COVID-19 Winter

snow man

Tourism promoters are turning to outdoor activities and non-event attractions

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

In ordinary times, winter can elicit feelings of cabin fever. During the pandemic, when many types of events and gatherings aren’t possible, people have much fewer choices for getting out of the house.

Nineteen chambers of commerce and tourism organizations across Upstate New York were asked to share what activities their areas are planning for the 2020-2021 winter season.

Two replied.

That bespeaks the tough times faced by the entertainment organizations in our region. Planning large events that gather many people at the same time indoors together can increase the risk for transmission of the coronavirus..

Gillian Sears, administrative and project coordinator for the Cayuga County Office of Tourism in Auburn, said that as of press time, no concerts are permitted because of the pandemic.

“Many of the large craft fairs during the holiday season likely will be canceled,” she added. “We typically get confirmation details in mid-November. Cayuga Community College has an excellent one, though I expect this will not take place due to the volume of patrons it attracts.”

Events that do not gather large number of people at a specific time are more likely to continue this winter, such as the Festival of Trees at Ward O’Hara Ag Museum in Auburn through the end of January. At sites such as this, visitors may be admitted in family groups to avoid crowds gathering and sharing germs.

Tourism promoters are also turning to outdoor activities and non-event attractions. Beverage trails are ramping up their promotion efforts, for example.

“Ninety percent of the wineries are open year-round,” said Liz Salamendra, events and member partner engagement manager for Watkins Glen Area Chamber of Commerce. “A lot of people don’t realize this. That goes for the other craft beverage purveyors, our breweries and distilleries.”

Visitors should still check with each location before they go out and consider using a transportation service to tour the trails. But Salamendra warned that tourists should dress for the weather, since some locations may have limited indoor seating and use fire pits or outdoor fireplaces to warm additional guest space on a patio, for instance.

Salamendra also encourages guests to enjoy recreation any time in the Finger Lakes National Forest and Catherine Valley Trail, which are open for cross country skiing and snowshoeing. Many other trails and parks across the state also offer winter recreational opportunities. Since these are outdoors and do not tend to gather big groups at a time, these are considered low-risk activities.

Of course, because a venue hosts an event does not mean that COVID-19 guidelines are set aside.

The same protocols apply as any other public place.

You know the drill: do not go out if you have COVID-19 symptoms such as fever or have been near someone who is sick. Stay 6 feet apart from those not from your household, wear a face covering and wash your hands and use hand sanitizer often. Pay attention to the changing COVID-19 guidelines for the town of the place you want to go.

An outbreak may cancel the event or close the venue. Check the venue’s social media and call before heading out. Some venues may require pre-registration to keep the crowds thinned to permittable numbers.