New England Travel

The best places in New England to visit around Christmas

These destinations are brimming with holiday cheer.

You can follow a map of "Winter Lights" in Cape Ann this holiday season. Melissa Cox Photography

For New Englanders who want to remain close to home this holiday season — but still enjoy the benefits of travel — many festive cities and towns are worth exploring.

The following 10 New England destinations are bursting with Christmas spirit, according to local and national travel experts. 

Follow a map of holiday lights on Cape Ann

There will be lights aplenty on Cape Ann this holiday season during the area’s third annual “Winter Lights on Cape Ann,” according to Keiko Matsudo Orrall, executive director of the Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism. Cape Ann includes the city of Gloucester and the towns of Essex, Manchester-by-the-Sea, and Rockport. More than 100 businesses are participating in the twinkly event taking place through Jan. 1, 2023, and you can follow the lights using this map. And here’s a schedule of the 2022 holiday events in Rockport, which includes a Christmas tree in Dock Square.

Go on Nantucket’s annual Christmas Stroll

The island of Nantucket, well known as a summer getaway, is an excellent place to spend the holidays, according to Travel + Leisure magazine, which recently named it among the best Christmas towns in the U.S. The island’s annual Christmas Stroll, taking place Dec. 2-4, brings shopping, home tours, decorated Christmas trees, wine tastings, and more.

Visit holiday trees in Concord inspired by children’s literature

Children’s literature is on display in a festive way at the Concord Museum’s holiday exhibit,“27th Annual Family Trees: A Celebration of Children’s Literature,” running through Jan. 2, 2023. Visitors can see 34 holiday trees and wreaths inspired by children’s books. Concord is a “treasure trove” of history and culture, according to Orrall, who noted the famous writers who once lived there: Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Louisa May Alcott, and Nathaniel Hawthorne. While in Concord, don’t forget to walk Main Street, which is full of gift shops, galleries, and cafes, and it’s also worth stopping at Walden Pond to “take in the beauty of nature that inspired Thoreau and others.”

Step into a Normal Rockwell painting in Stockbridge

You can stroll the same Main Street depicted by Norman Rockwell in his 1967 painting “Stockbridge Main Street at Christmas (Home for Christmas)” when you visit Stockbridge, which Orrall called a “quintessential New England town.” The town, named the No. 1 Christmas town in America by Country Living, reenacts the painting every December during its annual Stockbridge Main Street at Christmas, taking place Dec. 2-4. Visitors can explore the boutiques, galleries, and restaurants along Main Street, as well as the Norman Rockwell Museum. Also worth checking out, according to Orrall: “Winterlights” at Naumkeag, named among the best public holiday lights displays in America by USA Today.

Drive through hundreds of light exhibits in Springfield

At Bright Nights at Forest Park in Springfield, named among the most spectacular winter light displays in the U.S. by Frommer’s, guests will find more than 400 exhibits along the three-mile drive. The display includes Winter Woods, Toy Land, and Santa’s Magical Forest (you’ll find it just after Seuss Land on the left), complete with a gift shop and winter carousel. Santa visits on select days ahead of Christmas, and the event runs through Jan. 1, 2023.

Glow Gardens at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford, Conn.

Attend an indoor light festival in Hartford, Conn.

The whole family will enjoy a new holiday experience in Hartford, Conn., this season called Glow Gardens, according to the Connecticut Office of Tourism. Billed as “a dazzling Christmas wonderland,” the indoor light festival and garden at the Connecticut Convention Center offers glowing activities, seasonal treats, and live entertainment. There are various food and drink offerings, including alcoholic beverages for guests 21 and older. Visitors can meet up with Santa during special hours each day, and the event runs through Jan. 1, 2023.

Get your Christmas cards postmarked in Bethlehem, N.H.

There’s plenty of holiday spirit in Bethlehem, N.H., where folks seek postmarks for their Christmas cards at Christmastime each year, according to Lori Harnois, New Hampshire’s director of travel and tourism. “The mere mention of the little town of Bethlehem is sure to conjure up visions of the holiday season,” Harnois said via email. Still need a tree? You can pick one up at Rocks Estate or Finnegan’s Fine Firs, she said.

Dine, shop, and take in the history of Portland, Maine

You’ll find “old world charm” in Portland, Maine, this holiday season, Steve Lyons, director of the Maine Office of Tourism, said in an email. While there, don’t forget to check out the Old Port Holiday Historic Walking Tour,” a 2 ½ hour tour of Portland with more than 50 historic stops, and the annual Maker’s Market at Thompson’s Point. The market offers fresh farm products, handmade items, craft food and beverages, and more.

Stroll an open air mall in Burlington, Vermont

You’ll feel festive while shopping at Church Street Marketplace in Burlington, Vermont, an open-air mall full of lights and decorations and a large Christmas tree “meticulously decorated for the holiday season,” according to the Vermont Department of Tourism & Marketing. The destination was named the No. 1 public square in America by USA Today earlier this year, and Thrillist called Burlington one of the best mountain towns in the country.

Wander through mansions in Newport, R.I.

Bring decadence to your holiday season by visiting a Gilded Age mansion decked out for the holidays. Newport, R.I., which recently ranked among the best Christmas towns in the nation by Travel + Leisure magazine and among the most spectacular light displays in the U.S. by Frommer’s, is hosting its annual Holidays at the Newport Mansions through Jan. 1, 2023. The Breakers, Marble House, and The Elms are chock full of ornately decorated Christmas trees, wreaths, and fresh floral arrangements. The Breakers features a 15-foot poinsettia tree in the Great Hall as well as an outdoor light display.

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