This Season's Best Holiday Happenings

Staff Writer
Baystateparent Magazine

Ready to get into the holiday spirit? If you’re looking for a dose of cheer (food, shopping, family-friendly activities, and maybe even a glimpse of Santa), check out one of these seasonal celebrations. From dazzling light displays to quaint Christmas festivals, here’s your look at all the festive fun.

Bright Nights, Springfield

Daily, November 21-January 1 (closed November 26 & 27)

More than 3.8 million visitors have taken in the “Bright Nights” at Springfield’s Forest Park. With nearly three miles of lighting displays, this attraction has been named one of the Top 100 Attractions in North America by the American Bus Association and on’s “Top Ten Holiday Happenings in America.” The display is always evolving, featuring fun new sights like “Jurassic World” or “Seuss Land.”

Festival of Trees & Snow Village, Wellesley

Daily, November 23-December 9

Massachusetts Horticultural Society’s Festival of Trees showcases dozens of decked out trees plus decorated building and grounds at The Gardens at Elm Bank. Enchanting displays with model trains winding through villages and vignettes, including Christmas in the City (Boston of course!), Fenway Park, and hundreds of decorated houses and lights await guests in the Snow Village. This amazing scenery in miniature is sure to get kids excited about the holiday season. Visits with Santa round out this holiday hit for all ages.

Winter Reimagined, Boylston

Tuesday through Sunday, November 23-December 30

Day Lights: Wednesday through Sunday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.

Celebrate the season with thousands of lights, new experiences, and enchanting landscapes at this annual event at Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston. Explore patterns in nature with mesmerizing displays. Enjoy s’mores, seasonal drinks, and fun photo opportunities while creating memories for the whole family. Visitors of all backgrounds are invited to celebrate the season at this inclusive, secular event. It includes two unique experiences: Day Lights (the day time experience) and Night Lights (the evening experience). Families with children will enjoy the scavenger hunts, the model train, discovery backpacks, hands-on Library activities, and more.

Winterlights, Stockbridge & North Andover

At Naumkeag, Thursday through Sunday evenings, November 23-December 30. At The Stevens-Coolidge Place, Thursday through Sunday evenings, November 29-December 30.

Be among the first to take in Winterlights, an immersive, all-LED light installation and event series premiering this holiday season in the gardens of two of The Trustees’ most popular historic homes: Naumkeag in Stockbridge and The Stevens-Coolidge Place in North Andover. Along with gardens illuminated with thousands of shimmering holiday lights, both properties will offer accompanying events with special guests, live music and more. Kids will delight in visits from Santa, a Frozen themed night, and plenty of children’s activities. Warming seasonal refreshments will also be available for purchase at both properties.

ZooLights at the Stone Zoo, Stoneham

Daily, November 23-December 31 (Closed December 24)

Christmas lights and animals? What more could a kid want? ZooLights dazzles visitors of all ages each holiday season. Stroll along tree-lined paths lit by thousands of twinkling lights. Visit black bears, Smoky and Bubba, in the festively decorated area around their exhibit. Stroll through the beautifully lit Yukon Creek and see bald eagles, Canada lynx, arctic foxes and reindeer. Children can meet the reindeer up close and visit with Santa.

Boston Common Holiday Tree Lighting, Boston

Thursday, November 29

Each year an enormous Christmas tree, gifted to Boston from Nova Scotia, makes its way from way up north to the city’s Common where it’s decorated with thousands of glittering lights. Enjoy free ice skating on the Frog Pond, refreshments, music and entertainment before the Mayor (joined by Santa, of course) flicks on the lights, illuminating the city’s special tree, along with nearly 100 more throughout the Common and Public Garden. The show closes with a special fireworks display over the Common.

Main Street at Christmas, Stockbridge

Friday through Sunday, November 30-December 2

The town of Stockbridge, made famous by Norman Rockwell’s painting of the village during the holidays, becomes a magical New England setting decorated with holiday wreaths and festive lights, as the town celebrates Stockbridge Main Street at Christmas. The holiday celebration offers a full range of activities, with highlights including holiday readings, house tours, caroling, and a holiday concert. Capping off the weekend is a recreation on Sunday of the scene depicted in Main Street at Christmas, complete with vintage automobiles parked in the spots occupied in the painting. Activities include horse drawn rides, a visit from Santa, Roger the Jester, lunch at the Christmas Food Booth and more.

Christmas Stroll, Nantucket

Friday through Sunday, November 30-December 2

Main Street shuts down to traffic for this annual weekend kick off to Noel, Nantucket style. Costumed carolers, craft shows, live performances spread out through the downtown, where the streets are illuminated by hundreds of decorated, seven-foot Christmas trees. On Saturday, Nantucket Town Crier, in full regalia, will ring in Christmas Stroll, and then lead everyone to the wharves to meet Santa and Mrs. Claus, who arrive via Coast Guard Cutter, walk down the wharf, and then ride into downtown to meet with children. Be sure to stop by the Nantucket Whaling Museum, which is transformed into a glittering winter wonderland, with the month-long Festival of Trees showcasing more than 80 Christmas trees designed and adorned with unique decorations.

Christmas by Candlelight at Old Sturbridge Village, Sturbridge

Saturday and Sunday evenings November 30 – December 23, with a bonus night on Thursday, December 20

Enjoy an evening filled with New England holiday traditions, live musical performances, storytelling, sleigh rides, festive foods, a roaring bonfire, and strolls around the decorated Village Common. Stroll through the living history museum by the glow of candlelight. Catch the nightly tree lighting and marvel at dozens of delicately gingerbread houses.

Santa’s Arrival and Tree Lighting, Rockport

Saturday, December 1

Where else can you see Santa arrive by lobster boat? After a brisk ride across Sandy Bay, Santa will arrive at Rockport’s T-Wharf on Rockport Harbor, then ride into town by firetruck. Before lighting the Christmas tree, he’ll visit with children, then climb back onto the fire truck to begin his long return journey to the North Pole.

White Christmas, West Brookfield

Saturday, December 2

The historic town of West Brookfield, tucked away in the Quaboag Hills of Central Massachusetts, celebrates the season in classic small-town New England style during the day-long White Christmas celebration. Streets glow with twinkling white lights while the picturesque Town Common hosts a tree lighting and free hayrides and hot chocolate. A Christmas concert, open houses, shopping, and an Elf Hunt for kids round out the annual event.

Chain of Lights, Millbury & Sutton

Saturday and Sunday, December 2-3

Each town takes a turn hosting a celebration of the holiday season. Take a free trolley ride to locations all around town, where family-friendly holiday happenings take place all day long. This is a quaint, local tradition where community organizations and businesses host “stops” with all sorts of holiday-themed fun.

Christmas Stroll Weekend, Rockport

Saturday and Sunday, December 8-9.

Holiday fairs and shows, strolling musicians, and more through downtown Rockport. Take part in the Art Gallery Stroll, a popular tradition and fun introduction to Rockport’s galleries, studios, artists, and artisans. Catch a brass band Christmas concert, make ornaments and sip hot cocoa at Rockport’s oldest working farm, take a pony or hay ride, stop into storytime and more.