By Marielle Mohs

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — December is here, and the countdown to the holidays is underway.

This year, more than ever, people are leaning on the magic of the season to make their spirits bright.

For the first time in the nearly 70-year history of the Stillwater Lift Bridge, the city will be lighting it up this Saturday to encourage people to safely celebrate the holiday season. People will be able to walk through the tunnel of lights, too, after it became a pedestrian bridge just this year.

Just on the other side of the river in Somerset, Wisconsin, you can visit Sam’s Christmas Village, a walk-thru light display and village that’s open every night from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. until Jan. 2, except Christmas Eve.

RJ Earl from Woodbury stared in amazement at the 5,000 strand-light tunnel that welcomes all visitors to Sam’s Christmas Village.

“I love them!” RJ Earl said.

“We’re right over in Woodbury and so this was close and convenient, outdoors, easy to distance,” mom Jillian Earl said.

The mile-long display of more than six million lights is a walk-thru — a switch up from what many other light displays are doing this year.

In the Twin Cities, Valleyfair has a drive-thru light show, along with the Minnesota State Fairgrounds.

(credit: CBS)

Starting Thursday, you can go through a holiday drive-thru of 30-foot blow-up animals at the Minnesota Zoo. Gawkers can tune their car radio to an audio station of stories and the sounds of each animal on display.

Further north, the Bentleyville “Tour of Lights” continues in downtown Duluth for the 17th year.

“My husband and I talked about drive-thru versus walking, and I was like, ‘You know, we gotta get out, we gotta walk, we gotta move,’” Jillian Earl said.

Kate Shelley at Sam’s Christmas Village assures they are taking extra precautions to keep visitors safe.

“We’re located on 40-plus acres here, and it’s all open air,” Shelley said.

She also says all the staff wear masks, and they are renting out private cabins for families or small-friend groups to have their own bonfire and s’more kits for the night. They have also added more concessions to prevent crowded lines.

“We also added about three new concession stands on site this year to just allow more room for people to either stop, grab a hot chocolate and cider at one or the other,” Shelley said.

The kid wonder continues with the two reindeer on site, which Shelley says has become a visitor favorite.

For those unable to walk or just don’t want to, the Somerset Christmas display switches to drive-thru on Mondays and Tuesdays only.

WCCO has also compiled a map of all holiday light displays throughout the Twin Cities.

Marielle Mohs