The holidays are here but things might be different this year. While Long Island will maintain some of its traditions, expect some changes due to the pandemic.
SOCIALLY DISTANT SANTA
A holiday event isn't complete without a visit with Santa. However, there won’t be any posing on the lap of Saint Nick as photos will be socially distanced this year. You can still get some one-on-one time with the man in red without being too close. The traditional mall Santa experience is set to resume with changes — including timed reservations and a masked up Santa and his elves — and other events across Long Island will offer more private alternatives.
During "Santa — the Experience," book a sleigh ride departure time and head out on a virtual journey through the North Pole via the internet. Led by elves, see the mailroom, toy factory, reindeer stables and even chat with Mrs. Claus before having a live video encounter with Santa Claus ($34.95-$79.95, Dec. 1-24, santatheexperience.com).
"We strive to make it as personal as possible," says co-founder James Hyland. "Sometimes, when you take your child to see Santa in person, they might be nervous or anxious in the moment. This is a way for kids to enjoy the experience in the comfort of their own home."
A Christmas Village at the Milleridge Inn in Jericho will feature Santa's socially distant workshop which is open for photo-ops at six-feet apart ($5-$15, Nov. 21-Dec. 24, 516-931-2201, milleridgeinn.com). "The pictures will come out looking like you are right next to him but you’re not," says owner Butch Yamali. "We take each photo on an angle with Santa sitting up higher."
HOLIDAY DELIGHT, DELIVERED
Should you choose to keep the jolly close to home this holiday season, select retailers are offering options that'll bring the fun to you.
Instead of hunting for the perfect tree, then struggling to tie it to the roof of your car, Long Island Christmas Tree Delivery of Mineola will deliver one to your doorstep. "We deal with only premium grade trees from Canada sizes 6-feet up to 12-feet," says co-owner Joe Venezia. "You can choose between a Frasier fir or a Balsam fir."
They even sell stands, lights, tree preserve and tree disposal bags plus door wreaths ($110-$275, Nov. 27-Dec. 23, 516-524-9428, longislandchristmastreedelivery.com).
To keep the fun going all month long, craft classes are still being offered virtually and materials get shipped to your home. Take a class constructing ceramic holiday trees and wreaths online with Yaymaker. A live host will instruct you how to proceed with your project ($75 per person, Nov. 29, Dec. 4 and 12, yaymaker.com). There are even lights you can plug in to make them glow!
CHRISTMAS FROM YOUR CAR
You'll be able to take in some seasonal sights from the safety of your car at various drive-thru light shows. The "Magic of Lights" show at Jones Beach in Wantagh will continue as planned, with a 2.5-mile-long holiday-themed light display contains LED technology and digital animations.
Although there’s no Holiday Village this year, visitors in their vehicles can enter the Blizzard Tunnel and check out illuminated versions of the 12 Days of Christmas, Winter Wonderland and The Night Before Christmas before witnessing the Toyota Mega Tree Spectacular featuring 240-feet of LED Christmas trees ($30, $25 in advance, magicoflights.com).
For more auto activity, head to Suffolk County’s largest illuminated drive-thru, the Riverhead Holiday Light Show. This 20-25 minute experience includes a soundtrack that makes all the lights dance ($25, $23 in advance, riverheadlightshow.com).
POP-UPS COMING UP
'Tis the season for a holiday pop-up. The hottest attractions this season may just be temporary and in-demand.
Johnnie’s Car Wash on Oak in Copiague is looking to illuminate the holidays with its pop-up "12 Nights of Christmas Lights." Get a diamond wash plus a meet and greet with Santa in the detail bay during the day or come by for an express wash at night to witness the light show in the tunnel complete with appearances from Santa, elves, singing reindeer and the Grinch.
"This is a COVID-safe experience," says owner-creator Johnnie Miranti. "We want to spread some happiness during the pandemic." The experience is $42 diamond wash with Santa (Noon-5 p.m.), $30 express wash with the light show (5-10 p.m.), Nov. 27-29, Dec. 4-6, 11-13 and 18-20, 631-891-6111, 2nightsoflightsatjohnniescarw.ticketspice.com/12-nights-of-lights-at-johnnies-car-wash-on-oak.
If a pop-up bar is more your speed, forget the shelf, go to "Elf’d Up," a Christmas pop-up in Farmingdale, located through the back entrance of the Nutty Irishman, which is based on the 2003 Will Ferrell film.
The 21-and-over event will feature the film on the big screen as music from the movie and Broadway musical plays, plus "Elf" trivia, photo-ops at the "Elfie" station with standees of characters from the film and even a visit from Buddy the Elf.
On Monday through Thursday, attendees can enjoy tapas and a holiday cocktail from 7 to 9 p.m. or try Buddy’s Breakfast Buffet on Saturdays and Sundays from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. ($40 per person for cocktails/tapas; $35 per person for brunch; Dec. 1-28, 516-293-9700, elfdupli.com).
ENCHANTMENT BY APPOINTMENT
To keep events socially distant, most will require reservations or advance appointments guaranteeing a time-slotted experience for families.
Book a reservation to walk through the new outdoor "Holiday Farm Lights Tour" at Spirit’s Promise Equine Rescue in Riverhead. Guests will enter a winter wonderland in the Venue Barn, followed by a media central section featuring an overload of colorful lights, movie screens and music playing then concluding at the stable with 14 dressed up holiday horses in their stalls.
"It blends the tranquil part of Christmas and the crazy part of Christmas," says owner/founder Marisa Striano. "We strive to make it as beautifully happy as possible." Tickets are $18-$22; Dec. 3-5, 10-12 and 17-19, 631-875-0433, spiritspromiserescue.org.
Schedule a safe family outing to East Farmingdale as "Ginger Bells" opens at Adventureland on Saturdays in December before Christmas. At the event, each attendee gets their own Gingerbread Mansion to decorate complete with pre-wrapped candies and spread out in family pods across a fully decorated spacious room.
Admission includes four tickets to outdoor kiddie rides, a lunch of chicken fingers and fries plus a socially distanced photo with Santa Claus. A special limited VIP package is being offered including private rooms, gift bags, ride fast passes and a full menu. Tickets are $49.99 (VIP $99); Dec. 5, 12 and 19, 631-694-6868, eventbrite.com or universalspecialevents.com.