19 Boston Holiday Happenings to Look Forward To

Boston ballet nutcracker holiday shows
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With Thanksgiving just around the corner, we know holiday planning is on your radar, parents. So grab your calendars and get these Boston-area holiday activities penciled in. From tree lightings to reindeer quests to holiday shows and themed train rides your kids will love, these 2021 winter events are sure to be memorable!

Dazzling Light Displays

photo: iStock

ZooLights at Stone Zoo

Enter a winter wonderland of tree-lined paths lit by thousands of twinkling lights at Stone Zoo. Enjoy a one-way stroll through festively decorated Yukon Creek, home to black bears, bald eagle, Canada lynx, reindeer and arctic foxes. In addition to the zoo's traditional lights, this year, several illuminated large-scale lantern displays will light up your winter's night. And on Tuesdays, kids can meet Mrs. Claus. Tickets required. Daily from Nov. 19 2021-Jan. 9, 2022 (except Nov. 25 & Dec. 25). Event details.

Marshfield Holiday Light Show

The Holiday Light Show is an amazing holiday light spectacular that features dozens of dazzling, larger-than-life holiday themed displays to delight the entire family. Visitors are welcomed to bundle up in their car, pack a favorite snack or beverage and tune their radio to enjoy the synced light performance as they travel the more than one mile route through the Holiday Light Show. Tickets required. Nov. 26-Dec. 30, 2021. Event details.

photo: iStock

Night Lights 2021

Get into the winter spirit with Night Lights 2021 at Tower Hill Botanic Garden. It’s a celebration of light that includes thousands of lights, new experiences and enchanting landscapes. Enjoy a walking experience outdoors through roughly 15 acres of formal gardens and surrounding woodlands, including illuminated plants, paths, sculptures and fountains. The magical scene is enhanced with fire pits for warming up, making s’mores or enjoying a cup of hot cocoa (or an adult beverage). Tickets required. Daily, Nov. 26-Dec. 30, 2021. Event details.

Winterlights at Stevens-Coolidge House and Gardens

This holiday season, Winterlights at Stevens-Coolidge House and Gardens is one of three beautiful garden properties that will sparkle with thousands of shimmering, artfully designed holiday lights. Bring the whole family for a magical, fun and safe outdoor experience, with food, refreshments and more. Tickets required. Weds.-Sun., Nov. 26, 2021-Jan. 9, 2022. Event details.

Must-See Shows

photo: Liza Voll courtesy of Boston Ballet

Boston Ballet’s The Nutcracker

New England's beloved holiday tradition makes its way back to Citizens Back Opera House this season. Slip away to the warm drawing room of the Silberhous family as Clara's transform before your eyes. From the Sugar Plum Fairy to the larger-than-life Mouse King, audiences of all ages will enjoy this timeless classic. Tickets required. Nov. 26-Dec. 26, 2021. Event details.

A Christmas Story: The Musical

From the songwriting team behind Tony Award-winning, smash-hit musicals and films comes A Christmas Story: The Musical. The show brings the classic 1983 movie to hilarious life on stage. Set in 1940s Indiana, a young and bespectacled Ralphie Parker schemes his way toward the holiday gift of his dreams, an official Red Ryder Carbine-Action 200-Shot Range Model Air Rifle. An infamous leg lamp, outrageous pink bunny pajamas, a maniacal department store Santa and a triple-dog-dare to lick a freezing flagpole are just a few of the distractions that stand between Ralphie and his Christmas wish. Tickets required. Dec. 7-19, 2021. Event details.

photo: Ian Ibbetson 2017

Elf on the Shelf: The Musical

This holiday season, the beloved tradition that has captured the hearts of families everywhere returns to the live stage! The Elf on the Shelf: The Musical is the thrilling spectacle of music and dance that transports audiences to the North Pole to glimpse the magical lives of Santa’s Scout Elves. Featuring an original story and score, dazzling sets and costumes, and heartfelt moments that will bring the family together, this joyous and uplifting celebration will leave audiences captivated by the splendor of the season. Tickets required. Nov. 26, 2021. Event details.

Cirque Dreams Holidaze

Cirque Dreams Holidaze lights up the stage in this popular and dazzling family holiday spectacular. This annual tradition wraps a whimsical, Broadway-style musical infused with contemporary circus artistry into the ultimate holiday gift for the entire family. As lights dim and music plays, a fantastical cast of holiday storybook characters come to life presenting an elaborate wonderland, invoking the stories behind a child’s eye as they dream on the most magical of nights. Ballerinas, nutcrackers, snowmen, penguins, reindeer, ethereal aerialists, gingerbread people, carolers and colossal ornaments fly, balance, juggle and stretch imaginations. Tickets required. Dec. 10-12, 2021. Event details.

Festive Trees & Lightings

photo: pexels-elly-fairytale

2021 Trellis Lighting at Columbus Park

Help spread the holiday cheer by joining the City of Boston, the Boston Parks and Recreation Department and the Friends of Christopher Columbus Park for the annual trellis lighting in the North End's Christopher Columbus Park. Nov. 22, 2021. Event details.

Boston Common Tree Lighting

The official holiday season is underway and lighting the City of Boston's official Christmas tree and trees throughout Boston Common and the Public Garden is one of the main events. Generations have enjoyed (and continue to treasure) Boston's tree lighting celebration that has grown to include a festive stage show with nationally known talent. Dec. 2, 2021. Event details.

Holiday Tree Lighting at Chestnut Hill

Get into the holiday spirit at Chestnut Hill Farm as they celebrate the season with the annual tree lighting. At this delightful event enjoy live music, check out the Solstice StoryWalk, wish the beloved goats and sheep a happy holidays, make a craft, nosh on delicious food and sip on hot cider and hot chocolate. Registration required. Dec. 5, 2021. Event details.

photo: iStock

Methuan Festival of Trees

The 28th Annual Festival of Trees is where families can see over 200 beautiful and creative trees, mini-trees and wreaths on display. Also on site for everyone to enjoy is a holiday Gift Shop and a virtual visit with Santa to help kick off your holiday season. Although Santa pictures aren’t happening this year, families will find lots of venues for holiday photos. Tickets required. Nov. 19-Dec. 4. Event details.

Mass Hort's Festival of Trees 2021

It’s Mass Hort’s 13th annual Festival of Trees and Boston families are welcome to join in this delightful holiday experience that celebrates the beauty and tradition of decorated holiday trees. Visitors will be warmed with a cup of hot chocolate (included with ticket) as they arrive. Then, stroll through the outdoor garden lights, visit Weezie’s Garden for Children and explore Snow Village where kids will watch model trains making their way through villages and vignettes, including Christmas in the City (Boston of course!), Fenway Park, a Dickensian village, the North Pole and hundreds of decorated houses and lights. Tickets also include a s’mores kit for the fire pit. Tickets required. Nov. 26-Dec. 19, 2021. Event details.

Holiday Experiences

Ride The Polar Express

Adventure comes to life when the train departs from Buzzards Bay for a round-trip journey to the North Pole led by a merry-making cast. Set to the sounds of the motion picture soundtrack, passengers will relive the magic of the classic story as they are whisked away on The Polar Express for a 90-minute trip to meet Santa. You’ll see all your favorite characters and moments from the story come to ife on board the train, while listening to a reading of the classic children’s book, The Polar Express, by Chris Van Allsburg. Santa and his elves board the train at the North Pole to greet passengers and each guest is given the first gift of Christmas. Don’t forget to wear your Christmas jammies! Tickets required. Nov. 26-Dec. 19 & Dec. 20-23. Event details.

SoWa Winter Festival

'Tis the season for the 6th annual SoWa Winter Festival. Their largest event of the year, SoWa Winter Festival takes place across three locations, over 10 days providing all kinds of winter wonderland magic. A holiday portrait studio, snowflake projection mapping, trails of light, food trucks and a hot cocoa hut are just a few of the things you’ll find along amazing artists, vendors and galleries. Dec. 3-12, 2021. Event details.

Reindeer Quest

Grab your snow boots and get everyone outside to discover the elusive herd of nine wooden reindeer, found throughout the farm trails at Chestnut Hill. See how many you can find—be sure to keep an eye out for Rudolph! Dec. 2, 2021-Jan. 31, 2022. Event details.

Chanukah Celebrations

Musical Chanukah Lantern Walk

Let's make lanterns and share our light with the neighborhood! Meet at Kickstand Cafe to usher in Havdalah, the end of Shabbat. Then we'll decorate lanterns and stroll around the Central Business District singing Chanukah songs led by Jammin' with You song leader, Kara Kulpa. Return to Kickstand to enjoy hot chocolate and donuts. Pre-registration required. Dec. 4, 2021. Event details.

Chanukah Festival & Winter Market

Celebrate Chanukah, the Festival of Lights, and feel the warm glow of the holiday with JCC Greater Boston and PJ Library! There's something for the whole family from an interactive live music show with Josh & the Jamtones, to a winter marketplace supporting local artisan businesses, plus festive games, crafts, STEM projects, and a community candle lighting. We'll enjoy some special Chanukah treats from a local food truck with donuts, hot chocolate, and more. This event will be held outdoors. Pre-registration required. Dec. 5, 2021. Event details.


—Allison Sutcliffe & Kate Loweth


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