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A socially distant holiday season | How to safely celebrate Christmas in St. Louis

From socially distant story times with Santa to light displays, here are some ways to celebrate the season amid the pandemic

ST. LOUIS — Like most things this year, the Christmas season may look a little different due to the coronavirus pandemic.

St. Louisans may be looking for ways to celebrate the season at a distance to keep loved ones safe.

During Halloween, a few counties in the area released tips on how to celebrate safely and several events adapted to being socially distant and mask mandated.

Many Christmas events in the St. Louis area will also be adapting to those changes.

Here are some ways you can celebrate the season safely.

Saint Louis Zoo 'Wild Lights'

The “Wild Lights” experience at the Saint Louis Zoo is back for the holiday season.

The event will be a little different this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Guests must register for a time slot when purchasing tickets.

The event will be held from 5-8:30 p.m. Nov. 27-Jan. 2. Select nights include: Nov. 27-29, Dec. 2-6, Dec. 9-23 and Dec. 26-Jan 2.

Two admission time slots will be available for each evening of lights. Guests must choose between the 5-6:30 p.m. and 6:30-8 p.m. slots.

Click here for information on pricing.

Winter Wonderland at Tilles Park

Winter Wonderland at Tilles Park is still happening this year, but with a few changes.

Guests will not be able to walk through the lights due to the rise in COVID-19 cases in the St. Louis area.

"We know this will come as an enormous disappointment, but we support the decision of our public health experts," St. Louis County Parks wrote on Facebook.

If you had tickets for the walk through, MetroTix will contact you to issue full refunds.

Winter Wonderland will still be open to cars and carriage rides.

Click here for more details on the event.

Garden Glow

Garden Glow at the Missouri Botanical Garden will return this year with some changes due to COVID-19.

Guests will need to make reservations and capacity will be limited and social distancing safety protocols will be in place. Face masks will also be required for everyone age 9 or older.

“All interactive and high-touch points are being modified to reduce the amount of physical interaction,” a spokesperson told 5 On Your Side.

Garden Glow will be held from Nov. 11 – Jan. 2. Member preview nights are scheduled for Nov. 8-10. The gardens will be closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Click here for more information.

35th Annual Brewery Lights

For this year’s Brewery Lights at Anheuser-Busch, guests will be able to enjoy it in a drive-thru-only experience. From the comfort of their own cars, guests can admire nearly 1 million twinkling holiday lights. 

It runs Thursday through Sunday starting Nov. 27 through Jan. 3, from 5 p.m. to midnight.

The event will be closed on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Dec. 31, but will be open on Dec. 21-23.

Admission for the drive-thru experience is complimentary. Guests on Friday and Saturday nights are encouraged to bring non-perishable foods to donate to the St. Louis Area Foodbank. 

If you'd like to help donate, please bring any packaged food on Friday and Saturday nights. 

Additionally, each guest who registers on this page will be entered to win a special holiday gift from our friends at Shop Beer Gear. 

The winner will be randomly selected and contacted via email on Jan. 4.

Wonderlight’s Christmas

Wonderlight’s Christmas, the largest synchronized holiday light show in the St. Louis area, will debut at World Wide Technology Raceway this month.

The show will run from Nov. 20 through Jan. 3. It will be open nightly, rain or shine, from dusk (around 5 p.m.) until 10 p.m. 

The show will be open on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

Tickets for the show are $7 per person and a carload pass is available for $30 and includes up to seven passengers. Group pricing is also available.

Click here for more information.

Winterfest At Home

The Gateway Arch Park Foundation’s Winterfest will be offering virtual activities and contests you can do from the comfort of your home amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Winterfest will feature a series of videos including:

Holiday Happy Hour with STL Barkeep

  • You can perfect your cocktail-making skills with the help of STL Barkeep. Owner and chief mixologist Matt Longueville will demonstrate how to perfect popular festive cocktails.
  • December 11 and 18 at 5 p.m.

Mrs. Claus Story Time Readings

  • Cozy up with a mug of hot chocolate and listen as Mrs. Claus reads some of her favorite children’s holiday books.
  • December 13 and 20 at 3 p.m.

Winterfest Story Time with Ryan Nusbickel

  • Join local author Ryan Nusbickel as he reads some of his popular children’s books such as “The St. Louis Night Before Christmas.”
  • December 9 and 23 at noon

Princess/Hero Holiday Crafts and Baking

  • Get crafty and bake holiday treats with the help of your favorite princesses and superheroes. 
  • “Baking with Princesses” premieres December 10 at 6 p.m. and “Holiday Crafts with Princesses” premieres December 17 at 6 p.m.

Winterfest Zoom Background

  • Bring a little Winterfest sparkle to your video conference calls! Make your Zoom background the lights of Winterfest, now available to download on the website.

The Winterfest contests include:

Winterfest Coloring Contest Presented by Edward Jones

  • Download and print the Winterfest coloring page, then upload a photo of your finished coloring page masterpiece to Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Tag @gatewayarchpark and use #winterfestathome for your chance to win an Arch Coloring Shirt and Puzzle Prize Pack. 
  • Coloring pages must be submitted by December 19.

Win a Zoom with Mrs. Claus

  • Make your holiday extra special with a chance to win a personal Zoom call from Mrs. Claus. 
  • To enter, complete the online contest entry form by December 14. Ten winners will be selected for a video chat with Mrs. Claus.

Holiday Lights

  • Take a photo of your favorite holiday lights display (whether it’s at home or around town), upload it to Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, and tag @gatewayarchpark and use #winterfestlights for your chance to win a Gateway Arch holiday ornament and stemless wine glass from The Arch Store. 
  • Photos must be submitted by December 17.

In addition to virtual activities, Winterfest offers holiday lights at Kiener Plaza. 

Through Jan. 3, Winterfest transforms the area into a “magical wonderland, delighting people of all ages as they drive around the park.”

It features 70,000 lights in the trees of Kiener Plaza to compliment the backdrop of the Gateway Arch and Old Courthouse in downtown St. Louis.

Winterfest is free and will be available every night of the week from 5-9 p.m. Click here for more information.

Lot of Lights

The Family Arena is transforming into a ‘Lot of Lights’ this holiday season.

The drive-thru event will feature lasers, holograms, projection mapping and millions of lights.

The holiday show will be featured at the Family Arena from Nov. 27 through Jan. 2. Hours for the show are 5:30-10 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 5:30-11 p.m. Friday through Sunday.

Tickets for the show are $25 per car and will go on sale on Oct. 2.

Click here for more information.

St. Louis Union Station

Guests at the St. Louis Aquarium can talk with Santa and his “trusty elf” during their deep dives in the Shark Canyon habitat this month.

Guests can chat with “Scuba Santa” on Saturdays and Sundays from Dec. 5 through Dec. 20 at 11 a.m., 1:15 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. and Monday Dec. 21 through Thursday Dec. 24 at 11 a.m. and 1:15 p.m.

There will be another chance to see Santa on select Saturdays and Sundays throughout the month during a “Pancakes with Santa” meal.

The pancakes will be topped with strawberries and whipped cream Santa faces and served with milk for kids and coffee for adults.

Seating is available at 9, 9:45, 10:30 and 10:45 a.m. on December 5 & 6, 12 & 13, and 19 & 2020. Tables are available in groups of four or six. Tickets are $20.

Santa will visit every child at the event with social distancing in mind and parents are invited to take their own pictures at the special holiday backdrops.

Click here for more information.

'A Christmas Carol' virtual reading

Several St. Louis celebrities are coming together next month for a virtual reading of “A Christmas Carol.”

Metro Theater Company is offering the virtual event to help keep the community connected during a holiday season that has been “transformed by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

More than 25 “outstanding St. Louisans” will serve as the readers for the broadcast, each contributing excerpts on camera.

So far, the lineup includes:

  • Ellie Kemper, Emmy-nominated actress
  • Paul Goldschmidt, St. Louis Cardinals player
  • Judith Ivey, Tony Award-winning actress
  • John Mozeliak, St. Louis Cardinals president of baseball operations
  • Christine Brewer, Grammy Award-winning soprano
  • Ken Page, film, stage and voice actor
  • Aisha Sultan, columnist and St. Louis Post-Dispatch editor
  • Jamie Rahn, St. Louis-based American Ninja Warrior
  • Julius B. Anthony, president of the St. Louis Black Authors of Children’s Literature
  • Mark Levine, medical director for the St. Louis Fire Department

The virtual reading will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 10 and 2:30 p.m. on Dec. 13. The public can register for the event for free or make a donation.

Click here for more information.

Caroling telegram

This holiday season, you can send family and friends some Christmas cheer and make a difference at the same time.

With a donation to the St. Louis Christmas Carols Association, you can select from several “caroling telegrams” and add a personalized message for the recipient of your choice.

Caroling telegrams are short musical videos featuring local carolers. All proceeds will go to local agencies that serve children in the St. Louis region.

"We know that many families and children are in need now more than ever," said Don Danforth III, chairman of the board of directors. "It is important to us to keep serving our community this year."

Click here for more information.

Grant's Farm

Grant’s Farm is hosting a drive-thru holiday event for the season.

Earlier this year, Grant’s Farm hosted a Halloween drive-thru event and organizers said it was a huge success.

“We wanted to continue the seasonal excitement for guests from St. Louis and the surrounding region by inviting them to experience the magic of Grant’s Farm during the holidays,” said Jeff Knapper, Director of Heritage at Anheuser-Busch.

The event will be held from Nov. 27 through Dec. 31. It will cost $40 per car.

Click here for details about the event.

Six Flags

Santa will be landing his sleigh at Six Flags St. Louis this season. 

Holiday in the Park is back this year with exclusive entertainment and tasty treats visitors can’t get any other time of the year.

“We're decking the halls with twinkling lights, thrilling holiday rides and experiences even Scrooge will love.”

Holiday in the Park includes:

  • More than a million glowing lights
  • Gingerbread Village Snaps
  • Story time on the North Pole Train
  • Socially distanced photos with Santa

Holiday in the Park begins Nov. 21. Click here to make a reservation.

Holiday Magic

The Magic House will be hosting the “Holiday Magic” experience this year.

Families will be able to enjoy expanded hours, festive decorations, outdoor experiences and the opportunity to visit with Santa in his sleigh.

The experience will be held from Dec. 1-31. Reservations will be required for the event and there will be reduced capacity to ensure social distancing.

Outdoor events include:

  • A life-size gingerbread village where kids will make pretend cookies, decorate gingerbread men and play gingerbread games
  • Snowball carnival where families will visit the museum’s front play garden where they can enjoy a variety of snowball-themed carnival games.

The experience will be extended into the evening with "Magical Nights," a private time to enjoy a light display, storytime with Mrs. Claus, cookies and milk and photos with Santa in his “socially-distanced sleigh.” 

Magical Nights will take place from 5-8 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday nights in December.

Click here for more information.

Fabulous Fox Theatre

The Fabulous Fox Theatre has announced the addition of Dec. 26-27 holiday tours. The tour is titled “A Dickens of a Tour” which was inspired by Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”

The tour depicts several characters from “A Christmas Carol” including the ghosts of Christmas past and present, Jacob Marley, Victorian dancers and more. The hour-long tour also includes some of the history of the Fox Theatre.

Guests will visit five stations with access to backstage and the Fabulous Fox stage, according to a press release.

Click here for information on tickets and the theater’s COVID-19 safety protocols.

Ritz Carlton

The Ritz-Carlton, St. Louis has a few options for celebrating the holidays safely this year.

Prancer and Santa’s sleigh will make an appearance at the Ritz-Carlton before flying off to the North Pole. Prancer’s stop will take place outdoors on the front drive of the property from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Dec. 11-13 and Dec. 19-20. Santa will not be on site for the event.

The Casa Don Alfonso outdoor patio will feature festive décor and “cherry” music to bring the holiday season to life. Children are encouraged to write letters to Santa and will receive a mailed letter in reply from Mr. Claus. 

Adults can enjoy hot mulled chocolate wine, a hot toddy or a bottled cocktail apple cider while gathered around socially distant tables and fire pits. Kids can sip on hot chocolate or bottled mocktail apple cider with reindeer cookies and holiday flavored popcorn.

The Ritz-Carlton is also offering a bed and breakfast package for New Year’s Eve. The package features deluxe guest room accommodations, breakfast for two served in the privacy of your room and complimentary overnight parking. The package will also include complimentary champagne, party favors and a late checkout of 2 p.m. on Jan. 1. 

The package starts at $369 and reservations can be made by calling 1-800-960-7056.