6 New England towns to visit in December

From dazzling light shows to horse-drawn sleigh rides, these towns go all out for the holidays.

A previous Christmas tree lighting at Christmas Prelude in Kennebunkport.
A previous Christmas tree lighting at Kennebunkport's Christmas Prelude. –C.A. Smith Photography

The holidays in New England mean everything from a lobster trap tree lighting to gorgeously decorated Gilded Age mansions. Ahead, discover six places worth visiting throughout the month.

Watch Christmas fireworks in Kennebunkport, Maine

Kennebunkport, Maine, throws a massive holiday celebration every year and, naturally, lobsters are involved. The 36th Annual Christmas Prelude, which kicked off Nov. 30 and will run through Dec. 10, includes a traditional Christmas tree lighting on Dec. 1 with fireworks, followed by a lobster trap tree lighting. When Santa arrives on Dec. 3, it’s by lobster boat. “He has lobster elves,” said Alaina Tridente, membership and tourism manager for the Kennebunk-Kennebunkport-Arundel Chamber of Commerce. Other popular activities throughout the 11-day event include a Christmas cookie crawl, boat rides, and a hat parade. For that last item, “people create these crazy hats that are motorized,” Tridente said. “It’s a really funky, funny hat parade. They really go all out.” Organizers are expecting about 40,000 people during this year’s celebration, she said.

Visit Santa inside a huge gingerbread lighthouse in Newport, Rhode Island


Map out a month of holiday fun in Newport, Rhode Island, during the city’s 47th Annual Christmas in Newport. Attend a tree lighting on Bowen’s Wharf on Dec. 2 and another on Dec. 8 at the Newport Skating Center. Sit down with Santa throughout December inside the beautifully decorated Gilded Age mansions, or visit with him at what’s billed as the largest gingerbread lighthouse in New England on Dec. 9 at the Newport Visitor’s Information and Transportation Center. Looking for Santa’s workshop? It’s at the ballroom at Easton’s Beach, where kids can ride a carousel and decorate holiday cookies. If it’s music you’re after, you can attend a Christmas concert at Mt. Zion A.M.E. Church on Dec. 8 or a caroling performance on Broadway on Dec. 11. If you’d rather stroll the streets, do it by lantern light on a nighttime walking tour of the city on Dec. 9, 16, 23, and 30. Celebrate Hanukkah at parties taking place at the Edward King House on Dec. 11 and the Touro Synagogue on Dec. 17.

Christmas at the The Breakers, one of the Newport mansions. —The Preservation Society of Newport County

Drive through more than 650,000 holiday lights in Springfield

Springfield’s 3-mile Bright Nights at Forest Park is comprised of more than 650,000 lights and draws more than 200,000 people each year, said Amy Burke, vice president of the nonprofit organization Spirit of Springfield, which sponsors the event along with the Springfield Department of Parks, Buildings, and Recreation Management. The displays have names like “Winter Garden,” “Toy Land,” “North Pole Village,” and “Seuss Land.” New this year is an animated fireworks display beside an enormous American flag. “It’s beautiful,” Burke said. “It’s stunning. The lights are all around you.” About one third of the way through the drive, visitors can get out of their cars at Santa’s Magical Forest, which has a carousel, refreshments, and the chance to visit with Santa. The event, which has been around for 23 years and attracts people from across the country, according to Burke, runs through Jan. 1.

Play at Santa’s Village in Jefferson, New Hampshire


When your family bundles up and heads to the Christmas-themed amusement park Santa’s Village in Jefferson, New Hampshire, you can jump on rides with names like the Skyway Sleigh Monorail, Christmas Ferris Wheel, and Santa’s Express Train. You can even spend time with the big guy himself, who makes a point to greet all of the children. Hungry visitors can grab a burger or sandwich from a restaurant called Dasher’s Delights, or sweets from the Jolly Lolly Candy Store or the Sugar ‘n Spice Bake Shop. For an extra special treat, consider visiting at night when the park lights up for the holidays. The park is open weekends through Dec. 17. It reopens for one day only on Dec. 31.

Main Street at Christmas in Stockbridge. —Stockbridge Chamber of Commerce

Step into a Norman Rockwell painting in Stockbridge

When Norman Rockwell painted a portion of Stockbridge’s Main Street for McCall’s magazine and named it “Stockbridge Main Street at Christmas (Home for Christmas),” the 1967 painting cemented the quaint town’s reputation as a quintessential New England holiday destination. For the past 28 years, the town has recreated the scene during its annual Main Street at Christmas event. The town clears out modern-day cars from the area and replaces them with vehicles from the ’40s and ’50s, even placing a fresh tree on the roof of one in front of the Red Lion Inn to mimic the painting. This year’s event will take place Dec. 1-3 and will also include tours of historic homes, holiday readings, children’s activities, Christmas caroling, and horse-drawn carriage rides. About 2,500 people are expected to stroll down Main Street during the recreation on Sunday, according to Barbara Zanetti at the Stockbridge Chamber of Commerce.

Attend a horse-and-carriage holiday parade in Woodstock, Vermont


From Dec. 8-10, Woodstock, Vermont, will host its 33rd Annual Wassail Weekend, which will include the always popular horse-and-carriage holiday parade, during which participants dress in Victorian garb and drivers, riders, and horses compete in a costume contest. Organizers expect 2,000 spectators. Among several other weekend activities, on Sunday at Billings Farm & Museum, enjoy horse-drawn sleigh rides.


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