Tours of light displays and cross-country skiing trips add socially-distant fun to the holidays

If you give it a chance, celebrating the holidays in the time of COVID-19 may lead to new family traditions.

For generations, December has been a time of big family gatherings and celebrations. This year, in order to slow the spread of COVID-19, health care and community leaders discourage large, indoor gatherings of family and friends.

That doesn’t mean the end of holiday fun. Here are a few suggestions for avoiding crowds while keeping your mood festive. While you’re trying new things, you may find a new holiday favorite.

Wreaths, window displays, and holiday lights fill the streets of Downtown Bay City with the holiday spirit.Sundays in the City ends Dec. 20

Whether you want to shop local or just walk around and enjoy Downtown Bay City’s decorations, this weekend is your last chance to participate in Sundays in the City. Free carriage rides, special sales, and more are part of the event.

Cross-country skiing trails are ready for snow

The Bay City State Park, 3582 State Park Drive, is open every day until 10 p.m. and DNR officers say as soon as the snow falls in the region, they will be out grooming the trails for cross-country skiing.

The park isn’t the only option for cross-country skiing. Skiiers of all skill levels will appreciate the winter scenes visible from the Saginaw Basin Land Conservancy’s 123-acre Wah Sah Kah Moqua Nature Preserve near the Bay County line north of Pinconning. The former farm provides a mix of grassland and wooded habitat. Just a short distance away from the trailhead, you can see the Saginaw Bay shoreline.

Trevor Edmonds, director of Land Protection for the Conservancy, says he looks forward to getting outdoors this winter to enjoy a thermos filled with a warm drink while making memories on the trails.

Garland and poinsettias add color to outdoor displays.Enjoy watching birds during a scenic walk

Even before the snow falls, you can enjoy the trails. The scenic walking and hiking trail from the trailhead on State Park Drive out into the Tobico Marsh refuge area attracts all sorts of wildlife.

According to Edmonds, several bird species make their home in the park. Look for Black-Capped Chickadees, Northern Cardinals, White-Breasted and Red-Breasted Nuthatches, Brown Creepers, and Red-Bellied, Downy, Hairy, and Pileated woodpeckers. Edmonds says hikers loften leave birdseed at the top of the two towers on the marsh trail to watch as the birds enjoy the feast.

Virtual 5K raises money for charity

For those who miss the opportunity to serve others over the holidays, there is a virtual 5K to raise funds for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. A Christmas Story 5K. Run or walk at your own pace between now and Jan. 31, and receive a virtual run kit for registering. Participants will receive a bib, medallion, hat, and hooded sweatshirt. Registration information is at

Take a holiday light tour through Bay City’s historic neighborhoods

Bay City Manager Dana Muscott says one of her favorite things to do this time of year is to take a driving tour around some of the neighborhoods in the city taking in the various light displays. There are light displays in all of the historic neighborhoods, along with the lights in Wenonah Park to enjoy.

For suggestions of some of the best lights in the area, keep an eye on the city’s Facebook page at

Walking through the downtown while wearing a face mask lets people enjoy the holidays while slowing the spread of COVID-19.Community parks are filled with light displays to enjoy from the warmth of your car

Again this year, the City of Auburn has a musical light display in the City Park off Nine Mile and U.S. 10.

City Administrator Dave Haag says a few years ago the Downtown Development Authority approached resident Lonnie Webb about a light display in his yard. They asked if he would share his lights at the park, and he said yes. The DDA purchased more lights to enlarge the display and Webb agreed to set it all up.

“Stop by and support the city of Auburn,” Haag says. Park your vehicle and tune the car radio to 89.7 FM to best enjoy the display. The light show begins at 5:30 p.m. daily and runs through Christmas.

Haag also suggests that while visiting Auburn, a trip through downtown might be in order.

Tri-City Furniture owner and Auburn Mayor Lee Kilbourn and his wife, Kathy, lit the 135 W. Midland Rd. storefront with a display set to music. The display boasts 40,000 lights and a five-song show that can be heard by tuning the radio to 93.9 FM.

That’s not the only option in the region. For the past few years, the Freeland Lights display has lit up the Tittabawassee Township Park, 9200 Midland Road. Be forewarned. It’s a popular destination. Arrive early to get a good parking spot. Tune the car radio to 93.9 FM to hear the music along with the show. The light show begins at 5:30 p.m. each day and runs through New Year’s Eve.

Decorations fill the sidewalks, making it possible to enjoy Sundays in the City without entering a crowded store.Sing along with Christmas carols

Unity of Bay City is hosting a virtual Christmas Carol Sing-a-long on Dec. 20. Turn on the computer and bring your best singing voice and join the chorus at 11:30 a.m. Details are at

Grace United Methodist is hosting a drive-up candle lighting service

At Grace United Methodist Church in Bay City, there will be a Dec. 23 drive-up candle lighting at the church’s campuses at 4267 S. Two Mile Road and 510 Fremont Ave. You’re invited to park your car in the parking lot, light a candle, and join in singing Silent Night to celebrate Christmas in a socially distanced and safe way. The event starts at 7 p.m.

A Sleigh of Gifts and Festival of Wreaths offer visitors a chance to win prizes during Sundays in the City.The libraries are closed to patrons, but curbside craft pick-up is an option

To keep little hands busy for the holiday season the Bay County Library System has a drive-up craft pick-up available. Grab & Go Crafts are available for adults and children. Adults can receive supplies for a new craft each month, while children and teens can receive a new craft every Monday.

This program runs even after the holidays end, so check back to see the January options. Library staff encourage crafters to complete the projects at home with the supplies and instructions provided. Call ahead to schedule a curbside pick-up.