There is nothing that makes holiday road trips go faster than a good story. Be it fictional or ripped straight from the headlines, podcasts these days do exactly that: deliver us listeners a solid story that we can sink our teeth into. Even better, there are so many podcasts out there these days that no matter what you’re interested in, there’s something for you. Oh, and did we mention that podcasts are free entertainment?
If you’re hitting the road this holiday season, why not pop on a podcast to help the time go by? Whether it’s a radio drama like Alice Isn’t Dead or Limetown or maybe something news-driven like Pod Save America or even something funny and topical (the best of both worlds in our opinion) like Keep It or Pop Culture Happy Hour, there’s no reason you won’t find something to your taste.
Click through our slideshow to read the synopses and find a story that is sure to make the holidays a little less stressful and a lot more interesting.
A version of this article was originally published in November 2017.
‘Armchair Expert With Dax Shepard’
If you’re a fan of far-ranging conversations or fun banter between celebrities, then Armchair Expert With Dax Shepard is the podcast for you. Not only are episodes typically over an hour long, but they focus on Shepard interviewing celebrities he knows or has worked with as well as public figures he genuinely wants to learn from. Expect lots of hilarity and heartwarming conversations from Shepard and his guests as you drive.
‘Pod Save America’
If you’re politically savvy and want to stay tuned into the conversations of the day, then you need to pop on Pod Save America for your road trip. You’ll arrive at your destination up to date on the issues currently affecting the nation and you’ll undoubtedly have something good to talk about at the holiday dinner table.
Pop-culture fanatics, this sassy podcast is for you. Hosted by entertainment journalist and TV writer Ira Madison III, Keep It takes a critical, hilarious look at current pop-culture events — like Cardi B’s feud with Nicki Minaj and Scarlett Johansson’s LGBTQ casting controversy — that will make sure you’re in the know about what’s happening in the zeitgeist.
‘Pop Culture Happy Hour’
NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour comes in bite-size (read: 30- to 40-minute) episodes that break down the latest in movies, television and celebrity culture. Whether the roundtable of critics is breaking down the results of an award show, reviewing the latest releases of movie like Black Panther or unpacking new TV shows like Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House, expect lots of insightful discussion about what’s popular in entertainment right now.
‘Dumb People Town’
Comedians Daniel Van Kirk, Randy Sklar and Jason Sklar come together every week with a special guest to joke around as they unpack all the weird, dumb and truly confounding news reported across the country. If you need a good laugh as you take your holiday road trip, then Dumb People Town is the podcast for you.
If you’re looking for a compelling radio drama to binge as you drive, Limetown is your go-to. Following journalist Lia Haddock as she attempts to uncover what happened to the residents (comprised of scientists recruited for a secret project and their families) of Limetown who all mysteriously disappeared the night the entire town burned to the ground, each new episode uncovers a new aspect of this compelling story.
Traditionally done as a live show, episodes of The Moth are those recordings of said shows posted in podcast form for you to enjoy at your leisure (which means it’s perfect for driving). Each episode includes a handful of regular folks, each getting up at the microphone in front of a crowd of listeners, telling personal stories. If you’re looking to get lost in the lives of others and maybe come away with a new perspective, The Moth podcast is for you.
‘My Dad Wrote a Porno’
My Dad Wrote a Porno is sure to make you feel a bit better about your dysfunction. Imagine if your dad wrote a dirty book. Most people would try to ignore it and pretend it had never happened — but not Jamie Morton. Instead, he’s decided to read it to the world in this brand new comedy podcast. With the help of his friends, James Cooper and BBC Radio 1’s Alice Levine, Morton will be reading a chapter a week and discovering more about his father than he ever bargained for.
Considered one of the best new podcasts of 2017, Homecoming is not to be missed. The first scripted series from Gimlet Media stars Catherine Keener, Oscar Isaac, David Schwimmer, David Cross, Amy Sedaris, Michael Cera, Mercedes Ruehl, Alia Shawkat, Chris Gethard and Spike Jonze.
Homecoming centers on a caseworker at an experimental facility, her ambitious supervisor and a soldier eager to rejoin civilian life — presented in an enigmatic collage of telephone calls, therapy sessions and overheard conversations.
‘You Must Remember This’
You don’t have to be in Hollywood to appreciate these stories about the beginning days of the silver screen form the podcast You Must Remember This, a storytelling podcast exploring the secret and/or forgotten histories of Hollywood’s first century. It’s the brainchild and passion project of Karina Longworth (founder of the blog Cinematical, former film critic for LA Weekly), who writes, narrates, records and edits each episode. It is a heavily researched work of creative nonfiction. Navigating through conflicting reports, mythology and institutionalized spin, Longworth tries to sort out what really happened behind the films, stars and scandals of the 20th century.
‘Happier With Gretchen Rubin’
On her popular weekly podcast Happier With Gretchen Rubin, Rubin discusses good habits and happiness with her sister Elizabeth Craft; they’ve been called the “Click and Clack of podcasters.” Get happy just in time for the holidays when stressors run high with the podcast Happier with Gretchen Rubin.
‘Alice Isn’t Dead’
Alice Isn’t Dead is a murder-mystery road-trip fiction podcast, so obviously, it’s perfect for any road trip. The series follows a truck driver as she searches across America for her wife that she had long assumed was dead. In the course of her search, she will encounter not-quite-human serial murderers, towns literally lost in time, and a conspiracy that goes way beyond one missing woman.
‘Call Your Girlfriend’
Holidays are for connecting with the people you love, even your long-distance bestie. Call Your Girlfriend is a podcast for long-distance besties everywhere, hosted by Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman and produced by Gina Delvac. Every week, eavesdrop as Sow and Friedman call each other to discuss the intricacies of pop culture and the latest in politics. They’re highbrow and lowbrow, unapologetically feminist, and not afraid to speak honestly to each other about everything from menstrual cycles to workplace dramas.
A would-be murder mystery transforms into a dynamic look at one man’s life in S-Town. The series follows John, who despises his Alabama town and decides to do something about it. He asks a reporter to investigate the son of a wealthy family who’s allegedly been bragging that he got away with murder. But then someone else ends up dead, sparking a nasty feud, a hunt for hidden treasure, and an unearthing of the mysteries of one man’s life.
‘Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History’
Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History isn’t your high school history class. Carlin gives history with a flair for the fascinating. Journalist and broadcaster Dan Carlin takes his “Martian,” unorthodox way of thinking and applies it to the past. Was Alexander the Great as bad a person as Adolf Hitler? What would Apaches with modern weapons be like? Will our modern civilization ever fall like civilizations from past eras? This isn’t academic history (and Carlin isn’t a historian) but the podcast’s unique blend of high drama, masterful narration and Twilight Zone-style twists has entertained millions of listeners.
Hoping for love this holiday season? Well, you aren’t alone. The NYT column has been brought to life with this podcast, Dear Sugars. The universe has good news for the lost, lonely and heartsick. The Sugars are here, speaking straight into your ears. Hosted by the original Sugars, Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond, the podcast fields all your questions — no matter how deep or dark — and offers radical empathy in return.
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