Adapting holiday attractions for the age of COVID: Virtual ‘Nutcracker,’ Polar Bear swims

The holiday season may not be filled with in-person parties this year, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of ways to get into the holiday spirit. Around the country, organizations are working overtime to bring safe holiday fun to life with drive-through light shows, interactive displays at museums and zoos, and reimagined holiday performances.

With social distancing of utmost importance right now, many family-friendly outdoor events and destinations are opting for timed tickets and limited attendance, so be sure to check online and reserve tickets before you go. Here’s a look at the most exciting socially distanced holiday events around the U.S. this year. 

Drive-through light shows

With most promising more than a million lights you can experience from the protective bubble of your own car, light shows are perhaps the most pandemic-friendly way to get a hefty dose of holiday cheer. Celebration in the Oaks in New Orleans’ City Park has created a driving tour of its famous annual holiday light festival. More than a million lights adorn the city’s famous oaks to create a magical winter spectacle, with all proceeds going to the maintenance and care of the park. 

Stretching for a magical 4 miles, The Wayne County Lightfest in Michigan is the largest drive-through holiday light show in the Midwest. With nearly 50 animated and themed displays to marvel at, the experience lasts for nearly 30 minutes; and at only $5 per vehicle, it’s appealingly affordable. 

For a California interactive drive-through light show experience, The Ventura County Fairgrounds is offering Holidays in Your Car. Cruise your way through light shows animated to the tunes of holiday classics. This safe holiday adventure dazzles with more than one million LED lights, holograms, projection mapping, lasers, and some displays standing more than 40 feet tall.

More ideas: How Universal Orlando Resort is celebrating the holidays this year

Zoos, museums and gardens

Zoos, museums, and gardens around the U.S. are offering festive al fresco holiday events, making them good choices for a little holiday cheer.

In Texas, take a break from Earth this holiday season with a trip to Houston’s Space Center’s Galaxy Lights. This event, the most interactive and technologically advanced light display in the state, takes advantage of the Space Center’s ample outdoor grounds. With a 200-foot LED light tunnel and interactive light pads under the wing of the shuttle carrier, holiday lights have never been more far out. 

The Naples Botanical Garden in Florida offers families the chance to step into an enchanted night garden, illuminated by millions of lights, with its Night Lights in the Garden. It rounds out offerings with special holiday menu items at the café and live music, ensuring that this festive evening will delight the whole family. 

Holiday performances

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