New England’s Top 12 Christmas Activities & Traditions

All of New England is giddy for the arrival of the holiday season, especially this year since the nor’easter that hit the day before Halloween coated much of the region in an early snow. Many of New England’s Christmas activities are family-friendly happenings with visits from Santa, an abundance of decorations, regional favorites like chowder and tastefully lit buildings. So if you happen to be in the area during the months of November and December, be sure to check out these impressive festivities.

Don’t forget: “Vermont should be beautiful this time of year with all that snow.” You said it, Bob Wallace.

1. Stockbridge Main Street at Christmas – Stockbridge, MA

December 3-4, 2011

Stockbridge, a quaint town located in the heart of the Berkshires, was once home to iconic American artist Norman Rockwell. One of his best-known works is an idyllic portrait of the town’s main street (which can be seen at the nearby Norman Rockwell Museum) which is painstakingly re-created with vintage cars and decor each December. The Christmas Weekend includes other family-friendly events such as a holiday house tour, caroling walk and children’s storytime.

2. Christmas Prelude – Kennebunkport, ME

December 1 – 4; December 9 – 11, 2011

Not one, but three tree lighting ceremonies are the highlight of this annual holiday kick-start in Kennebunkport, Kennebunk and Cape Porpoise. Held over two weekends, this Christmas event includes an arts and crafts fair, trolley rides, house tours, nativity scenes, live music, workshops, carols, wine tastings and breakfast with the big man himself. This family-friendly event has something for everyone!

Photo courtesy of Christmas Prelude.

3. Santa’a Village – Jefferson, NH

November 19 – 20, 25 – 27, 2011; December 3 -4, 10 – 11, 17 – 18 & 31, 2011

From Memorial Day weekend through the month of December, it’s always Christmas at Santa’s Village! A little over an hour from the Canadian border, Santa’s Village is a great destination when you have little ones (and big ones!) who believe. Meet with Santa, feed some cuddly, fuzzy reindeer, watch A Tinkerdoodle Christmas (a 3-D animated feature) and go on any number of rides in the theme park.

4. Manchester Merriment – Arlington, Dorset, Manchester & Weston, VT

November 25 – December 31, 2011

Tucked in the Green Mountains along historic Route 7A, Manchester is a little town known for The Equinox ResortHildene Meadows and Orvis. Just after Thanksgiving, Manchester gets into the spirit of the season with six weeks of activities for all ages, including shopping at the Manchester Designer Outlets and Weston’s Vermont Country Store, wine tastings, “Holiday Inn Tours” at local hotels such as the North Shire Lodge and The Arlington Inn, wagon ride, tree lightings and New Year’s celebrations.

Manchester Merriment. Photo by Tim Walker.


5. The North Pole Express & Santa Special – Essex, CT

November 18 – December 28, 2011 for The North Pole Express; November 25 – 27; December 3 – 4; December 10 – 11; December 17 – 18; December 23 for the Santa Special

The Essex Steam Train & Riverboat offers special tours throughout the year, but the most beloved are the trains at Christmas! Families board the North Pole Express to pick up Santa and Mrs. Claus for a train ride with songs, cookies, hot cocoa, The Night Before Christmas and memories–children are welcome to enjoy the train ride in pajamas! The Santa Special train ride is an hour-long journey when Santa and Mrs. Claus visit and give a small present to each child aboard.

6. Christmas-by-the-Sea – Chatham, MA

December 4 – 31, 2011

There are plenty of great events that involve Christmas and the sea. At Chatham’s Christmas-by-the-Sea festival, Santa arrives via boat at Fish Pier on December 7 and stays for the whole month. In fact, you can have breakfast with Santa and Mrs. Claus all the way up to First Night on New Year’s Eve. Visitors can also do some caroling during the Christmas Stroll along Main Street. See the lights lit, trees decorated and hopefully a bit of fresh snow on the ground.

7. Christmas at the Newport Mansions – Newport, RI

November 19, 2011 – January 2, 2012

During the holiday season, a select number of the famed cottages of Newport are decorated and open to the public during special hours. Events include self-guided tours of The Breakers, The Elms and Marble House as well as holiday music concerts and a New Year’s celebration. These 19th-century homes are specially decorated for Christmas, so be sure to check out these elegant estates.

8. Christmas at Billings Farm – Woodstock, VT

December 3 – 4, 10 – 11, 26 – 31, 2011; January 1, 2012

Billings Farm in Woodstock, Vermont is a working dairy farm that is open to the public. It is a fantastic place to take the whole family for a glimpse of what Christmas was like at a New England farmhouse. Visitors have the opportunity to tour the exquisitely decorated 19th-century home, experience a sleigh ride, enjoy a wassail weekend of traditional music, dip some candles, go sledding and make Christmas decorations.

Photo courtesy of Christmas at Billings Farm.


9. Christmas-by-the-Sea – Ogunquit, ME

December 3 – 4 & 9 – 11, 2011

When you think of visiting Ogunquit, it’s usually for its lovely beaches during the summertime. For two weekends at the beginning of December, the town of Ogunquit decks the halls with caroling, candlelit walks, concerts, a beach bonfire, a parade and a tree lighting. Celebrated since 1986, this festive celebration also shows off some of the local restaurants’ best chowder and finest handcrafted chocolates.

10. Winter Holiday Stroll – Nashua, NH

November 26, 2011

This one-day event begins at 5 pm and is a full evening of complete winter merriment in downtown Nashua. Going strong since 1993, the Winter Holiday Stroll attracts over 30,000 visitors each year for a procession, tree lighting, holiday shopping, live entertainment and a full beer garden. With the streets closed off to traffic, this is the perfect way to start the holiday season in New Hampshire.

Photo courtesy of Nashua's Winter Holiday Stroll.

11. Winterfest – Hartford, CT

November 25, 2011 – February 20, 2012

Held in Hartford’s Bushnell Park each winter, Winterfest (formerly the Festival of Light) is a family activity that includes carousel rides, visits with Santa and plenty of hot chocolate. The event culminates with Hartford’s First Night celebrations. One of the top attractions of this multi-month festivity is the giant skating rink that can accommodate up to 140 skaters at once.

12. Pawtucket Winter Wonderland – Pawtucket, RI

December 3 – 4 & 9 – 11, 2011

Pawtucket Winter Wonderland occurs over two weekends. Trees are decorated and lit, children have their faces painted, live music fills the air and an 18-foot tall Frosty the Snowman talks to you! The little ones can also have their picture taken with Santa or ride the mini train and carousel. This winter festival goes from 4 pm to 8 pm on the four days it’s open.

Photo courtesy of Pawtucket's Winter Wonderland.


RELATED LINKS

Stockbridge Main Street at Christmas

Christmas Prelude

Nashua Winter Holiday Stroll

Pawtucket Winter Wonderland

Essex Steam Train: North Pole Express & Santa Special

Manchester Merriment

HolidaysCentral.com Celebrates Christmas

Let us know your thoughts on these New England Holiday activities. Follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook for updates on what we’re covering. You can stay on top of exciting events from around the world by downloading the eventseekr app for AndroidiPhone or Ovi.

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About Jules Miller
From the gloriously spooky world of New England, Jules originally pursued a career as a professional study abroad student from 1998 to 2007. A passport full of visas and a couple Master's degrees later, she moved to San Francisco and began working with Wcities as the Language Content Manager. After griping about the absence of Dunkin' Donuts in California, Jules moved back to Connecticut in 2011 and is still scoping out the world's paranormal hotspots and rooting for the UConn Huskies.

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