Inexpensive holiday fun and events in NH and beyond

New England decks the halls with low-cost fun

Trying to make it through the holidays with your family’s budget intact? With so many free and low-cost holiday events taking place this month, there’s no reason to feel like a Scrooge. Make merry – and don’t spend much money – at family-friendly happenings taking place here in New Hampshire, and nearby in Boston, Mass. and Portland, Maine.

New Hampshire

After-dark holiday parades are a tradition in New England, with illuminated floats adding to the festive feel of these always-exciting community gatherings. On the Seacoast, the Exeter Holiday Parade, takes place on Saturday December 7, stepping off at 5:30 p.m. on Portsmouth Avenue and heading down Water Street to the Swasey Parkway. A magical event for all ages, the parade features decorative floats, horse drawn wagons, colorful marching bands, and a special visit from Santa Claus.

Heading up north? Also happening on Saturday, December 7 is the Plymouth Hometown 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 begins at 5 p.m., winding through town to end at the Town Common. If you have a sweet tooth, then you won’t want to miss the Holiday Cookie Walk, which takes place from 11 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. at the Plymouth Regional Senior Center on Saturday, December 7.

For many of us, December seems like it’s all about non-stop shopping. But at Settler’s Green Outlet Village in North Conway, there is still room to mix gift-buying with quality holiday fun. Stop by the outlet on Saturday, December 7 for the annual Settlers’ Green Holiday Festival and Tree Lighting, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and take in live music performances, walk among a forest of trees dressed in holiday finery, sip a cup of free hot chocolate and take a free horse drawn wagon ride with Santa. Then go snowtubing! Cranmore Mountain Resort sets up a miniature snow-tubing park for free tubing all afternoon at Settler’s Green.

And what’s December without singing along with all your holiday favorites? On Friday, December 6, from 5 to 7 p.m., New London’s Center for the Arts presents a free holiday concert as a part of its monthly Free Friday! series at Whipple Hall. The event featuring The KRES Chime Tones, the Troubadors, the Sunapee Flute Choir and a community sing-a-long.

On Saturday, December 7, your kids can have breakfast with the Big Guy (and maybe slip in a few more items on their wish lists) at Breakfast with Santa, from 8-11 a.m., at the Raymond Masonic Lodge. Admission is $6 per person and kids 3 and under are free. Pajamas are highly encouraged, so don’t worry about dressing up for this family-friendly event. There will also be free crafts and activities for children.

Celebrating the Festival of Lights? Or curious about what it means to celebrate Chanukah? Head to Concord on Sunday, December 22 for a Family Menorah Lighting at the State House, presented by the Chabad Center for Jewish Living and the PJ Library. The event begins at 4 p.m. and all guests can indulge on free hot chocolate and jelly doughnuts. For the kids, there will be crafts and a book giveaway.

Speaking of lights, don’t miss Lights on the Hill in Candia on Saturday, December 14 from 2-8 p.m. Guests are invited to take an illuminated stroll among the 19th century buildings (on High Street and South Road) and toast marshmallows at the bonfire. There is no admission cost, but people are encouraged to bring hats, mittens and warm clothing items as a donation.

Portland, Maine

Are your travels taking you to the Pine Tree State’s largest city this December? Portland doesn’t disappoint when it comes to budget-friendly good cheer. Check out Light Up Your Holidays in Monument Square starting in late November for holiday cheer and family-friendly fun. Free horse-drawn wagon rides will take you on a tour of the area’s Victorian-era homes and shops, all dressed in holiday finery. Rides are offered Fridays, from 4 to 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 to 6 p.m., and Sundays, 1 to 5 p.m. from November 29 through December 22.

What to do after your wagon ride? Why go shopping, of course! Held in the Arts District, the spotlight is on the area’s eclectic assortment of shops where you are almost guaranteed to find something to fit everyone on your list. Plus, stores are getting in the spirit with live music, free family activities and kids’ crafts, window displays, cooking demonstrations and more.

The not-to-miss Monument Square Tree Lighting takes place on Friday, November 29, starting at 4 p.m. In addition to Santa Claus, there will also be eggnog samples from Hood, live music, local celebs and wagon rides.


Do you remember this? In Boston, throughout the 1960s and into the 1970s, the Enchanted Village display in Jordan Marsh’s Downtown Crossing store was one of the city’s most popular holiday traditions. After Jordan Marsh closed, the display was sold to the City of Boston, but after a few years, a lack of funding led the Village to be put up for auction.

Who bought it? Jordan’s Furniture. The furniture store has restored the vintage collection to its former glory and put it on permanent display at their flagship store in Avon, Mass, just south of Boston. From mid-November through January 1, stop in during regular store hours to enjoy a trip through yesteryear. The Enchanted Village tour is free and your family will even be treated to an authentic Jordan Marsh blueberry muffin and a visit with Santa.

While you’re there, don’t miss “The Polar Express”, a 4-D experience (the cost is $7 per person).

End the year with a bang – for your buck. The first First Night started in Boston and the city’s New Year’s Eve tradition is still going strong. The day-long celebration runs from 1 p.m. to midnight each year on December 31. First Night’s traditional activities include live entertainment and ice sculptures at Copley Square, family entertainment throughout Back Bay, fireworks at 7 p.m. and a pyrotechnics countdown and light show at midnight.

Categories: Winter Holidays