Out & About | Best New England Holiday Events for 2017

From tours of decked-out historic houses to holiday parades and bazaars, these top New England holiday events are worth the drive.

By Yankee Magazine

Oct 17 2017


Christmas at Victoria Mansion

Photo Credit : Mark Fleming


Christmas at Victoria Mansion
Photo Credit : Mark Fleming

MAINE Christmas at Victoria Mansion November 24–January 7

The display at Victoria Mansion, built c. 1860 as a summer house for hotel magnate Ruggles Sylvester Morse, is always a highlight of Portland’s seasonal happenings. Some of the area’s best designers deck the halls of the stately historic landmark, while the exterior is ornamented with lighting by Scarborough’s Event Light Pros. Step back into the Gilded Age and enjoy the lavish decorations and guided tour. Portland, ME. 207-772-4841;


Winterfest and the Tunnel of Lights November 24–26, December 1–3, 8–10, 15–17, 22–23, 26–30

Ride the rails at the Connecticut Trolley Museum—in either a closed car or, for those hardy enough to brave the cold, an open “electric sleigh”—and join the motormen in singing traditional carols as the trolley travels through the “Tunnel of Lights” display. Afterward, warm up with a steaming cup of cocoa in the visitor center, where you can admire the model trains and displays and take advantage of a photo op with Santa. East Windsor, CT. 860-627-6540;


America’s Hometown Thanksgiving Celebration November 17–19

See the story of Thanksgiving brought to life as Pilgrims, Native Americans, soldiers, patriots, and pioneers climb out of the history books and stride onto the streets of Plymouth. Events include a “chronological parade” representing the march of time from the 17th through 21st centuries, a harvest farmers’ market, a historical village, a food festival, concerts, and more. Plymouth, MA. 508-746-1818;


Irving Berlin’s White Christmas November 29–December 17

The Music Hall presents the Ogunquit Playhouse production of this musical based on the 1954 classic film of the same name. White Christmas tells the story of WWII veterans Bob Wallace and Phil Davis, who have a successful song-and-dance act. Chasing romance, they follow a pair of singing sisters to their Christmas show at a Vermont lodge—crooning Irving Berlin hits such as “Count Your Blessings (Instead of Sheep)” and “White Christmas” along the way. Portsmouth, NH. 603-436-2400;


Old-Fashioned Christmas at Hearthside December 3, 9, 10, 28, 30

Venture back in time at Hearthside, where volunteers in Victorian attire will guide you through rooms elaborately decorated with ornaments of lace and gold, festive garlands, and poinsettias. Look for live music and caroling, homemade cookies and hot cider, and a gift shop stocked with holiday goodies. On December 28 and 30, the “Home for the Holidays” candlelight tours are not to be missed. Lincoln, RI. 401-726-0597;


Christmas in Weston December 2

A day of fun for all ages is in store during this townwide annual event. Visit with Santa at the Vermont Country Store before climbing aboard a horse-drawn wagon for a ride. Stop by the Weston Playhouse for puppet and magic shows or visit Old Parish Church for a reading of A Christmas Carol, then spend the day reveling in food tastings, greenhouse tours, and craft demonstrations, accompanied by music and caroling throughout downtown. Stick around for the lighting of the town tree at dusk. Weston, VT.



NOV. 4–5: WESTPORT, CraftWestport. Get your holiday shopping started right at this long-running annual juried fair, featuring 175 talented artists and crafters from across the country and a pop-up marketplace devoted to Connecticut artisans.

NOV. 19: STAMFORD, Giant Helium Balloon Parade Spectacular. One of the largest helium balloon parades in the country, this yearly tradition features giant inflatable versions of favorite characters, award-winning marching bands, and fabulous

NOV. 24–26, DEC. 2–3: TOLLAND AND WINDHAM COUNTIES, Artists’ Open Studios Self-Guided Tour. Move along at your own pace as you embark on this free art adventure through northeast Connecticut, encompassing more than 80 artists working in a wide variety of media.

DEC. 1–2: BETHLEHEM, Christmas Town Festival. O little town of Bethlehem … where thousands make an annual pilgrimage to secure the perfect Christmas card postmark. See the town green transformed with 70-plus vendors offering crafts and food, musical entertainment, kids’ activities, hayrides, photos with Santa, and more. 203-266-7510;

DEC. 2: WOODBURY, Glebe House Christmas Festival. Tour the charming c. 1740 Glebe House while it’s beautifully decorated for the holidays with wreaths, holiday lighting, and garlands—all for sale. A shopping bazaar offers many original gift ideas, too. 203-263-2855;

DEC. 3: HARTFORD, Holiday Home Tour. Tour several gorgeous homes, including the historic Isham-Terry House and the 19-room Mark Twain House, all gussied up for the season. 860-280-3130;

DEC. 8: MYSTIC, Festival of Lights. Olde Mistick Village and Mystic Aquarium team up for a winter walk lighted by some 4,000 luminaries. There’s a full lineup of events and activities around the village and at the aquarium, and live music throughout.;

DEC. 9–JAN. 7: WETHERSFIELD, Three Centuries of Christmas Tours. Visitors stroll among the historic homes of the Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum, enjoying tasty foods, good cheer, festive decor, and live music ranging from 18th-century tunes to holiday jazz. 860-529-0612;

DEC. 16–17, 21: NEW HAVEN, “Holiday Extravaganza: A Classical Christmas.” Join the New Haven Symphony for a celebration sure to lift the spirits as it performs seasonal favorites, leads a carol sing-along, and more. 203-865-0831;

DEC. 31: HARTFORD, First Night. The fireworks at Bushnell Park are the culmination of this multicultural, alcohol-free New Year’s experience, with musical, artistic, and other performances and exhibits at venues across the


NOV. 11–12: BANGOR, Maine Harvest Festival. At the Cross Insurance Center, celebrate all that is local and farm fresh with tastings and cooking demonstrations with Maine chefs and cookbook authors, live music, wine and beer samples, and a two-crusted apple pie competition. 207-561-8300;

NOV. 17–DEC. 31: BOOTHBAY, Gardens Aglow! Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens presents the largest light display in Maine, with 360,000 LEDs, a s’mores pit, food trucks, and special art exhibits. 207-633-8000;

NOV. 24–26: ROCKLAND, Festival of Lights. Santa arrives by boat to kick off festivities highlighted by the illumination of the lobster-trap Christmas tree. Among the other enticements are horse-drawn wagon rides, a parade, a bonfire, and caroling. 207-593-6093;

NOV. 25: YORK, Lighting of the Nubble. Visit Sohier Park to see the iconic lighthouse illuminated for the holidays. There will be music, cocoa, and cookies, and word has it that Santa himself will make an appearance. 207-363-1040;

DEC. 1–3: FREEPORT, Sparkle Weekend. From the Parade of Lights on Main Street to the L.L. Bean Northern Lights Celebration, this has become one of the most popular seasonal events around. Free activities abound, including visits with Santa, horse-drawn carriage rides, holiday movies, rides aboard the Amtrak Downeaster, and a tuba Christmas concert.

DEC. 2: NEW GLOUCESTER, Shaker Christmas Fair. Experience nostalgic holiday traditions at Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village, the country’s only active Shaker community. You can get some shopping done, too, since gift items such as baked goods, knit items, ornaments, balsam wreaths, woodenware, candy, and jams are available for purchase. 207-926-4597;

DEC. 7–30: BANGOR, Beauty and the Beast. The Penobscot Theatre presents a classic tale of love and self-discovery. A cold-hearted prince has been magically made hideous as punishment for his selfish ways. To regain his human form, he must earn the love of a clever, beautiful young woman whom he has imprisoned in his enchanted castle. 207-942-3333;

DEC. 8–10, 15–17: PORTLAND, “Magic of Christmas” Concert. The Portland Symphony Orchestra returns to Merrill Auditorium for conductor Robert Moody’s final presentation of the musical traditions of the season. 207-842-0800;

DEC. 8–10: OGUNQUIT, Christmas by the Sea Celebration. The seaside village of Ogunquit provides an idyllic background for an annual celebration that includes a parade, storytellers, a craft fair, and visits to Santa’s village, as well as the lighting of the town Christmas tree. 207-646-2939;

DEC. 16–17: BOOTHBAY HARBOR, Gingerbread Spectacular. The deliciously competitive gingerbread contest returns to the Opera House, where a confectioner’s dream lineup of castles, cabins, and other creations will be on display. The holiday bake sale will make sure that your newly inspired sweet tooth goes home

DEC. 31: EASTPORT, The Great Sardine and Maple Leaf Drop. The Tides Institute and Museum of Art celebrates the New Year twice. The festivities start when the first bands take the stage at 10 p.m. At 11 (midnight Atlantic time), the New Year’s Eve Brass Band will play “O Canada” to accompany the Maple Leaf Drop. An hour later, they’ll fire up “Auld Lang Syne” during the Great Sardine Drop to officially ring in 2018. 207-853-4047;


THROUGH JAN. 21: CONCORD, “This Ever New Self: Thoreau and His Journal.” The Concord Museum presents one of the most comprehensive exhibits devoted to Henry David Thoreau, featuring journals, manuscripts, letters, books, and field notes from the Morgan Library and Museum and unique personal items from the Concord Museum. 978-369-9763;

NOV. 3–5: BOSTON, Christmas Festival. Come for the shopping opportunities presented by the 300 crafters gathered at Seaport World Trade Center, but stick around to see gingerbread masterpieces created by top chefs to be judged by a celebrity panel and sold for charity. 617-742-3967;

NOV. 3–5: FRANKLIN COUNTY, CiderDays. Celebrate all things apple with two days of orchard tours, cider-making demonstrations and tastings, workshops, and more. See website for participating orchards. 413-773-5463;

NOV. 10–12: BOSTON, Amadeus Live. Join the Handel and Haydn Society at Symphony Hall for a screening of the Academy Award–winning movie Amadeus with the soundtrack performed live by the H+H orchestra and chorus. 617-266-3605;

NOV. 11–12: COLRAIN, Crafts of Colrain: An Open Studio Art Tour. Begin at Pine Hill Orchards and continue on through this picturesque area, whose artists and artisans open their studios to visitors. Celebrate the diversity of their work, see demonstrations of what they do, and perhaps get in a bit of early holiday shopping, as well.

NOV. 17–19: MARLBOROUGH, Paradise City Arts Festival. Browse the distinctive works of 175 of the country’s most notable craft designers and artisans at Royal Plaza Trade Center, where the parking is free, the jazz is live, and the dining options are delightful. 800-511-9725;

NOV. 18–19: WEST SPRINGFIELD, Old Deerfield Holiday Sampler Craft Fair. This annual tradition brings some 200 artisans to the Eastern State Expo’s Better Living Center, where a wide range of crafts, collectibles, clothing, decorations, and jewelry will be on display. 413-774-7476;

NOV. 22–JAN. 1: SPRINGFIELD, Bright Nights at Forest Park. Experience one of the region’s largest show of lights (more than 600,000 bulbs illuminate the three-mile route). To get the full effect, tune your radio to the musical simulcast as you drive past the beautiful holiday scenes.

NOV. 23: PLYMOUTH, “The Story of Thanksgiving” Dinner. Make plans early if you want to participate in this popular feast at Plimoth Plantation, where Pilgrim role-players and native interpreters will greet you and your family. Other dining options, including a buffet-style Thanksgiving meal, are also offered. 508-746-1622;

NOV. 25: PROVINCETOWN, Lighting of the Lobster-Pot Tree. The tradition of lighting of a two-story “tree” built from more than 100 lobster traps borrowed from local fishermen was started in 2004 and has become an annual highlight in Lopes Square.

NOV. 29–DEC. 24: LOWELL, A Christmas Carol. The holiday classic returns to the stage at the Merrimack Repertory Theatre for the first time in more than two decades, in a one-man performance by Joel Colodner that was inspired by the storytelling performances of Dickens himself. 978-654-4678;

DEC. 1–3: STOCKBRIDGE, Main Street at Christmas. The town made famous by a Norman Rockwell holiday painting hosts a weekend of festivities, including holiday readings, house tours, caroling, and concerts starting on Friday evening and leading up to Sunday’s re-creation of the downtown scene as captured by the artist in the painting Main Street at Christmas, which he started in 1956 and finished in 1967.

DEC. 2–3, 8–10, 15-17, 22–23: STURBRIDGE, Christmas by Candlelight. Experience the magic of a candlelit New England township while learning about the real history behind today’s Christmas traditions at historic Old Sturbridge Village. Take a horse-drawn sleigh ride and indulge in warm gingerbread, hot cider, and roasted chestnuts while listening to villagers’ stories, carols, and holiday music. 800-733-1830;

DEC. 7–10: EDGARTOWN, Christmas in Edgartown. Enjoy the charms of Martha’s Vineyard in the winter with activities including the annual Great Chowder Contest, the Harbor View Hotel lighthouse lighting, the Christmas parade, and visits with Santa, and other holiday

DEC. 31: CHATHAM, First Night Celebration. The town’s annual New Year’s celebration features more than 70 performances and events, including kids’ activities and community suppers, and culminates in a fireworks display over Oyster Pond.


NOV. 10: TROY, Fall Family Farm Day. Savor the season with a hands-on experience at scenic East Hill Farm. Milk a cow, groom a pony, collect eggs, then settle in for some artsy activities and s’mores. Reservations required. 800-242-6495;

NOV. 19: GREENLAND, Craft Fair and Pie Festival. This annual Women’s Club fund-raiser has grown into a pastry spectacular, now serving up some 550 delicious pies at the Greenland School. Enjoy the luncheon café, arts and crafts from more than 100 artisans, music, and a raffle.

NOV. 22–26: BRETTON WOODS, Omni Mount Washington Thanksgiving Celebration. Create holiday memories with traditional family activities such as the turkey trot, flag football, and crafts, while you bide your time until the buffet Thanksgiving feast. Before the weekend is through, you’ll witness the annual Christmas tree lighting and Santa’s first visit, too. 603-278-1000;

NOV. 25–26, DEC. 2–3, 9–10, 16–17: JACKSON, Jingle Bell Chocolate Tour. This simple idea has grown into a much-anticipated annual event, but otherwise it hasn’t changed a bit. Participants are delivered by sleigh to a succession of inns, sampling chocolate treats at each stop—simple and

DEC. 2: EXETER, Holiday Parade. For more than 50 years, this parade has been bringing the magic of the season to downtown Exeter, with illuminated floats, horse-drawn wagons, marching bands, and a visit from ol’ Saint Nick. This year’s theme is “Six Decades of Holiday Hometowns.”

DEC. 8–9: WHITE MOUNTAIN REGION, Inn-to-Inn Cookie Tour. Enjoy a self-guided tour of area inns, decorated for the season and offering their signature cookies and sweet treats.

DEC. 9, 16: CANTERBURY, Christmas at Canterbury Shaker Village. Celebrate the holiday’s simpler delights by taking a candlelit stroll through the village or riding in a horse-drawn wagon or sleigh. Other happenings include a 19th-century magic show, opportunities to make Christmas cards and ornaments, and the village tree lighting. 603-783-9511;

DEC. 22: CONCORD, Oak Ridge Boys. One of the most heralded country music groups of all time, the Oak Ridge Boys come to the Capitol Center for the Arts for an evening of fan favorites and holiday classics. 603-225-1111;

DEC. 26–31: PORTSMOUTH, Holiday House Tours. Take a 90-minute guided tour of five historic homes at Strawbery Banke Museum, each decorated to highlight the evolution of New England holiday celebrations. 603-433-1100;

DEC. 31: PORTSMOUTH, First Night Celebration. Continuing a tradition that began in 1986, Portsmouth hosts a full slate of family-friendly activities, culminating in a big fireworks show. See website for full schedule.


NOV. 3–5: PAWTUCKET, Fine Furnishings Show. More than 50 exhibitors and some 80 artists and crafters gather at the Pawtucket Armory Arts Center to show works ranging from traditional to modern. There will also be demonstrations, live music, and food and drink. 401-816-0963;

NOV. 4: PROVIDENCE, Waterfire Salute to Veterans. This community celebration features the signature fire-on-the-water display as well as a host of activities that pay tribute to Rhode Island veterans and current members of the armed

NOV. 9–DEC. 31: PROVIDENCE, A Christmas Carol. Rhode Island’s family holiday tradition returns to the Chace Theater stage. Grumpy, greedy Ebenezer Scrooge is inspired to change his ways when visited by three Christmas ghosts. 401-351-4242;

NOV. 17: PROVIDENCE, Garrison Keillor: Just Passing Through. The voice of A Prairie Home Companion and The Writer’s Almanac returns to the Providence Performing Arts Center with a one-man show highlighting his signature humor and homespun wisdom. 401-421-2787;

NOV. 17–19, 24–26, DEC. 1–3, 8–10, 15–17, 22–23: WOONSOCKET, The Polar Express. ’Tis the season for a magical adventure aboard this 90-minute train ride inspired by Chris Van Allsburg’s Christmas classic. Departs from Depot Square. 401-495-1213;

NOV. 18–JAN. 1: NEWPORT, Christmas at the Mansions. Three magnificent mansions—the Breakers, the Elms, and Marble House—are filled with thousands of poinsettias, evergreens, and wreaths. The trees are decorated, the tables are elegantly set, and the white candles flicker in the windows, all to create a magical holiday setting. Make a day of it, and tour all three. 401-847-1000;

NOV. 24–JAN. 1: BRISTOL, Christmas at Blithewold. Every corner of historic Blithewold Mansion, Gardens, and Arboretum is sparkling for the season. Depending on the day, you’ll find tours, music, afternoon teas, storytelling, and perhaps even a visit from Santa. See website for full schedule. 401-253-2707;

NOV. 30–DEC. 3: WICKFORD VILLAGE, Festival of Lights. Stroll the historic village amid holiday light displays as the shops stay open late. See Santa arrive at the town dock by way of the Sea Princess, then move on to the tree lighting, caroling, and hayrides. 877-295-7200;

DEC. 1–3, 8–10: PAWTUCKET, Holiday Show. A cooperative of more than 60 artists comes together to present the Foundry Artists Association’s holiday show at the Pawtucket Armory Arts Center. The wide range of items available includes ceramics, handmade books, fiber artwork, hats, handbags, food, and jewelry.

DEC. 2–3: NORTH KINGSTOWN, Christmas at the Castle. Stroll through Smith’s Castle while it’s decked in period fashion for a celebration of Christmas past. Enjoy live music reminiscent of a bygone era, snap a photo with Father Christmas and Santa Bob, and fortify yourself with cookies and hot mulled cider. 401-294-3521;

DEC. 16–17: WESTERLY, Christmas Pops. The 200-member Chorus of Westerly joins the Pops Orchestra for its annual salute to the season with two scheduled performances at George Kent Hall, featuring traditional favorites such as “Sleigh Ride” and “White Christmas.”


THROUGH JAN. 21: SHELBURNE, “Hooked on Patty Yoder.” The Shelburne Museum presents a retrospective of the 13-year career of American hooked rug artisan Patty Yoder, who set a new standard in the field of American textile arts with her “paintings with wool to be hung and enjoyed as art.” 802-985-3346;

NOV. 14: BURLINGTON, An Evening with Vermont Abenaki Artists. At the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts, the Vermont Abenaki Artists Association shares a performance of traditional and contemporary Abenaki music, storytelling, and drumming, featuring Don Stevens, chief of the Nulhegan band of the Coosuk Abenaki, and Bryan Blanchette, a Berklee alumnus who writes and performs new Abenaki-language songs. 802-863-5966;

NOV. 17–19: BURLINGTON, Craft Vermont. The premier juried show of fine Vermont crafts returns to the Sheraton Conference Center with one-of-a-kind pieces representing basketry, ceramics, woodworking, paintings, digital art, fine art, furniture, glass, jewelry, and more.

NOV. 24–26: PUTNEY, Craft Tour. Make your way to the studios of two dozen of the area’s most talented artists, and you’ll see firsthand where their creations are forged—and at some you’ll even witness demonstrations of how the work is done.

NOV. 25–26: BARRE, Winter Festival of Vermont Crafters. Some 120 artisans gather at Barre Municipal Auditorium to offer quality items and creative crafts just in time for gift-giving season. A visit from Santa is expected, too.

DEC. 1–3: ESSEX JUNCTION, Vermont International Festival. Join the fun at this annual celebration of cultures from around the world, which brings crafts, foods, music, and dance to the Champlain Valley Expo. 802-863-6713;

DEC. 2: PLYMOUTH NOTCH, Coolidge Holiday Open House. Historic Plymouth Notch is the backdrop for this Christmas tradition, featuring the bedecked birthplace of President Calvin Coolidge, old-time music, sleigh rides, craft demonstrations, and kids’ activities. 802-672-3773;

DEC. 8–10: WOODSTOCK, Winter Wassail Weekend. There could be no more perfect holiday locale than the lovely village of Woodstock. Enjoy music, home tours, dramatic readings, and the Wassail Parade, featuring dozens of horses and riders decked out in holiday costumes and period

DEC. 16: MONTPELIER, Touch of Vermont Holiday Gift Market. You’ll find the perfect gift for everyone on your list this season as more than 45 Vermont makers and artisans present their wares at City Hall.

DEC. 27: RUTLAND, A Charlie Brown Christmas, Live on Stage. The Emmy and Peabody award winner by Charles M. Schulz has warmed the hearts of millions of fans since it first aired on TV in 1965. This live stage adaptation brings Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Lucy, Linus, and the rest of the gang to life, set to Vince Guaraldi’s classic musical score. 802-775-0903;

DEC. 31: BURLINGTON, First Night Celebration. Dust off your dancing shoes for a day of music and merriment spanning the waterfront to Buell Street, capped off by a spectacular fireworks display. 802-863-6005;