From charming small towns to big city lights, picturesque harbors, and bedecked attractions, Christmas in Massachusetts is something special. In between the holiday parties and Christmas shopping, finding ways to recapture the joy of the holiday amidst the hustle and bustle of the season can be hard, but we have made it easier with this round-up of the best Christmas lights, holiday events, and Christmas towns in Massachusetts.
From east to west, north to south, and even over to the islands, we have sought out the cheeriest, merriest, most festive ways to celebrate Christmas in Massachusetts.
Christmas in Massachusetts – Events, Towns, Attractions, and More!
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Note: We are continuing to update this article as new events are announced. Have something you want to see included? Email me so I have a chance to check it out.
Christmas in Rockport
If you are looking for cute Christmas towns in Massachusetts, look no further than Rockport. I thought this waterfront enclave on Cape Ann was a stunner in the summer, but wait until you see the darling little shops decorated for Christmas.
Christmas in Rockport is a vibe, with a full month of holiday activities in December. Santa arrives by lobster boat at T-Wharf on Saturday, December 2, 2023, followed by the Dock Square Tree Lighting ceremony. A Menorah Lighting will then be held on December 7th, the first day of Chanukah.
The Annual Holiday Shopping Night in Rockport is Friday, December 8 and you can get your passport stamped at various businesses for a chance to win prizes. On Saturday, December 9th, strolling musicians and carolers will entertain you while you shop.
The Christmas Pageant, with a live nativity re-enactment, takes place on Saturday, December 16 and procrastinators can find deals during “Last Minute Stocking Stuffer Weekend”. The month-long celebration reaches its peak on New Year’s Eve with a full night of entertainment from 4:00 pm until the ball drops at midnight.
Things to do Nearby: Take a day trip to Newburyport or Gloucester and enjoy Cape Ann’s Annual Winter Lights, where over 100 local businesses throughout Gloucester, Essex, Ipswich, Manchester-by-the-Sea, and Rockport are getting into the festive spirit by decorating their storefronts with twinkling lights and creative window displays.
Where to Stay: Addison Choate is a charming boutique hotel in Rockport.
Somerville Illuminations Tour
Each year, the residents of Somerville, just north of Boston and Cambridge, spread holiday cheer by transforming their spaces and yards with lights, ornaments, and shrines of devotion and fantasy. In the past, you could hop on a trolley to see the Christmas lights, but this has been transformed into a more affordable and exclusive bike tour or self-guided tour.
The Somerville Arts Council puts together an interactive, online Illuminations Map of all the decorated houses, which you can follow on a self-guided tour from December 9, 2023, through early January. Or, you can join the Illuminations Bike Tour, starting at Somerville High School’s main entrance at 5:45 pm on December 16, 2023, for a guided experience.
Things to do Nearby: Harvard Museum of Natural History, Harvard Art Museum, MIT Museum, shopping, dining, and entertainment (including LEGO Discovery Center Boston) and Assembly Row.
Where to Stay: Cambria Hotel Boston Somerville
ZooLights AT THE STONE ZOO
The Stone Zoo in Stoneham really shines during the holidays. From November 17, 2023 to January 7, 2024, the Stone Zoo’s ZooLights experience transforms the zoo’s 26 acres into an enchanting winter wonderland, complete with thousands of sparkling lights, reindeer, and even visits with Santa.
Visits with Santa are available from December 3 – 5, 10 – 12, 17 – 19, and 22, just remember that advanced registration is required.
Things to do Nearby: BodaBorg Boston
Where to Stay: Homewood Suites by Hilton Boston / Woburn
Tree Lighting in Boston
Boston’s official Christmas tree, which hails from Nova Scotia, will be lit on the evening of November 30, 2023, followed by the lighting of nearly 80 other trees throughout the Boston Common and Public Garden. But that’s not the only place you can see holiday lights in Boston! Other displays include:
- The photogenic trellis in Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park will be lit for the season on Monday, November 20, 2023, at 5:00 PM
- The Faneuil Hall Marketplace tree lighting takes place on Tuesday, November 21, 2023, from 4:00 – 7:00 PM
- The Annual Ship Lighting in Martin’s Park will be on Saturday, November 25, 2023, from 4:00 – 6:00 PM. This family-friendly event features hot cocoa, caroling, and holiday fun as the wooden play ship at Martin’s Park is illuminated with blue and white lights.
- The Commonwealth Avenue Mall lighting will be on Thursday, November 30, 2023, at 8:00 PM with the lighting of trees up and down Commonwealth Avenue.
- Light Up Seaport takes place on Friday, December 1, 2023, from 5:00 – 9:00 PM at the Seaport Common, featuring holiday tunes, a celeb appearance by Betty the Yeti, and more.
- The Seaport Menorah lighting is on Sunday, December 10, 2023, from 6:00 – 7:30 PM with a 9-foot-tall Menorah.
Things to do Nearby: Ice skating on the Frog Pond in the Boston Common, see The Nutcracker at Citizens Bank Opera House from November 24 – December 31, 2023, or Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical at the Boch Center from November 24 – 26, 2023.
Where to Stay: The Newbury Boston (and splurge on a room with a wood-burning fireplace!)
Boston Holiday Lights Trolley Tour
Jump on the Old Town Trolley Boston Holiday Lights and Festive Sights Trolley Tour to see Boston’s festive locations and beautiful light displays. You will hear stories of Boston’s past and present holidays from a costumed character guide and pass by Beacon Hill, Charles Street, Faneuil Hall, Frog Pond, and more from the comfort of a heated double-decker trolley.
The tour includes a stop at Boston Common to take photos by the ice rink and Christmas tree and along the way you will enjoy a marshmallow-filled hot chocolate and cookie. The tour ends with a gift bag and a souvenir to take home.
Things to do Nearby: Columbus Park Trellis, Faneuil Hall Christmas tree, New England Aquarium, or a North End food tour.
Where to Stay: Boston Marriott Long Wharf
Snowport in the Boston Seaport
The Holiday Market at Snowport in the Boston Seaport features over 120 makers for all your holiday gift shopping. There is also a tree market for locals looking for a real tree, a winter wish wall, and festive decor throughout, including a mistletoe arch.
Make an evening of it with a custom cocktail bar from Tuscan Kitchen and savory and sweet bites from over a dozen chefs. The Holiday Market is held Monday-Thursday from 3:00 pm – 8:00 pm, Friday-Saturday from 11:00 am – 9:00 pm, and Sundays from 11:00 am – 8:00 pm from November 10 through December 31, 2023. Just note that the market is closed for Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and December 26th.
Things to do Nearby: Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston Children’s Museum, Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum
Festival of Lights at Edaville
Edaville Family Theme Park in Carver, home to Thomas Land, has been a favorite for families and train enthusiasts for decades but in the winter it puts on one of New England’s oldest Christmas traditions. Festival of Lights at Edaville features steam trains, 250,000+ Christmas lights, food, local businesses and crafters, visit from Santa, vintage amusement rides, and more.
Festival of Lights is open Thursdays through Sundays from November 9 through December 31, 2023 (but closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.) Hours are Thursdays 4:00-8:00 pm, Fridays 4:00-9:00 pm, Saturdays 2:00-9:00 pm, and Sundays 2:00-8:00 pm. Space is limited so buy your tickets online in advance!
Things to do Nearby: Plimoth Pawtuxet Museums, downtown Plymouth
Where to Stay: John Carver Inn, Plymouth (with an indoor pool and slide)
Gardens Aglow, Heritage Museum & Gardens
Note: Gardens Aglow is sold out for 2023! Heritage Museums & Gardens in Sandwich hosts an annual Gardens Aglow event each year from late November through December 23rd. Gardens Aglow features beautiful light displays throughout the Gardens and fun activities.
Visitors can see Santa at the J.K. Lilly III Automobile Gallery in a 1913 Ford Model T and check out Heritage’s antique car collection. At the American Art & Carousel Gallery, you can take a ride on the 1908 Looff carousel and view winter scenes from the Currier & Ives collection.
Outside, stroll through the lighted gardens, roast marshmallows, go on a reindeer scavenger hunt, and enjoy seasonal treats from Lilly’s Café and the Cape Cod Donut Truck. Little ones will enjoy playing with giant building blocks, trying out lawn games, and watching the model train display. Warm up at the fire table. Just remember to purchase your tickets early!
You can also pay extra for a VIP Experience with Santa, which includes early bird parking, a meet and greet with Santa, story time, a holiday sing-along, craft making, and cookies and hot chocolate.
Things to do Nearby: see things to do on Cape Cod in the off-season
Where to Stay: Sea Crest Beach Hotel
Polar Express on Cape Cod Railroad
The Polar Express on the Cape Cod Central Railroad leaves from Buzzards Bay for a 90-minute round trip train ride. Passengers will relive the magic of the classic story by Chris Van Allsburg on a train ride set to the sounds of the motion picture soundtrack.
Once onboard, the conductor will punch golden tickets for each child and dancing chefs and waiters will perform while Christmas carols play, followed by a reading of the classic children’s book, The Polar Express.
Santa and his elves board the train at the North Pole to greet passengers and each guest is given the first gift of Christmas. Each child will take home a keepsake sleigh bell and souvenir golden ticket. Delicious hot chocolate and Walker’s Shortbread cookies are the official onboard treat, served to each passenger during the ride.
Where to Stay: Hampton Inn Cape Cod Canal
Holly Folly in Provincetown
Holly Folly is Provincetown’s annual LGBTQ+ holiday-themed festival, taking place December 1 through 3, 2023. The signature event is the Jingle Bell Run, where guys dressed in Santa hats and Speedos run through town. The entire weekend is filled with shoping and entertainment with a holiday market, Champagne Brunch, dance parties, sing-alongs, and drag bingo.
Be sure to also take in the lights of the Pilgrim Monument and the Provincetown Lobster Pot Christmas tree!
Things to do Nearby: Shop in downtown Provincetown or the month-long Holiday Market at The Canteen, Holly Folly Gallery Stroll
Where to Stay: White Porch Inn
Nantucket Christmas stroll Marketplace
On Saturday, December 2, 2023 from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm, the Christmas Stroll Marketplace is set up at the foot of Main Street in Nantucket. If you need an excuse to plan a winter island weekend getaway, here is your chance.
Enjoy yummy food and beverages as you shop from a selection of handcrafted gifts and merchandise sold by local businesses and non-profit organizations. You can also visit the Festival of Trees at the Whaling Museum, designed by community members, local merchants, nonprofit organizations, artists, artisans, and schoolchildren.
Things to do Nearby: Whaling Museum, Nantucket Lightship Basket Museum, Cisco Brewers
Where to Stay: Brass Lantern Inn
Lights On Festival Taunton
Taunton has been putting on a holiday light show on the town green since 1914, earning the town the nickname of “The Christmas City.” The Lights On Festival takes place on Saturday, December 2, 2023, from 3:00 to 8:00 pm on the historic Taunton Green.
This annual celebration features live entertainment and activities at more than 30 entertainment sites within the downtown neighborhood. Even after the Festival and Tree Lighting, you can enjoy the holiday lights display through New Years Day (parking is free downtown nights & weekends). You can also take complimentary photos with Santa on Fridays, Saturdays & Sundays from 5:00 to 8:00 pm on the Taunton Green. Victorian Carolers also stroll the Taunton Green on weekend evenings.
Where to Stay: Hampton Inn Raynham-Taunton
La Sallete Shrine Festival of Lights
For a more religious celebration, visit the National Shrine at Our Lady of La Salette in Attleboro. The Festival of Lights features over 300,000 twinkling lights that will surely amaze the whole family. This religious lights display also features a creche museum, religious store, food court, kids activities, and more.
Things to do Nearby: Emerald Square Mall, Wrentham Village outlets, ice skating at Patriot Place
Where to Stay: Hampton Inn and Suites North Attleboro
Night Lights at New England Botanic Garden
The New England Botanic Garden at Tower Hill in Boylston puts on a Night Lights: Starry Skies light display unlike any other from November 24 through December 31, 2023 from 4:00 to 10:00 pm daily. The event includes s’mores, seasonal drinks, a model train, shopping for holiday gifts, and fun photo opportunities.
Things to do Nearby: Skiing and snow tubing at Ski Ward, Worcester Art Museum, Eco-Tarium
Where to Stay: The Rose Cottage Bed and Breakfast
Winter Wonderland at Southwick’s Zoo
From November 18 through December 31, 2023, Southwick’s Zoo in Mendon is transformed into a Winter Wonderland featuring four million illuminated holiday lights and handcrafted displays. This holiday spectacle includes dining, shopping, and charming performances by the Queen of Arrendelle and the Spirit Queen. You can even meet St. Nicholas in Santa’s Barn.
Things to do Nearby: Purgatory Chasm, holiday shows at the Stadium Theater in Woonsocket, Wrentham Village Outlets.
Where to Stay: Residence Inn by Marriott Boston Franklin
Christmas by Candlelight at Old Sturbridge Village
During Christmas by Candlelight at Old Sturbridge Village, visitors can stroll through the decorated village and along the Christmas Tree Trail. As a living history museum, costumed historians provide baking demonstrations, tell stories, and demonstrate classic Christmas projects.
The event also includes live music, sweet treats, model train displays, and horse-drawn carryall rides, and photos with Old Saint Nicholas and Mrs. Claus. Christmas by Candlelight takes place on November 24-26 and December 1-3, 8-10, 15-17, 22-23, 27-30, 2023.
Where to Stay: Old Sturbridge Inn & Reeder Family Lodges
Christmas in Worcester
The City of Worcester is festively decorated for holiday strolls with shopping, entertainment, and holiday treats. The Festival of Lights celebration kicks off with the Annual Tree Lighting on the Worcester Common on Friday, December 1, 2023 from 4:30-9 p.m.
This is a fun evening for all ages including special lighting displays, food trucks and vendors, carriage rides around the Common, live performances throughout the night from Worcester Public schools choral groups, Los Cantores De La Montaña, and dance performances with fire and LED lights curated by Cirque de Light. Top it off with ice skating on the 12,000 sq. ft. Worcester Common Oval in the heart of downtown under festival lights and a visit from Santa with face painting, balloon animals, and more.
There is also a community-wide Hanukkah Event at Polar Park on December 14, 2023 and a Holiday Stroll through the Canal District of December 2nd.
Things to do Nearby: Eco-Tarium, Worcester Art Museum, Wormtown Brewery
Where to Stay: AC Hotel Worcester
Red Apple Farm Winter Lights
Red Apple Farm, in Phillipston, home to some of the best apple cider donuts in the state, puts on a Winter Lights display with more than 200,000 lights throughout its orchard including a “unicorn tunnel.” The restaurant and Cidery is open offer a full menu of hot drinks, beer, cider, and wood-fired pizza to be enjoyed around the bonfires. Winter Lights takes place from November 24 to December 31, 2023.
Things to do Nearby: Wachusett Mountain skiing
Where to Stay: Great Wolf Lodge New England
Snowland at Great Wolf Lodge
Snowland at the Great Wolf Lodge runs from late November through early January each year and is more than just holiday-theming throughout the resort. You can reserve a specially decorated Snowland Suite, arrange a milk and cookie delivery from Wiley the Wolf, and enjoy festive Snowland activities.
There are also Character Appearances from Wiley and Violet, the Great Forest Friends Show, animal balloons, Yoga Tails, storytime, crafts, and photos with Santa. Each night kids gather in the lobby in their PJs for story time or the Forest Friends show with a special surprise of snow at the end.
Things to do Nearby: Skiing at Wachusett Mountain
Christmas Village at Yankee Candle
The Yankee Candle store in Deerfield is the original location and it is more than a retail store, it is a destination. You can shop for the newest fragrances and familiar favorites, along with home décor accessories. There is also a cafe, hot wax studio for candle making and other art projects, along with a full Christmas Village.
Things to do Nearby: Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, Dr. Seuss Museum, and other things to do near Springfield
Where to Stay: Deerfield Inn
Christmas in Stockbridge
This charming New England village is the real-life inspiration behind Norman Rockwell’s painting, “Stockbridge Main Street at Christmas (Home for Christmas).” Stockbridge, which was established in 1773 as a stagecoach stop, is that quintessential Christmas town decorated with holiday wreaths and festive lights for the season.
On the first weekend in December, the town pays homage to Norman Rockwell’s idyllic depiction of village life during the holidays with a reenactment of the spirit of Norman Rockwell’s famous holiday scene Stockbridge Main Street at Christmas.
Roger the Jester and the Victorian Carolers perform on one end of the street while horse drawn rides, a Makers Market, children’s crafts and visits with Santa take place on the other end.
Things to do Nearby: Norman Rockwell Museum, The Mount, Namkeug, Hancock Shaker Village, skiing at Jiminy Peak
Where to Stay: Red Lion Inn
Feature photo: Trail of trees, image credit Debbie Segreve.
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Tamara Gruber is the Founder and Publisher of We3Travel. A former marketing executive and travel advisor, Tamara is an award-winning travel writer and recognized expert in family travel. She is also the publisher of YourTimetoFly and the co-host of the Vacation Mavens travel podcast.