Our Family’s Winter Celebrations 2016 – In and Around Boston

By Victoria@celebratetheweekend
In At Home in Boston
Dec 3rd, 2016

There is no snow on the ground in Boston yet (and I am not sure I am quite ready for it yet) – but there are plenty of ways to get your family into holiday spirit in Boston, starting this weekend!

Here is our list:

The Nutcracker at the Boston Ballet


Liza Voll Photography. Nutcracker by Boston Ballet.

We have traditionally started the season with attending the Nutcracker at the Boston Ballet over Thanksgiving break.  This year we were invited to the Dress Rehearsal and had a chance to witness the creative process and see the dancers up close and personal.  (Read our report here).


Things to Do in Boston this December

There are several Nutcracker versions in town (including Urban Nutcracker and visiting shows (check out the discounted tickets via bostix), but the Nutcracker by Boston Ballet is our favorite.  As my 7-year-old daughter Vi says, “it gets better every year” (currently in 5th year of the shorter and lighter production by Boston Ballet’s artistic director Mikko Nissinen.  In Boston Opera House through December 31).

Gardens Aglow at the Heritage Museum in Sandwich

We love our summer and fall trips to the Cape so much that we were willing to drive out of town for the Gardens Aglow celebration at Heritage Museums & Gardens in Sandwich.   Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday (4:30-8:30pm) through December 18, the holiday lights transform this largest Southern New England garden into winter wonderland with the distinct New England “heritage” flair.

Things to Do in Boston during December 2016

Gardens Aglow: Photographs taken on location at Heritage Museums & Gardens, Sandwich, MA

We visited on the opening weekend and saw the model train passing through Cape Cod Canal in the special exhibit gallery, admired traditional holiday table designs by local artists, climbed the antique car in the permanent exhibit hall, and of course rode the historical carousel until closing time.  For details and tickets, check the website.


Things to Do in Boston during December 2016

Roasting marshmallows. (Photographs taken on location at Heritage Museums & Gardens, Sandwich, MA)

Holiday Pops Kids Matinees

Beloved Boston Pops Orchestra performs special holidays concerts every December, including  kids’ holidays matinee shows. Here is our report from the Boston Pops Kids Matinee (11 am, Saturdays and Sundays through December 24th).  There will be traditional holiday sing-alongs and post-concert photo opportunities.

NEW: Boston Winter Wonderland at City Hall Plaza

After the Pops, we plan to check out Boston’s newest holiday venture at City Hall Plaza, complete with winter bazaar, ice skating ring, chocolate and wine tastings.  Entrance is free, but some of the tastings are fee-based (see the list of paid activities here. Use code BLOGFRIEND for 15% off discount through December 16.) Stay tuned for our updates on facebook.

Blinking at Faneuil Hall

At 4:30 pm we will move over to Faneuil Hall for the holiday lights and music show called Blink!

Things to Do in Boston during December 2016

Faneuil Hall during the holidays

350,000 LED lights illuminate Boston’s skyline to the song arrangements of the Holiday Pops – in a seven-minute spectacle that runs continuously each evening beginning November 20th through January 1.

Each day of the season the first show starts on the Main Tree at Marketplace Center and on the trees in South Market at 4:30 pm and runs every hour on the half hour. The North Market show begins at 5:00 pm and runs every hour on the hour.  Be sure to know your South from North once in the area  (check with the local vendors when in doubt) or you may miss a couple of shows by being in a wrong place!

Things to Do in Boston during December 2016

The Blink music and light show at the Marketplace Center

More Holiday Lights:

ZooLight holiday stroll in Stoneham Zoo (Stoneham, MA) promises a winter wonderland of trees and lights November 25-January 1 (5-9pm).

Edaville Railroad in Carver, MA, offers Christmas-lit train rides during its Festival of Lights (through January 1). Trains run on an hourly schedule.

Frog Pond Skating at Boston Common

Boston Common’s main Nova Scotia tree has been officially lit since December 1.  When you come to America’s oldest public park during the holidays, be sure to stop at the famous Frog Pond for some skating lessons or just to watch from the boards.  Check the website for schedule, rentals, lessons and birthday party bookings.

Things to Do in Boston during December 2016

Photo Credit: Skating Club of Boston


Christmas at Sturbridge Village

For families interested in learning about  historical Christmas, Sturbridge Village (about an hour drive west of Boston) presents Christmas by Candlelight celebrations on weekends,  December 2- through 18 and on December 23.

Holiday at the Newport Mansions 

Three of the famous gilded age mansions in Newport, Rhode Island, invite you to tour and admire holiday music and decorations.  The three houses – Breakers, The Elms and Marble House (all are National Historic Landmarks) will be open daily for tours from November 18 through Sunday, January 2, 2017.   Here is the link for tickets and schedules. And while you are in the city, go on a Newport Holiday stroll (through December 11).

Hanukkah at the Museum of Fine Arts

Hanukkah does not start until December 24th this year, but free Hanukkah celebration at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston is on Wednesday, December 14, starting at 4pm.  Watch menorah installation, explore MFA’s Judaica collection, participate in the virtual reality show, make art – in this one of a kind community celebration of arts and culture.  Check full program here.


Lighting home-made Menorah during our family Hanukah Party at the grandparents



Skiing Day Trips

While a ski weekend with friends and family is always fun (read my 7 Tips for fun ski getaway) skiing day trip within 1-3 hour drive from Boston is a possibility.   In the past winters, we enjoyed day trips to Loon and Gunstock Mountains in New Hampshire, and to the Wachusett and a “very” local Blue Hill reservation in Massachusetts  (check snow conditions first, of course).

Holiday Winter Traditions in and around Boston.

Vi at her first skiing lesson at Gunstock in 2013.


Weekend Trip

There is so much to do in and around Boston during the holidays, yet we may get the cabin-fever over long holiday weekend and go on a road trip to New York City (read about our three New York City Holiday favorites here).  Or we might decide to cross the border over to Canada and explore Montreal’s holiday spots.

Winter Wonderland at NYC Bryant Park


Boston’s First Night

In my family, we traditionally spend the New Year’s night at home. (We like to give the little kids special attention during this holiday following our childhood traditions from the old country (read about it here).

For families who like to ring the New Year on the town, the First Night/Day Boston 2017 will feature fireworks and special cultural performances and celebrations throughout the city.  The detailed schedule is on this website.


This post is linking up with a travel story collection at Travel Notes & Beyond Blog.

Travel Notes & Beyond

8 Comments to “Our Family’s Winter Celebrations 2016 – In and Around Boston”

  1. It really looks like Boston is pulling out all the stops for the holiday season. Great round up article!
    Jim ~ ReflectionsEnroute recently posted…Best Way to Cruise Alaska? with the Alaska Marine Highway!My Profile

  2. Anisa says:

    This is a great round up of holiday festivities in Boston. I have been to zoolights and other similar events in other cities, I need to check out Boston one year! Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard.

  3. Great ideas for things to do for visiting Boston, a city I visited years ago and would love to return. Have pinned this for future reference. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Wow – so much to do! Love the idea of attending the Nutcracker in particular

  5. Anda says:

    You and I are very lucky to live in big cities like Boston and Los Angeles where we have access to the best performances ever and are also in close proximity to nature. Like you, we also have ski areas just 1-3 hours away from Los Angeles. Boston looks so beautiful! I’d like California to be a little colder in December. I kind of miss a white Christmas.#TheWeeklyPostcard
    Anda recently posted…Sunrise at Haleakala – What You Should ExpectMy Profile

  6. Katja says:

    There is so much happening for the holidays! We always used to go and see the Nutcracker when we were kids and even though I’ve not managed to take my children yet (it’s never been performed in any of the places we’ve lived) I hope I can one day.

  7. Miranda says:

    Great List! Boston will a good option to set up a vacation for this coming Christmass holiday. Thanks for sharing this with us.

  8. Oh, my goodness you have SO much going on during the holiday season. I wish my town was more festive!
    Mama Munchkin recently posted…The BEST Soft Sugar Cookie RecipeMy Profile

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge