COVID changes local holiday festivities

Holiday plans this year are bound to change with safety becoming the number one priority over festivities. Local areas around Illinois have adapted to give the best of both worlds: a fun, Christmas time experience that follows CDC regulations to ensure protection.

“Illumination: Tree Lights at the Morton Arboretum” in Lisle, Illinois, has transformed their light show into a 20 – 30 minute drive-through experience of music and lights. Classic designs such as Symphony Woods, Woodland Wonder, and Crystal Promenade as well as five newly designed sights will be exhibited along two miles of road among the Arboretum’s trees.

Due to COVID-19, they have extended their hours until 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and until 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. All indoor buildings will be closed with limited outdoor portable restrooms in the parking lot. The walk-through has been cancelled.

Although currently sold out, the arboretum is releasing tickets for any available space “around noon on Mondays for the week ahead.” Ticket purchases are on a first-come first-serve basis, no waitlists are available.

Lincoln Park Zoo will still be open for the public to enjoy their ZooLights exhibit. However, to follow the city’s capacity guidelines, tickets will be required. They cost $5 and all proceeds are dedicated to wildlife and conservation. All guests, including children and infants, must have a ticket to enter. Groups cannot exceed 10 people.

Masks are required and social distancing will be in place throughout the entire zoo. All indoor habitats will be closed, so it is advised to dress warmly. Animals will still be visible in their outdoor habitats.

Festive and safe activities throughout the zoo include socially distanced pictures with Santa, 3D displays, holiday snacks, an enchanted forest, and gift shopping. ZooLights will be open from Nov. 23 – Jan. 3 during the hours of 4 p.m. through 8 p.m.

Due to closure of indoor seating, the Joffrey Ballet has opted to project a digital display of Chicago’s art on theMART set to music of Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker.” This projection can be viewed from the jetty section of the Chicago Riverwalk on Wacker Drive between Wells St. and Franklin St. The show is 30 minutes and is free to the public.

Virtual experiences will be available Dec. 4 and Dec. 11 for young kids ages ranging 4-6 and 7-9, respectively, with tickets costing $15. The Joffrey Academy of Dance’s Trish Strong is offering virtual experiences of dancing, music, and stories as well as special guest appearances from members of the Joffrey Ballet Company.

From Dec. 1 through Dec. 31, Joffrey Ballet will also be offering a stream of PBS’s Emmy-winning documentary “The Making of a New American Nutcracker” on their website.

Maggie Daley Park is still allowing ice skating to continue as long as parties make reservations. Times and prices vary from weekdays, weekends, and holidays. Specifics for all pricing, including that of lockers and skate aids, are available at maggiedaleypark.com. Masks are required while skating and in all surrounding areas.

Social distancing is also being enforced on the ice. Skaters must skate in the direction being indicated by skating assistants, only two skaters paired together at a time, and the speed of skating must match that of all other skaters.

Northbrook Court is offering their own drive-through light show. Individuals will not be permitted to leave their vehicles at any time during the light show. Instead, they are welcome to appreciate the exquisite display from the comfort of their vehicles.

Similarly to the Morton Arboretum, tickets must be purchased in advance and can only be bought online. Weekday sales cost $29.99, plus taxes and fees with hours from 4:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. and weekend sales cost $39.99, plus taxes and fees with hours from 4:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. Tickets are one per car.

Mooseheart is offering one of Chicagoland’s largest light displays. This is their 11th annual light show and will be running from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. nightly, Nov. 27 through Dec. 31. There is a suggested $20 donation per car. 100 percent of proceeds will support Mooseheart.

The light show follows a 1.8 mile drive-through experience of over 80 lighted displays. COVID has closed all indoor activities and Santa will not be on campus. However, one can still drop off their letter to Santa in the Tommy Moose Mailbox.

Of course, there is always the fun of driving to neighborhoods around your community and looking at decorations. Grab a thermos of cocoa, put on some Christmas music, and go for a drive. A great solo activity or a good way to bond with family.

It’s a cheap, easy way of partaking in the holiday festivities all while keeping safety as max priority.