Planning for the Holidays with COVID in Mind

Planning for the Holidays with COVID in Mind
Holiday Planning for your institution during the holidays

Planning for the Holidays with COVID in Mind

December 17, 2020

The holidays are fast approaching. And this year, all of our favorite wintertime activities will be unlike anything we’ve seen before. As COVID-19 continues to affect life almost all over the world, holiday traditions and public offerings have to change and adapt to keep everyone healthy and safe. 

As museums, zoos, and other public institutions prepare for the traditional December crowds, it can be difficult to know what seasonal programs to maintain, and which need to be boxed up until next year. In this article, we’ll talk about fun and safe ways to keep your doors open to the public this winter. 

Planning for the Crowds

With travel restrictions and distancing mandates still in place, and most people strongly encouraged to stay home this holiday season, chances are your institution won’t be facing the same kinds of crowds you would under normal circumstances. Nevertheless, your organization should put safeguards and guidelines in place to potentially deal with an influx of visitors. 

The first thing you should do is consider how to let audiences in. Smaller institutions such as historic houses or micro galleries may choose to follow a one-in, one-out style of entry. You can determine your institution’s visitor capacity with this handy social distancing occupant capacity calculator. Larger organizations may consider offering timed entry, where audiences can purchase entry for a specific hour or two during the day. If you’ve already been offering timed entry during the pandemic, you might need to reevaluate your allotment strategy and adjust for the holiday crowds. 

Next, you’ll want to think about audience flow within the museum. It may work for you to allow your visitors to mill about freely, provided everyone wears a mask and observes safe distancing guidelines. You can also set up guided walkways to help your visitors navigate your institution safely. 

If you have the capacity, consider setting up special outdoor or drive-through exhibitions which audiences can observe from a safe distance, or within their own vehicles. You should also consider having an online exhibit or event which visitors can enjoy from home. 

Holiday Themed Exhibits and Events

Having some creative sights and activities for your guests can help to turn their gloomy winter into a fun and colorful holiday treat. Here are some ideas to help keep your audiences entertained. 

  • Drive through lights exhibit. Zoos and other institutions with mostly outdoor exhibits can take their guests on a holiday safari with a driving tour of the facilities. Decorate the walkways and outer edges of the enclosures with festive light and tinsel displays, and have a guide take a small caravan of cars through the zoo. Facilities without outdoor space can also create light displays inside and around the exhibitions.
  • Santa hat scavenger hunt. Have you ever been tempted to put antlers on the Picasso, elf ears on your dinosaur diorama, or Rudolph’s red nose on a marble statue? Now you have an excuse! This fun activity can keep adults and kids alike entertained and in the holiday spirit during their visit to your museum. Hide some Santa hats, stars, or other symbol of the time around your facilities and encourage visitors to find them. Reward them for their discovery with prizes like a percentage off their next tickets, or a coupon for the gift shop.
  • Ugly sweater days. This humorous activity has become a staple of the holidays. Select a few days during the season and offer visitors 10-20% off of their entrance fee if they arrive wearing an ugly holiday-themed sweater. Consider having a grand prize for “ugliest sweater of the day,” and offer one lucky audience member free admission at their next visit.
  • Holiday-themed social media events. Engage your absent audience members with something they can do from home, and feature member photos on your social media pages. These might be nostalgic images from last year’s visit, a family photo under your light exhibit, or a wintertime challenge you put to your visitors. Art museums might choose some holiday-themed artwork and ask their audience members to creatively recreate it with objects around their home.



Special Holiday Packages

In the spirit of giving, public institutions should offer their audiences unique holiday-themed gifts in gratitude for their patronage. 

  • Offer a seasonal discount for new memberships. This can be a special, one-month discount, or a discounted package for the entire year. Consider offering an added bonus discount for memberships being bought as gifts. 
  • Give visitors and visiting organizations a markdown on ticket bundles purchased during the holiday season. You might also consider including vouchers for free entry to special exhibitions with bundles over a certain number. 
  • A few days out of the month, offer audience members free gifts with their ticket purchase. This can be a swag bag, entry to an exclusive exhibition, free access to a ticketed museum event, or even a treat from the gift shop. 

How ACME Can Help

ACME’s comprehensive ticketing platform makes planning for the holidays at your public institution easy. Our product enables contactless payment and paperless entry to keep contact to a minimum and ensure both visitors and staff remain safe and healthy. A time-based entry feature allows you to set a schedule and entry parameters so you never have more guests than you can handle at once. And a fully customizable membership management system allows you to better serve your most passionate audience members, during the holidays and beyond. To see how ACME can work for you, visit us today at

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