COVID-19 is putting a damper on Thanksgiving. That doesn’t mean it’ll be lights out for the rest of the holidays.
Local holiday light shows — Sever’s, Sam’s and the sold-out Arboretum — will illuminate the season, with pandemic precautions in place. There are even a few new displays and tours that have been added to the holiday mix.
Glow Holiday Festival is one of them. The 30-minute, 1 million-light drive-through is being held on the Minnesota State Fairgrounds now through Jan. 3.
Featuring 10 themed displays, including a Tinsel Tower, Glitter Critters and a Gingerbread House, it also boasts a Purple Lane display that pays tribute to Prince, plus a State Fair-themed food court.
Randy Levy, a veteran concert promoter and owner of Hopkins-based Glow, said the idea was “to create something that was as safe and fun as a great Minnesota holiday get-together can be.”
Levy purchased 55 semitrailer-loads of lights and lighted characters, then added charitable and multicultural components to the show, as well as sprinkling in a few nods to the North Star State, such as a Northwoods display.
It took about a month to build the spectacle, which will include theme nights celebrating Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Indigenous people and more. Glow will also contribute $2 each night per ticket to a coordinating charity.
Like other drive-through attractions, it will offer timed entries. When guests purchase the online-only tickets, they will get a “know before you go” e-mail with their time slot, where to enter, what charity will benefit from the night and any other special happenings.
“We’re trying to make it as easy as possible on families so they’re not waiting in line forever,” said Green.
The State Fair food court, which is near the end of the route, will be the only part of the attraction where guests can leave their cars.
Other new shows, tours
At the Minnesota Zoo, you can experience Nature Illuminated, a nighttime drive-through holiday display featuring 32 inflatables of endearing creatures (such as a two-toed sloth) and endangered ones (such as the red panda).
The displays are augmented by an accompanying audio tour with stories and sounds.
Made with sustainable materials by local company Landmark Creations, the show is “really in line with our mission, said Zach Nugent, communication and media relations specialist with the zoo. “We are really excited that it’s spectacular from a visual standpoint and connects back to conservation,” he said.
If you’d like to leave the driving to Santa, consider the All Is Bright holiday lights tour. Twin Cities Sightseeing Tours is offering a 30-minute open-air bus tour for 13 guests, complete with holiday music and Santa behind the wheel. The bus is covered on top, but open on the sides, so pack a blanket and a thermos of cocoa.
Drive or walk at Sam’s
At Sam’s Christmas Village and Light Tour in Somerset, Wis., the light show will go on.
“We’re planning on operating as normal,” said Kelly Monpetit, who co-owns Sam’s with her husband, John. “We have such a big park that we can keep everyone spaced and safe.”
Mondays and Tuesdays offer a drive-through experience for tours, senior homes and those who prefer to remain in the safety of their cars. The rest of the week, guests can walk through the 555-foot lighted tunnel leading to the displays, including an illuminated 50-foot-tall animated light tree and new interactive displays.
Sam’s will no longer have seating in the restaurant, but will keep the counter service and the Christmas market. Instead of a single large bonfire, there will be smaller fires around the 40-acre grounds. There also will be heated S’more Cabins for rent. Reservations can be made via call or e-mail.
If you haven’t already purchased tickets to the popular Winter in Bloom light display at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, you’re out of luck. Because of reduced capacity, the event sold out quickly. There’s good news, though, for those who managed to get tickets: The timed entry should cut wait times and parking problems.