The List: 20 Magical Holiday Happenings

Baystateparent Magazine

From dazzling light displays to quaint Christmas festivals, we've rounded up 20 of the most enchanting holiday events for families.

Christmas by Candlelight - Sturbridge

Dec. 3-5, 10-12, 17-19, 23, and 27-30

Christmas by Candlelight at Old Sturbridge Village.

Enjoy the sights of Christmas throughout Old Sturbridge Village while exploring the 200-acre campus decorated for the season. Wander down the peaceful Christmas Tree Trail and across the Christmas Wish Bridge. Take a ride on the horse-drawn carry-all. Enjoy a nightly tree lighting ceremony. View an intricate 500+ piece miniature nativity scene and a model train display. Warm up by the bonfire, visit with Santa Claus, watch demonstrations of classic Christmas projects, enjoy live music and storytelling, and so much more. Tickets are $28 for adults, $14 for youth, and free for children 3 and under. Tickets must be purchased in advance. osv.org

Nantucket Christmas Stroll - Nantucket 

Dec. 3-5

Nantucket Christmas Stroll.

Now in its 47th year, the annual Christmas Stroll embodies the magic of the holiday season with tributes to Christmas's past. Stroll through downtown and take in hundreds of twinkling seven-foot Christmas lining the streets. On Saturday, carolers in costume sing familiar holiday tunes at various downtown locations and a variety of outdoor live entertainment is offered. The event features a visit by Santa Claus, Santa’s Village Marketplace, craft shows, tours, and local specials. christmasstroll.com.

Santa’s Arrival by Lobster Boat - Rockport 

Saturday, Dec. 4 

Santa arrives in Rockport harbor by Lobster boat.

Take in the joy of the holiday season in this quaint, picturesque seaside village. In this cherished North Shore tradition, Santa arrives by lobster boat at Rockport’s T-Wharf following a brisk boat ride across Sandy Bay, then takes a fire truck to the town’s annual tree lighting at Dock Square. Children can visit and take pictures with Santa, and join in holiday caroling. rockportusa.com.

Chain of Lights - Millbury & Sutton

Dec. 4 & 5 

Chain of Lights in Millbury and Sutton.

Neighboring towns of Millbury and Sutton host a weekend of holiday festivities. In this annual small-town tradition, free trolleys bring visitors around town to different “stops” to enjoy themed holiday events like concerts and children’s activities, plus yummy food, shopping and lots of holiday cheer. The fun kicks off in Sutton on Saturday, winding down in the evening with the Christmas tree lighting and a visit from Santa on the quaint town common. On Sunday in Millbury, meet Santa at the historic Asa Waters Mansion, where you can enjoy carolers, dancers, refreshments, and a tree-lighting at dusk. facebook.com/millburychainoflights, suttonchainoflights.weebly.com.

Holiday Pops Kids’ Matinees - Boston 

Dec. 5, 11, 12, 18, 19, 23, and 24 

Boston Holiday Pops.

A kid-friendly Holiday Pops at Boston’s famed Symphony Hall. These special family concerts are shorter in length (75 minutes), with no intermission, a children’s sing-along, plus an opportunity for post-concert treats and a visit with Santa. Kids are encouraged to add their voices to the chorus of holiday favorites like Jingle Bells and Frosty the Snowman. Boston Pops will also offer a sensory-friendly concert on Dec. 5, designed for families with children or adults diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder or sensory sensitivities. Modifications for the performance include relaxed house rules, reduced volume and lighting levels, extra space for movement, available noise-reduction headphones, a designated quiet room and support spaces, and credentialed autism therapist volunteers on site. Tickets range from $25 to $175, children under 2 are free. bso.org.

Door to Door - Worcester 

Dec. 5-31 

Door to Door in Worcester.

This holiday experience organized by Preservation Worcester celebrates each city neighborhood’s unique architecture, history, and culture. Participating locations decorate their front doors in a fashion, faith or custom of their choosing. Each decorated property appears in a digital booklet that includes personal participant statements that convey the inspirations, traditions, and context of their decorations. Use the booklet as a guide for a self-guided tour through the city. More details at preservationworcester.org

Holiday Lights Spectacular at RWPZoo - Providence, RI 

Dec. 2-5; and Dec. 9-Jan. 2 (closed Christmas Eve and Day)

Holiday Lights Spectacular.

Walk through dazzling light displays throughout Roger Williams Park Zoo, featuring festive larger-than-life luminous displays and over 1.5 million illuminated lights. The experience runs 5-9:30 p.m. Tickets are timed-entry and available for purchase online only. Tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for kids with children 1 and under free. rpwzoo.org/holidaylights.

Cirque Dream Holidaze - Boston 

Dec. 10-12

Cirque Dreams Holidaze at the Shubert Theatre.

This annual tradition combines a whimsical, Broadway-style musical with contemporary circus artistry. As lights dim and music plays, a fantastical cast of holiday storybook characters come to life presenting an elaborate wonderland, invoking the stories behind a child’s eye as they dream on the most magical of nights. Ballerinas, nutcrackers, snowmen, penguins, reindeer, ethereal aerialists, gingerbread people, carolers and colossal ornaments fly, balance, juggle and stretch imaginations. Broadway singers perform original music along with new twists on seasonal favorites such as “Deck The Halls,” “Winter Wonderland” and “Jingle Bell Rock.” Cirque Dreams Holidaze is at the Shubert Theatre and tickets start at $49.50. bochcenter.org.

Grinchmas Holiday Stroll - Springfield 

Saturday, Dec. 11 

Grinchmas Holiday Stroll at the Springfield Museums.

Enjoy the stunning architecture and glittering lights of the Springfield Museums and grounds while hobnobbing with your favorite holiday characters. Benches in front of each character allow for safe, socially distanced photography. You’ll have the chance to meet the Grinch, Rudolph, Frosty the Snowman, and Santa. Color a luminaria to add to the lighting display and enjoy holiday music. This event is free and open to the public−museum admission not required. springfieldmuseums.org.

Festival of Trees & Snow Village - Wellesley 

Wednesdays through Sundays, Nov. 26 through Dec. 19 

Festival of Trees.

Celebrate the beauty and tradition of decorated holiday trees at this annual event at the Gardens at Elm Bank. Massachusetts Horticultural Society’s thirteenth Festival of Trees showcases dozens of decorated faux trees and a model railroad display. Visitors will be warmed with a cup of hot chocolate as they arrive. Stroll through the outdoor garden lights, visit Weezie’s Garden for Children, and explore Snow Village, featuring model trains winding their way through villages and vignettes. Take in dozens of beautifully decorated holiday trees, and enter for a chance to win your favorite one. Visit the fire pit on your way out to toast s’mores. Weekday tickets are $15 for adults; members $10. Weekend tickets $23/$18. Kids $5 every day, and children under 2 are free. Timed tickets must be purchased in advance at masshort.org

Winterlights - Stockbridge, North Andover, and Canton 

Wednesdays through Sundays, Nov. 26 through Jan. 9 

The Trustees' Winterlights.

This holiday season, three Trustees' beautiful garden properties sparkle with thousands of shimmering, artfully designed holiday lights. The whole family will enjoy this magical, fun, and safe outdoor experience – with food, refreshments, and more. Winterlights, a walk-through experience, is at Naumkeag in Stockbridge, Stevens-Coolidge House & Gardens in North Andover, and the Eleanor Cabot Bradley Estate in Canton. Tickets are $20 for adults, $10 for kids Wednesday through Sunday (members $15/$5); and $25 for adults, $10 for kids on Friday and Saturday (members $20/$5); children under 2 are free. Timed tickets must be purchased in advance at thetrustees.org.

Gardens Aglow - Sandwich 

Gardens Aglow at Heritage Museums and Gardens.

Thursdays through Sundays through Dec. 26 (closed Christmas Eve and Day)

A treasured holiday tradition at Heritage Museum and Gardens featuring beautiful light displays throughout the gardens, festive seasonal décor, and fun activities for all. Stroll the gardens, visit Santa in a 1913 Ford Model T, see an exhibit of Heritage’s antique and classic car collection, and ride the 1908 Looff Carousel. Children will enjoy the Imagination Playground, a reindeer scavenger hunt, roasting marshmallows, lawn games and an outdoor G-scale model train display. Ice carving demonstrations take place on Thursdays. General admission: Adults $20 youth $10, children under 2 free; members $18/$9. heritagemuseumsandgardens.org.

Magic of Lights at Gillette - Foxborough 

Daily, Nov. 19 through Dec. 24

Magic of Lights at Gillette Stadium.

This drive-through experience featuring dazzling themed light displays and digital animations returns to Foxborough for the second time after a record-breaking first stint in 2020. Pack the kids into the car to enjoy the nearly one million sparkling lights in this nostalgic holiday experience. Accompanied by a festive soundtrack, brand-new light displays include Prehistoric Christmas, BigFoot, Monster Trucks and a Snow Flurry Tunnel, as well as Magic of Lights favorites. The all-new Illuminating Mega Trees boasts 40 feet of dancing lights synchronized to popular holiday tunes. Gillette Stadium hosts Magic of Lights daily from 5 p.m. until 10 p.m. through Friday, Dec. 24. Tickets are $40 per vehicle, and must be purchased in advance at magicoflights.com/foxborough

Bright Nights at Forest Park - Springfield 

Daily through Jan. 2 (closed Nov. 29 & 30) 

Bright Nights at Forest Park.

More than 6 million visitors have taken in the “Bright Nights” at Springfield’s Forest Park. Load up the car for this annual attraction, featured on People.com’s list of “Top Ten Holiday Happenings in America.” The nearly three-mile tour features more than 650,000 glittering lights. The display is always evolving, so you’ll see familiar favorites and new additions every year.  Bright Nights runs daily from 5-9 p.m., and until 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Tickets are $23 per car, and must be purchased in advance at brightnights.org.

Holiday in the Park Lights - Agawam 

Daily, Nov. 24 through Jan. 2 (closed holidays) 

Holidays in the Park at Six Flags New England.

Take a stroll through Six Flags New England and immerse yourself in one of the countless electrifying light displays, synchronized to your favorite holiday tunes. Gather around a crackling holiday fire pit to cook s’mores and indulge in a cup of hot chocolate. Enjoy a nightly tree lighting and meet your favorite holiday characters. Explore Santa’s workshop, Polar Playground, Jingle Bell Junction and Candy Cane Crossing. Family and children’s rides make it a thrilling, festive night. Tickets start at $14.95. sixflags.com.

Night Lights - West Boylston 

Daily, Nov. 26 through Dec. 30 (closed Christmas Eve and Day)

Night Lights at Tower Hill Botanic Garden.

Celebrate the season with thousands of lights and enchanting landscapes at Tower Hill Botanic Garden. Enjoy a walking experience outdoors through roughly 15 acres of formal gardens and surrounding woodlands, including illuminated plants, paths, sculptures, and fountains. The magical scene is enhanced with fire pits for warming up, making s’mores, or enjoying a cup of hot cocoa or an adult beverage. Timed entry tickets must be reserved online in advance, adults $23, youth $13, children 5 and under free. towerhillbg.org.

ZooLights at Stone Zoo - Stoneham 

Daily, Nov. 19 through Jan. 9 (closed holidays) 

ZooLights at Stone Zoo.

Enter a winter wonderland of tree-lined paths lit by thousands of twinkling lights. Take a one-way stroll through festively decorated Yukon Creek, home to black bears, bald eagle, Canada lynx, reindeer and arctic foxes. Enjoy a moonlit spin on our carousel and Jungle Fun ride. New this year, several illuminated large-scale lantern displays will light up your winter's night. On Tuesdays, meet Mrs. Claus as she spreads holiday cheer through the Zoo from 6-9 p.m. Tickets are $13.95 per person, or a 4-pack for $50; members $12.95/$45; children under 2 are free. Buy tickets in advance at zoonewengland.org

La Salette Shrine Festival of Lights - Attleboro 

Daily through Jan. 2 

La Salette Shrine Holiday Lights.

Marvel at thousands of twinkly lights at this storied light display, free and open to the public each night from 5-9 p.m. Other holiday attractions include the International Creche Museum, a snack bar with hot cocoa and cider, Clopper the Donkey and a carousel. Check the website for COVID guidelines. lasaletteattleboroshrine.org.

Celebration of Lights - Lancaster & Waltham 

Daily, Nov. 26 through Jan. 2 

Celebration of Lights.

Two drive-through holiday light experiences return to the Bay State: the Lancaster Celebration of Lights at the Bolton Fairgrounds in Lancaster, and the Greater Boston Celebration of Lights at the former Fernald School in Waltham. At each, visitors will be treated to over a mile-long dazzling display featuring over one million glittering lights and animatronic scenes. In Lancaster, a 90-foot Christmas tree and giant 85-foot wreath will also light up the night. Tickets are $21.99 per car Monday through Thursday, $24.99 weekends and holidays, and must be purchased in advance online. fiestashows.com.

Winter Wonderland Festival of Illumination - Mendon

Daily through Jan. 2 

Winter Wonderland and Festival of Illumination at Southwick's Zoo.

Southwick’s Zoo transforms their Chinese lantern Festival of Illumination into a drive-through Winter Wonderland experience this season. The Chinese Lantern Festival is a centuries-old tradition, celebrated beginning in 206 B.C. featuring spectacular illuminated displays from history and mythology; the displays are incredibly detailed and intricately constructed, with some lanterns as large as 60 feet tall and 300 feet in length. Before or after driving through, park your car and hop on a train tram that will drop you off at Santa’s Village. Meet Santa Claus, enjoy live entertainment, grab some yummy treats, and more. Tickets are $60 per car and must be purchased in advance. southwickszoo.com.