25 Top Holiday and Christmas Activities in New England: Christmas Light Wonderlands, Tree Festivals

Pajama-clad children climb aboard a cozy old steam train for festive cheer. Photo courtesy of Capetrain.com
Pajama-clad children climb aboard a cozy old steam train for festive cheer. Photo courtesy of Capetrain.com

Is there a part of the country that offers a more quintessential holiday experience—with Christmas activities galore—than New England? From snow-blanketed landscapes to wreath-bedecked town squares, storybook holiday magic comes alive in this region. Here are 25 Christmas events and activities in New England that should be on your family's list when visiting Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, or Maine during the 2021 holidays. At these festive Christmas events, families can take a magical sleigh ride or train ride to the North Pole, see twinkly lights aglow at seaside villages, and even have dinner in an igloo.

Are you getting into the holiday spirit yet? Us, too! Check out our list of favorite towns that go all out for Christmas, get started on your holiday shopping, and explore our Holiday and Christmas Activities Guide.

Holiday and Christmas Activities in Connecticut

1. Tunnel of Lights –​ East Windsor, CT 

Go back in time with a trolley ride at the Connecticut Trolley Museum through a tunnel of lights, then enjoy the museum, along with some cocoa. 

New Haven hosts a mile-long display of lights. Photo courtesy of Fantasy of Lights, Facebook

2. Fantasy of Lights –​ New Haven, CT

Enjoy a trip through the mile-long route features more than 60 animated displays and 100,000 lights, resulting in a colorful night of memories and delight at Lighthouse Point Park.

3. Gingerbread House Festival –​ South Windsor, CT 

One of the largest gingerbread house displays in New England features the intricate, candy-covered creations of local artists and bakers. This year, the theme is "Happy Golden Years," celebrating the holiday season with more than 150 gingerbread houses. This Christmas activity is sure to inspire artistic creativity; after your visit, build your own gingerbread house as a fun family activity. FREE

4. Festival of Lights –​ Mystic, CT

Olde Mystick Village glows with luminary lights during this evening of shopping and complimentary treats. Our guide to Mystic is full of ideas for rounding out your visit to this picture-perfect coastal town. FREE 

Get your gift list completed at a 3-day holiday shopping event attracting artisans from across Connecticut and beyond. Photo courtesy of NEchristmasfestival.com

5. New England Christmas Festival – Uncasville, CT

Make your holiday shopping a fun Christmas activity for the whole family this year. The New England Christmas Festival is a 3-day event and a one-stop-shopping experience that will catapult your holiday shopping into full Christmas joy. This event has boutiques selling handcrafted artisan gifts, delicious treats, and unique jewelry and much more.

Holiday and Christmas Activities in Massachusetts

6. La Salette Shrine –​ Attleboro, MA

Marvel at more than 300,000 twinkly lights at this storied light display, free to the public since 1953. See angels, snowflakes, and plenty more classic tableaus. FREE

All about the Polar Express train, featuring Santa! Photo courtesy of Capetrain.com

7. Polar Express Train Ride –​ Buzzards Bay, MA

This memorable Christmas event is back in all its glory! Cheerful crowds of pajama-clad children climb aboard a cozy old steam train to enjoy a musical performance, delight in hot chocolate and sugar cookies, and, of course, meet the man in the red suit. Ride the rails with Santa on these other Christmas trains in New England.

8. Trellis of Lights –​ Boston, MA 

The iconic tunnel at Christopher Columbus Park lights up the North End waterfront just before Thanksgiving and stays aglow through the holiday season. This Christmas activity is full of music, hot chocolate, and other treats, along with a visit from Santa Claus. FREE

See the Stone Zoo like never before, with lights, reindeer, and an impressive cache of enchanted Christmas displays. Photo courtesy of Zoo Lights at the Stone Zoo, Facebook

9. ZooLights at Stone Zoo –​ Stoneham, MA

A tree-lined path at this north 'burbs zoo is outfitted each year with thousands of twinkly lights that surround real-life reindeer, arctic foxes, and more northern animals.

10. Nantucket Noel and Annual Christmas Stroll –​ Nantucket, MA 

After taking a pause last year, the Nantucket Noel Christmas event is back for 2021. There will be lavish displays of wreaths, Christmas trees, and shopping deals along its cobblestone streets throughout December. The Annual Nantucket Christmas Stroll weekend is happening December 3-5. There will be live entertainment and a visit from Santa. For more activities on the island, check out our favorite things to do Nantucket with kids. FREE

Snow magic and candle making are highlights of the Bavarian Christmas Village. Photo courtesy of Yankee Candle, South Deerfield

11. Yankee Candle –​ South Dartmouth, MA

Tour the Bavarian Christmas Village and buy some holiday gifts at Yankee Candle. The South Deerfield flagship store is a winter wonderland, where kids can see it snow indoors and make their own candles. 

12. Christmas By Candlelight at Old Sturbridge Village –​ Sturbridge, MA

There are carols, sleigh rides, traditional treats, and more to enjoy on weekend evenings through December at New England's largest living history museum, which takes its annual tradition fully outdoors this year.

Massachusetts' top green thumbs decorate trees for this spectacular annual display. Photo courtesy of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society

13. Mass Hort's Festival of Trees and Snow Village –​ Wellesley, MA

Parents will appreciate trees gloriously decorated by Massachusetts Horticultural Society gardeners, while kids enjoy sparkly Christmas lights across Elm Bank grounds and following trains among the greenery. 

14. Plimoth Plantation –​ Plymouth, MA

See how both Colonial and Native American families spent the wintertime. Food preparation, historic reenactments, and live animals are on display at Plimoth Plantation. It might inspire your family to prepare a historic holiday dish in your own kitchen.

Everything tastes better in a cool igloo. Photo courtesy of Showfish/Gurney's

Holiday and Christmas Activities in Rhode Island

15. Winter Wonderland Igloos –​ Newport, RI

Want to make family dinner more interesting? How about eating in an igloo? Gurney's resort has transformed its popular firepit deck into a chic North Pole village with a series of dining igloos. 

The Breakers, one of Newport's iconic mansions, is decked for the holidays.

16. Victorian Mansions –​ Newport, RI

See Victorian mansions done up for Christmastime. December may be the best time to visit this summertime retreat, as three of Newport's iconic mansions are decked out in Yuletide finery for extra-special tours and Christmas carol performances. See our picks for 50 Things To Do in Newport with Kids.

Holiday and Christmas Activities in New Hampshire

17. Nelson's Homemade Candy Canes –​ Wilton, NH

Peppermint perfumes the air in Wilton over the holidays, as Santa's helpers at Nelson's pull candy canes into distinctive shapes to sell out of the iconic candy store. Pluck a one-of-a-kind cane from the rafters, and add some chocolate Santas and peppermint bark for a holiday grab bag.

Lights, gingerbread houses, and trolley tours, oh my! Photo by David J Murray, Clear Eye Photography, Vintagechristmasnh.org

18. Vintage Christmas –​ Portsmouth, NH

Head north to New Hampshire for a Vintage Christmas. Gingerbread house displays, trolley tours, and classic treats add up to old-fashioned fun in this annual seaside New Hampshire event.

19. Sleigh Rides and Gingerbread – Bretton Woods, NH

This little alpine-style village becomes a winter wonderland come mid-December, with Bretton Woods Stables offering sleigh rides (weather permitting) and the Omni Mount Washington Resort hosting the National Gingerbread Competition. Check out even more adventures in the White Mountains.

There's horse-drawn sleigh rides at Charmingfare Farm in Candia, New Hampshire. Photo by Charmingfare Farm

20. Santa's Christmas at Charmingfare Farm –​ Candia, NH

The whole family will enjoy horse-drawn carriage rides to the North Pole, reindeer encounters, a socially-distanced visit with Santa, and treats from Mrs. Claus in a fun-filled visit to this New Hampshire farm. You can pick out a fresh-cut tree to bring home, too. 

21. Christmas in Bethlehem – Bethlehem, NH

It's no surprise the "little town of Bethlehem" New Hampshire comes alive at Christmastime. Bring holiday cards or Santa letters to the post office to get a special stamped postmark from Bethlehem, or visit The Rocks for freshly cut Christmas trees and wreaths.

Holiday and Christmas Activities in Vermont and Main

22. Wassail Weekend and more –​ Woodstock, VT

There are so many things to do in Woodstock in wintertime, and much of them hinge around this annual event of music, lights, and some very jolly shopping. Jersey cows, draft horses, and more receive young animal-loving visitors to Billings Farm, which offers cozy sleigh rides in the winter, too.

Enjoy the Boothbay Lights from the safety of your car. Photo courtesy of Mainegardens.org

23. Boothbay Lights –​ Boothbay and Boothbay Harbor, ME

These twin seaside towns sparkle at the Gardens Aglow event, and shop merchants celebrate with special Christmas decor, treats for sale, and more.

Watch the lighting of a unique lobster trap Christmas tree in Kennebunkport. Photo courtesy of Christmasprelude.com

24. Christmas Prelude –​ Kennebunkport, ME

The 40th annual Christmas Prelude will be hosting its traditional full-scale event this year, including crafts, visits with Santa, tree-lighting, and much more. 

25. Cut-Your-Own Christmas Tree Farms –​ various locations

Why buy from a parking lot when the area is full of farms that will sell you a spruce or fir straight from the ground? The outdoor adventure and long-lasting smell are reasons enough. Visit these Christmas tree farms in Boston or Christmas tree farms in Connecticut.




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