Victoria Mansion in Portland, Maine, is one reason the city earned a spot on our list of Best New England Christmas Cities
Photo Credit : Mark Fleming
Please note that businesses, attractions, and events throughout New England have been modified, closed, and/or canceled in response to the COVID-19 health crisis. Please travel responsibly, and check with state guidelines and individual businesses and organizations before making travel plans.
5 New England Christmas Cities to Visit This Holiday Season (Besides Newport)
As a companion to our November/December 2019 cover feature celebrating the magic of Christmas in Newport, we’ve rounded up five additional cities with big holiday spirit.
Big kickoff: Lighting of the city’s official tree, an annual gift from the people of Nova Scotia, on Boston Common.
Seasonal sounds: Holiday Pops at Symphony Hall, starring Keith Lockhart and company (and Santa himself). bso.org
Gift-hunting spot: SoWa Winter Festival, a trove of handmade treasures in the city’s arts and design district. sowaboston.com
Yuletide flavor: The Feast of the Seven Fishes, offered on or near Christmas Eve by Italian eateries across the Hub (e.g., Bar Mezzana, Posto, Grotto).
Hot ticket: The Boston Ballet’s “granddaddy of them all” production of The Nutcracker. bostonballet.org
Big kickoff: Tree lighting on the New Haven Green, with a Ferris wheel, live music, and an appearance by Old Saint Nick himself.
Seasonal sounds: Messiah Sing-Along, an annual collaboration of the Yale Symphony Orchestra, the Yale Glee Club, and audience members. gleeclub.yalecollege.yale.edu
Gift-hunting spot: The Shops at Yale, offering big names, local indies, and university one-offs (don’t miss the Museum Shop at the Yale Center for British Art). theshopsatyale.com
Hot ticket:Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical at the historic Shubert Theatre. shubert.com
Family fun: Riding an old-timey trolley through a magical tunnel of lights at the Shore Line Trolley Museum, weekends. Cocoa, cookies, and Santa photo ops sweeten the deal. shorelinetrolley.org
Bright spot: Fantasy of Lights at Lighthouse Point Park, a mile-long drive-through light display with merry tunes available on the radio. Facebook
Uniquely New Haven: Exhibit of 70-plus crèches from around the world at the Knights of Columbus Museum. kofcmuseum.org
Big kickoff: Tree lighting in Monument Square with live music and a visit from Santa (plus free eggnog samples). portlandmaine.com
Seasonal sounds: Portland Symphony Orchestra’s “Magic of Christmas,” now in its 40th year. portlandsymphony.org
Gift-hunting spot: The Old Port waterfront district for locally flavored wares, from recycled-sailcloth totes at Sea Bags to Maine-made togs at Portland Trading Co.
Hot ticket: Where better to see the lighted boat parade and fireworks in Portland Harbor than from a ferry? Tickets go on sale just a few weeks before the big night. cascobaylines.com
Family fun: Free horse-drawn wagon rides through downtown, Fridays and weekends from Thanksgiving to right before Christmas. portlandmaine.com
Bright spot: More than 150 lighted metal sculptures by artist Pandora LaCasse along Congress and Commercial streets and in Longfellow Square, Tommy’s Park, and Boothbay Square. pandoralacassedesign.com
Uniquely Portland:A Victorian Nutcracker by Portland Ballet, with characters and sets inspired by a stunning 19th-century local landmark, Victoria Mansion. portlandballet.org
Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Big kickoff: Tree lighting in Market Square and a parade through downtown.
Seasonal sounds: Con Tutti, a choral group made up of more than 100 local singers, at the intimate South Church. contutti.org
Gift-hunting spot: Pickwick’s Mercantile, a Victorian-inspired shopping experience with eclectic merchandise that spans classic and modern eras. pickwicksmercantile.com
Yuletide flavor: Authentic bûche de Noël special-ordered from Portsmouth’s nonpareil French pastry shop, La Maison Navarre. mnpastry.com
Hot ticket: Sally Struthers as Miss Hannigan in Annie at the Music Hall, a highlight of the citywide Vintage Christmas celebration. vintagechristmasnh.org
Family fun: Ice skating at Labrie Family Skate at Puddle Dock Pond, which opens every year after Thanksgiving. strawberybanke.org
Uniquely Portsmouth: 40th annual Candlelight Stroll through 350 years of seasonal traditions at the 10-acre outdoor museum Strawbery Banke. strawberybanke.org
This post was originally published in 2019 and has been updated.