Dan Lewis/ShutterStock
Dan Lewis/ShutterStock

Spread holiday cheer—not COVID.

The holidays may look a little different this year. 

As COVID-19 cases surge in Arizona and across the country, it’s likely we won’t be gathering together with extended family or friends to decorate the tree or exchange gifts. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention advises against celebrating holidays with anyone outside your immediate household to avoid the spread of the coronavirus. 

That doesn’t mean the season has to be any less merry, though. The holiday season can still be as joyous as previous years—just socially distant.

Here are five fun and socially-distanced things to do in Arizona this holiday season:

Check Out a Light Show, or Create Your Own

Get in the holiday spirit without ever leaving your car. Drive-thru events like the World of Illumination are designed to be enjoyed from your vehicle. Load up your household members and drive through one of the elaborately decorated displays in Tempe or Glendale. 

Or, head north to Prescott Valley to enjoy the cooler weather and then drive through the Valley of Lights starting November 26.

Other classic light events, such as ZooLights at the Phoenix Zoo, have been redesigned to keep guests safe. Guests can still walk through the zoo like in years past, but the zoo is now offering designated nights where visitors can instead drive through the zoo to see the displays. 

And if neither of those are options, you can always pack into the car with hot chocolate and holiday music to embark on a light tour of your neighborhood. Alternatively, you can take your own decorating to a whole new level this year.

Shop Local

Social distancing doesn’t mean you can’t support your favorite local businesses while holiday shopping. Local First Arizona is now offering an online marketplace with a curated selection of gifts from more than 100 small businesses. All of the sales go directly to the businesses. 

Other brick-and-mortar stores have transformed their online platform to encourage socially-distanced shopping, such as Changing Hands Bookstore. The bookseller, which has locations in both Tempe and Phoenix, offers their entire selection of books and gifts online. Plus, they put an emphasis on carrying gift items from local vendors. Purchases can be delivered or are available with curbside pickup.

Cut Down Your Own Christmas Tree

Give that tired artificial tree a break this year and head up north to (hopefully) trek through the snow and chop down your own Christmas tree. Arizona’s national forests allow Christmas tree cutting in designated areas in Coconino, Tonto, Kaibab, and other national forests with a paid permit. Trees must be under 10 feet. 

The Forest Service opted to move permit sales online this year to provide an alternative to in-person sales at offices that remain closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

For more information and to find out if online Christmas tree permits are available in your desired neck of the woods, visit Recreation.Gov and search for “Christmas Tree Permits.”

Make sure to dress warmly, prepare for any winter weather, and pack out any trash.

Sign Up for Community Service

Spread the holiday cheer this season by helping others. 

One option is to send Christmas cards to those isolated in nursing homes this holiday season. Consider preparing some baked goods and safely leave them on the doorsteps of senior citizens in your neighborhood to remind them you’re thinking of them.

RELATED: More than 288,000 Arizonans Are Unemployed. Here’s How to Help Them Have a Good Thanksgiving.

Organizations like St. Vincent de Paul, St. Mary’s Food Bank, and others are always in need of donations of food and funds in addition to in-person volunteers. 

Another option is to buy a holiday gift through the Salvation Army’s Christmas Angel program. Simply stop by a Valley mall, select a tag, and then return a purchased gift. Presents can also be purchased online this year. 

Enjoy Festive Movies

Watch your favorite holiday classic safely—even with friends. 

One option is to head to the West Wind Glendale 9 Drive-In to watch one of their festive selections on the big screen. The drive-in will screen different holiday moves throughout the rest of the year.

Alternatively, you can turn your annual holiday party into a socially-distanced screening. Both Harkins Theatres and Alamo Drafthouse lets guests rent out an entire theatre so they can safely watch a movie with their household members. Both movie theatre chains offer a list of holiday films and non-seasonal hits to choose from.

However you choose to celebrate this year, remember to do so safely by wearing a mask and staying at least 6 feet apart while in the company of those outside your household. Spread holiday cheer this year—not COVID.