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It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, and one of the best places to celebrate is in the Northeast. With the weather outside delightful, you could walk in a winter wonderland worthy of a visit from Santa’s sleigh. From New Hampshire to Pennsylvania, the magical Christmas light displays are sure to make your spirits bright. Whether you are looking to bundle up with warm cookies and hot chocolate for a fun winter stroll or enjoy the extravaganza of sparkling lights and Santa sightings from the warmth of your car, you’ll want to check out this list of some of the best Christmas lights in the Northeast USA.
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 history of Christmases past through today, 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. Three entry time sessions are available beginning at 5pm, though all patrons may stay until closing at 8pm, for the dates December 10, 11, 17, 18, 20, 21, 22, 2021. 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 27, 2021. Check the website for updates.
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Christmas Traditions in Massachusetts
The annual spectacle Blink! has been canceled for 2021. 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 Thursdays – through Sundays throughout November – December 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 26-December 12, 2021. In addition to the indoor Winter Wonderland Village, the outdoor exhibit will offer socially distanced fun. Falmouth Village Green is having its 58th annual Christmas Parade, on December 5, 2021, from 12-1p.m., and it’s one of the largest holiday parades in Southern New England.
Heritage Museums & Gardens closes for winter, but opens for its annual Gardens Aglow. The special event runs on select dates (mostly weekends) from November 26 – December 26, 2021, 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and Thursdays through Sundays (plus December 21 and 22), 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Christmas lights brighten the garden. This year the entire experience is outdoors and includes a reindeer scavenger hunt, model train display and Santa Claus at the Outdoor Stage. Fire pits where you can roast marshmallows keep you warm.
Buy tickets in advance; tickets are limited this year for social distancing. 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 to these special events are very limited and must be purchased in advance.
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. We are still waiting for complete dates for when it begins, but there will fun and festive events including performances of White Christmas the Musical, with performances beginning December 1-December 19, 2021, and a gingerbread house contest and showcase!
There is also an annual Candlelight Stroll at Strawbery Banke Museum, Saturdays:
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December 4, 11, 18, 2021, 5:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Sundays: December 5, 12, 19, 2021, 4:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
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 tour, which is available every day in December (except for December 24 and 25) at 5 p.m., 6 p.m., 7 p.m. 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, November 19th, 2021- January 2th, 2022, is naturally socially distanced. 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.
New York City
The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree lights up at the beginning of December, and remains up through January. No decision has been made yet about 2021 dates. The annual Winter’s Eve at Lincoln Square, with a tree lighting, food tastings and live music, is expected for November 29, 2021.
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 5, 12, 19-23, 26-30, 2021. The entrance closes at 7 p.m.
It gets cold in upstate New York, but you can stay warm in your car at the drive through Lights on the Lake. The 30th annual event is open November 15 , 2021- January 14, 2022, from 5-10pm. The two-mile winter extravaganza includes a radio accompaniment. There is a Land of Oz and Fantasy Forest. Admission is by the car load; $6 on Monday and Tuesday, $10 weekdays, $20 on weekends.
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 26, 2021 and runs through January 2, 2022.
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 12, 2021 – January 2, 2022, starting at 5pm. Admission is per vehicle.
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. Secure face coverings must be worn at all times on lines and on rides. In addition, both Sweet Lights and Christmas Candylane require reservations this year.
The Franklin Square Holiday Festival with Electrical Spectacle: A Holiday Light Show includes music, a beer garden and holiday shopping marketplace. The free festival begins on December 3, 2021.
Just outside Philly, the Longwood Gardens Christmas Display runs November 9, 2021 to January 9, 2022 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.
Stroll Christmas Magic, a half mile walking trail with nearly 600,000 LED lights, animation and holiday scenes from November 26 through the end of the year – except December 24, 25 and 31- 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 at Blithewold, with Christmas at Blithewold. The 45-room English-style manor mansion 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. The event runs November 26, 2021 – January 9, 2022.