories you spent the day collecting.

Popular cookie crawls to check out

Here are some popular annual cookie crawls around the USA:

  • Valencia Corridor Holiday Cookie Crawl, San Francisco, CA (December 7, 2019)
  • Beaver Cookie Crawl, Beaver, PA (December 9, 2019)
  • Beverly Arts Center, Chicago, IL (December 14, 2019)
  • Burien Cookie Crawl, Burien, WA (December 8, 2019)
  • Kingman Holiday Cookie Crawl, Kingman, AZ (December 14, 2019)

Are cookie crawls allergy friendly?

Many cookie crawls is that they are allergy-friendly. If a crawl is allergy-friendly, they generally advertise that so you know upfront. The typical allergens accounted for in most crawls are nut and gluten allergies, although this certainly varies. The cookies shown below are gluten free but decidedly-nutty! The best thing to do is ask questions if you are uncertain.

Baking gluten-free christmas cookies
Here are the gluten-free cookies I make for our GF family members at the holidays. The recipe is here: https://mamasmusthaves.com/recipe/walnut-cookies-with-chocolate-honey/

Keep in mind that not all cookie crawls are allergy-friendly. As a parent of a child with food allergies, the thought of collecting cookies from unknown locations can be intimidating. Unfortunately, not all locations are sensitive to allergies which can make an event like this seem impossible to attend.

Don’t assume a Cookie Crawl is allergy-friendly. It may be advantageous to contact the individuals facilitating the event for clarification, as well as asking for ingredient list and allergen exposure information at each location.

How much do cookie crawls cost?

The typical cost to attend a cookie crawl is between $7 and $20. The fee paid for the cookie crawl goes to a charity and provides you with a box or even decorative tin to collect the cookies in.

The cost also depends on how many boxes you choose to purchase. Most events do not require you to purchase a box per person, however, some do have this requirement. Be sure to check the policy before attending. If you are getting a box per family member your cost will be significantly more than if you only choose to purchase one box to share.

The cost of cookie crawls will also vary depending upon the location, charity being supported, and number of stops on the crawl. A Cookie Crawl close to Disney will generally have a higher ticket fee than the crawl at a local school. A cookie crawl sponsored by a local business organization may have little to no fee if the crawl is done mainly as a marketing tool (hey, there might even be raffle prizes!).

Christmas shortbread cookies on a white plate by the tree
Nothing like a nice (indoor) cozy cookie by the Christmas Tree

Are all cookie crawls outside?

When looking at schedules and factoring in the weather it is important to know that not all cookie crawls take place outside. In fact, there are many fundraising groups that choose to rent out a venue in which to host the event (indoors).

If you are fortunate enough to find an indoor cookie crawl the day will be much easier for everyone, especially younger children and older individuals. If you attend an indoor cookie crawl, you will still receive a map, however, the walk will be much shorter and warmer.

How do I find a cookie crawl?

Finding a cookie crawl can be as simple as looking online or searching through local newspapers to find listings. If you are in a more metropolitan area there will be more opportunities, while smaller areas will be more limited.

It is also important to remember that not all cookie crawls take place during the holidays. There are similar events the occur throughout the year in various locations. If you can’t find an upcoming cookie crawl, go ahead and organize your own!

Other posts you may like

Another fun part of the holidays is giving (and making) gifts! For some ideas about DIY Hot chocolate baskets, give this post a read!

Mary Jane Duford
Mary Jane Duford

Mary Jane Duford is a digital content creator and mom of three. She is also an engineer and bit of a plant nerd too. She has been featured by publications such as Real Simple, Mother Earth News, Homes & Gardens, and Family Handyman.

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