Known for its quaint, sleepy New England charm and picturesque natural beauty, New Hampshire is a wonderful place to enjoy the winter holiday season. Whether you’re staying in a cabin in the scenic White Mountains or renting a loft in Manchester’s bustling downtown, you’re just a quick drive from plenty of magical light displays. After all, New Hampshire is a small state, and the locals know how to celebrate the holidays in style. Many New Hampshire vacation rentals are located just minutes away from must-visit attractions, so you should have no problem finding exciting things to do. Here are five of the best places to see Christmas lights in the state.

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1. Jefferson

When it comes to Christmas attractions, it’s hard to beat Jefferson’s famous Christmas-themed amusement park, Santa’s Village. The park is open all year, but as you might expect, the Christmas season is when it really comes to life. Of course, you can expect plenty of lights — roughly half a million of them are choreographed to recordings of classic and contemporary Christmas songs. The light show happens multiple times per day, so don’t worry if you miss your showing. You and your family can enjoy a meet-and-greet with Santa and Mrs. Claus, and then catch some thrills on themed rides such as the Reindeer Carousel, Skyway Sleigh, Chimney Drop, and Christmas Ferris Wheel. Besides Santa Village’s many different Christmas attractions, Jefferson is nestled in the beautiful White Mountains, so it’s an ideal spot for renting cozy cabin vacation rentals that are just perfect for making memories with the family this holiday season. While you’re in the area, make sure you take a ride on the Journey to the North Pole, an old-fashioned train ride inspired by the beloved Polar Bear Express.

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2. Merrimack

Merrimack is a small town with that classic relaxed New England feel. It’s a great place to look for a vacation rental in a family-friendly suburban neighborhood. Merrimack is home to one of Anheuser-Busch’s famous breweries, where you and the whole family can enjoy dazzling Christmas lights and festivities throughout the season at the popular Brewery Lights event. While you may be worried about bringing kids because the event is located at a brewery, it’s actually a very family-friendly event with plenty of fun to be had for all age groups. Cozy up around the fire pits, and be sure to swing by the s’mores station and hot cocoa bar for some mouthwatering treats. Pose for a photo with the world-famous Budweiser Clydesdale horses, and then enjoy some live music while you eat a delicious meal. The event supports the Toys for Tots Foundation, so feel free to bring a toy to donate to the charity.

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3. Portsmouth

Portsmouth is a lovely port city with a vibrant downtown area that’s loaded with incredible eateries on the water. While you may not want to eat outside during the winter, the scenery is still fantastic from a warm dining room. The city’s outdoor history museum, Strawbery Banke, hosts an enchanting annual Christmas Candlelight Stroll that’s not to be missed. This heartwarming tradition has been going on since 1979, and it’s still going strong to this day. As you stroll around the museum’s grounds, you’ll be treated to holiday music, roaring bonfires, and hundreds of glowing candle lanterns. The historic houses are decorated with dried flowers and herbs as well as live greens, creating a magical atmosphere for you and your family to celebrate the most wonderful time of the year. Stroll from house to house interacting with costumed role players of characters from past Christmas traditions, including hearthstone cooking and craft demonstrations. There’s also a frozen pond for ice skating, and to top it all off, free refreshments are available.

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4. Loudon

If you’re looking for a totally unique light-gazing experience, check out the Gift of Lights event at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon. Enjoy a stroll that lasts more than two miles and consists of over 60 holiday scenes, 400 light displays, and two million LED bulbs. This dazzling display takes more than 336 hours to set up, but the results are well worth it. The stunning course winds around the outside of the track’s grandstands, and some of it is even located on the actual NHMS Road Course. The star of the show is the breathtaking Tunnel of Lights, which is a tunnel that’s over 250 feet long and packed with sparkling lights. The event provides plenty of delicious food, hot cocoa, and other treats, and even Santa Claus himself is there taking pictures with the good boys and girls.

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5. Candia

Candia is a small, relaxed New Hampshire town that’s perfect if you’re looking for a vacation rental away from it all. The local Charmingfare Farm hosts a wonderful Lighted Winter Wonderland Christmas event that the whole family is sure to love. The farm boasts a huge variety of holiday attractions, including a nativity scene with live animals and a petting zoo. Plenty of costumed characters entertain the kids, including Santa and his reindeer. The best part is the 30-minute horse-drawn sleigh ride that takes you through a path decked out with twinkling Christmas lights and holiday displays. If you’re unlucky, you may even see the Grinch on your journey. There’s a lot to do and see at Lighted Winter Wonderland, so plan to spend at least two hours there to get the full experience.

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