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From the seaside towns of Connecticut to the historical treasures of Massachusetts to the holiday lights in New York, the Northeast United States has a wealth of Christmas light displays designed to put everyone in a festive state of mind. Seeing lights is also a great way to celebrate with social distancing. Here’s where to see some of the best Christmas lights in the Northeast. Don’t forget your hat, mittens and face covering!
Connecticut: Christmas Light Show
Mystic Seaport’s traditional interactive holiday show, Lantern Light Tours, a 70-minute theatrical production that runs every 15 minutes, with participants walking through the lantern-lit Seaport, has been canceled this year due to Covid-19. A replacement “holiday stroll” will permit social distancing. Santa will arrive by tugboat along with a lighted boat parade on November 28, 2020. Check the website for updates.
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Christmas Traditions in Massachusetts
The annual spectacle Blink! returns to Faneuil Hall Marketplace December 4, 2020 – Friday, January 1, 2021, with more than 350,000 low-energy LED lights and recorded music by Boston Symphony Orchestra’s Holiday Pops. Since everything is outdoors it is easy to stay 6 feet apart. Performances run 4:30-10 pm daily.
The usual guided Freedom Trail Historic Holiday Stroll,featuring guides in 19th century costumes leading a 90-minute tour, have been suspended until further notice due to Covid-19.
Highfield Hall & Gardens kicks off the season with Holidays at Highfield, November 17-December 13. In addition to the indoor Winter Wonderland Village, the outdoor exhibit “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” will offer socially distanced fun. Falmouth Village Green has canceled its Annual Christmas Parade, 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 27-December 27, 4:30-8:30pm. 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 waiting to hear about 2020 dates.
There is also an annual Candlelight Stroll at Strawbery Banke Museum. 2020 dates will be released soon.
Lights, Lights, and More Holiday Lights in New York
In Dyker Heights, light displays go up after Thanksgiving and last until the New Year. These holiday 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.
The drive through Magic of Lights display, November 22nd – January 4th, 2021, 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 2020 dates. The annual Winter’s Eve at Lincoln Square, with a tree lighting, food tastings and live music, has been canceled due to the COVID-19 crisis.
No 2020 news yet on this town in upstate New York, which normally offers the annual Village of Lights display at Santa’s Workshop. It features Christmas lights, caroling, a Nativity Pageant presentation, marshmallows roasting over an open fire and reindeer feeding.
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 18 – January 10, 2021, 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; $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 27 and runs through January 3.
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 13, 2020 – January 3, 2021, 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 has not announced 2020 dates yet.
Just outside Philly, the Longwood Gardens Christmas Display runs November 20, 2020-January 10, 2021 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 27 through the end of the year – except December 24 and 25 – 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. We are waiting to hear about 2020 dates.