If you're visiting New England during the 2020 Christmas holiday season, you'll want to add some of these merry holiday happenings to your travel plans. The magic of the season comes alive at these 10 annual events that are sure to put you in the holiday spirit.
Stone Zoo in Stoneham, Massachusetts, is the place to be if you love animals and the holidays. The zoo dances with thousands of holiday lights and also is home to mechanically animated animals and live reindeer during the Christmas season. Santa Claus appears nightly through December 24. On December 2, 9, 16 , 24, kids can meet Mrs. Claus from 5:30-8:30 p.m., too. See the glittering zoo nightly from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. from November 20 through January 3; closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Admission is $14.95 for adults, $12.95 for children ages 2 to 12, and free for children under 2. Purchase weekday tickets online in advance and save. Call 617-541-5466 for more information.
From November 21 through December 20 on select evenings, tour Mystic Seaport in Mystic, Connecticut, by lantern light for a glimpse of Christmas past. Your tour guide will play the role of someone from the year 1876, and you'll be immersed in the drama as a Victorian Christmas celebration unfolds. For this year's 40th annual holiday season event, the ghostly storyline is inspired by Charles Dickens' classic A Christmas Carol. Reservations are strongly recommended, and tickets for Lantern Light Tours may be purchased online or by calling 860-572-0711. Tickets are $33 for adults and $28 for children ages 5 to 17.
Catch the Essex Steam Train's North Pole Express or Santa Special for a photo-op-filled holiday train ride with Santa Claus on select dates November 13 through December 27. Tickets are sold online or at the Essex Train Station in Essex, Connecticut. Most dates sell out far in advance. For available dates, times, prices, reservations and further information, call 860-767-0103.
Christmas by the Sea
Ogunquit, Maine's 33rd annual Christmas by the Sea, scheduled for December 11-13, 2020, features a Christmas Parade, storytelling, caroling, shopping, horse-drawn wagon rides, music, arts and crafts, a living nativity, visits with Santa, an expanded Chowderfest rechristened "Taste the Season" and more. Call the Ogunquit Chamber of Commerce for more information: 207-646-2939.
Escape the commercialism of Christmas at one of the annual Candlelight Carols services at Trinity Church in Boston on Saturday, December 12 at 4 and 7 p.m. What a spectacular setting! The American Institute of Architects named this Copley Square landmark one of the 10 greatest public buildings in the country. There is no admission fee, but a free-will offering is requested. Preferred tickets to a Candlelight Carols Benefit on Sunday, December 15 at 4 p.m. are available in advance for $120, $80 and $45 and may be purchased online. Call 617-536-0944 for more information.
Soak up the spirit of the season and learn a bit about holiday history, too, as Old Sturbridge Village in Sturbridge, Massachusetts, presents 13 evenings of "Christmas by Candlelight" in select houses and shops around the Common from 3 until 8 p.m. on Friday through Sunday evenings December 6 through 27, plus Monday, December 21. The scents and scenes of an early New England Christmas will remind you of the holiday's non-commercial beauty and joy.
Kennebunkport's 38th annual Christmas Prelude from December 3 through 13 ushers in the holidays as only Maine can, with Santa arriving via lobster boat, the lighting of the lobster trap tree, a Firehouse Lobster Supper, a Fire + Ice bar, Christmas fireworks and many other festive events. This Kennebunkport Christmas Prelude photo gallery captures the traditions that make this holiday celebration on the coast of Maine one-of-a-kind.
Santa's Village in Jefferson, New Hampshire, is at its most festive at Christmas time, when this family amusement park reopens for frosty fun. Visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus, enjoy theme rides and see magical shows from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. on Saturdays and 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. on Sundays November 15 through December 20 and also on Friday, November 27, from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. For more information call 603-586-4445.
Woodstock, Vermont, hosts its 36th annual Wassail Weekend December 11-13 featuring concerts (including a memorable performance by Yale University's acclaimed men's a cappella group, the Whiffenpoofs), children's events, a Medieval Wassail Celebration Feast, a yule log on the green and a parade of horses and riders in traditional costume. For more information, call 802-457-3555 or toll free, 888-496-6378.
The Connecticut Trolley Museum in East Windsor, Connecticut, celebrates Winterfest on Friday through Sunday evenings November 27 through December 27. Bundle up and climb aboard the "electric sleigh," a restored antique trolley, for a three-mile ride through a "tunnel of lights" featuring more than 6,000 bulbs. Tickets are $13 for adults, $12 for those 62 and over, $11 for children ages 4 to 12 and $4 for children under 4. For more information, call 860-627-6540.