Christmas in New England
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New England Christmas
Many people dream of a typical Christmas in New England. Snow-covered, quaint towns, friendly people, a Norman Rockwell type Christmas. The great news is that the dream is reality here in New England. To help you make the most of your visit here are some of our very favorite holiday experiences.
New England Christmas Traditions
While modern day New England Christmas traditions tend to mimic the traditions of the US at large, historically New England had quite a poor attitude of Christmas.
The Puritans who founded the region saw Christmas as a pagan celebration that coincided with the celebration of the Winter Solstice. They looked down on their Southern neighbors such as the Dutch in New York and the Catholics in Maryland.
However by the 1800’s New England was celebrating with the best of them and little by little people began to long for Christmas in New England. Most of the desire for Christmas in New England comes down to: a good chance of snow, historic homes decked in greenery, quaint towns, and Norman Rockwell’s depiction of an idyllic Christmas town.
The few Christmas traditions that are actually tied to New England alone have much to do with celebrating the sea. Kennebunkport, Cape Cod, Plymouth New Hampshire, and Nantucket all have Christmas celebrations where Santa enters by boat. If you want traditional New England I would begin there!
Whether or not New England Christmas traditions are substance or embellishment, you will have a marvelous time enjoying all that New England has to offer!
Christmas Celebrations in Connecticut
Christmas in Connecticut is as fantastic as the movie by the same name! We have lived in Connecticut for 20 years and have gone to almost every Christmas activity. This is my curated list of things to do based on what our family has enjoyed the most!
Make sure that you dress warmly! New England is cold in the winter and you don’t want to have to leave early because your feet are frozen.
North Pole Express in Essex Connecticut
Take your kids on a real life Polar Express. Dress up in your pajamas, meet Santa, and sing carols all along the way. If you have young kids this is a must do!
For more information click here. Be aware the tickets sell out early!
Christmas at the Griswold Inn
Visit the oldest, continuously operating inn in New England. Enjoy their classic game menu and listen to Renaissance carolers while enjoying your food. Come a little early and enjoy downtown Essex lit up in white lights. It makes for a perfect holiday stroll.
Festival of Lights at Olde Mistick Village
This Charming Village that has been recreated to look like an 1800 village. During the Festival of Lights it is covered in hundreds of luminaries. Come early to enjoy carolers, musicians, and fun activities for the kids.
If you bring a non perishable food item you can enjoy the Mystic Aquarium for free that evening as well!
The self-proclaimed Christmas Town hosts a fabulous Christmas weekend at the beginning of December enjoy crafts food and entertainment. make sure to take your Christmas cards and get them postmarked with a special seal from the Bethlehem post office.
Holiday Lights at Lake Compounce
Lake Compounce, the oldest amusement park in the United States offers a family-friendly Christmas event. Enjoy many of their famous rides, unlimited hot chocolate (with purchase), visit with Santa, and watch their holiday light shows every December weekend.
For our post on Lake Compounce at Christmas click here.
Santa’s Trolley Winter Wonderland
Write the Christmas trolley with Santa and his elves. Enjoy the decorated houses along the water, Christmas music, cookies, and hot chocolate. Plus your kids will receive a small gift from Santa. This is a great weekend activity during December.
Christmas at the Casinos
Christmas at Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun will vary depending on the activity you choose. Christmas concerts from big-name groups such as: the Pentatonix, The Piano Guys, James Taylor, and more visit in December and bring their Christmas songs. the casinos are decorated for Christmas Foxwoods offers ice skating.
Messiah Sing-along with the Yale Glee Club
Do you love the Messiah? Come sing along with hundreds of your neighbors and the Yale Glee Club. Presented in spectacular Battell Chapel in downtown New Haven, you will feel the holiday spirit.
For more information click here.
Festival of Silver Lights at Hubbard Park
Hubbard Park in Meriden, CT gets festive with over 350,000 lights every December. It is free to visit is a great evening activity. It is a good one to combine with another December activity or to just have a simple time with your family.
We love to get hot chocolate at Dunkin Donuts and drive through the lights while playing Christmas music.
Massachusetts Christmas events
We have done a lot of fun Christmas things in Massachusetts because we have family that lives there. There is a huge variety of things to do in Massachusetts at Christmas. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but once again, things our family has enjoyed over the years.
Stockbridge Main Street at Christmas
If you have ever wanted to feel like you are in the middle of a Norman Rockwell painting, here is your chance! The first weekend of December every year is a holiday festival in the town Norman Rockwell made famous.
Your kids will enjoy the holiday sing along in the main square of town. You will enjoy the holiday house tours, and the luminarie caroling. To cap off the celebration there is a recreation of the famous Norman Rockwell painting complete with antique cars, decorations, and music performances.
Boston Pop’s Kids Matinees
A fabulous way to introduce your kids to classical music. These holiday concerts are 75 minutes long and feature the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s Children’s Choir. They also include sing-alongs, and photos with Santa.
For information about tickets click here.
Jordan Furniture’s Enchanted Village
Jordan furniture stores do things a little differently. every store has a different attraction in conjunction with their actual furniture store. The Avon, Massachusetts location of Jordan furniture has an Enchanted Village that is decorated for Christmas.
The village shows holiday scenes from history and today. Your kids will delight in all the detail that is included. The village has animated dolls and even fake snow.
Sturbridge Village Christmas by Candlelight
Sturbridge Village is an open-air Museum that features a village set in colonial times. In December the village puts on greenery, lights hundreds of candles and celebrates Christmas in 1800’s glory. This event is one of our very favorite Christmas events in New England. The kids love magicians, a gingerbread contest, horse and buggy rides, and a vintage train display.
For more information check out our post on Christmas in Sturbridge Village.
Nantucket Christmas stroll
Enjoy Christmas in the manner early settlers in New England. Nantucket Christmas stroll is the first weekend in December. Apparently it was begun in the 1960’s to keep locals shopping on the island instead of on Cape Cod. It is now one of the largest Christmas celebrations in New England.
Main Street is lined in large Christmas trees, the shops are open late, carolers perform in different venues up and down the street. Enjoy the holiday home tours, a production of a Christmas Carol, an ugly Christmas sweater competitions, and Santa Claus arriving by boat.
Yankee Candle Flagship Store
The Yankee Candle Flagship Store is a fun place all year long, but there is a ton to do with your family in December. Visit the Bavarian Forest that is decorated in snowy trees and small villages, visit Santa, and run around in the fake snow!
You can make your own candles while you are there, and smell every candle in sight. Grab a snack at the restaurant and stroll around the decorated village.
Zoolights at Stone Zoo
Go visit your favorite animals and help them celebrate Christmas. Bundle up and visit the polar bears, reindeer and foxes, and other cold weather friends. Enjoy the festive lights that are on every tree in the zoo.
Make sure to stop and visit Santa and take a ride on the carousel. Kids under the age of 12 will especially enjoy this event.
The Nutcracker at Boston Ballet
The Nutcracker runs from the end of November through New Year’s Eve and is an essential part of many people’s Christmas celebrations.
Matinees tend to be full of kids, so if you are worried if your young one will make it through the performance, take them to a matinee where every other parent is worried about the same thing!
Christmas activities in Rhode Island
Well the Newport Mansions are beautiful at any time of year. When they are decorated in Christmas Greenery, lights, and decorations they’re even more spectacular. If you can only visit one, make sure it’s the breakers. The mansion has poinsettias everywhere, Christmas trees in every room, and a special holiday tour.
Christmas Things to Do in New Hampshire
Strawberry Banke Candlelight Stroll
Strawberry Banke is an outdoor museum in the oldest part of Portsmouth. Seventeen houses are on display featuring different living conditions in Portsmouth throughout its history. During the Candlelight stroll you will find each of the homes decorated for Christmas. It is great fun to see the different decorations used from time period to time period.
For an additional fee you can ice skate on Puddle Dock pond, or go to a holiday dinner at Pickwicks!
For more information about Portsmouth, New Hampshire during the summer check out our new post!
Christmas Activities in Vermont
The Woodstock Wassail takes place the second weekend in December which is great because it seems like everything else is the first weekend. This way you can choose more than one activity!
Woodstock is decorated in beautiful white lights and most years you will find some snow too! Activities include: storytelling at the library, Christmas concerts, a trip to a 19th century farm house, breakfast with Santa, home tours and a Christmas parade.
Christmas activities in Maine
Christmas Prelude in Kennebunkport
This is another family favorite Christmas activity. Christmas Prelude runs the first two weekends in December and there is so much to do! You will truly want an entire weekend.
Our favorite activities include: ornament making, watching Santa come to Maine on a lobster boat, the Christmas hat parade, lobster suppers in town, caroling, and tree lightings.
For more information check out our post on Christmas Prelude.
Christmas activities in New York State
I know, I know, New York is not technically a state in New England, but I always feel bad for it that it isn’t included. It’s so close to our home in Connecticut that we tend to lump it in with the other states. So skip this section on principal if it bugs you, but you will be missing out!
Saratoga Victorian Streetwalk
Saratoga Springs, New York becomes a Dickens Christmas Story the first Thursday after Christmas each year. Costumed carolers sing carols from the 1800’s, activities for kids, Christmas tree festival, and gingerbread house display all contribute to the festive atmosphere.
Saratoga goes all out for town events, and this one is no exception. If you want information about other events year round check out my post here.
A Christmas Carol Story telling
Go see one of the more unusual retellings of the famous Dicken’s Story, “A Christmas Carol” in Old Dutch Church in Sleepy Hollow, NY. One man reads/reenacts the famous story in a cozy setting, complete with music and carols. It runs an hour long and is suitable for kids over the age of 8.
For more information click here.
Are there more things to do during Christmas in New England?
Of course there are, there are dozens more. I never meant this to be an exhaustive list, just a list of our favorites. If you have a favorite activity or event that you think I should really add, let me know! Our family will check it out this year. Enjoy all these awesome Christmas Events in New England.
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