The May long weekend is here, and this year Canadians are certainly going to be celebrating differently.
Due to social distancing requirements and closures from the COVID-19 pandemic, many familiar activities like group camping or big fireworks displays won’t be happening for Victoria Day this year.
Canadians are being advised to stay closer to home and avoid non-essential travel this weekend, as public health officials work to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
“This weekend, stay close to home. Let’s make this our summer of care and consideration,” B.C. chief public health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said during her daily briefing Thursday.
But that doesn’t mean people won’t be able to get outside or spend time with family and friends in safe and meaningful ways.
Of course, it’s important to remember specific social distancing restrictions vary from province — be sure to check what your local health officials say before committing to any big Victoria Day weekend plans.
Here’s a guide to May long weekend in the age of COVID-19.
Unsurprisingly, many attractions that usually offer fireworks for the Victoria Day long weekend have cancelled or changed their plans. Fireworks displays often attract large crowds of people — something explicitly warned against by public health officials across Canada.
Canada’s Wonderland shared a six-minute video of its 2019 show along with instructions to host a “virtual viewing” at home, including pulling up cosy chairs and making snacks.
The Metro Loop fireworks display in Caledonia, Ont., was officially cancelled, but organizers have posted a version of the 2018 show for fans to watch at home.
This weekend, stay close to home. Let’s make this our summer of care and consideration.Dr. Bonnie Henry
Officials also confirmed to HuffPost Canada that no fireworks will happen at Niagara Falls this year either.
As for setting off your own fireworks, various jurisdictions have updated their policies to align with the pandemic. Some will allow the personal use of fireworks on private property to go ahead, while others have banned them outright.
Be sure to check what the rules are in your town or city before setting any off.
Besides the weather, there’s nothing stopping Canadians from hosting backyard barbecues at home with other members of their household this weekend.
And in provinces like B.C. where residents have been approved to “expand their bubbles,” a backyard barbecue is even possible with a select few friends and family outside of your immediate household.
On Wednesday, Henry offered some tips for hosting a socially distant and safe backyard barbecue in B.C.
She said to avoid sharing food and utensils, and that buffet-style meals should definitely be avoided, even with close family and friends. Keep the group small, outside and spaced apart. And once you consent to expand your circle to a few people, only do it with those people.
“If we are looking at expanding our circle and we can do that safely, then outside is always better than inside,” she said. “Making sure people can stay safely apart from each other. Space your chairs away from each other to ensure households are together; that way you can enjoy each other’s company without having the risk.”
Be sure to check social gathering recommendations for your own province before making any big barbecue plans.
While the federal government won’t reopen national parks until June 1, many provinces have moved towards reopening provincial parks.
On Thursday, B.C. reopened most of its provincial parks for day use. Things like concessions and interpretive centres remain closed, but most public washrooms and trails are open again. Visitors are being asked to abide by physical distancing rules and wash their hands regularly.
But officials are advising people to still avoid non-essential travel and stick to parks closer to home if they do want to get outside over the weekend.
Vancouver experienced overcrowding at popular destination beaches like Kits Beach and Sunset Beach last weekend, prompting officials to hold off on planned reopening of parking lots and facilities near popular beaches.
WATCH: Dear Vancouver, this is not social distancing. Story continues below.
Alberta recently reopened vehicle access to parking lots and staging areas in provincial parks, but many facilities including garbage pickup and washrooms remain closed. Like B.C., though, officials are advising people to avoid popular tourist spots.
Officials in Banff and Lake Louise asked Albertans to stay away and closer to their own homes over the long weekend.
“We know that people may be eager to adventure this long weekend, but we are asking for some more time to work together as a community in order to welcome visitors again,” Leslie Bruce, president of Banff and Lake Louise Tourism, said.
Ontario reopened most of its provincial parks on May 11, but drinking water and washrooms will not be available immediately. Users are also being advised to practise social distancing.
“We’re trusting people to be responsible and take this seriously,” said Premier Doug Ford.
While most provincial campgrounds in Canada aim to reopen in June, some provinces are getting a head start with private facilities.
Private campgrounds in Ontario have the option to open on Saturday for limited service to “enable preparation for the season and to allow access for trailers and recreational vehicles whose owners have a full season contract.”
Some private campgrounds in Alberta are open, but Alberta Health Services is recommending they limit service to self-contained camping, meaning no shared washroom, water or waste disposal facilities.
Also on HuffPost: