The winter wonderland of New Hampshire is among the most atmospheric of Christmas vacation destinations. Surrounded by lovely evergreen trees and hillsides covered with snow, you can enjoy Christmas tree lightings, parades, craft fairs, and entertainment events. Near many New Hampshire vacation rentals are opportunities for holiday railroad tours, horse-drawn sleigh rides, sightseeing strolls, and unparalleled shopping. Here are the best places for Christmas getaways in the state of New Hampshire.
The seaport city of Portsmouth hosts New Hampshire’s Vintage Christmas, which features a full month of holiday activities. The Christmas Tree Lighting and Illuminated Holiday Parade is a flamboyant event that begins with the countdown to the tree lighting in Market Square and proceeds with an array of festive floats traversing downtown Portsmouth. Commencing at the museum grounds that are lit up with hundreds of decorations, the Strawbery Banke Museum Candlestick Strolls take you to various historic houses where costumed performers recreate past traditions and offer delicious traditional treats. The Portsmouth Historical Society has an exhibit of the top entries of the Annual Gingerbread House Contest at the Discover Portsmouth Center.
In downtown Portsmouth, stroll past the historic brick storefronts and window shop, and then step inside and enjoy freshly-baked cookies and holiday cider while you browse for gifts. Top off your Vintage Christmas experience with ice skating at the Labrie Family Skate at Puddle Dock Pond.
Manchester, the largest city in northern New England, has a Christmas parade through its downtown area called Light Up the Holidays. This festive event features horse-drawn carriages, floats, light displays, marching bands, and costumed Christmas characters. The Downtown Holiday Market takes place each year at Brady Sullivan Plaza, where over 50 artisans and craftsmen offer beautiful and unique gift items. The Palace Theater and other Manchester performing venues also schedule annual Christmas-themed plays and performances. For a unique holiday experience, try outdoor ice skating on frozen-over Dorr’s Pond at Livingston Park, or if you prefer indoor ice skating, head for John F. Kennedy Memorial Coliseum or West Side Ice Arena. Just south of Manchester in Hudson is the enormous and impressive Mousseau and Roy light display, which has its own accompanying radio station.
Concord, the capital of New Hampshire, closes off its downtown streets for its annual Christmas parade. Another yearly attraction is Concord’s Midnight Merriment, which commences in the early evening and goes on until midnight. The event features decorated storefronts, special prices on gifts, wandering carolers, and snacks and drinks. One of the highlights is the Midnight Merriment Beard Contest, where judges evaluate facial hair and choose winners based on fullness, length, style, and creativity. Be sure to go to the Leddy Center for the Performing Arts to catch their annual Christmas show.
Conway lies in eastern New Hampshire in the midst of the White Mountain National Forest. The city presents the annual Santa’s Stocking Stuffer Craft Fair, where you can shop for fine jewelry, rustic furniture, hand-sewn quilts, gift baskets, and many other items. Another event is the annual Holiday Parade and Festival of Lights. For a special treat, take the kids on Conway Scenic Railroad’s Journey to the North Pole. Get on the train in North Conway Village, and enjoy hot chocolate and Christmas treats as you travel through the scenic countryside to a simulation of the North Pole. When you arrive, visit with Santa and toy shop elves, and take in Christmas performances. Among the restaurants near your Conway vacation rental where you can feast on special Christmas meals are the Mountain View Resort and Stonehurst Manor.
The dazzling light display around the historic covered bridge in Jackson is one of New Hampshire’s premier Christmas sightseeing attractions. Jackson and the surrounding towns highlight the entire Christmas holiday season with the Traditionally Yours Celebration. Events include a tree-lighting ceremony, open houses with refreshments, and visits by Santa. Among the other festivities are craft fairs, cookie decorating, holiday drink tasting, and storytelling. A family favorite is the Jingle Bell Chocolate Tour, which takes you for a horse-drawn Austrian sleigh ride through the village that stops at numerous points along the way for chocolate taste treats.
The small city of Canterbury hosts the Christmas at Canterbury celebration at the Canterbury Shaker Village. This traditional holiday event focuses on recreating a 19th-century Christmas with hand-crafting of Christmas cards and ornaments, gingerbread cookie decorating, and other creative activities. Entertainment includes a visit from Santa and a magician’s show. Enjoy a stroll and tour through the village, which is beautifully decorated with wreathes, Christmas trees, white candles, and lanterns. The climax of the celebration is a traditional family dinner at the Shaker Table restaurant.
The town of Jefferson in northern New Hampshire is a great place for a family-friendly holiday getaway. It’s the home of Santa’s Village theme park. During the Christmas holidays, the park features a number of special events and activities. Among the holiday rides are the Skyway Sleigh Monorail, the Christmas Ferris Wheel, the Reindeer Carousel, and Santa’s Express Train. The park is festooned with hundreds of thousands of Christmas lights, Santa and Mrs. Claus greet visitors, and you can join in on special Yuletide festivities. The North Pole Workshop allows kids to construct their own Christmas creations such as T-shirt designs, wood ornaments, and candles. The Snowball Mall is the perfect place to shop for unique toys and gifts. When you’re hungry, head for the Doe-Nut Factory to feast on fresh mini donuts.
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