A Rhode Island Christmas is magical, especially when our finicky New England weather cooperates and delivers a White Christmas. From light displays to annual holiday events, to traditional shows, we know how to make Christmas in Rhode Island special and get you into the spirit of the season.
No matter if you prefer to spend your time indoors or out, there are many Christmas events in Rhode Island to keep you occupied through the New Year. Gather your family and friends and partake in one of the events below and perhaps start a new holiday tradition in the process!
Providence Area Holiday Events
1. Three Nights of Lights
In early December, this three-day festival with citywide light-themed events kicks off the Christmas season in Providence. The highlight is three evenings of WaterFire, Providence’s signature arts event, featuring a series of bonfires illuminating downtown’s rivers.
The Avenue Concept adds to the experience with a nighttime public art gallery with illumination, sound, and cultural experiences at murals and sculptures throughout Downtown.
There are also ice skating performances presented by FirstWorks. From tree lightings to holiday shopping events, the city will be aglow with warm light and holiday cheer. Each of the three nights of the WaterFire Holiday Celebration will feature Holiday ArtMart vendors and food trucks offering seasonal treats. One night Santa will even arrive at Santa’s Village by boat.
This three-day festival will also include the annual tree lighting in front of City Hall and a Maker’s Market at The Graduate Providence.
2. A Christmas Carol- Trinity Rep
From early November through Christmas, A Christmas Carol returns to Trinity Rep for its annual run. A popular Christmas tradition, Trinity Rep dazzles audiences each year with the story of the infamous Ebenezer Scrooge and Tiny Tim. All ages will enjoy this classic holiday tale on stage.
3. Festival Ballet Providence Presents The Nutcracker
Dazzling sets, enchanting music, and beautiful choreography all come together in the crown jewel of the holiday season with the timeless holiday story of The Nutcracker. Watch in awe as this holiday tradition comes to life on stage for the whole family’s merriment.
This family-friendly production features a tree that grows 38 feet, a charming Nutcracker character designed by Big Nazo Lab, clever magic tricks, vibrant and shimmering costumes, and dozens of delightful young dancers that perform alongside the Festival Balley Providence Company of world-class resident artists.
4. Holiday Lights Spectacular at the Roger Williams Park Zoo
From late November through January 1st, the Roger Williams Park Zoo transforms into a holiday wonderland with a dazzling light display throughout the Zoo. Visitors walk through 40 acres of festive larger-than-life luminous displays and over 3.5 million illuminated lights to brighten the holiday season.
Open rain or shine, this walkthrough Holiday Lights Spectacular is available with a timed-entry ticket only, which can be purchased online. The event is held nightly from 5:00 – 9:30 pm but is closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Santa will even be at the Spectacular on select Thursday nights in December through Christmas.
5. Ice Skating & Bumper Cars at the BankNewport City Center
While not particularly unique to Christmas, ice skating or bumper cars at the BankNewport City Center rink in Downtown Providence is one of my favorite things to do in Rhode Island in winter.
Providence is the third city in the country, the first in New England, and the first outdoor rink to offer ice bumper cars. Just be sure to make timed reservations very far in advance because tickets sell out fast.
6. HOliday Photos at the Lippitt House
After a holiday-themed visit to the Lippitt House, you can experience what it would be like during the Victorian era at Christmastime and have professional photos taken of your family or friends. The beautiful, historic holiday settings makes a perfect backdrop for holiday greeting cards.
Each group will receive a Victorian-themed take-home activity kit as a thank you gift. Two edited images will be emailed after the photo session. Reservations must be made in advance.
7. PVD Artisans Holiday Show
The WaterFire Arts Center is the host of the PVD Artisans Market on November 13, 2022, and Saturday and Sunday, December 17 and 18, 2022. The Artisans Market kicks off the holiday shopping season with 80 local artists exhibiting handmade works including paintings, ceramics, jewelry, photography, clothing, accessories, mixed media, and more. Make a day of it with lunch from the food trucks outside.
8. Holiday ArtMart
Shop Small Business Saturday at the WaterFire Arts Center! Enjoy live music while you shop and bites from local food trucks while searching for locally-made gifts for everyone on your list. The Holiday ArtMart is an indoor art market featuring local artists across a broad spectrum of fine art and craft mediums. Visitors are welcome to bring an unwrapped toy for the WaterFire Holiday Toy Drive as well.
9. Holiday Market at the WaterFire Arts Center
The Holiday Market at the WaterFire Arts Center is sponsored by the Fine Furnishings Show and is a two-day shopping event with holiday decor and thousands of gift items for everyone on your gift list. The Holiday Market will be held December 3 & 4, 2022 at the WaterFire Arts Center, 475 Valley St, Providence, RI.
10. Handel’s Messiah
In early December, the Providence Singers pair with the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra for a moving performance of Handel’s Messiah at The Vets.
Northern Rhode Island Holiday Events
1. An Old Fashioned Christmas at Hearthside House
If you ever wondered what Christmas was like during the colonial era, then a visit to the Hearthside House Museum is the perfect place for you. Here you will find three floors of this 200-year-old mansion decorated for the holidays.
An Old-Fashioned Christmas takes place during the first two weekends in December. During this event, families can meet Santa (and take some photos) to remember the moment. Festive musical entertainment and refreshments are also provided.
During the last weekend in December, the house will still be decorated for the holidays and visitors can experience both the history and the decorations in this “candlelight” tour by our docents in period attire.
2. Pawtucket Winter Wonderland
Slater Park is transformed into a winter wonderland for the whole family to enjoy. The display is made up of 650 Christmas trees decorated by their sponsor families, 20 Victorian houses sponsored by local businesses, large light displays both on land and in the trees.
You can walk down The Night before Christmas Lane and look through the windows of the houses to see scenes from the story on display and push the button to hear the story. There is an 18-foot-tall talking snowman, Santa’s reindeer stable, and Mrs. Claus kitchen to explore. During the festival nights for a small fee for hayrides, children’s train rides, and the carousal. In the entertainment tent there is free entertainment provided by talented students and adults from local area. The Food tent has hot dogs, hot chocolate, snacks and cookies for sale all at very reasonable prices.
3. The Polar Express
Hop on board the historic Blackstone Valley Train for a three-hour journey that brings Chris Van Allsburg’s Christmas classic to life. Storytelling, sing-a-longs, games, scrumptious cookies, and delicious hot cocoa make this event a true delight for children. Santa himself even delivers the first gift of the season to each child aboard (a silver bell of course)!
In addition to the 90-minute train ride to view the North Pole, the fun starts outside of the depot with a stage show, photo opportunities with the characters, and children’s activities that are sure to fill everyone with the spirit of Christmas!
The Polar Express departs from Woonsocket and trips run on weekends from mid-November through Christmas with two shows a day.
4. Annual Scituate Village Candlelight Stroll
For the first four Thursdays in December, Chepachet Village offers candlelight shopping all along Main Street from 5:00 to 9:00 pm. Local shops are decorated for the season and the streets glow with antique street lights.
The sounds of holiday music add to the old-fashioned ambiance that folks have enjoyed for many years. Chepachet Village Wine & Spirits also offers photo opportunities with Santa and his reindeer all throughout December and the town’s annual Christmas Tree Light Ceremony takes place on the first Thursday of December at the Pavilion at Kent Field.
5. Blackstone River Theater Holiday Craft Fair & Festival
The Blackstone River Theater Holiday Craft Fair and Festival lets you shop local while supporting the theater and local home-based businesses. Taking place on the first Saturday in December, there are 24 vendors on site between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. The event will also feature continuous live music.
6. Stadium Theater
The Stadium Theater in Woonsocket rings in the holidays with many performances from late November through Christmas including a Trans-Siberian Orchestra Tribute band, The Nutcracker Ballet, A Charlie Brown Christmas, and The Carpenters Tribute Christmas Show.
Newport Area Holiday Events
1. Night Lights at Blithewold
On Wednesday through Saturday nights from late November through January 1st, the grounds of Blithwold Mansion transform into a winter wonderland. Guests walk through beautifully lit paths throughout the grounds to enjoy stunning custom light displays, handmade bamboo ornaments, and all the beauty that Blithewold’s gardens and arboretum have to offer.
Guests can also enjoy non-alcoholic cider, hot chocolate, hot coffee, and some hot drinks with a kick, which are provided by RI Cruisin’ Cocktails. The Mansion is closed during this program.
2. Christmas at Blithewold
Every year, Blithewold transforms into a dazzling display celebrating the magic of Christmas. This year’s Christmas theme, “A Day in the Life,” will provide insights into the interests of the family and the household staff all throughout the mansion
3. Christmas in Newport
A month-long celebration, each day boasts a new event or activity such as walking tours, craft fairs, and museum visits. Downtown Newport is transformed with clear bulbs that are meant to replicate candles, which brings back memories of the candlelit holiday of the past.
Bowen’s Wharf even has a tree lighting and stores have special promotions just in time for the holiday shopping season. The enormous tree is lit promptly at 6:00 – the official beginning of the holiday season at Bowen’s Wharf! Santa and Mrs. Claus motor into Bowen’s Basin by boat (weather permitting) eager to listen to every child’s wish.
4. Christmas at the Newport Mansions
Three Newport National Historic Landmarks and iconic homes of the Gilded Age are decorated for the holidays and open for tours. Poinsettias, gingerbread houses, 30-foot Christmas trees, period china, and silver are displayed in a grand manner. Prepare to step back in time and celebrate the holidays in style. See my full post about things to do in Newport in the winter.
5. Newport Nutcracker at Rosecliff
Rosecliff Mansion offers a unique and interactive twist on an old favorite. Guests will follow the main character through the fabulous rooms of the Mansion as she celebrates the holiday season with her family, battles the Mouse King, dances with the Snow Queen, and travels with her beloved Nutcracker to the magical Land of Sweets.
The first act of this unique performance is an experiential journey where guests walk and stand to watch the story unfold. The second act then unfolds in the Land of the Sweets, in the grand ballroom, where guests are assigned table seating. The performance is approximately 2 hours in length including the intermission.
6. Sparkling Lights at The Breakers
One of Newport’s newest Christmas attractions is the Sparkling Lights at The Breakers Mansion. On Thursday through Sunday evenings from late November through Christmas and daily from December 26 through January 1st The Breakers lights up for the holidays. Visitors can stroll through a dazzling 50-foot-long tunnel of light and along a half-mile-long path glittering with hundreds of thousands of holiday lights while friendly gnomes point the way and music fills the winter air.
Sparkling Lights include illuminated snowmen, reindeer and many more sparkling surprises. Kids will enjoy peeking into Santa’s Workshop inside the Children’s Cottage and families should be sure to get a family photo at the Van”deer”bilt selfie station.
Six fire pits will help visitors stay warm and festive and the back terrace of the mansion will have warming stations and adult beverages including hot chocolate with liqueur, apple cider with bourbon, wine and beer. There are holidays sweets and treats, and even s’mores kits to cook over the fire pit.
7. Christmas at the Linden Place Museum
Gather with friends and family and partake in one of the many holiday-themed events happening at Linden Place. A 200-year-old Gothic-style mansion is transformed for the holidays with decorations, elegant tables, special musical events, and even a visit from the big jolly old elf himself.
December ushers in the annual Artisan Market, fireside Christmas concerts, and holiday jazz.
8. Bright Night at Tiverton Four Corners
In early December, Tiverton Four Corners comes alive with an evening of holiday shopping and special events. Luminaries light the way with an array of shops to visit as well as a special holiday feature presented by the Four Corners Arts Center.
The Annual re-Tree, an outdoor showcase of home-made trees of recycled material created by community members, is a fun and joyful event sponsored by The Tiverton Farmers Market. Shops and restaurants offers special treats, games, prizes, and holiday decor.
9. Coastal Queen’s Candy Cane Express Cruise
The Coastal Queen’s Candy Cane Express Cruise is holiday fun for the kids! The boat ride cruises around Newport Harbor and Narragansett Bay, with appearances by Mrs. Claus to read to the kids while hot chocolate is served.
A candy cane is given to each child as they depart the boat after a 60 minute cruise. The boat departs from 1 East Ferry Wharf in Jamestown at 10:30 am.
Southern Rhode Island Holiday Events
1. Stone Ridge Candlelight Tour
A yearly tradition that spans over 30 years, the neighborhood of Stone Ridge dazzles locals with its holiday light display. Featuring over 3,500 paper bag lanterns and traditional holiday decorations, Rhode Islanders from all over flock to drive through this neighborhood display.
2. Sugar Plum Stroll Nights
In early December, Garden City Center in Cranston hosts an annual Sugar Plum Stroll. The event features a tree lighting with Santa and a Nutcracker Ballet-themed performances by the Festival Ballet.
Shoppers can also visit Santa in his cozy cabin right outside the Garden City Center Gazebo to meet and greet the most holly jolly guy in the neighborhood and get photos with the Big Guy. Reservations are strongly encouraged. Walk-ups are welcome, but will be given a return time upon arrival.
3. Festival of Lights Wickford
The Festival of Lights is a three-day event that begins with Santa arriving by boat at the town dock and culminating with a community chorus performance.
Downtown Wickford is transformed by thousands of twinkling white lights and holiday events happening throughout the three-day festival. Art shows, Smith Castle tours, and hayrides with Santa are just some of the activities planned.
4. Holiday Stroll & Luminaria
Downtown Westerly is lined with luminaria as shoppers enjoy special store promotions, listen to carolers sing, and even take a hayride with Santa. Complimentary hot cocoa and cookies will make your candlelit stroll through downtown complete.
5. Gondola Village at the Ocean House
Experience the magic of the holidays in the French Alps here in Rhode Island. The Ocean House’s North Lawn transforms into a village of fully restored vintage ski gondolas for private dining experiences. Each gondola has been outfitted with warm woods, fine textiles, chandeliers, and sophisticated Le Creuset tableware, surrounded by an enchanting winter wonderland and attended by a private server.
Gondola Village opens in early November and is available for reservations for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and apero.
Nearby Massachusetts Holiday Events
1. La Sallette Festival of Lights
Just over the border in North Attleboro, MA lies LaSallette with 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.
2. Magic of Lights
The Magic of Lights dazzling drive-through experience at Gillette Stadium runs from mid-November through the end of December. The spectacular light displays featuring festive favorites are accompanied by a holiday soundtrack.
Magic of Lights signature displays include the 200-foot long Enchanting Tunnel of Lights, Candy Cane Lane, Toyland, 12 Days of Christmas, Prehistoric Christmas with life-sized dinosaurs celebrating the season and BIGFOOT Monster Truck. Created with nearly one million sparkling lights, Magic of Lights also features a 32-foot tall animated Barbie, as well as dazzling, dancing displays synchronized to popular holiday tunes.
Once the holiday season is over, there is still much fun to have during the winter season here in Rhode Island. Be sure to check out the favorite winter activities in Rhode Island and things to do in Newport in winter to learn how you can keep busy all throughout the winter season here in Little Rhody!
Or, if you are going a little further, plan a weekend getaway at one of these great holiday destinations.
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Note: feature photo credit N.Millard/GoProvidence.com.