Ask any kid what they love most about the holidays and you might get the same answer--PRESENTS! But as they grow up, while a few of those precious treasures may linger in their minds, it's the traditions and special memories that will really stick. Those little moments that made holidays so special are what nurture the nostalgia we often feel around this time of year. Here in Connecticut, there is no shortage of amazing opportunities to make one of a kind memories for your family during the holidays. Tap into the magic of the season at any one of these ultimate holiday experiences throughout the state.
Holiday Light Shows
Holiday lights are a wintertime staple. During these dark months, we befriend the long nights with strings of cheery lights. Around Connecticut, this idea is writ large at quite a few spectacular holiday light shows. Fantasy of Lights is New Haven's answer to a holiday light show extravaganza. For a small fee, carloads of merry-makers drive through Lighthouse Point Park after dark to view holiday light displays sponsored by area businesses. In the Hartford area, it's the Holiday Light Fantasia where this two-mile odyssey of over 1 million lights brings the glow of the season. Winterfest at Connecticut Trolley Museum offers up a host of holiday memories, not the least of which is riding an antique traction through a tunnel of lights. Sing carols, meet Santa, and bundle up for warm and cozy holiday cheer. Take in the warm glow at Holiday Lights at Lake Compounce where the displays are set to holiday music. Selected rides remain open to enhance your family's holiday experience. In Meriden, attend the Festival of Silver Lights lighting ceremony or head over to Hubbard Park in Meriden once the 350,000 twinkling lights are in full glow. And of course, don't forget to make the voyage to Torrington to see the famous (and wacky) Christmas House.
Photo credit: Michelle Vitucci
Holiday Train Rides
Holiday Train Rides have become a tradition across Connecticut. There are so many ways to enjoy the spirit of the season on board an antique train car. Meet Santa and Mrs. Claus, see the winter landscape go by, sip hot cocoa, and sing carols at any one of these magical events. Two of the best loved, North Pole Express and the Santa Special, are so popular they usually sell out way before the season arrives. If you're able to score tickets, you are in for some very special holiday memories.
Photo credit: Don Perdue
Holiday Theater & Dance
Holiday shows are a great way to get the whole family in the holiday spirit. Check out our massive guide to holiday shows across Connecticut. Whether you want to check in with Charlie Brown and the gang or experience the journey of Ebeneezer Scrooge, there is a holiday show for you. Of course, if you want to stick strictly to ballet, The Nutcracker is a timeless holiday classic. This sweet story of holiday adventure can be found at any number of theaters across the state throughout the season.
Old Fashioned Fun
There is something undeniably nostalgic about the holiday season. Whether you're yearning for your own childhood or thinking about a time long before you were even born, the holiday season calls to mind a simpler time. Holiday Strolls are a great way to reconnect with the simple pleasures of the season. Lantern light tours in Mystic allow you to experience holidays the old-fashioned way. Bask in the glow of holiday tradition at Fairfield's Burr Homestead during the annual Christmas Tree Festival.
Old Saint Nick can be found in a lot of places around the holiday season. From festivals to farms, the man in the red suit is making appearances in many places that aren't the mall these days. Breakfast with Santa at Flamig Farm serves up a scrumptious farm fresh breakfast and an extra helping of seasonal spirit. Fill up on pancakes, homefries, and eggs before your meet and greet with that jolly old elf, or take a trolley ride out to visit the animals. Greenwich Reindeer Festival turns downtown Greenwich into a holiday wonderland complete with a visit from Santa's reindeer themselves! Stroll along past jolly window displays, visit with Santa, and find a sweet holiday treat.
Parades & Ice Skating
Bundle up and head over to Winterfest in Bushnell Park for a round of free ice skating. Take in the Stamford Parade Spectacular, Connecticut's answer to holiday parade festivities complete with its own impressive cast of very large balloon characters. If you'd rather see your parade by sea, the Mystic Holiday Lighted Boat Parade is just right. Watch holiday lights glitter on the inky surface of cold winter waters.
Brunch with Santa and Mrs. Claus at Lyman Orchards is an extravaganza. Enjoy a delicious menu, some adult beverages for mom and dad, and meet and greet the most famous holiday couple of them all. In South Windsor, the folks at Maneeley's have been hosting breakfast with Santa for quite a few seasons. Tickets can be purchased online for this event. The Bushnell Center is another place you can breakfast with Santa and Mrs. Claus. Tuck into a big meal then deliver your list to the first couple of Christmas themselves.
Christmas Day Dining
There is something to be said for cutting through the stress of the holiday season with a splurge-worthy dining experience that you don't have to cook or clean up after. Many restaurants around the state are open Christmas day for just such an occasion. Fairfield County boasts a lengthy roster of establishments to make your holiday fun and delicious as does the Hartford area. If you happen to be within striking distance of Litchfield County, consider booking in at Mayflower Grace in Washington for a truly wonderful dining experience. This Relais Chateaux inn and spa offers out of this world multi-course meals at the holidays. Reservations are an absolute must and prices are steep. Be sure it's worth the price of admission if you have a picky crew.
We are spoiled in New England when it comes to Christmas Trees. In any given area of the state you are within easy striking distance of quite a few beautiful places to cut your own or purchase a fresh cut tree. Fairfield County has so Christmas tree farms, we couldn't fit them all into one post! In the Hartford area, there are so many options to cut your own tree or find the perfect pre-cut variety. If you're in Litchfield County, not to worry. There are plenty of places to pick the perfect pine.
Connecticut holidays are absolutely iconic. Make the most of our beautiful state and create some lasting memories for your whole family this season.
Cover photo via WikiCommons