With so much uncertainty happening this year most might be seeking some semblance of normalcy at a time when families would be gathering to ring in the holidays together.
With New York’s confirmed cases of COVID-19 significantly lower compared to March, some restrictions have lifted enough over the months allowing for folks to get out and enjoy themselves. Businesses and destinations across the state have also implemented health protocols to ensure safety for all.
Whether it’s eating out, visiting your favorite museum, going skiing or cutting down a Christmas tree at the local farm, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still advises those to wear a mask and social distance by avoiding large gatherings and keeping a six-foot distance.
Health officials further warn to wash your hands, use hand sanitizer, refrain from touching your eyes, nose and mouth, avoiding sick people and staying inside if exhibiting symptoms of coronavirus.
Here are some places you can enjoy safely with your family or friends this holiday season.
Untermyer Gardens Conservancy
According to the CDC, taking care of your mental health is imperative during times of increased stress and uncertainty.
Whether taking a break from work, eating healthy or exercising, there’s no better place to take a much-needed deep breath than Untermyer Gardens Conservancy in Yonkers. With multiple gardens and paths spanning nearly 50-acres overlooking the Hudson River, a walk around the historic park is guaranteed to provide more relief than a stroll around the neighborhood or the grocery store.
Untermyer Gardens, located at 945 North Broadway, is open Friday-Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Due to COVID-19, admission is accepted through a free timed-entry reservation system which allows visitors to sign up for a 30-minute entry window and visit the garden for up to 90 minutes. Admission is free.
Along with guided tours every Sunday and areas specialized for professional photography sessions, the Conservancy will also host its annual Grand Holiday Illumination from Dec. 12 to Jan. 3. The event will run from 4:30 to 8 p.m.
“For the Illumination, only the Walled Garden will be open to visitors,” Jessica Norman, Outreach Officer for Untermyer Gardens, said. “It can be visited by those who cannot go up or down stairs, but the amphitheater and loggias are not accessible to those who can’t do stairs.”
She added heavy snowfall or significant ice will close the event until walkways are cleared and safe for visitors.
Reservations are required and can be made at untermyergardens.org.
Visitors must wear masks and exercise safe social distancing, with monitors stationed throughout the park ensuring rules are followed. Those refusing to follow guidelines will not be permitted to enter or remain in the gardens. Visitors must also follow the one-way routes indicated on the map and signage and not enter blocked off areas.
The Museum of Ice Cream
While traveling to New York City may elicit some skepticism, there’s no confusion when it comes to ice cream.
Whether you’re diving feet first into the Sprinkle Pool, embracing a tribute to the history of gay pride in the Rainbow Tunnel, riding on the three-story slide, or admiring the dessert feast suspended by floating balloons, The Museum of Ice Cream has 13 exhibitions for ice cream lovers of all ages.
In-person and virtual ice cream making classes are also provided, along with ice cream crafted with true English toffee, 1950s inspired malted milk balls and ripe bananas, according to the website.
In accordance with the CDC, the facility will be deep cleaned before opening, throughout the day and before closing, with team members training to disinfect all touch points immediately after contact with guests. Spaces will also be sanitized after each viewing, the website states, with sanitizer stations in specific areas.
Masks are required and must be worn at all times. Those without one will be denied entry. Refunds will not be offered to those who are removed from the building for not adhering to the guidelines, but will be given to those who become ill and cancel a reservation.
Groups larger than 10 will be prohibited. There will also be markers on the floor to ensure that a safe distance is met, the website states.
Tickets can be bought online and are $39 for adults and free for kids under two.
The museum, located at 558 Broadway in New York City, is open Thursday-Sunday from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m.
The Bronx Zoo Holiday Lights
The annual Holiday Lights event at the Bronx Zoo will return this year on Nov. 20, with select dates available through January 10.
The event will encompass a larger area of the zoo and will accommodate social distancing procedures to avoid bottleneck areas. This year’s event will feature nearly 50 more animal lanterns than last year and will create five geographically representative lantern safaris that include species from different regions of the world.
People of all ages can indulge in holiday-themed music, ice carving demonstrations, costumed characters, stilt walkers, souvenirs, and seasonal treat like hot chocolate and s’mores. With s’mores a popular attraction, the zoo will also increase its fire pits from four to 12 this year.
A tree will also be erected to ring in the holiday spirit.
“2020 has been a trying year for all of us and has once again shown the resiliency of New York City and New Yorkers,” said Jim Breheny, Bronx Zoo Director and WCS Executive Vice President for Zoos & Aquarium “The city has always been the center of the holiday universe, and The Bronx Zoo’s Holiday Lights will help bring a sense of normalcy to the city.”
Tickets must be purchased online, with adult tickets $34.95 and $32.95 for seniors. Children 3-12 will cost $22.95. WCS members will receive a 40% discount, with members at the Conservation Supporter level receiving free admission.
If unable to attend the event, the zoo’s 265 acres and 8,000 animals are open for viewing. Visitors must purchase tickets in advance and reserve a specific date prior to arrival. The zoo, located at 2300 Southern Blvd in The Bronx, is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. www.bronxzoo.com.