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‘Tis the holiday season again, and the Northeast is one of the best places to celebrate. With the weather outside delightful, you could walk in a winter wonderland worthy of a visit from Santa’s sleigh – and you just might run into the big man himself!
Everywhere from New Hampshire to Pennsylvania is chock full of Christmas lights displays and fun family activities. If you’re looking to take the family on a brisk winter walk ending with hot chocolate and presents from Santa or check out the impressive Christmas lights displays in the Northeast from the comfort of your warm and cozy car, here’s where to find the best the region has to offer.
Connecticut Christmas Light Show
Mystic Seaport’s traditional interactive holiday show, Lantern Light Village is an outdoor, free-roaming experience that showcases the range of holiday experiences between the 19th century and present day. Families travel through time and Christmas lights to enjoy the history of Christmases past and present, with festive lighting, displays, music, horse and carriage rides, a visit from St. Nicholas, stories, crafts, games, and more.
You can even interact with the actors portraying members of the 19th century village as they prepare for Christmas Eve and year-end celebrations. Lantern Light Village will be open from 5-8 p.m. on December 2, 3, 9, 10, 16 & 17, 2022. Tickets are $29 for ages 13 and up and $24 for ages 4-12.
Additionally, you can catch Santa arriving by tugboat along with a lighted boat parade on November 26, 2022. Check the website for updates.
Christmas Traditions in Massachusetts
The annual spectacle Blink! has been unfortunately canceled again for 2022. However, vendors in Faneuil Hall will be decorated with festive lights and other holiday adornments for families to enjoy!
The usual guided Freedom Trail Historic Holiday Stroll, featuring guides in 19th-century costumes leading a 90-minute tour, will be available select Fridays and Saturdays beginning November 18-December 31, as well as Thursday, December 22. Tours will begin at 3:30 p.m. in small six-person groups. Tickets are $20 per adult and $10 per child.
Highfield Hall & Gardens kicks off the season with Holidays at Highfield, November 25-December 11, 2022. This fun event includes both the indoor Winter Wonderland Village as well as an outdoor exhibit.
Falmouth Village Green is hosting its 59th annual Christmas Parade, one of the largest holiday parades in Southern New England, on December 4, 2022, beginning at noon.
Heritage Museums & Gardens closes for winter, but opens for its annual Gardens Aglow. Running from November 25 – December 23, 2022, this special event is open on Thursdays – Sundays from 4:30-8 p.m., as well as Tuesday & Wednesday, December 20 & 21. Christmas lights brighten the garden. This year the experience includes a reindeer scavenger hunt, model train display, a carousel, and Santa Claus at the Outdoor Stage, as well as fire pits where you can roast marshmallows to keep warm.
Buy tickets in advance; they are limited and tend to sell out quickly. There is an early Santa VIP Experience, with story time, cookies and hot chocolate, and an after hours Fireside Cheer with drinks and music. Tickets are $22 for adults and $12 for youth ages 3-17.
Vintage Christmas in New Hampshire
Celebrate a Vintage Christmas throughout December in this seaport town. The small town celebrates the holiday in a big way, with lights, caroling, Santa in a horse-drawn carriage and a free vintage Christmas trolley through the streets to see the lights. There will be fun and festive events including performances of Elf the Musical, with shows running November 30-December 18, 2022, a gingerbread house contest and showcase, family ice skating, and various musical performances throughout the month of December.
There is also an annual Candlelight Stroll at Strawbery Banke Museum on weekends December 3-18. This event takes place from 5-9 p.m. on Saturdays and 4-8 p.m. on Sundays. Ticket sales open November 2.
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Lights, Lights, and More Christmas Lights in New York
In Dyker Heights, light displays go up after Thanksgiving and last until the New Year. These Christmas lights in New York are on private homes and the best way to see them is to dress warmly and stroll the streets. And you can bring your dog! Go to 83rd thru 86th Street between 11th and 13th Avenues. You can book a 3.5 hour bus tour, which is available every day in December (except for December 24, 25 and 31) beginning at 5, 6, 7 and 8 p.m. Tickets are $55 for adults and $45 for children ages 12 and under. Advance booking is required and seats are limited.
The drive through Magic of Lights display runs November 18-December 30 this year. Families drive their own car through the course, held at Jones Beach State Park. The new Illuminating Mega Trees features over 240 feet of lights and music. Hours are Sunday – Thursday from 5-10 p.m.; Friday andSaturday from 5-11 p.m. Tickets are $20 per car if purchased in advance, and $30 for weekdays or $40 for weekends when purchased at the entrance.
New York City
The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree lights up on Wednesday, November 30, and will remain lit through January 2023 from 5:30 p.m. to midnight. On Christmas Day, December 25, the tree will be lit all 24 hours, and it will be lit from 6-9 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, December 31.
The annual Winter’s Eve at Lincoln Square with a tree lighting, food tastings and live music, is expected Monday, November 28, 2022 for the first time since 2019.
Where could be better to see Christmas lights than in a town in upstate New York, CALLED North Pole! The annual Village of Lights display at Santa’s Workshop features Christmas lights, caroling, a Nativity Pageant presentation, marshmallows roasting over an open fire and reindeer feeding. You can see them on December 4, 11, 18-23 & 26-30, 2022, beginning at 4:30 p.m. The entrance closes at 7:00 p.m.
It gets cold in upstate New York, but you can stay warm in your car at the drive-thru Lights on the Lake. The 30th annual event is open November 14, 2022-January 13, 2023, from 5-10 p.m. The two-mile winter extravaganza includes a radio accompaniment. There is a Land of Oz and Fantasy Forest. Admission is by the carload; $6 on Monday and Tuesday, $10 Wednesday and Thursday, and $20 Friday – Sunday.
The 6th annual Winter Wonderland will transform the Kensico Dam Plaza in Valhalla with more than 2.5 million LED lights set to holiday music. The 1.2-mile drive-through extravaganza includes light displays, characters, music and Santa. Winter Wonderland opens November 25, 2022 and runs on select nights through January 1, 2023. The attraction opens at 6 p.m. Monday-Friday and 5 p.m. on weekends.
Sweet Holiday Spirit in Pennsylvania
Hersheypark brings you the holiday spirit from the warmth of your car. You drive through Hershey Sweet Lights, two miles of wooded trails to see almost 600 illuminated, animated displays. There are 4 million lights. The spectacle runs from November 11, 2022-January 1, 2023. Admission ranges from $23.95 – $35.95 per vehicle when purchased online, depending on the date.
Hersheypark Christmas Candylane includes Santa with his reindeer and six roller coasters, open for the holidays. The new Candymonium coaster goes up to 76 mph. Admission is $54.95 when purchased online.
The Franklin Square Holiday Festival with Electrical Spectacle: A Holiday Light Show includes music, a beer garden and holiday shopping marketplace, as well as mini golf and a carousel! This year, the event takes place from November 16, 2022-February 26, 2023.
Just outside Philly, the Longwood Gardens Christmas Display runs November 18, 2022-January 8, 2023 and features daily concerts and elaborate light displays in the water fountains. Fire pits keep you warm as you stroll outside. You’ll need to have a timed admission ticket this year.
Live out your Polar Express fantasies at the East Broad Top Railroad this holiday season with “Christmas in Coal Country!” Take your family on a Christmas-themed one-hour train ride, complete with heated cars, letters to Santa, and a gift for each kid from Santa personally. Of course, the experience wouldn’t be complete without complimentary hot chocolate and cookies. Admission also includes tickets for a 45-minute festive trolley ride at the neighboring Rockhill Trolley Museum.
The event runs Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from November 25-December 18, with trains departing at 5, 6:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. Tickets are $25 for adults and $20 for children ages 2-12, with the option to choose seats in the caboose for an extra $5 per ticket.
Stroll Christmas Magic, a half mile walking trail with nearly 600,000 LED lights, animation and holiday scenes from November 25-December 30 (excluding December 24 & 25) at Rocky Ridge County Park in York. Five enclosed, heated buildings on the route feature food stands, a large G-gauge train display, entertainment, and Santa Claus. Admission to Christmas Magic is by timed tickets only. Reservations are required: no walk-ins.
Best Christmas Lights in the Northeast: Rhode Island
Step back in history with Christmas at Blithewold. The 45-room English-style manor is filled with hand-crafted ornaments, and the illuminated gardens and greenhouse add Christmas cheer. Sing carols and warm up with hot cocoa and roasted marshmallows around a roaring bonfire in Blithewold’s Enclosed Garden. Exact dates have not been posted, but Christmas at Blithewold usually runs from the last week of November through the first week of January.