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New England Pre-Holiday Getaways with Kids

by Barbara Rogers

Dec 3, 2018

© Stillman Rogers

Age Specific / Kids

Wonderlands of twinkling colored lights, gingerbread houses, reindeer and train rides with Santa — so many things to enchant kids at this magical time of year! Here are our favorites in New England:


Gardens Aglow

Coastal Maine Botanic Gardens in Boothbay Harbor are transformed into a magical fairy garden as more than 650,000 lights illuminate the trees, shrubs, walls and pathways on each Thursday through Sunday evening through Dec. 31. It’s New England’s biggest light display, and, as it’s outdoors, you’ll need to dress for the weather as you walk through this winter wonderland. If you’re there the weekend of Dec. 15–16, stop in the village of Boothbay Harbor for the free Gingerbread Spectacular, a signature event of Boothbay Lights. The kids will marvel at the candy-decked houses, log cabins, lighthouses, castles and fairy homes created by professional chefs and school children.


Santa Express Trains

On weekend afternoons through Dec. 22, your family can board the well-loved Hobo Railroad in Lincoln, New Hampshire, for an hour and 20-minute ride through the snow-covered woods and alongside a river sparkling with ice. Railway cars and the station are decorated for Christmas; Santa and his elves ride along to give each child a gift and pose with kids for photo ops. Everyone gets hot chocolate and each family leaves with a box full of Christmas cookies.


Gingerbread Houses

Gingerbread Houses © Stillman Rogers


Santa’s Village

Farther north in Jefferson, New Hampshire, the perennial summertime favorite fun park of Santa’s Village is well prepared for the holiday season, since all of its rides and activities are based on Christmas traditions, stories and characters. There are elves to find, cookies to decorate (with unlimited frosting) in the Gingerbread House, a reindeer carousel to ride, an elevated ride in Santa’s sleigh, real reindeer to meet and a Ferris wheel where they can look down on a wonderland of lights. Admission includes unlimited rides, shows and attractions, and Santa’s Village is open Saturdays and Sundays through Dec. 22.



The tree-lined paths at Stone Zoo in Stoneham, Massachusetts, are aglow with thousands of colored lights and kids can visit real reindeer, black bears, Arctic foxes, Canada lynx and other natives of the north woods and tundra in the Yukon Creek exhibit. ZooLights is open 5–9 p.m., through Dec. 31 (closed Dec. 25) and on the last two weekends before Christmas it stays open until 10 p.m.


Old Sturbridge Village

On weekend evenings through the month of December, the Common at Old Sturbridge Village, in Sturbridge, Massachusetts, is lit by lantern light, and inside the shops and houses children can learn about Christmas traditions and how they came to New England. Along with hearing these stories, families can listen to old-time music, watch puppet shows, hear holiday stories read aloud and visit with Father Christmas.


Note that some of these require advance reservations as admission numbers are limited.


A genuine Concord Coach at Old Sturbridge Village Massachusetts

A genuine Concord Coach at Old Sturbridge Village, Massachusetts © Stillman Rogers


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