New England

Out and About | Best New England Holiday Events for 2018

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

By Yankee Magazine

Oct 24 2018


Historical interpreters Eddie Fisher and Emma Johnson stroll in 19th-century style as part of Christmas by Candlelight at Old Sturbridge Village.

Photo Credit : Mark Fleming


Historical interpreters Eddie Fisher and Emma Johnson stroll in 19th-century style as part of Christmas by Candlelight at Old Sturbridge Village.
Photo Credit : Mark Fleming


NOV. 23–DEC. 30

Friday through Sunday, ride the rails at the Connecticut Trolley Museum and join the motormen in singing traditional carols as you glide through the “Tunnel of Lights” display. Afterward, warm up with some cocoa in the visitor center, where you can get a photo op with Santa. East Windsor, CT. 860-627-6540;


DEC. 7, 21, 22, 23

Set in Portland in the late 1800s and featuring characters named for notable city residents of yore, this Portland Ballet production has become a can’t-miss family show. More than 80 children from the community will join the company dancers onstage. Portland, ME. 207-772-9671;


NOV. 30–DEC. 23

Old Sturbridge Village invites you to experience the magic of a candlelit New England township while learning about the real history behind today’s Christmas traditions. Take a horse-drawn sleigh ride and indulge in warm gingerbread, hot cider, and roasted chestnuts while listening to stories, carols, and holiday music. Christmas by Candlelight occurs Friday through Sunday, plus Thursday, December 20. Sturbridge, MA. 800-733-1830;


NOV. 28–DEC. 31

Portsmouth’s citywide, monthlong holiday party returns to brighten up the snowy season. Created by the Music Hall in partnership with Strawbery Banke Museum, it keeps downtown bustling with everything from candlelight strolls to concerts. Plus, get a taste of Broadway as the Ogunquit Playhouse brings Elf the Musical to the Music Hall. Portsmouth, NH.


NOV. 29–DEC. 2, DEC. 7–9

For more than three decades, this show has selected eye-catching wares from a notably robust collection of local artisans. (Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have all those RISD grads in your backyard.) A food drive and a silent auction for charity help remind everyone of the reason for the season.Pawtucket, RI.


NOV. 23–25

Turkey Day takes on 19th-century flavor this weekend at Billings Farm & Museum, as it hosts traditional cooking demonstrations and “History of Thanksgiving” programs. Expect all-ages appeal with hands-on activities, farm tours, and horse-drawn wagon rides. Woodstock, VT. 802-457-2355;



NOV. 3–4: WESTPORT,CraftWestport. Held at Staples High School, the longest-running indoor fine craft event in the state draws 175 talented artisans from across the country and includes a pop-up marketplace devoted to Connecticut wares.

NOV. 23–DEC. 15: SOUTH WINDSOR,Gingerbread House Festival. Follow the spicy aromas to the Wood Memorial Library and Museum and discover a veritable wonderland of gingerbread creations by local bakers. Many of the houses, along with other holiday-themed goodies, will be for sale in the Gingerbread Shop. 860-289-1783;

NOV. 30–DEC. 9: HARTFORD, Festival of Trees and Traditions. Find decor inspiration (or just buy some impeccable decorations to take home) at this Wadsworth Atheneum fund-raiser, now in its 45th year. One-of-a-kind decorated trees and wreaths are displayed in the galleries, and all are for sale; music, kids’ activities, and visits from Santa keep things lively. 860-278-2670;

NOV. 30–DEC. 30: CHESTER, A Connecticut Christmas Carol.” Mark Twain, P.T. Barnum, and other local celebs have roles to play in this version of Dickens’s classic tale, created especially for Goodspeed Musicals and staged at Terris Theatre. 860-873-8668;

NOV. 30–dec. 31: FAIRFIELD, Holiday Express Train Show. This Fairfield Museum holiday tradition features a collection of model trains zipping around elaborate setups, plus a slate of programs and activities related to trains, holidays, and history. 203‑259‑1598;

DEC. 7–8: BETHLEHEM, Christmas Town Festival. O little town of Bethlehem … where thousands make an annual pilgrimage to secure the perfect Christmas-card postmark. At festival time, the town green is transformed with 70-plus vendors offering fine crafts and good food, live music, kids’ activities, hayrides, and photos with Santa. 203-266-7510;

DEC. 16: MYSTIC, Community Carol Sing. A Mystic Seaport tradition for more than seven decades, this event draws music lovers from near and far for a holiday concert performed in the Greenmanville Church followed by an everybody-join-in carol sing at McGraw Quadrangle. 860-572-0711;

DEC. 31: HARTFORD, First Night. Now in its 30th year, this family-friendly New Year’s fete was still finalizing its lineup at press time, but past iterations have featured such activities as carriage rides, ice skating, improv shows, kids’ craft sessions, a dance party, storytelling, a full roster of live music, and fireworks.


NOV. 17–18: BANGOR, Maine Harvest Festival. At the Cross Insurance Center, celebrate all that is local and farm-fresh with tastings and cooking demonstrations led by Maine chefs and cookbook authors, plus live music, wine and beer samples, and a signature two-crusted apple pie competition. 207-561-8300;

NOV. 23–25: ROCKLAND, Festival of Lights. Santa arrives by boat to kick off festivities highlighted by the illumination of a lobster-trap Christmas tree billed as the world’s largest. Among the other enticements are wagon rides, a parade, a bonfire, and caroling. 207-593-6093;

NOV. 24: YORK, Lighting of the Nubble. Visit Sohier Park at dusk to see the iconic lighthouse known as the Nubble 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: FARMINGTON, Chester Greenwood Day. Don your earmuffs in honor of their inventor, Farmington’s own Chester Greenwood, and head downtown for the big parade, gingerbread house contest, buggy rides, caroling, food and crafts, and historical open houses. 207-778-4215;

DEC. 1–2: PORTLAND, United Maine Craftsmen Holiday Arts & Crafts Show. Discover an array of handcrafted presents and stocking stuffers among the wares of some 100 local artisans at the USM Sullivan Gym. 207-621-2818;

DEC. 2: NEWRY, Santa Sunday. More than 200 skiers and snowboarders are expected to turn out in full Kris Kringle regalia as part of Sunday River’s merry community fund-raising effort. Check the website for information on how to join their ranks, or just show up with your family to enjoy the spectacle of all those schussing Santas. 207-824-3000;

DEC. 7–9: FREEPORT,Sparkle Weekend. From the Parade of Lights on Main Street to the L.L. Bean Northern Lights Celebration, this has become one of Maine’s most popular seasonal events. Free activities abound, including visits with Santa, horse-drawn carriage rides, holiday movies, and a tuba Christmas concert.

DEC. 8: ORONO, Maine Indian Basketmakers Holiday Market. The University of Maine’s Collins Center for the Arts plays host to the largest holiday gathering of Maine Indian artists in New England. Purchase exquisite handcrafts directly from the makers, and enjoy a day of demonstrations, storytelling, drumming, singing, and dancing. 207-581-1904;

DEC. 31: EASTPORT, The Great Sardine and Maple Leaf Drop. The Tides Institute and Museum of Art celebrates the New Year twice during this evening of music, food, and family fun. 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 2019. 207-853-4047;


NOV. 2–4: FRANKLIN COUNTY, CiderDays. Join Yankee’s own apple expert, senior food editor Amy Traverso, at Western Massachusetts’s salute to this favorite New England fruit. Her talk on apple cooking tips is just one of the highlights of a jam-packed schedule that includes orchard tours, cider-making demonstrations and tastings, an apple pancake breakfast, and kids’ activities. 413-773-5463;

NOV. 16–17: PLYMOUTH, America’s Hometown Thanksgiving Festival. See the history of Thanksgiving brought to life as Pilgrims, Native Americans, soldiers, patriots, and pioneers take to the streets of Plymouth. Highlights include a parade, a harvest farmers’ market, a “portal to the past” historical village, a food festival, and concerts. 508-746-1818;

NOV. 21–JAN. 1: SPRINGFIELD, Bright Nights at Forest Park. One of the region’s largest holiday light shows offers the chance to drive a magical three-mile route through displays sparkling with more than 650,000 bulbs. To get the full effect, tune your radio to the “Elf Radio” musical simulcast as you drive past the colorful scenes. 413-733-3800;

NOV. 23–DEC. 30: STOCKBRIDGE, Winterlights at Naumkeag. Step back into the Gilded Age at Naumkeag, the 44-room “cottage” built in 1887 for a leading attorney of the day and now preserved by the Trustees of Reservations. “Winterlights” will see the estate decked out in shimmering lights and bustling with tours, music, and special activities. 413-298-3239;

NOV. 29–DEC. 2: PROVINCETOWN, Holly Folly. From the Speedo Run down Commercial Street to the antics of Drag Bingo, it’s joyfully obvious that this is no run-of-the-mill holiday celebration. Enjoy performances by the Gay Men’s Chorus, a chance to win prizes at the Shop Hop, and an open house of local inns decked out for the season and offering treats and libations.

NOV. 30–DEC. 2: STOCKBRIDGE, Main Street at Christmas. The town made famous by a Norman Rockwell 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. 413-298-5200;

DEC. 13–FEB. 24: BOSTON,Ansel Adams in Our Time.” For a respite from the seasonal hustle and bustle, check out this cultural highlight, as the MFA offers its first major exhibit of Adams’s photographs since 2005. Look for some of his most famous scenes from the American West, as well as a selection of related work by 19th-century photographers and modern-day artists. 617-267-9300;

DEC. 14-16: BOSTON,CraftBoston Holiday. Held at the Hynes Convention Center and packed with more than 175 exhibitors, CraftBoston Holiday is a must-attend event for artists, collectors, and craft enthusiasts. Among the handiwork on offer will be leather goods, furniture, glassware, and jewelry. 617-266-1810;

DEC. 14–16, 20–23, 26–29: CAMBRIDGE, Christmas Revels. Ring in the winter solstice at Sanders Theatre with the traditions and music of the Nordic nations. Expect Swedish carols, Danish wassails, Norwegian ballads and dances, Icelandic hymns, and more—plus the Revels’ signature “Lord of the Dance” performance. 617-496-2222;

New Hampshire

NOV. 18: GREENLAND,Craft Fair and Pie Festival. This annual Women’s Club fundraiser has grown into a pastry spectacular, now serving up some 550 delicious pies at the Greenland Central School. Enjoy the luncheon café (with pie, of course), more than 100 crafters and artisans, music, and a raffle.

NOV. 23–DEC. 23: LINCOLN/NORTH CONWAY, Journey to the North Pole. A beloved fundraiser for the Believe in Books Literacy Foundation, this two-hour train adventure in the White Mountains departs from either North Conway or Lincoln and takes families to visit Santa in his workshop. Schedules vary by location; see website for details. 603-356-9980;

NOV. 24–DEC. 16: JACKSON, Jingle Bell Chocolate Tour. Get your tickets early for this weekends-only event, as it sells out earlier and earlier each year. Participants enjoy a horse-drawn sleigh through Jackson, sampling delicious chocolate treats at stops along the way and soaking up the classic winter landscape.

DEC. 8: MONADNOCK REGION, Currier & Ives Cookie Tour. There are more than a dozen stops on this self-guided tour, with a tasty treat waiting at each one. Snag the recipe cards to make your favorites later, and enjoy the camaraderie and the holiday decorations.

DEC. 8, 15: CANTERBURY, Christmas at Canterbury Shaker Village. Celebrate the holiday’s simpler pleasures 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: COLEBROOK, Tuba Christmas. Come take a listen as tuba players get together at Trinity United Methodist for a program of holiday tunes that’s all about the bass.

DEC. 23: CONCORD, Capital Jazz Orchestra Holiday Pops. At Capitol Center for the Arts, the Capital Jazz Orchestra makes merry with special guests Laura Daigle and C.J. Poole, as well as NHPR’s Laura Knoy, who will recite “The Night Before Christmas.” The event includes an audience sing-along to get everyone into the spirit. 603-225-1111;

Rhode Island

NOV. 9–11: PROVIDENCE,Fine Furnishings Show. Handcrafted American furniture, accessories, and art take center stage at the WaterFire Arts Center, which will be packed with more than 100 exhibitors. Browse work ranging in style from traditional to modern, watch some demonstrations, and try your luck at a door prize. 401-816-0963;

NOV. 10: PROVIDENCE, WaterFire Salute to Veterans. Honor the sacrifice ofthose who have served in America’s military at this downtown event, which includes a veterans resource fair, a storytelling tent, a torch procession, and a “ring of fire” in the Waterplace Basin.

NOV. 23–25: FOSTER, Christmas in the Valley Holiday Craft Show. Now marking its 26th year, this juried show brings distinctive handcrafted items and fine art to Foster County Club, with proceeds going to benefit a local nonprofit. A visit from Santa Claus, live music, and a raffle add to the fun.

NOV. 29–Dec. 2: 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, then move on to the tree lighting, caroling, and hayrides. 401-295-5566;

DEC. 1–2: NORTH KINGSTOWN, Christmas at the Castle. Explore the c. 1678 Smith’s Castle when it’s all decked out 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. 2, 8, 9, 28, 30: LINCOLN, Old-Fashioned Christmas/Home for the Holidays Tours. The Victorian era comes alive at the Federal-style mansion known as Hearthside, where volunteers in period garb will guide you through rooms elaborately decorated with ornaments of lace and gold, garlands, and poinsettias. On December 28 and 30, the Home for the Holidays candlelight tours are not to be missed. 401-726-0597;

DEC. 15–16: WESTERLY, Christmas Pops. The 200-member Chorus of Westerly joins the Pops Festival Orchestra for its annual salute to the season, with three scheduled performances at Kent Hall featuring favorites such as “Sleigh Ride” and “White Christmas.” 401-596-8663;


THROUGH JAN. 13: SHELBURNE, New England Now.” The kickoff to the Shelburne Museum’s curated biennial series of contemporary art exhibits, “New England Now” goes far beyond stereotypes to examine the evolving identities and complex beauty of the Northeast. 802-985-3346;

NOV. 16–18: BURLINGTON, Craft Vermont. The premier juried show of fine Vermont crafts brings one-of-a-kind pieces to the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel, including basketry, ceramics, woodworking, paintings, furniture, glass, jewelry, and photography. 802-872-8600;

NOV. 23–25: PUTNEY, Craft Tour. See the oldest continuous craft tour in the country celebrate its 40th anniversary as you make your way to the studios of two dozen of the area’s most talented artists—and at some locations you can even witness demonstrations of how their creations are made. 802-387-4032;

NOV. 30–DEC. 2: ESSEX JUNCTION, Vermont International Festival. Join the fun at this annual spotlight on cultures from around the world, which brings crafts, foods, music, and dance to the Champlain Valley Expo. 802-863-6713;

DEC. 1: 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. 802-672-6773;

DEC. 7–9: WOODSTOCK, Winter Wassail Weekend. Postcard-perfect Woodstock plays host to a jam-packed weekend that includes a parade with more than 50 horses and riders dressed in holiday costumes and period attire, concerts, a breakfast with Santa, historic house tours, and lots of activities for children. 802-457-3555;

DEC. 8: ST. JOHNSBURY, St. Johnsbury Victorian Holiday Celebration. From horse-drawn sleigh rides to winter-themed craft activities, and from the Fairbanks Museum and Planetarium to the St. Johnsbury Athenaeum, there’s no end of things to do and places to visit during this day focused on St. Johnsbury’s charming Victorian downtown.

DEC. 31: LUDLOW,Family New Year’s Eve. At Okemo Mountain Resort, enjoy early-evening ice skating, snowshoeing, snow-tubing, horse-drawn wagon rides, mountain coaster rides, cookie decorating, and fireworks. Families can ring in the New Year with a DJ dance party and still get the kids to bed early enough so that they’ll be awake and ready to the hit slopes bright and early on January 1. 802-228-1600;