When you want to experience a good old-fashioned Christmas, head to Maine for a healthy dose of festive and historic charm. The Pine Tree State offers family-friendly festivals, exciting parades, and a variety of holiday events where you can admire lots of twinkling lights. Since the average December temperatures in this New England state range in the 30s and 40s, be sure to pack warm clothing for your trip. Book a stay at a beautiful Maine vacation rental spacious enough for your whole family, and embark on a holiday adventure at one of these top cities featuring spectacular Christmas lights.

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1. Boothbay Harbor

For a truly magical experience, settle into a vacation rental in Boothbay Harbor. The Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens’ Gardens Aglow event is the largest holiday light display in the state, featuring 14 acres illuminated with more than 500,000 colorful lights. Head to the Opera House in early December for the Festival of Trees. Admission is free and offers the chance join the silent auction to bid on one of the 60-plus decorated Christmas trees. In mid-December, the Opera House opens once again, this time for the Gingerbread Spectacular. Drop by to check out the submissions to the gingerbread house decorating contest, or create your own confectionery masterpiece to compete in the event.

Delight the little ones with a trip to Boothbay Railway Village, and climb aboard the North Pole Express. Meet Santa as you enjoy the heated train ride through the majestic snow-covered forests. Pack up some hot cocoa, grab a warm blanket, and don’t miss the Holiday Sparkle Fireworks show in downtown Boothbay Harbor at the beginning of the month. There are few things more incredible than watching the reflection of the fireworks over the water.

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2. Kennebunkport

Kennebunkport captures the true spirit of a Maine Christmas with its lobster trap tree. Visit the town’s Christmas Prelude, which takes place annually during the first two weeks of December. The whole town is decorated like a Charles Dickens novel, as lights line the streets. Be sure to stop by the Cape Porpoise Square to see the famous tree that’s constructed from wooden lobster traps, wrapped in greens, and covered in twinkling lights. The Prelude celebration offers everything on your holiday getaway checklist, from sleigh rides and caroling to historic home tours and trolley rides. A gift market offers the opportunity to catch up on your shopping, and a live nativity at South Congregational Church makes for a more religious celebration. Be sure to keep watch for Santa, who comes to town by way of a Maine lobster boat.

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3. Portland

The most populated city in Maine goes all out for Christmas, offering a variety of holiday events throughout the winter season. For a simply sophisticated light display to explore on your own, visit the Old Port Area of Portland, where the lights come on the weekend after Thanksgiving. Monument Square hosts an official tree lighting ceremony, complete with live music, free horse-drawn wagon rides, and a visit from the jolly old elf himself.

For an unforgettable experience, don’t miss the Portland Boat Parade of Lights. Cozy up alongside Portland Harbor to watch the gorgeously decorated boats sail by. To get on the action yourself, book a cruise with Casco Bay Lines to see the illuminated boats up close. Step back in time with a tour of the historic Victoria Mansion, which is decked out from floor to ceiling with period decorations, elegant garlands, twinkling lights, and flickering candles.

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4. Gardiner

If you like your illuminated holiday displays on the move, find a vacation rental in Gardiner to catch the Parade of Lights in early December. Choose the perfect spot along Water Street and cuddle beneath a blanket. All floats and participants in the parade must incorporate lights into their design to keep the event merry and bright. Be sure to stick around for the announcement of award winners after the parade, as well as a visit from Santa and some Christmas crafts. Take an evening stroll through the downtown area to check out the window displays, as merchants participate in a decorating contest. Be sure to cast your ballot for your favorite window.

If you’re staying through Christmas, be sure to decorate a tree at your vacation rental so Santa has a spot for the gifts. Visit Frederickson Tree

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5. Freeport

Farm in nearby Monmouth, or make the 30-minute drive to Hummer Tree Farm in Bath.

Freeport goes all out for Christmas with L.L.Bean’s Northern Lights Celebration. Start your night in Discovery Forest, where you walk through more than 600 pine-scented trees that are dripping with festive lights. Take the kids to visit Santa in his workshop, then take a peek at his reindeer. Enjoy a horse-drawn wagon ride through the village, then warm up inside the 30-foot yurt, where you can find free hot chocolate and a letter-writing station for those last-minute notes to Santa. Head inside the store to check out the model train village in the kids’ department, and pop in on Saturdays through December for crafts and story time. If you’re staying in Freeport through the New Year, stop back on New Year’s Eve for the fireworks display and concert.

For a festive dinner out with the family on Christmas Day, make reservations at the Harraseeket Inn. The Grand Holiday Buffet features lobster, prime rib, Cornish game hens, and eggnog cheesecake for dessert.

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