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I’m a big fan of the classic, traditional Christmas experience, and that’s why I adore Christmas in New England so very much.
Here, the postcards and carols come to life. Here, the snow falls like clockwork, and a roaring fire is never far away.
If you’re ever after that classic winter scene, look no further. A New England Christmas will be just what you need.
I wanted to share my love for this region’s Christmas season, so I asked some of my friends and fellow New Englanders to contribute their favorite New England holiday destinations as well as their treasured traditions.
If you’re considering Christmasing up in this lovely part of the Northeast, these New England holiday traditions and destinations will give you a great start to your planning.
Best Places to Spend Christmas in New England
First, where should you go? If you’re traveling to the region for the holidays, we’re sure you are searching for the best places to visit during Christmas in New England. Unsurprisingly, there are lots! In each and every state, you will find a few of the best New England Christmas towns.
We’re going to give you a fairly brief overview of some of the best options for where to spend Christmas in New England. These are places that stand out as towns with lots of holiday activities, Christmas events, or even just a Christmassy vibe.
Christmas in Vermont
Surely one of the best Christmas towns in Vermont, Woodstock is known for its annual Wassail Weekend. But even throughout the rest of the year, Woodstock gives off that “Currier and Ives” vibe that is so representative of an old New England Christmas.
Where to Stay in Woodstock: Woodstock Inn & Resort
Stowe is one of the most beautiful places in Vermont. Its mountain location, quaint Main Street, and general prettiness makes it an excellent place to cozy up for the Christmas season. Check out our post for our top suggestions on things to do in Stowe and the surrounding area.
Where to Stay in Stowe: The Golden Eagle
Christmas in New Hampshire
Jackson, New Hampshire
If you are in search of the finest Christmas vacations New England has to offer, you will absolutely want to consider the White Mountains of New Hampshire. The town of Jackson is perhaps the most idyllic spot of all. In December, there are many Yuletide events, including the Jingle Bell Chocolate Tour which conveys you by horse-drawn sleigh. What could be more Christmassy than that?
Where to Stay in Jackson: The Christmas Farm Inn & Spa
Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Perhaps of all the Christmas things to do in New Hampshire, a visit to the coastal city of Portsmouth tops the list.
With its annual Vintage Christmas celebration, the city has earned the title of 2019 Hallmark Channels’ Hometown Christmas Town, in addition to its other titles as a #1 Christmas destination in the USA.
If you’ve ever wanted to experience a Victorian Christmas come to life, Portsmouth is the place to be!
Where to Stay in Portsmouth: The Hotel Portsmouth
Christmas in Rhode Island
Newport, Rhode Island
Newport is full of glitz and glamour, home to many impressive Gilded Age mansions that you can visit. But at Christmas, these mansions are decked to the nines and offer lots of festive events. That alone makes Newport, RI a wonderful holiday destination.
But Newport is also home to one of the best Christmas resorts in New England, the historic Francis Malbone Inn. This bed & breakfast regularly wins local holiday decorating contents and is without a doubt, an idyllic place to spend your Christmas.
Where to Stay in Newport: The Newport Marriott
Providence, Rhode Island
A New England Christmas doesn’t just mean snowy villages. Big cities like Boston and Providence can make for some of the best New England family Christmas getaways!
Providence, Rhode Island’s capital, has a full roster of Christmas events during the holiday season, including entertainment, shopping, and more. Don’t miss the outdoor ice skating rink at The Bank Newport City Center.
Where to Stay in Providence: Graduate Providence
Christmas in Maine
Freeport is one of the most popular destinations for Christmas in Maine. Each year the city hosts the Sparkle Celebration, which boasts a parade of lights, the Sparkle Market, decorating contents, and a talking Christmas tree, among other sights!
Where to Stay in Freeport: Candlebay Inn
Another of the beloved Christmas towns in New England is Kennebunkport, known for its Christmas Prelude that transforms the coastal town every December. HGTV once featured Kennebunkport as the “#2 Christmas Town in America.” So many wonderful holiday spots all over New England.
Where to Stay in Kennebunkport: Kennebunkport Inn
Christmas in Massachusetts
When you think of the best New England towns for Christmas, the coastal areas might not be the first destinations that come to mind. But don’t discount them! The magical island of Nantucket does Christmas right! With an annual Christmas stroll, a 20-foot tree displayed on Main Street, and a festive lighthouse, it’s the best of seaside New England and the holidays.
Where to Stay in Nantucket: 21 Broad
Taunton has a reputation as “The Christmas City,” which started over a century ago in 1914. So many beautiful lights! Visiting Taunton for the Lighting of the Green and Lights on Festival is surely one of the top Christmas activities in New England.
Where to Stay in Taunton: Hampton Inn Raynham Taunton
Christmas in Connecticut
Each year, you can see the production of A Connecticut Christmas Carol in Chester, CT. In addition to this sweet tradition, Chester offers a Christmas market, caroling, tree lighting, and a genuinely gorgeous charming downtown area.
Where to Stay in Chester: Copper Beech Inn
New Haven, Connecticut
New Haven is home to Yale University, which looks especially alluring in the winter snows. The city also offers a huge range of Christmas activities. Don’t miss the iconic tree on the green.
Where to Stay in New Haven: The Blake Hotel
Romantic Christmas Getaways in New England
We couldn’t let you visit our blog without suggesting some wonderful spots for couples to celebrate Christmas in New England.
You can find beautifully romantic Christmas getaways in New England at the following hotels, inns, and resorts:
The Bedford Village Inn – Bedford, NH
Interlaken Inn – Lakeville, CT
The Nonantum Resort – Kennebunkport, ME
Twin Farms Vermont – Barnard, VT
Check out our whole list of top romantic getaways in New England.
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New England Christmas Traditions
No matter where you choose to celebrate Christmas in New England, there are some traditions you’ll want to be sure to participate in. Our fellow New Englanders share their favorite holiday traditions below, including cooking up traditional New England recipes, enjoying the snow and cold, and of course, felling your own Christmas tree!
Cutting Down Your Own Christmas Tree
Trekking out to a Christmas tree farm and choosing (and chopping) your own tree, is one of the best Christmas activities in New England. If you choose the right farm, it’s an especially magical experience:
There is nothing more magical than a horse-drawn sleigh ride during the winter. Except maybe taking a sleigh ride through the snow in Vermont to cut down your Christmas tree.
Picking out our tree at Dave Russell’s Christmas Tree Farm has become an annual family tradition.
Visitors are greeted warmly by members of the Russell Family who also double as their farm hands. While you wait for your sleigh to arrive, they’ll offer you a cup of steaming hot chocolate or a homemade cookie from their warming parlor.
The bells on the horses’ harnesses jingle as you make your way out to the fields. Families often sing carols as well.
The scent of evergreen trees permeates the air as you arrive in a field filled with balsam fir trees of all sizes.
There are saws for you to use to chop down your perfect tree and their staff comes around to pick up it up to bring back to the barn. There your tree will be baled loaded into your vehicle.
Dave and his family are so genuine and helpful. It is clear that they have the spirit of the holidays in mind which they share with all of the visitors who come to their farm.
They open the day after Thanksgiving through Christmas Eve and are located in Starksboro, Vermont.
Bake a New England Holiday Recipe
The holidays are the perfect excuse to eat your fill of tasty desserts and seasonal flavors. Perhaps you have an old family recipe you love to make every year, or perhaps you’ll try something new using New England’s bounty.
Rebecca of Sugar & Soul says…
Christmas in New England is truly something special and something that I believe everyone should experience at least once in their life.
It’s so much more than a thing, it’s a feeling.
It’s the joy on the children’s faces as they ride their new sleds down the hill, it’s the gratitude to your neighbor for digging you out when you get stuck in your own driveway because you’re in a rush for a holiday party, and it’s the love that fills a home with family and friends packed in for the festivities.
And so much more!
When I think of Christmas in New England, I think of freshly fallen snow, flannel sheets, and cast iron specialties. It’s not just the most wonderful time of the year, but the coziest too, and the means delicious Bakewell biscuits, pumpkin pie, baked beans, and cranberry EVERYTHING!
As a born and raised New Englander, I’m all about the cranberries and I take any chance I get this time of year to throw those tart red berries in a recipe.
This recipe gives a whole lotta love to my Northern roots, you’ve got a cast iron skillet, cake, and cranberry, now I don’t know about you, but that sounds like Christmas dessert perfection to me.
See the Beautifully Decorated Newport Mansions
Christmas can be a great time to visit New England’s fine towns and cities. Newport, RI, with its famous mansions shines especially bright with its holiday decor & celebrations.
In the Roaring 20s, Newport, Rhode Island was the place to have a vacation home for the United States’ new wealthy citizens. Families such as the Vanderbilts built huge, ornate mansions perched right on Newport’s cliffsides.
These mansions are worth visit any time of the year, but are an especially charming place to see all decked out for Christmas.
Three of Newport’s mansions The Breakers, The Elms and Marble House, are open during the holiday season to tour while they are decorated. The kitchens of the Breakers, which is my favorite mansion at all times of the year, has a large display of gingerbread houses.
You can also watch a quintessential holiday show, The Nutcracker, on a unique stage. The production at Rosecliff dances throughout different rooms in this mansion modeled after France’s Grand Trianon at Versailles.
After exploring the mansions, you can go into downtown Newport for dinner at any of the incredible restaurants and walk along the decorated docks.
Visit The Daily Adventures of Me for more inspiration on how to celebrate the holidays in Rhode Island.
Skiing in the White Mountains
New England boasts stunning outdoors, and in the winter time, everything is typically covered with a blanket of white. Take advantage of the snow and go skiing. Vermont and New Hampshire are some of the top spots for snow sports in New England.
Skiing in the White Mountains of New Hampshire is the ultimate Christmas time activity in New England. Nothing compares to the magical feeling of gliding through snow-covered pine and fir trees after a snowfall.
The whole area feels like a scene from a Norman Rockwell painting. The beauty of the mountains around is sure to make you feel festive.
Some of the best holiday spirit is found entering a ski lodge after a day on the mountain. Huge timbered ski lodges decorated for Christmas, with a roaring fire in the hearth, and a cup of hot chocolate is simply bliss.
To experience another side of the skiing in New England, try cross-country skiing in the White Mountains. The elaborate trail systems are seemingly endless and may make you feel like humming Christmas carols as you go.
Some trail systems even have quaint warming huts that offer a fun atmosphere to meet people, share some laughs, and really bask in the Christmas spirit. Skiing in the White Mountains of New Hampshire is Christmas!
A Cape Cod Christmas
Often, a New England Christmas means a beachy Christmas! It’s worth heading to the coast for unique celebrations.
Cape Cod might not spring to mind when you think of Christmas in New England. Let me assure you, though, traditions with a nautical flare abound.
Santa always arrives by boat, and Provincetown decorates a “tree” made from lobster traps with twinkly lights and bright red bows in the center of town. Hyannis Harbor lights up during the annual Harbor Lighting and Boat Parade.
The whole month of December is jammed with holiday cheer by the sea.
Christmas strolls are a popular event in each town and on the islands, the one in Barnstable Village being my favorite. Main Street in the village is closed to car traffic while bundled-up revelers sip hot apple cider and snack on New England clam chowder or cookies provided by local businesses.
Photo Credit: Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism via Flickr, License 2.0
Perhaps my most favorite tradition of all, in keeping with the seaside theme, is decorating with seashells. I love seeing colorful scallop shells, shiny jingle shells, or swirly purple wampum (made from quahog shells) dangle from the branches of a sparkling Christmas tree.
Cape Cod is traditionally a summer spot, but there are still ways to get a little sand in your shoes during the winter, too!
Braving New England’s Cold
It may comes as no surprise that New England in the winter time can be quite chilly! But getting out and playing in the cold is a New England Christmas tradition not to miss!
If there’s something us New Englanders aren’t afraid of, it’s the cold. We’re the masters of layering and preparing for all that winter may send our way.
With that being said, my fiancé Dan and I love to stay active even during the holidays. Who wouldn’t want to explore the breathtaking frozen landscapes ahead?
Our favorite trails are within Acadia National Park in Maine. Parts of Acadia will be closed for the season, but the few attractions left open and worth visiting are the trails at the Schooner Head Overlook, Sand Beach, Seal Harbor Beach, and Jordan Pond.
You’ll get to see Acadia in an intimate light that most visitors have never experienced. Imagine wobbling across a frozen lake into the foggy abyss, prancing beneath snow-covered pine trees, then unpacking a homemade lunch paired with a hot thermos of cocoa to warm yourself up.
Acadia National Park is super magical this time of year and our favorite tradition together!
Make New England Seafood Chowder
New England boasts phenomenal seafood, and you can enjoy it throughout the year. For many of us Yankees, these dishes are at their best around the holidays.
I grew up in a tiny town in central Maine, so many of my Christmas memories involved playing outside in the snow. From making snow forts to sledding on a handmade toboggan to snowmobiling through the woods for hours, we found plenty of ways to entertain ourselves outside.
But when we hung up our gloves, hats, and snowsuits to dry, one of the best ways to warm up and get cozy inside was with food.
Soup or hot mulled cider were regulars during the winter, but it was always a special treat when my mom made some kind of chowder. It could be fish chowder (made with haddock), a simple corn chowder, or the ultimate: seafood chowder (which includes any and all seafood that you want to throw in the pot).
Now that I live several states away from Maine and am only home around Christmas or New Year’s, “chowdah”—served alongside my grandmother’s famous homemade rolls—has become somewhat of a tradition on Christmas Eve.
Find the Best Local Christmas Decor
In New England, Christmas decorations are in full swing. From ornaments for our pine trees to outdoor lights and garland. Here you’ll find festive items to adorn your whole home.
Each year, Cataldo’s Gift & Garden in Littleton, Massachusetts, designs dozens of stunning Christmas trees by theme like no other. It has been my go-to locale for unique, quality ornaments to commemorate any milestone or hobby for as long as I can remember.
My Mum and I go together every Christmas to pick out ornaments for the family and to get in the spirit of the season.
In addition to the many trees, there are decorations and gifts galore, and Cataldo’s is a nursery as well. Pick up a real tree and wreath while you’re at it! No detail is overlooked, and you can wander around the store several times, discovering new gems as you go.
The feel is much more Christmas wonderland than retail and the wooden building and decor are reminiscent of a luxe cabin— in fact, it’s a former dairy barn. Swing by for some hot cider and quintessential New England vibes!
Go to church on Christmas Eve
Amy of Two Drifters says….
If you’re a Christian, heading to church on Christmas Eve or Day may be a part of your traditions. This has always been one of my favorite parts of the holiday.
In New England, the churches are magical, and on Christmas Eve, as the snow falls quietly around, there’s an air of mystery too.
This is such an integral part of Christmas to me.
I love the tradition of attending church with family. I love the excitement of dressing up in Christmas finery and bundling up to make the chilly trek to the church.
As a kid, I was bursting with anticipation for the night ahead and Santa’s arrival. And now, I treasure the quiet, celebratory moments reflecting on the birth of Jesus, the Light of the World.
Where’s YOUR favorite place to celebrate Christmas?
Check out these other Christmas posts:
- 14 Romantic Christmas Destinations in the USA
- 50 Festive & Romantic Christmas Messages for Him
- 50 of the Sweetest, Most Romantic Christmas Messages for Her
- 71 Romantic Christmas Movies for Holiday Romance
- 25 Festive Christmas Traditions for Couples: Have a Magical Season
- 15 Wonderful Christmas Gifts for Married Couples
- 16 Perfect Christmas Gifts for Newlyweds
Amy Hartle is the co-founder and owner of Two Drifters, where she blogs about romantic and couples travel, relationships, honeymoons, and more. With a Master’s in English and a BA in Musical Theatre, Amy loves to write quality content as well as to entertain, and she hopes to do a bit of both here on the blog! Amy lives in North Carolina with her husband Nathan, and son Malcolm. When not working on their sites or traveling the world, the Hartles can be found cuddling, reading, and hanging out with their cats.