20 Wickedly Festive Things to Do in New England in Winter

Winter is one of the best times to be in New England. The area is a wonderland of snow-covered mountains and perfectly decorated, charming towns. Whether you are looking for an active, historical getaway, or a Christmasy escape, New England is the place to experience winter. Here are the best winter activities in New England and the best winter New England getaways.

1. Take a Journey to the North Pole.

This Polar Express train ride in North Conway or Lincoln, New Hampshire, is closest your family will get to visit Santa at the North Pole, short of an actual trip there. (My family did get to the nearest spot Santa in the US in an epic journey to Utqiagvik, Alaska.)

We have visited many Polar Express train rides, but this was the most magical and will make even the most skeptical of children believe. A trip here is a must-do at least once for your family. And to make the deal even better, New Hampshire is one of the best places in New England for winter vacation getaways.

Read on for more about things to do in Lincoln, NH.

2. Celebrate Christmas at the Newport Mansions.

Christmas in New England
Christmas at Breakers Mansion in Newport, Rhode Island, including the impressive poinsettia tree
The mansions in Newport, RI, were the summer homes of the moneyed elite in the early 1900s. They are always an interesting lesson in history. While they are decorated for Christmas, visit to take in their opulence and beauty. We especially love the night visit to the Breakers, including choirs singing, cocoa, and a gingerbread house display. You can find out more about Newport’s holiday activities here.

3. See the Nutcracker Ballet.

A performance of the Nutcracker Ballet anywhere will be lovely, but watching it performed as it moves room to room in Newport’s Rosecliff Mansion is perfection.

4. Go to a Christmas tree lighting.

Christmas events in New England
Photo of the town hall in Hanover, New Hampshire by Tracy Lee Carroll on Flickr.

The Ocean House in Watch Hill, RI, is always a great place to visit, as it is a beautiful hotel right on the water, and their Annual Tree Lighting is a class act. The entire hotel lobby is decked out for the holidays. There are cocoa and cookies, and then Santa arrives to live music. Better yet, it is free!

5. Go skiing!

A great way to take advantage of the snow is by doing some fun winter sports. In Rhode Island, we ski, snowboard, and tube at Yawgoo Valley in Exeter, RI.  It is a small mountain which makes it well-suited for kids to learn to ski. When we want an actual ski holiday, we head to New Hampshire or Vermont!

6. Try your luck with snowboarding

We also go to Loon Mountain in New Hampshire, a full-scale vacation site with many more trails. You can also snowshoe, snowmobile, and cross-country ski.

7. Go back in history to experience the holidays.

winter activities in New England
Aren’t New England’s saltbox houses just the cutest? This photo of one in New Castle, NH, is by In Awe of God’s Creations on Flickr.

New England is full of rich American history, and winter is a fun time to learn more about it. There are Christmas tours available in Salem, MA, and Newport, RI. Old Sturbridge Village in MA, a historical reenactment colonial village, has many Christmas-themed activities.

8. Try some cross-country skiing.

You can do some excellent cross-country skiing right outside of your super cute room at Darby Field Inn. I have stayed there and loved it. It is closed through December 2021 for renovations.

9. Sled down a hill.

You can find a good sledding hill in most New England towns or head to a ski mountain to try some inner tubing.

10. Check out a living nativity.

Complete with animals, this is always a treat. Here are a couple of options: The Cluny School in Newport, RI, and St. Paul’s Church in Wickford, RI.

11. See a light display.

Things to do for the holidays in Connecticut.
Just a few of the thousands of lights at Lake Compounce’s Holiday Lights in Connecticut

The Shrine at La Salette has more lights (300,000) and creches than I have seen anywhere outside of Disney. Even better, it’s free!

You can experience an outdoor holiday carnival in Connecticut at Lake Compounce’s Christmas Lights or drive-through lights across from Gillette Stadium in Massachusetts.

12. Visit the artificial Ice Castles in Lincoln, NH.

Read on for the best winter activities in New England, USA. #wintertravel #wintertrips #USTravel

Together with slides and lights, these artificial castles of ice are a thing of beauty. They are near Loon Mountain and Santa’s Village in North Conway, so you easily include these activities on a weekend trip to New Hampshire.

13. Take in a boat parade.

New England’s location on the Atlantic Ocean offers excellent chances to see boats dressed up for Christmas in Illuminated Boat Parades. Here are a couple to check out: Newport, RI, and Mystic, CT.

14. Go to a winter Waterfire.

Even Waterplace Park in Providence, RI, gets decked out in its Christmas best for a WaterFire to benefit the Providence Rescue Mission. WaterFire is one of my favorite things in Rhode Island, and you can make it a great night with some pre-fire ice skating and dinner.

Read on for My Guide to Get the Most out of Providence’s Waterfire.

15. See how maple syrup is made.

Read my whole post about sugar houses in New England.

16. Tag and cut your own Christmas Tree.

We go to Big John Leyden’s in West Greenwich, RI, but Christmas tree farms are all over New England.

17. Spend a winter weekend in a New England country inn.

New England Christmas getaways
Book a room at one of New England’s colonial Bed and Breakfasts like Cranmore Inn, North Conway, New Hampshire.

18. Take a hike through the snow.

We love to snowshoe through the forests in Maine at Fox Carlton Pond, where we stay in their beautiful small lodge. They have snowshoes and can schedule excursions.

19. Get a thrill on some of New England’s snowmobile trails!

Snowmobiling is another excursion Fox Carlton Pond can schedule for you. There are also many snowmobile trails near Woodstock, Vermont, a perfectly darling quintessential New England town.

20. Enjoy a sleigh ride through the snowy fields of New England.

Bonus: New York City borders Connecticut!

New York City at Christmas
Ice skating under the massive tree in Rockefeller Center, NYC. Photo by Allen Harris on Flickr.

Not actually in New England, but a must-do at Christmastime, NYC never disappoints. The lights, decorations, roasting chestnuts, store windows, carriage rides are so much of what I love about Christmas. Check out my article about why I love New York at Christmas so much.

To check out how to celebrate in my home state, visit How Rhode Island Celebrates the Holidays. Have a beautiful New England Winter!

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7 thoughts on “20 Wickedly Festive Things to Do in New England in Winter”

  1. I would never have thought of visiting New England in the winter – always thought too cold. Love summer and autumn though. But it looks fun – all wintery and Christmassy. I’ll give it a go next time 🙂

  2. Winter in New England sounds wonderful! I would love to try out snow sports like skiing and snowboarding and proper sledding (I’ve only been sledding on Southern snow where you quickly uncover the grass lol)


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