12 days of New Hampshire holiday fun

Check out the parades, candlelight strolls, concerts and plays that are scheduled this holiday season



The Candlelight Stroll at Strawbery Banke in Portsmouth takes place each December.

Courtesy photo

The busy holiday season is here and December’s calendar is filling up fast. What do you have penciled in for kid-friendly fun? Here is a sampling of can’t-miss holiday festivities for families taking place this month throughout New Hampshire.

There’s something magical that happens this month when museums across the state throw open their doors to give the young and old a chance to experience New England’s holiday traditions of bygone days. Ever wonder what halls decked with boughs of holly really look like? This is your chance to find out.

At the Remick Country Doctor Museum and Farm in Tamworth, visitors are invited on Saturday, December 1 to experience the spirit and joy of holiday celebrations at Homestead Christmas. Tour the museum’s many historic buildings, hands-on holiday crafts for families, listen to live music, sample traditional syllabub (a holiday treat from England) and food demonstrations of 19th century open-hearth and woodstove cooking.

The Strawbery Banke Museum’s Candlelight Stroll, held during tweekends of December, welcomes guests to explore the museum’s historic neighborhoods and experience the sights, smells, and yummy sweet tastes of more than 350 years of holiday good cheer. Kids’ activities abound and all are welcome to enjoy horse-drawn wagon rides, musical performers, caroling around the bonfire, and ice skating at Puddle Dock Pond. Children 4 and younger are admitted free of charge.

If your holidays just aren’t complete without riding in a one-horse open sleigh, make your way to the New Hampshire Farm Museum’s A Victorian Christmas on the Farm, taking place this year on Saturday, December 15. Tour the beautifully decorated Jones farmhouse, talk to costumed role players, enjoy a horse-drawn sleigh or wagon ride, make a Christmas candle to take home, roast chestnuts over the open fire and partake of gingerbread and hot cider in the farmhouse kitchen.

Looking for one more place to go for “unplugged” holiday fun? On two Saturdays of December (December 8 and 15), visit Canterbury Shaker Village for Christmas at Canterbury, a magical evening filled with simple holiday entertainment in the Shaker tradition. The festively decorated village offers live musical performances, horse-drawn wagon rides, a 19th-century magic show, Christmas caroling, a Gingerbread Spectacular and treasure hunt, craft demonstrations, food demonstrations, and plenty of hands-on activities for the entire family.

Parade excitement

The sun sets by late afternoon in December, but towns across the state make the most of it by lighting up the darkness with illuminated holiday parades. On the Seacoast, Exeter’s holiday parade, is Saturday, December 1 stepping off at 5:30 p.m. from Portsmouth Avenue, then heading down Water Street to the Swasey Parkway. A magical event for all ages, the parade features decorative floats, horse-drawn wagons, marching bands, and a special visit from Santa Claus.

In New Hampshire’s Queen City, the Manchester Holiday Parade is also on Saturday, December 1 beginning at 4 p.m. The state’s largest holiday parade, it’s always an amazing sight to watch more than 80 festively decorated floats sparkle and shine their way down Elm Street.

Heading up north? Don't miss the Plymouth Hometown Celebration and Holiday Parade, a wildly popular local tradition with bands, floats, dancers, a parade of local pets, and a visit with Santa – all followed by fireworks. This year’s parade is on Saturday, December 1 and begins at 5 p.m., and winds through town to the Town Common. The man in red is sticking around for an extra day in Plymouth, so if you’re in town on December 2, you can skate with Santa at the Plymouth State University ice arena from 1-2:45 p.m. Santa will be on the ice for visiting and for free photographs. No skates? Free rentals (all sizes) will be provided.

Winter wonderland

If you’re heading to the White Mountains this month for some early season skiing, the region makes it easy to incorporate holiday fun. In Lincoln, not far from the slopes of Loon Mountain, hop aboard the Hobo Railroad for a special holiday-themed jaunt through the wintery landscape with Santa on board to visit with each family. Friendly elves will serve hot chocolate and cookies. This year’s Santa Train runs each weekend starting in late November leading up to Christmas in December.

How about a trip to the North Pole, New Hampshire-style? With its glowing holiday lights and decor set against the snow-capped mountains, in December, Santa’s Village in Jefferson really lives up to its name. Open during select weekends in November and December, the venerable White Mountains’ theme park offers visits with Santa, a chance to sip hot cider with Mrs. Claus, and the unique opportunity to take a spin on many of the park’s rides. Weather-permitting, 15 plus rides will be in operation for holiday visitors, including the popular Rudy’s Rapid roller coaster. For skiing families, Jefferson is close to Bretton Woods.  

Holiday concerts and onstage performances

If you find yourself having a little too much in common with Scrooge this year, shake off your bah humbugs by taking in a lively performance of A Christmas Carol at Manchester’s Palace Theatre. The production is an annual tradition that’s grown to feature more than 50 actors. Performances are weekends and select weekdays throughout the month of December.

Finally, what’s the holiday season without a few sugar plum fairies? For a chance to see some of New Hampshire’s rising ballet stars in action, catch Northeastern Ballet Theatre’s production of The Nutcracker at either Kingswood Arts Center in Wolfeboro (December 2) or Oyster River High School (December 15-16). You can also find Nutcracker productions by Sole City Dance at The Rochester Opera House on December 8, 9, 13 and 14 and from Ballet Misha at the Dana Center at St. Anselm College on December 15-16.

Happy holidays! 

Jacqueline Tourville is a freelance writer and author. A longtime resident of Nashua, she and her family now split their time along the New Hampshire and Maine seacoast. For more on her latest projects, go to jacquelinetourville.com or follow her on Twitter @missmashable.

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