Thanks to the 1945 movie, “Christmas in Connecticut,” people associate Christmas in this New England state with snow-dusted rolling farm land, woodlands, and sleigh rides. The reality isn’t far off, depending on which town or city you choose to settle in for the holiday season. Whether you want to treat your family to a typical country Christmas or experience the city’s holiday action, staying in one of many beautiful Connecticut vacation rentals is the way to have an unforgettable holiday. Here are the best Christmas getaways in this state.
One of the biggest cities in Connecticut and also the capital, Hartford offers an astonishing array of Christmas activities, including Winterfest at Bushnell Park. Lace up your ice skates for free skating every day of the week or, better yet, take advantage of free skate rentals. If you’re not confident in your ability to stay vertical on ice and metal blades, opt for free lessons on Saturday mornings that are also available for children above the age of four. As long as you’re hanging out in Hartford’s parks, drive through Goodwin Park for the Holiday Lights Fantasia. For two miles you get to see over 200 lit holiday scenes. A great way to get into the Christmas spirit is to watch Hartford Stage’s adaptation of “A Christmas Carol” or, if your tastes are a bit more eclectic, enjoy “Christmas on the Rocks” featuring your favorite Christmas characters all grown up.
2. Old Lyme
Old Lyme might be a small town, but it boasts some of the state’s most exciting Christmas vacation destinations. The Magic of Christmas is a Florence Griswold Museum special in which local artists paint palettes to decorate the trees. The Griswold house is done up as an example of Christmas during the early 1900s. The Magic of Christmas also includes Sunday holiday arts and crafts, holiday crafting for adults, and Snow Queen’s crafting and holiday party. If you haven’t had your fill of art, go to the Deck the Walls gallery featuring work from up-and-coming artists.
With a town named Bethlehem, you just know that it offers awesome Christmas attractions. Their Christmas Town festival begins with an old-fashioned Christmas tree lighting on The Green. Concerts, musical performances, train rides, and horse-drawn hay rides follow. If you have kids, let them visit Santa, and get photos. There are also crafts, bake sales, and plenty of food vendors. Dress up in your Santa suit and participate in the Santa Made Me Do It races from the 5k run to the 2-mile walk. Even kids can be part of the excitement with the 1/4-mile fun run. Branch out with a tour of the Regina Laudis Abbey that houses the Neapolitan creche, and a visit to the 18th-century Bellamy-Ferriday House decked in 18th-century holiday splendor.
4. Mystic Seaport
Mystic’s a small town on Connecticut’s southeastern coast. Like Bethlehem, what it lacks in size it more than makes up for in Christmas activities, such as the popular Lantern Lights Tours at the Mystic Seaport Museum, a maritime village that dates back to the 1700s. The Lantern Light Tours is the 70-minute play, “The Spirit of the Holiday: A Christmas Ghost Story,” set on Christmas Eve of 1876. There are five scenes (including a horse and carriage ride) around the museum for a unique holiday experience. Afterwards, join the locals at the Community Carol Sing for some holiday songs and crafts. Finally, the walkways of Olde Mistick Village and the Mystic Aquarium host the Festival of Lights. Enjoy more than 4,000 lights, live music and complimentary refreshments.
The Windsor area, which includes Windsor, South Windsor, and East Windsor, lies just north of Hartford and boasts a more rural feel with its rolling farmland and woods. The Wood Memorial Library Gingerbread Festival fits right in with this coziness. Artisans and bakers throughout the Windsor area craft amazing gingerbread houses and mansions. Hop on the Connecticut Trolley one night at the Connecticut Trolley Museum Winterfest and travel through the Tunnel of Lights for an amazing holiday light display. If the weather permits, ride aboard the electric sleigh for a unique experience. The museum visitor center also makes the Christmas transformation, resembling a winter wonderland with hot cocoa and live entertainment. The kids are sure to love the train displays featuring miniature trains chugging through a wintery landscape.
Litchfield is all about the snowy hills and covered bridges, a classic “Christmas in Connecticut” experience. The small-town vibe, quaint downtown shops, and town green with the town’s Christmas tree help to usher in the holidays as does the town’s Annual Christmas Festival Weekend. Part of the festival fun is nativity gingerbread making, a deliciously fun experience. Take part in the Candlelight Carol Sing in the Pilgrim Hall, followed by cookies and hot cocoa. The live nativity not only has people posing as the shepherds, wise men, and Mary and Joseph, but it also features real animals to enhance the story.
Greenwich sits in the southwestern corner of Connecticut across the Long Island Sound from New York. Every year Greenwich hosts the Reindeer Festival where Santa’s reindeer are hanging out, a magical experience for everyone in the family. Head to Santa’s Village next door where you can view Santa’s Workshop in full swing and take a picture with the jolly man in red. Finish off with a ride on the Winter Wonderland Carousel and the Polar Express Train. The historic Bush-Holley House puts on its holiday best during Christmastime as well and offers a candlelight tour that culminates in hot cocoa, cookies and winter crafts.
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