New England

5 Favorite New England Christmas Cities

Five additional very merry New England cities to visit for the holidays.

By Yankee Magazine

Nov 18 2020


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.
Best New England Christmas Cities
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

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.

Boston, Massachusetts

  • 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).
  • Gift-hunting spot: SoWa Winter Festival, a trove of handmade treasures in the city’s arts and design district.
  • 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.
  • Bright spot: Blink!, a state-of-the-art holiday light and sound show at Faneuil Hall Marketplace.
  • Uniquely Boston:Candlelight carols at Trinity Church, a 110-year-old tradition at an American architectural masterpiece.

Burlington, Vermont

  • Big kickoff: Downtown parade and Christmas tree lighting, plus the illumination of 250,000 LCDs.
  • Seasonal sounds: Holiday concert by Solaris Vocal Ensemble, a singing group packed with Burlington-area choral directors.
  • Gift-hunting spot: Craft Vermont, a showcase of one-of-a-kind art, jewelry, and more from 100-plus creative types.
  • Yuletide flavor: Sampling seasonal brews at Festivus, a night of “casting aside holiday grievances,” at the Farmhouse Tap & Grill.
  • Hot ticket: A Charlie Brown Christmas Live Onstage, the only Vermont stop on this national tour.
  • Family fun: Getting up close with real-life Dancers and Prancers from the Vermont Reindeer Farm.
  • Uniquely Burlington: Two holiday-themed rides on Green Mountain Railroad trains: the Polar Express and the Jingle Bell Express.;

New Haven, Connecticut

  • 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.
  • 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).
  • Hot ticket:Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical at the historic Shubert Theatre.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Portland, Maine

  • Big kickoff: Tree lighting in Monument Square with live music and a visit from Santa (plus free eggnog samples).
  • Seasonal sounds: Portland Symphony Orchestra’s “Magic of Christmas,” now in its 40th year.
  • 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.
  • Family fun: Free horse-drawn wagon rides through downtown, Fridays and weekends from Thanksgiving to right before Christmas.
  • 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.
  • Uniquely Portland:A Victorian Nutcracker by Portland Ballet, with characters and sets inspired by a stunning 19th-century local landmark, Victoria Mansion.

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.
  • Gift-hunting spot: Pickwick’s Mercantile, a Victorian-inspired shopping experience with eclectic merchandise that spans classic and modern eras.
  • Yuletide flavor: Authentic bûche de Noël special-ordered from Portsmouth’s nonpareil French pastry shop, La Maison Navarre.
  • Hot ticket: Sally Struthers as Miss Hannigan in Annie at the Music Hall, a highlight of the citywide Vintage Christmas celebration.
  • Family fun: Ice skating at Labrie Family Skate at Puddle Dock Pond, which opens every year after Thanksgiving.
  • Uniquely Portsmouth: 40th annual Candlelight Stroll through 350 years of seasonal traditions at the 10-acre outdoor museum Strawbery Banke.
This post was originally published in 2019 and has been updated.