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Travelers beware: Kids must show proof of partial vaccination to eat indoors in NYC starting Dec. 14

The Points Guy logo The Points Guy 12/7/2021 Caroline Tanner
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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with new information.

New York City is the first U.S. city to extend partial vaccination requirements to children between the ages of 5 and 11 wishing to eat indoors or attend entertainment and fitness establishments starting Dec. 14, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Dec. 6.

Children ages 5 to 11 will be required to show proof of at least one dose come Dec. 14 and those 12 and older will need to show proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 by Dec. 27 to eat indoors or access entertainment venues throughout New York City — residents and visitors alike.

As you prepare for holiday travel, it’s important to note that five major U.S. cities currently restrict indoor activities, including restaurants, bars, theaters, gyms and other venues, to those who are vaccinated.

Outside of New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Palm Springs in California and Vail Resorts have all implemented COVID-19 vaccine mandates to access certain indoor spaces.

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New York City

Following their efforts as the first city in the U.S. to limit all indoor activities to those with proof of at least one dose of a Food and Drug Administration- or World Health Organization-authorized COVID-19 vaccine (a mandate implemented in August), New York City officials further expanded vaccination requirements on Dec. 6 to include children.

“Starting December 14th, the program will require children aged 5-11 to show proof of one vaccination dose for those venues. Starting December 27th, New Yorkers aged 12 and older will be required to show proof of two vaccine doses, instead of one, except for those who have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine,” the mayor’s office said in a statement. The mayor also announced that proof of vaccination will be required for the same age group to participate in “high-risk extracurricular activities,” including sports, band, orchestra and dance, starting Dec. 14.

As is standard, individuals must show a valid proof of ID that corresponds with the name on their vaccination record, such as a government-issued ID or school ID, driver’s license or passport. Mayor DeBlasio’s office did not respond to a request clarifying how those without IDs could comply.

Nearly 90% of New York City adults and almost half of those ages 5-17 are partially vaccinated, according to city data.

First implemented in August, Key to NYC is a wide-reaching mandate to require vaccination proof for restaurants, bars, grocery stores with indoor dining, coffee shops, theaters, museums and gyms.

Guests can show proof through the NYC COVID Safe app, New York state’s Excelsior Pass, a hard copy or photocopy of the vaccination card issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, NYC vaccination record or an official immunization record from outside New York City or the U.S.

Related: Visiting NYC? What you need to know about proof of vaccination for indoor activities

In July, Broadway announced a full vaccination and mask mandate back for theatergoers 12 and older to attend performances in its 41 theatres through Feb. 28, 2022. Those under 12 and those with proof of “serious” religious or medical exemptions may enter by showing results of a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours or a rapid antigen test taken within six hours of the show. Additionally, all guests over 18 must show a government-issued photo ID, such as a driver’s license or passport, and those under 18 may use a school ID. Children under 12 must be accompanied by adults showing a photo ID, meaning a 12-year-old could not attend Broadway by themselves.

Broadway ticket holders will receive an email 15 days out from a show, reminding attendees of the rules.

Related: Excelsior Pass vs. Key to NYC Pass: What’s the difference?

San Francisco

On Aug. 12, San Francisco became the first major U.S. city to institute a wide-reaching vaccination mandate for indoor activities, requiring proof of full vaccination for certain indoor activities for participants ages 12 and older starting Aug. 20. The mandate was put into place in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19 among the unvaccinated while allowing businesses and schools to remain open. The ruling was particularly broad in reach, applicable not only to public indoor events with 1,000 or more people but to private events as well.

San Francisco businesses will accept the big three vaccines (Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson), in addition to those by Sinopharm, AstraZeneca and the Serum Institute of India.

Face masks remain required indoors throughout the city as well as on public transportation (and cable cars), regardless of vaccination status, per the San Francisco Travel Association (which did not respond to a request for comment). San Francisco International Airport (SFO) also became the first airport in the U.S. to implement a full vaccination mandate for its employees on Sept. 21.

San Francisco is among the most vaccinated U.S. cities, with 78% of all residents fully vaccinated and 85% with at least one dose as of Dec. 6, per data from the San Francisco Public Health Department.

Related: Even as cable cars return to San Francisco, Bay Area reinstates face mask orders

Los Angeles

California’s largest city has required proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID-19 test at bars, breweries, wineries, nightclubs and lounges since October and although not applicable to restaurants, many restaurants have reportedly implemented mandates on their own.

Additionally, Los Angeles County extended the same requirements to indoor events with 1,000-plus attendees and outdoor “mega-events” with 10,000 or more people — including Universal Studios Hollywood and Six Flags Magic Mountain as the first major theme parks to be affected.

Related: Los Angeles announces vaccination requirement for bars and theme parks

Along with a photo ID, visitors in Los Angeles County can show proof of vaccination via:

  • CDC vaccination record card (white card).
  • WHO vaccination record card (yellow card).
  • California Department of Public Health COVID-19 digital vaccination record.
  • Other COVID-19 digital vaccination records issued by an approved company.
  • Documentation of vaccination from a health care provider or entity.
  • California Immunization Registry vaccination record.

Face masks are still required indoors in Los Angeles regardless of vaccination status. Discover Los Angeles did not respond to a request for comment.

Video: Holiday travel busts open divided political and vaccine bubbles (NBC News)


According to data from LA’s public health department, 68% of Angelenos age 5 and older are fully vaccinated as of Dec. 6.

California as a whole

Largely due to high vaccination numbers in LA and San Diego, California boasts a statewide vaccination rate at nearly 69%, per data from the state government’s vaccine tracker.

A statewide mandate is currently in place to require proof of vaccination or a negative test for large-scale events.

Elsewhere in the state, face masks, proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours have been required to eat indoors at restaurants and bars in Palm Springs since August. Riverside County, which includes Palm Springs and the rest of the Coachella Valley, has recorded a 57% full vaccination rate among residents age 5 and older as of Dec. 6, according to data from the county’s public health department.

Related: Broadway is reopening: Don’t forget your proof of vaccination, masks and negative COVID-19 tests for kids

Vail Resorts

Vail Resorts, a group of mountain resorts and regional ski areas in 15 states and three countries, continues to maintain indoor COVID-19-related safety protocols at its 34 North American resorts for the 2021-22 ski season.

“Face coverings will be required in indoor settings, including in restaurants, lodging properties, restrooms, retail and rental locations, and on buses,” Vail Resorts said in a press release on Sept. 20. “Face coverings will not be required outdoors, in lift lines, or on chairlifts or gondolas, unless required by local public health. (For example, Whistler Blackcomb requires face coverings on gondolas due to orders from the Provincial Health Authority of British Columbia).”

Additionally, all guests over the age of 12 are required to show proof of vaccination for indoor dining at “on-mountain quick-service (cafeteria-style) restaurants.” Note that this also applies to guests in ski- and ride-school programs that provide lunch but not full-service indoor restaurants or outdoor restaurants.

“We are fortunate that the core of our business takes place outdoors in vast mountain settings. However, as we welcome guests from around the world to the indoor experience at our resorts, we feel it’s important to do our part to combat the spread of COVID-19 and to keep our guests, employees and communities safe. That is why we’re requiring face coverings indoors – and it’s why we’re requiring vaccinations at our indoor quick-service restaurants,” Lindsay Hogan, communications director at Vail Resorts, said via email.

“Our on-mountain quick-service restaurants are very unique dining locations,” she said. “They are large-scale, cafeteria-style facilities with a high volume and high density of guests who often times will be sitting at the same table with other parties and, of course, will not be wearing face coverings while eating and drinking. This vaccination requirement is very similar to what is happening across the country with other large-scale indoor event and venue spaces contending with similar dynamics.”

Related: New season, new rules: 4 things to know if you ski at Vail Resorts this winter



A statewide indoor mask mandate remains in place across Illinois, including Chicago.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and other local officials have not required proof of vaccination for restaurants, bars, theaters, gyms and music venues, despite receiving a letter from eight city council members urging her and city health commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady to follow the lead of other U.S. cities that have vaccination mandates in place. The letter was reportedly met with pushback from the Chicago Restaurants Coalition but is supported by the Illinois Restaurant Association.

“The IRA supports vaccinations for everyone — it’s the best way to get the pandemic behind us,” the Illinois Restaurant Association said in a press statement on Sept. 10.

Chicago’s reopening plan in August called for split seating in restaurants to distinguish between vaccinated patrons and others, allowing the former group to resume indoor consumption as normal without masks. Since then, some local bars and restaurants have continued to require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test within 24 hours, although there is no formal requirement to do so.

Nearly 62% of Chicago residents were fully vaccinated as of Dec. 2, according to city data.

Chicago’s official tourism organization, Choose Chicago, failed to respond to a request for comment.

Related: Chicago restaurant eyes ‘vaccinated’ and ‘unvaccinated’ dining sections as restrictions lift

Washington, DC

Although D.C. lifted its previous mandate requiring masks in indoor public spaces, many D.C.-area restaurants and bars require proof of vaccination for their employees and customers, including full-service restaurants in Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group such as Maialino Mare and Anchovy Social.

Event venues throughout the D.C. area, including in nearby Maryland and Northern Virginia, have also issued their own vaccination and/or testing requirements.

“Safety comes first for obvious reasons, and safety measures including wearing masks indoors and providing proof of vaccination make sense to keep our visitors and residents healthy,” Elliott L. Ferguson, II, president and CEO of Destination DC, said via email. “We are also seeing testing or rapid testing at private or large events becoming a requirement, regardless of vaccination status.”

Related: The future of travel is vaccine certificates: These are the popular destinations and tourist attractions requiring proof of vaccination


About three hours north of D.C., we’ve seen local Philadelphia officials place the burden to implement vaccination mandates on businesses and institutions, which has encouraged many restaurants, bars, gyms and event venues to act.

The city currently requires all businesses and institutions not requiring vaccination for entry to comply with indoor mask mandates.

New Orleans

New Orleans is the only city in the South to currently require partial vaccination or a negative PCR test for people 12 and older attending certain indoor activities with a high transmission risk, including restaurants, bars, microbreweries, concerts, event spaces and gyms, in addition to an indoor mask mandate.

Visitors to New Orleans can show vaccination status one of four ways:

  • Via the state’s LA Wallet app.
  • CDC card — an original copy, digital copy or photocopy.
  • Other official vaccination record issued by another state, foreign country or the WHO.
  • Vaccine trial record issued by a vaccine clinical trial.

The city of New Orleans has vaccinated more than 75% of adults as of Dec. 6, according to city data.

Related: San Francisco and New Orleans are latest US cities to institute vaccine mandates

Bottom line

New York City currently has the widest-reaching vaccine mandate in the United States by requiring proof of vaccination to eat indoors, attend theater shows or use gyms from all persons age 5 and older.

While it remains to be seen whether more U.S. cities will follow suit in requiring proof of vaccination to resume a way of life indoors, it seems the decisions are being made based on geographic politics and with some protest. Currently, six states have mask mandates for all persons, three have one for unvaccinated persons only and Washington requires masks outdoors. Various cities and counties have also taken measures in their own hands in the absence of state mandates.

Whether you are traveling to one of the coasts or somewhere in between, be sure to check the latest updates from local officials in your desired destination.

Related: The future of travel is vaccine certificates: These are the popular destinations and tourist attractions requiring proof of vaccination

Featured photo of COVID-19 vaccine mandate protesters in New York City on Sept. 18 by Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis/Getty Images.

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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.


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