Merry & Bright: The Holiday Season in 2021 Last Updated: December 2021

Walkin’ in a winter wonderland is even better in Connecticut. Our towns celebrate with holiday traditions, our tree farms are filled with firs, and everything is all lit up. No wonder networks like Hallmark and Lifetime choose to film so many movies here!

From drive-through light shows and Santa sightings, to festive feasts, Christmas trees and other holiday glee, we’ve gathered tidings of holiday activities for the whole family. Even better, the festive fun doesn’t just make your season great — it helps support beloved Connecticut businesses.

As always, be sure to check with each location before making plans as hours and details may change due to COVID-19.

See The Lights
Pick Your Tree
Visit Santa & His Reindeer
Savor Sweets
Find Feasts
Let It Snow
Escape To A Festive Inn
Give Gifts That Give Back

See The Lights

Sights of twinkling lights can certainly be magical and comforting. Here are some spots to see them.

Drive-Through Experiences

At Hartford’s Holiday Light Fantasia, drive through a two-mile show that transforms Goodwin Park into a wonderland of holiday spirit with a beautiful collection of over 1 million lights. At Winterfest & the Tunnel of Lights in East Windsor, see a light show from a trolley or ‘electric sleigh.’

For more drive-through fun, experience Magic of Lights in East Hartford, Festival of Silver Lights in Meriden, the 27th Annual Fantasy of Lights in New Haven, or Holiday Lights in Motion in Hebron.

 

Winter Wonderland Walks

In Mystic, roam Mystic Aquarium’s Festival of Lights or Mystic Seaport Museum’s Lantern Light Village, complete with a dazzling lighting display, live music, horse-and-carriage rides, fire pits, a visit from St. Nicolas, and more, including holiday-themed stories, crafts, and games. In Torrington, enjoy the annual Christmas Village or see hundreds of thousands of holiday lights at Lake Compounce in Bristol. And don't miss a Christmas Village and Winter Beer Garden at the Stamford Holiday Stroll!

 

Hanukkah

If you celebrate Hanukkah, enjoy these events from Menorah lightings to parades and beyond!

Photo credit: Ronni Newton, We-Ha.com

 

Pick Your Tree

Whether you top yours with an angel or a star, picking out the Christmas tree can be a memorable experience for the whole family. Luckily, there’s a whole lot to love about tree farms in Connecticut. In addition to stunning pines, you’ll find holiday gift shops, hot chocolate and more.

Here are some places to get your tree today.

Visit Santa & His Reindeer

Here are a few places to visit this jolly old elf – and sometimes even his reindeer too.

Saturdays with Santa and Mrs. Claus, Wethersfield

Bring the little ones to visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus! Santa and Mrs. Claus will be at the Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum to spread joy to the young and young-at-heart.

 

Santa's Workshop, Manchester

At Wickham Park’s Santa's Workshop, enjoy an enchanted visit with Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus and the elves in the beautiful log cabin nestled at the highest point in the park. Stop at the elf desk to see if you’re on the naughty or nice list then head over to tell Santa how good you’ve been and what you want for Christmas. Don’t forget to visit Mrs. Claus to have some hot cocoa and a cookie!

 

13th Annual Greenwich Reindeer Festival, Greenwich

At the 13th Annual Greenwich Reindeer Festival, have your photo taken with Santa, meet the reindeer and also enjoy the new Santa's Workshop, which provides more space for families while they wait in line for their photo with Santa.

 

Storytelling & Selfiies with Santa & Mrs. Claus, New Haven

Santa and Mrs. Claus will visit the Shops at Yale and read stories to children for the first hour from 1 p.m.-2 p.m., followed by selfies with families at 2 p.m. until 3 p.m.

 

Ride a Vintage Train to Visit Santa Claus - All Aboard The Snow Clipper for the First Gift Express, Danbury

Take a ride in a vintage train through the historic railyard to visit Santa, where the big man himself will give out the first gifts of Christmas.

 

Northern Lights Limited, Thomaston

Leaving under the cover of nightfall, experience the magic as the lights inside and out of each car are lit, illuminating the entire train in a soft, cheerful glow. Upon departure, you will be taken directly to the North Pole, picking up Santa and Mrs. Claus for all to see.

 

Savor Sweets

’Tis the season for indulging our taste buds with sweets and feasts. When it comes to Christmas cookies and more, Connecticut’s got you covered. And in a socially distant year, you can easily pick up treats to enjoy safely at home.

Order festive cakes, macarons and pastries from Sift Bake Shop in Mystic, pies and breads from American Pie Company in Sherman, or Italian cookies from Mozzicato’s in Hartford. Find everything from cake pops and Krispy Treats to brownies and DIY cupcake kits at Forever Sweet Bakery in Norwalk. Discover organic European chocolate and plenty of vegan and gluten free options at Divine Treasures in Manchester. Or explore the Connecticut Chocolate Trail for truffles, fudge and more.

Enjoy gluten free and vegan cookies, cakes, scones, granola and more from Pure Love Bakery in Avon — you’ll even find Keto-friendly treats! Take home gluten free and dairy free goodies from By The Way Bakery in Greenwich or find completely nut free baking at Moneta Moments Bakery in Windsor.

Discover more Connecticut bakeries here — just be sure to place all holiday orders in advance.

Find Feasts

When it comes to dining, Connecticut is filled with festive spots to enjoy the season. Leading up to Christmas, enjoy the gorgeous décor at New Mill Restaurant in Plantsville or experience an elaborate decorative dinner scene at Cava in Southington, which utilizes over 200,000 lights, 65 Christmas trees and themed rooms including Frozen, The Grinch and more.

Plan to dine-in Christmas Eve at West Street Grill in Litchfield or Millwright’s Restaurant in Simsbury. Or throughout the month, dine in unique and innovative outdoor spaces throughout the like igloos, greenhouses and more.

And of course, your holiday dinner should always be special. Why not take a load off and order out rather than cook? Here are some Connecticut restaurants and caterers offering takeout. Be sure to place your orders in advance and remember you may need to pick up your meal before the holiday.

Let It Snow

Does the holiday season mean you’re headed to the slopes? Connecticut has plenty of ways to enjoy the winter weather, safely outdoors. Whether you’re a skier, snowboarder, snowshoer or beyond, here are some spots for snowy activities this season.

Having a warmer winter? Try these hiking treks for social distance-friendly hikes.

Escape to a Festive Inn

We all deserve a little relaxation this time of year. Get the quintessential New England holiday experience by getting away to a festive inn or B&B. Here are a few to consider.

Mayflower Inn & Spa, Washington

Mayflower Inn & Spa in Washington is in the picturesque town of Washington and set on 58 exquisite acres of land. Part of the Auberge Resorts Collection, this exquisite country retreat is renowned as one of the most distinguished and luxurious getaways.

 

Whaler’s Inn, Mystic

Whaler’s Inn in Mystic is the largest boutique hotel in the center of Historic Downtown Mystic and set within walking distance to exceptional restaurants, shops, picturesque historic neighborhoods, the Mystic River, and Mystic Seaport Museum. In December, enjoy stunning holiday décor and fireplaces.

 

Griswold Inn, Essex

Griswold Inn in Essex is one of the oldest continuously operating inns in the county, filled with historic charm and gets all dressed up for the holiday season with twinkling lights, poinsettias and pines. This year, the inn is offering games and other festivities during the month of December. This idyllic holiday inn was also featured in a recent Hallmark Christmas movie “Christmas at Pemberley Manor.”

 

The Inn at Woodstock Hill, Woodstock

The Inn at Woodstock Hill is a distinctive Quiet Corner area bed and breakfast inn located in Woodstock, Connecticut. The inn offers 21 comfortable guest rooms, each individually decorated. It’s particularly festive during the holidays as the most recent Hallmark Christmas movie, “One Royal Holiday” was filmed there.

 

Give Gifts that Give Back

As always, it’s important to #SupportCTbusinesses. Choosing to shop or buy gift cards from local stores, restaurants, attractions and more helps keep the unique businesses of Connecticut going.

Stroll popular shopping towns and outdoor shopping centers like Shops at Yale, which is offering fun deals and promotions this year including free parking, free gourmet hot cocoa and a holiday shopping passport with 38 participating businesses. Or support local vendors at Winterfair, the first ever holiday market in Hartford.

Buy gift cards now and redeem them later for ultimate experiential gift-giving like skydiving, foodie tours, arts passports and other gifts that don’t come in a box. Treat your gift recipient to special Connecticut-made products from handmade fashion accessories and home goods to homemade truffles and soaps. Shop safely in-store or online!

Looking For More?

Find more holiday events here.