The holiday season has finally arrived and what better way to celebrate than with some of the top Christmas attractions in the Northeast?
Stroll through towns decorated in flashing decorations and twinkling lights, or find city sidewalks lined with festive window displays. No matter where you go, “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas,” and people are bustling with excitement.
So, take a break from your holiday shopping list and bundle up! It’s time to find the holiday cheer.
NYC Christmas Attractions
A NYC Christmas is one you’ll never forget. Enjoy the crisp winter air and city bustle as you walk down streets boasting over-the-top decorations and holiday cheer. You can visit the Bryant Park Winter Village for fun shopping, great eats and a magical night of ice skating, or stop by Rockefeller Center to view the massive Christmas tree sparkling with over 45,000 LED lights. No matter which city block you’re walking, there are pop-up holiday shops and Christmas attractions galore.
AAA members can even save big on some of NYC’s most memorable holiday events! Save 20% on tickets to The Radio City Christmas Spectacular, passes to the New York Botanical Garden Holiday Train Show and more.
“It’s Christmas time in the city!”
Christmas in Rhode Island
Christmas at the Newport Mansions
Nov. 19 – Jan. 2, 2016
There are plenty of events and festivities to help you celebrate Christmas in Newport, but none can quite match the extravagance of the Newport Mansions. As historic landmarks and icons of the Gilded Age in America, The Breakers, The Elms and Marble House, are breathtaking properties on their own. But during the holiday season, they are really a sight to see.
The windows of each mansion are lit with individual white candles as a tribute to colonial tradition, and dining tables are set with period china to complete the elegant setting. Thousands of poinsettias, evergreens and wreaths fill the magnificent spaces with seasonal smells. And visitors can enjoy 28 beautifully decorated Christmas trees, a Gilded Age streetscape and so much more.
Connecticut Christmas Attractions
Throughout the holiday season, Connecticut is jam-packed with exciting activities and Christmas attractions. Children enjoy visits from Santa and his reindeer, while adults can share a few laughs during Christmas on the Rocks, a parody about a bartender who finds himself mixing drinks for kids from favorite Christmas stories who are now all grown up.
Kent Gingerbread Festival | Kent, CT
Dec. 5 – Jan. 5, 2017
The Kent Gingerbread Festival is one of many Christmas attractions sweet enough for the whole family. Throughout the month of December, over 40 participating shops will display dozens of beautifully decorated gingerbread houses. Visitors and locals can grab a Gingerbread Manhunt Map from one of the shops and head on an exciting quest to find colorful creations of all shapes and sizes. As you walk through town, check off the shops you’ve visited and work together to solve this year’s new mysterious riddle. With so many creative designs, voting for your favorite creation is never an easy decision. Happy Hunting!
Holiday Light Fantasia | Hartford, CT
Nov. 24 – Jan. 1, 2017
Stay warm and take a ride through this year’s Holiday Light Fantasia! With a beautiful collection of over one million lights, this well-loved Hartford tradition remains a seasonal destination for countless families. The nightly 2-mile light show transforms Goodwin Park into a twinkling drive-through wonderland and each year, thousands of visitors are dazzled by over 200 individual displays. With over-sized lighted animations that celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, News Years and Three Kings Day, this is truly a light show for everyone. So, gather your friends and family for a magical drive they’ll never forget.
You can create beautiful memories with loved ones and feel great knowing admission fees will help fund year-round programs at the Channel 3 Kids Camp.
Looking for more dazzling displays in the Connecticut area? “Follow the Lights to Holiday Cheer!”
Massachusetts Christmas Attractions
There’s nothing like a big city Christmas! Whether you’re admiring the fourth annual musical light show at Faneuil Hall, skating on Frog Pond or touring the city by trolley, Boston is filled to the brim with holiday magic this time of year. Grab a friend and hit the town! There are countless Christmas attractions to see, endless places to shop, and happy memories to be made.
Looking for the more intimate charms of Christmas? Massachusetts is filled with holiday magic throughout. Small towns are transformed into beautiful winter wonderlands and bursting with fun things to do. Check out one of the local’s favorites!
ZooLights at the Stone | Stoneham, MA
Nov. 25 – Jan. 1, 2017
With tree-lined paths lit by over 200,000 twinkling lights, ZooLights promises to be a dazzling experience for visitors of all ages. The 20-year-old tradition features animated holiday displays, winter carousel rides and a chance for children to visit the head elf himself. But nothing beats Stone Zoo’s main attraction: a magical animal world!
As you stroll through a bright and decorated Yukon Creek, enjoy the beautiful sights of silvery barn owls, snowy-white Arctic foxes, the Canada lynx and reindeer. While you won’t get to see them fly, for a small fee you can meet one of Rudolph’s sidekicks up close and personal, and even take a picture.
Open from 5:00 – 9:00 p.m. nightly, this is one holiday wonderland you don’t want to miss.
New Hampshire Christmas Attractions
There are plenty of exciting Christmas attractions throughout New Hampshire, including Santa’s Village. But if you’re looking to experience Christmas the way it used to be, look no further.
Strawbery Banke Museum Candlelight Stroll | Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Dec. 3 – 4, 10 – 11, 16 – 18, 2016
All throughout December, the historic Portsmouth seaport shines with a vintage Christmas feel, and the annual Candlelight Stroll is no different. On these weekend evenings, the Strawbery Banke Museum is transformed into a living, breathing time capsule. Hundreds of lighted candle lanterns emanate a beautiful glow across the museum grounds, and houses are adorned with hand-made decorations picked fresh from the Banke gardens. Greeted by costumed carolers, role players and performers, visitors can enjoy complimentary refreshments, traditional hearth-cooking demos, and crafts as they stroll from house to house and rediscover the joys and traditions of past times.
The Strawbery Banke Candlelight Stroll has been a signature event of Vintage Christmas in Portsmouth since 1979. So if you’re visiting the New Hampshire area this year and want to experience an authentic vintage holiday evening, this is one Christmas attraction you don’t want to miss.
Inn to Inn Holiday Cookie Tour | White Mountains, New Hampshire
December 10 – 11, 2016
Nothing says the holidays like snow-capped mountain views and a warm and soft, sugary treat. So join in on this year’s self-guided Inn to Inn Holiday Cookie Tour and kick off the holidays with a happy sweet tooth. Not only will participants tour inns overflowing with Christmas decorations, holiday cheer and delicious cookies, but they’ll also receive a holiday cookbook with recipes from each inn and the chance to win a $250 getaway gift certificate.
Enjoy some original sweet and savory treats at participating inns and try out some recipes with the family later! Proceeds from the event will benefit nonprofit associations in the area.
New Jersey Christmas Attractions
New Jersey is full of fun, family-oriented Christmas attractions. Whether you want to stay warm with a drive-through light show at Skylands Stadium or brave the cold to skate with Santa, you’ll find there’s plenty of ways to get into the holiday spirit. Here are a couple of our favorites.
Adventure Aquarium’s Christmas Celebration | Camden, New Jersey
December 3 – 30, 2016
Every December, Adventure Aquarium transforms into an underwater winter wonderland. The attraction features larger-than-life holiday decorations, twinkling lights, glowing trees, gently falling snow and…Scuba Santa? Children will love watching this festively dressed scuba diver swim alongside sharks, sea turtles and stingrays in the attraction’s Ocean Realm exhibit. They might even catch a glimpse of his friends Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Bumble the Abominable Snowman. All activities are free with aquarium admission, including the interactive live show: “I Believe in Scuba Santa.” For a full list of show times and other special events, visit the Adventure Aquarium website (above).
The Polar Express: An IMAX Experience | Jersey City, New Jersey
December 3, 10 and 17, 2016
For a few days in December, The Polar Express makes an unusual stop at the Jersey City Liberty Science Center. Enjoy this heart-warming film with family and friends at the world largest IMAX Dome theatre and catch a 20-minute holiday laser pre-show (new this year). The film tells the tale of a young boy who takes an extraordinary train ride to the North Pole. Enjoy his journey of self-discovery as you witness the movie’s jaw-dropping animation like never before.
While we all can’t hop on the Polar Express and head out of town for Christmas, we can all enjoy making memories with our loved ones. Whether you’re celebrating the holidays by visiting some of the top Christmas attractions in the Northeast, or staying at home with the family, remember what the holidays are truly about: Giving!
What are some of your favorite things to do in your area this time of year? Tell us in the comments!
Disclaimer: Some discounts may not be available in your region of AAA Northeast. Please visit AAA.com/Discounts to see where you can save!
Top Image: Ice skating on Frog Pond in Boston Common. (Photo: Kwanbenz / Shutterstock.com)