Our Family’s Winter Celebrations 2017 – In and Around Boston

By Victoria@celebratetheweekend
In Arts, Dance and Theater
Dec 5th, 2017

December -with its month-long celebration of several holidays, is my kind of month.

This is what has been on our December Holidays list over the years (all links and dates updated for 2017:

First December weekend was about tree lightings and holiday street marches – as far as Stockbridge (the Berkshires) and Kennebunkport (Maine) to mark the beginning of holiday month.  I promise to start early next year and let you know about these events ahead of time.

Our month of celebrations traditionally starts with The Nutcracker at the Boston Ballet (At Boston Opera House, November 24- December 31). Last year we attended media Dress Rehearsal and had a chance to witness the creative process and see the dancers up close and personal.  (Read our report here). (This year we missed the dress rehearsal as we were getting into winter holiday spirit at Skate America in Lake Placid, NY (read our report here).

Watching the Nutcracker with the spirited holiday audience in a festively decorated Opera House, was a lot of fun as well.

Patrick Yocum and Delia Wada-Gill in Mikko Nissinen’s TheNutcracker. Photo by Liza Voll Photography

The Nutcracker to the music of Tchaikovsky is a perfect “starter” ballet with good amount of “accessible” theatrical action, yet, according to Boston Ballet artistic director (and choreographer of Boston Ballet’s Nutcracker) Mikko Nissinen, “technically challenging” which allows dancers to “grow with the company and explore variety of roles and characters.”  Last Sunday, December 3,  principal dancers Eris Nezha (The Nutcracker Prince), Lasha Khozashvili (Drosselmeier), and Junxiong Zhao (Indian Dancer) were on stage, but production includes the full Company of 56 dancers, 10 Boston Ballet II dancers and 250 Boston Ballet school dancers. Each performance is accompanied by Tchaikovsky’s renowned score performed by the Boston Ballet Orchestra, led by three conductors: Principal Guest Conductor Beatrice Jona Affron and guest conductors Kenneth Hsieh and Geneviève Leclair.

Did you know that Nissinen’s Nutcracker marks the first time Boston Ballet built a production entirely from “scratch” – or rather sketches by designer Robert Perdziola- by craftsmen from all over the United States?

This year, there is a special New Year’s Eve at The Nutcracker: Sunday, December 31 at 7 pm with a special, one-night-only version of the ballet, all-star cast and added twists and treats to the Boston Opera House stage and patron experience. Tickets at bostonballet.org.

On Thursday, December 7, from 10:30am-12:30pm, Boston Ballet’s The Nutcracker will be visiting LEGOLAND Discovery Center Boston. Activities will include story time with the Sugar Plum Fairy, photo ops with the Nutcracker Bear and more. If you can’t make it, the Center is having special holiday activities planned for the entire month of December (be sure to check out their newly displayed gigantic lego-built slide).

As to the Nutcracker , there are several versions happening in Boston, including the Urban Nutcracker (December 15-25, John Hancock Hall).

The fans of the popular TV classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer will be delighted by the stage adaption Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: the Musical on stage at Boston’s historic Shubert Theater this weekend (December 14-17).

Photo Courtesy: Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer The Musical

Update: We saw Rudolph the Musical on the opening (media) night of December 14 and my 8-year old daughter was very engaged during the entire 90-minute show (one intermission).  She has not watched the original animated television special, but was easily able to follow the adventures of the misfit Rudolph and his friends.  She told me that she loved “the energy” of the production. My ever-technical husband noted that they “did a very good job with the staging – the sets, the effects, the costumes- all worked very well together”.  (for tickets, visit bochcenter.org, or call 866-348-9738; discounted deals – via bostix).


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.   On December weekends through Dec. 30, 4:30-8:30 pm (be sure to check the link above for exact dates) the holiday lights transform this largest Southern New England garden into winter wonderland with the distinct New England “heritage” flair.

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

Last year 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.

Holiday Pops Kids Matinees

Beloved Boston Pops Orchestra performs special holidays concerts with traditional sing-alongs and post-concert photo opportunities.  Here is our report from our Boston Pops Kids Matinee last December (for December 2017 dates, check this listing: on Saturdays and Sundays through December 24th).  For discounted tickets, try bostix deal.

Kids Holiday Matinee at the Boston Pops

Keith Lockhart and Boston Pops at Kids’ Holiday Matinee


Brookline’s Puppet Theater will have a holiday sing-along show for kids under 3 on December 20.  For kids 5+, their school vacation week program offers Brothers Grimm’ Hansel and Gretel performed by National Marionettes Theater, the oldest continuously running marionettes theater in the country (we have seen several performances with them, they are amazing puppeteers brought up in the European puppetry traditions).  For other holiday shows and showtimes, check full December calendar here.

Hanukkah at the Museum of Fine Arts

Hanukkah starts on December 12 (this year) and on the second night, December 13, Museum of Fine Arts Boston offers a free for all celebration night starting at 4pm with community candle lighting at 6:30pm.  Enjoy musical performances, tours, Judaica collection, make art – in this one of a kind community celebration of arts and culture.  Check full program here.


Blinking at Faneuil Hall

An updated FREE Holiday musical lights show Blink! will light up the Faneuil Hall Marketplace for five weeks beginning November 29, 2017 through January 1, 2018. The largest tree in the northeast, an 85-foot decorated tree has its lights synchronized to music – every night- every half-hour from 4:30 to 10pm!

This year there is also a new weekly series of performances held on four Saturdays in December in partnership with CBS Radio in Boston and local charitable organizations. (check Blink website for full listing of the concerts)

Things to Do in Boston during December 2016

Faneuil Hall during the holidays

Frog Pond Skating at Boston Common is officially open!

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, and lessons (currently open!).

Things to Do in Boston during December 2016

Frog Pond skating ring at the Boston Common. Photo Credit: Skating Club of Boston


More Holiday Ideas:

Massachusetts Trustees of Reservations with over 100 historical properties throughout the state in their care make a special effort to prepare for the season. Here is a full list of holiday to do’s on trustees’ properties (including Boston Market events, Bradley Estate happenings and nature outings).

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 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 Saturday, January 1, 2018.   Here is the link for tickets and schedules. And while you are in the city, go on a Newport Holiday stroll (weekend of December 10).

Boston Winter Wonderland at City Hall Plaza

One of Boston’s newest holiday venture at City Hall Plaza, complete with winter bazaar, skating path, chocolate and wine tastings.  Entrance is free, but some of the tastings are fee-based (more here).

ZooLight holiday stroll in Stoneham Zoo (Stoneham, MA) promises a winter wonderland of trees and lights November 24-December 31 (5-9pm).

Edaville Railroad in Carver, MA, offers Christmas-lit train rides during its Festival of Lights (through through December 31). Trains run on an hourly schedule.


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).

Weekend Trips

There is so much to do in and around Boston during the holidays, but if you get the cabin-fever over long holiday weekend and yearn go on a road trip, here is our Eastern Townships of Quebec winter weekend ideas;  and several holiday ideas in New York City.

Our “own” winter hut in the woods of Sutton, Quebec


Winter Wonderland at NYC Bryant Park



In my family, we traditionally spend the New Year’s night at home.  For families who like to ring the New Year on the town, the First Night/Day Boston on December 31, 2017- January 1, 2018 continues to be free and open for all and will feature fireworks and special cultural performances and celebrations throughout the city.  The detailed schedule is on this website.


We are linking up with #Culturedkids and #TheWeeklyPostcard stories from around the globe

Travel Notes & Beyond

16 Comments to “Our Family’s Winter Celebrations 2017 – 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

  9. I’ve always thought that Boston is the perfect liveable City with big city entertainment, beach and skiing all in easy reach and now you have convinced me that I am right and that I need to visit again soon! Thank you for linking up to #CulturedKids
    Catherine’s Cultural Wednesdays recently posted…CULTURAL WEDNESDAY’S BEST BOOKS 2017My Profile

  10. Ooh – I’m intrigued by the Rudolph musical! You really have a wealth of cultural excitement at your fingertips there. I don’t ofen choose puppetry over other art forms, but Hansel and Gretel sounds magical. As does skating on the pond. Thanks for sharing with #CulturedKids!
    Nell (Pigeon Pair and Me) recently posted…Feisty Merriment: Snow White and Rose Red by RashDash at Battersea Arts Centre, LondonMy Profile

  11. Anna says:

    Such a great list! Haven´t been to Boston yet, but I love The Nutcracker Ballet and Tchaikovsky´s music (seen it in Moscow – was incredible).My daughter would also enjoy Rudolph the Musical. The winter hut looks lovely – must be such a cozy experience.
    Anna recently posted…Fairytale Christmas in Switzerland: Top 3 CitiesMy Profile

  12. Anda says:

    I can only imagine how charming Boston may be at this time of year, Victoria. I kind of miss the snow and cold weather around Christmas. The Gardens Aglow look very similar to the Enchanted Forest of Light event we have in California. Have a Merry Christmas!

  13. Boston seems like a great place to spend the Christmas time at, Victoria. I loved your stunning pictures and I am definitely adding Boston as a Christmas destination. 😉

  14. Hello Victoria, winter celebration is a great memory for us. December month is about lighting and music and early start new year. This post is really full of fun and enjoy with music. I love this post. Thanks and keep sharing.

  15. Caroline says:

    Your comprehensive list is amazing. We’ve only spent the holidays in LA and i was just thinking of mixing things up a bit this year. As much as uniqueness goes, I’ve even bought us some nutcrackers because of this article https://www.cuckooforest.com/blogs/cuckoo-forest-blog/nutcrackers-that-actually-crack-nuts. It was a weird but fun experience. The kids love it. I’ve got months to plan and prepare, so it should be good. Will the events this year be somewhat similar to your schedule?

  16. Sharon says:

    Thank you for the heads up on the in and Around Boston weekend.

    I missed it last year, but I’ll be there for December this year as I have family just shifted there, so I’ll be looking at going to some of these activities.

    Thanks for the great post.

    Cheers Sharon…
    Sharon recently posted…The beach chair with a secret weapon. No more sinking in sand or mud!My Profile

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