New England

9 Best Coastal Christmas Celebrations in New England

From lobster trap trees to Santa’s arrival by boat, coastal Christmas celebrations are a hallmark of New England’s holiday season. Here are nine of our favorite merry meet-ups by the sea.

By Yankee Magazine

Dec 03 2021

11_Newport-Christmas

Among the nine lighthouses in the Newport area, the 1842 Newport Harbor Light on Goat Island stands out for its green beacon—which looks especially appropriate during the run-up to Christmas.

Photo Credit : Erin McGinn

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From lobster trap trees to Santa’s arrival by boat, coastal Christmas parties are a hallmark of New England’s holiday season. Here are eight of our favorite merry meet-ups by the sea.

Dock Square in Kennebunkport, Maine, home of the lobster-topped town tree.
Photo Credit : Nicole Wolf

9 Best Coastal Christmas Celebrations in New England

Kennebunkport, Maine

The historic village of Kennebunkport, Maine, is more than just a bustling summer place with stellar eat-in-the-rough lobster shacks and rocky, kayak-worthy coves. During Christmas Prelude, a two-week volunteer-run festival that kicks off with the memorable Dock Square tree lighting, you’ll find a buoyant, roving block party that’s part Whoville, part Mardi Gras.

See More:Christmas on the Maine Coast | Kennebunkport Christmas Prelude

Bristol, Rhode Island

Bristol is a town that believes in making the season last, and its Christmas Festival runs well into December. But two highlights are the pre-Thanksgiving Preview Weekend, which invites shopping, dining, and strolling downtown, and the Grand Illumination (Dec. 5), when Santa arrives, the tree is lighted, and a huge snowflake over Hope Street blazes to life. christmasbristolri.com

Holiday Weekend on Nantucket
Mitchell’s Book Corner on Main Street in Nantucket, decked out for the holiday season.
Photo Credit : Elizabeth Cecil

Nantucket, Massachusetts

The island of Nantucket is best known as a popular summer destination, but during the first weekend in December, it comes alive again for its annual Nantucket Christmas Stroll. Featuring festive decorations and a calendar chock-full of special events, the town hums with visitors enjoying the island’s unique brand of historic holiday cheer. See More:Holiday Weekend on Nantucket, Massachusetts

Rockland, Maine

The world’s largest lobster trap tree, rising more than three stories tall and topped with a five-foot fiberglass lobster, is the centerpiece of the Festival of Lights, which also offers shopping and arts events, wagon rides, a parade, and Santa’s arrival via a Coast Guard boat (Dec. 4). 

Mystic Seaport Lantern Light Tours is a favorite holiday tradition in Mystic, Connecticut.
Photo Credit : Dean Digital Imaging Inc. | Courtesy of Mystic Seaport

Mystic, Connecticut

The holiday season kicks off with Santa cruising in on a festive red tugboat, followed by the tree lighting in Mystic River Park and a glittering lighted boat parade. Just a few days later, downtown Mystic hosts a holiday stroll amid hundreds of luminarias. mysticchamber.org

Ogunquit, Maine

When Christmas by the Sea comes around (Dec. 10–12), count on this beach town to show up with bells on. Past highlights have included tasting events, tree lightings, concerts, and of course Santa’s arrival by lobster boat, followed by a parade from Perkins Cove to the Main Beach. chamber.ogunquit.org

Among the nine lighthouses in the Newport area, the 1842 Newport Harbor Light on Goat Island stands out for its green beacon—which looks especially appropriate during the run-up to Christmas.
Photo Credit : Erin McGinn

Newport, Rhode Island

A holiday visit to Newport, Rhode Island, offers a merry whirlwind of shopping, dining, and strolling against a historic seaport backdrop thanks to the month-long Christmas in Newport festival. Founded in 1971, it celebrates the many sights, sounds, and flavors of the holiday season. christmasinnewport.orgSee More:Christmas in Newport

Portsmouth, New Hampshire

For more than 15 years, Portsmouth has brightened the snowy season with a citywide, monthlong party called Vintage Christmas. Signature attractions have ranged from candlelight strolls at Strawbery Banke to a gingerbread house contest and free trolley rides. vintagechristmasnh.org

See More:Finding Christmas in Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Boothbay & Boothbay Harbor, Maine

Coastal Maine Botanical Garden’s annual lights extravaganza, “Gardens Aglow,” is a big lure during the Boothbay Lights festival, but also look for a lighted boat parade, the Festival of Trees, and fireworks. boothbaylights.com

Which New England coastal Christmas celebration is your favorite?

This post was first published in 2020 and has been updated. 

See More:

10 Best New England Christmas Towns

5 Best New England Christmas Cities