By Caroline Zebrak ’21
The holiday season typically consists of time spent baking cookies, shopping for gifts, decorating the Christmas tree, and lighting the menorah. However, the holidays will look different this year as limitations on travel, time indoors, and contact with other people will alter the normal dynamic.
Despite limitations, there are still plenty of fun, local activities that students can participate in while staying safe from the coronavirus.
Dr. Delia Fine, an Internal Medicine Physician who treats adolescents and adults, said that the biggest challenge this holiday season will be to avoid being inside. She recommends that students “find clothing to keep you warm,” for all the time that will be spent outside this winter. When going to any of the following activities, Dr. Fine advises students to avoid carpooling in a car with non-family members.
Here are five local holiday activities that Dr. Fine considers safe for students to participate in this winter:
1)Watch holiday movies at The Wharf
On Transit Pier at the Wharf, you and three people can gather around a personal fire pit to stay warm while watching holiday-themed classic movies such as “Elf,” “A Christmas Story,” and “The Polar Express.” There are showings available most days at 2 and 6 PM, and tickets must be reserved online for $60 per group. In accordance with DC’s current COVID-19 guidelines, group size is purposely limited to 4 people and masks are required.
While watching the film, movie-goers can grab snacks and drinks from the nearby “Cantina Bambina.” Dr. Fine said that because the movie is outside, “If you need to take your mask off for a few minutes to eat or drink your hot chocolate or whatever, then that’s safe.”
2) Shop at the Downtown Holiday Market
Shop through an annual DC outdoor market with over 70 exhibitors featuring artwork, clothing, crafts, jewelry, and specialty items such as antiques, soaps, and candles. While perusing the pop-up stands, shoppers can enjoy the music of local artists or grab a bite to eat from stands of donuts, churros, empanadas, and more. According to their website, the Holiday Market has put multiple procedures in place to ensure shopper safety, including a mask requirement, hand sanitizer stations, contactless payment methods, wide walking aisles, and “Streamlined, one-way socially distanced foot traffic.”
St. Andrew’s senior Maya Noboa attended the market in early December with friends, and stated that “It was a great way to get out of the house, where I was able to be both festive and safe at the same time”. Maya felt completely comfortable while shopping, and said, “There were temperature checks, masks were obviously required, and everyone around me was super respectful of keeping their distance”.
3). Go outdoor ice skating in Silver Spring
Enjoy the traditional winter activity of ice skating at an outdoor rink in Silver Spring, MD. Visitors must reserve a time slot in advance, wear masks, wait to enter the facility until their scheduled time and maintain social distancing from non-family members while on the rink.
Dr. Fine thinks this is a great activity because it is outside, spread out, and safety measures are being implemented. However, she warned that “It’s going to get crowded”, so students hoping to skate at this rink should come prepared with a protective mask and only enter the rink if the crowd size looks safe and they are comfortable.
4). Drive or walk through the Zoo Lights in Baltimore
Visit the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, MD for a colorful light display offered every evening through January 3rd. Visitors can choose to either walk or drive through the light experience, but all tickets must be purchased in advance. Masks and 6-feet social distancing is required, and zoo pathways will only allow for one-way traffic. With the precautions in place, Dr. Fine says that this event sounds safe, especially if you do the drive-through with your family to avoid interacting with people outside your household.
However, Dr. Fine said that you should not go through the walk-through zoo lights with friends.“There is no point in doing a pandemic safe activity if you are going to be in a car with other people right before,” she said. .If possible, she recommends commuting there separately. If it is absolutely necessary to carpool, masks should be on and windows should be rolled down despite the cold.
Senior Ashton Rubley recently visited the drive-through zoo lights with three of her friends. “It was a long line at first, but once we finally got to drive through the lights we listened to Christmas music and enjoyed the view. It was fun to spend time with friends and still feel safe,” said Rubley.
5). Visit the Meadowlark Botanical Garden Lights in NOVA
Like the Baltimore Zoo Lights, the Meadowlark Botanical Garden Lights in Northern Virginia allow people to view a beautiful light spectacle while staying covid safe. Social distancing and masks are required, except when eating treats or drinking hot chocolate from the Snack Shop. Workers will be cleaning counters, credit card keypads, and high-contact surfaces.
Dr. Fine thinks that this activity sounds great, pointing out that “If you go with your family, then you don’t have to worry about distancing yourself from the people you went with.”
According to data provided by the New York Times, the DMV has reached a total of 462,685 coronavirus cases at the start of December. With cases on the rise, it is essential to note that spending time in any public place provides a risk of exposure to COVID-19, especially if people from various households are present. Do not attend any of these activities or go in public if you are showing any symptoms of COVID-19, and maintain social distancing from families other than your own.
This article was originally published in the Winter 2020-21 Print Edition, the full version can be viewed here