Home Best of Guides Must-Visit East Coast Towns for the Holiday Season

Must-Visit East Coast Towns for the Holiday Season

by Lauren Alberti
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While the cold weather can often have us feeling desperate for a southern escape, the truth is, some of the best spots for a getaway are just a few short hours from Essex CountyHo. Yes, it’s true — the East Coast may be chilly, but it is home to some of the best holiday towns to visit for a weekend or even an extended stay. Next time you feel cooped up at home with nothing to do, consider venturing to one of these iconic Christmas destinations and quaint spots with charm and history. We’ve rounded up the best towns on the East Coast — mainly outside of New Jersey — that will get you into the holiday spirit, without leaving the northeast.

Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

Nicknamed “Christmas City USA” in 1937, this historic town is filled with holiday charm. Check out the two holiday markets, Christmas Huts on Main, which is an outdoor shopping experience inspired by the German Weihnachtsmarkt, and Christkindlmarkt, recognized as one of the nation’s premier holiday markets. Take the Christmas City Stroll tour, led by a guide in period costume, and learn about Bethlehem’s holiday history, or explore the city by horse-drawn carriage. 

Their Live Advent Calendar event is a one-of-a-kind experience where visitors and locals gather outside the Goundie House on Main Street. One selected visitor knocks on the door and the group is greeted by representatives from local businesses offering a surprise for all to enjoy. Surprises include musical performances, a story, or even a tasty treat. 

Read More: A Cozy Winter Activity: Candle Making in New Jersey

Boston, Massachusetts


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Boston is known for its tangible history and cobblestone streets, which make for a beautiful holiday landscape. There are countless family-friendly events, such as the Faneuil Hall Tree Lighting ceremony, the SoWa Winter Festival — located in Boston’s Back Bay — or visit Santa at the Beacon Hill Holiday Stroll. Their SantaCon pub crawl attracts visitors from all over, hoping to bring in the holiday season with a good time.

Boston First Night takes place on New Year’s Eve and is made up of different celebrations that occur throughout the city. There are performances, crafts, ice sculpture making, and more. Finish the night off with a firework show over the water. 

Corning, New York

Corning, located just south of New York’s Finger Lakes, is home to some great holiday traditions. There are holiday events happening from Thanksgiving up until New Year’s Eve. Notable events include the Parade of Lights, Holiday Aglow, Sparkle, and Breakfast with Santa. There are tree lightings, caroling, wagon and carriage rides, craft and food vendors, photos with Santa, and special dining and shopping promotions to really make this holiday season special.  

Essex, Connecticut


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Make holiday dreams come true on the North Pole Express train in Essex. There are also steam train and boat tour options available. Going to Essex is like stepping into the set of a Hallmark holiday movie. The Griswold Inn (no, not those holiday Griswolds) was built in 1776 and has actually been featured in Hallmark movies and looks like it came out of a fairy tale. Be sure to also check out the Christmas Village, go shopping on Main Street, and visit the Connecticut River Museum for their annual Holiday Train Show. 

Hershey, Pennsylvania

Did you know that Santa and his reindeer make a special stop at Hersheypark Christmas Candylane every year? Santa’s Reindeer Stables have a newly expanded viewing platform to enjoy an up-close look at all your favorite reindeer. The park is decked out with over 5 million lights, including the NOEL musical light show. There are special holiday rides including Laff Trakk℠, Jolly Rancher Remix™, Wild Mouse℠, and Cocoa Cruiser℠. Don’t forget to celebrate the holiday season with tons of chocolate.

Indiana, Pennsylvania

Located just outside Pittsburgh, Indiana, PA has been given the title of the Christmas Tree Capital of the World. Their 30-foot live Christmas Tree is the perfect backdrop for small-town Christmas adventures. Their vintage light and window displays, visits with Santa, followed by marshmallow roasting, and specialty boutiques and locally owned restaurants attract visitors from all over the east coast looking to get their holiday fill. Get nostalgic at the Historical + Genealogical Society of Indiana County and see the “Toys of Christmas Past” exhibit, or check out the Holiday “Wheels and Thrills” community miniature train + quilt show at the Indiana Mall. 

Kennebunkport, Maine

In Kennebunkport, you can watch Santa Claus arrive by lobster boat during the annual Christmas Prelude, and there are many other festivities hosted throughout the holiday season. One of the best places to celebrate Christmas in New England, the town is picture-perfect, especially with holiday lights and a dusting of snow, ideal for photo-ops, while seashore holiday trolley rides, wine tasting, and lobster bakes are hosted too.

Lambertville, New Jersey

Lambertville is known as the Antiques Capital of New Jersey, according to Travel + Leisure, which named it one of New Jersey’s best small towns. It dates back to 1705, and has a huge antique flea market open on weekends, as well as dozens of galleries, and several museums — and lots of historic charm.

Manchester, Vermont


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This southern Vermont town comes to life during the holiday season. Their annual tree lighting starts off the season’s events. Take a stroll through their charming downtown to get in the spirit, and stay at one of their infamous inns that go all-out when decorating for the holiday season.

Milford, Pennsylvania


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Tucked away right near New Jersey in the Pocono Mountains, Milford is the most under-the-radar yet an absolute must-visit  of a small town. Its quaint vibes are unmatched, and adorable places to wine and dine include the Soaked Winery, The Waterwheel Cafe, Bar Louis, and of course, a stay at the Hotel Fauchere. During the holiday season, there are lots fun activations including dining inside igloos, visits with Santa, and more. Learn more about this sweet village here.

Nantucket, Massachusetts


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Typically thought of as a summer destination, Nantucket has a lot to offer during the chilly months as well. With tons of local shopping, it is the perfect spot to find unique gifts for loved ones or even just for yourself. Main Street has holiday events, especially during their Christmas Stroll, which features costumed carolers, ugly sweater competitions, and food from local vendors. Starting the day after Thanksgiving, hundreds of 7-foot Christmas trees, creatively decorated by local schools and businesses, line the streets of downtown Nantucket. But the king is the 20-foot tree at the top of Main Street. Each year, a local artist is chosen to decorate this tree, which also has magic powers: it talks to anyone who visits the Stroll on Saturday.

New Hope, Pennsylvania


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Have you ever wanted to live inside a snow globe? Now’s your chance! Visit New Hope, PA for a vintage holiday feel without traveling very far. On the New Hope Railroad, visitors can ride aboard the historic #40 steam engine and meet Santa and Mrs. Claus while riding through the historic and scenic Bucks County countryside. The ride departs from the New Hope Station for a round trip to the North Pole. New Hope also offers great shopping and dining options. The community is full of holiday spirit, decorating with lights, hosting holiday craft fairs, and other fun holiday festivals throughout the season. 

Portsmouth, New Hampshire


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Picturesque Portsmouth, New Hampshire has everything you need to make a magical holiday weekend. Their Candlelight Stroll is a tradition of their Vintage Christmas in Portsmouth events. There are also holiday shows to see at The Music Hall and carol concerts in Market Square. Their unique downtown offers great shopping for everyone on your holiday list. The Portsmouth Historical Society puts on a gingerbread contest every year. 

Rhinebeck, New York


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Rhinebeck is one of the East Coast’s best-kept Christmas secrets. Their Wonderland of Lights event takes place at the Dutchess County Fair Grounds and is a drive-thru light show that runs from Thanksgiving through Christmas Day. The Sinterklaas Parade takes place every year at the beginning of December and attracts visitors from all around the East Coast. The colorful celebration features children’s workshops, dance, theater, and music all over the village of Rhinebeck. 

See More: Where to Get Mulled Wine in North Jersey

Stockbridge, Massachusetts

The town of Stockbridge, made famous by Norman Rockwell’s painting of the village during the holidays, becomes a magical New England setting decorated with holiday wreaths and festive lights. Their Main Street comes as a magical Christmas destination, complete with costume carolers. 

Woodstock, Vermont


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Vermont knows how to do winter, whether it’s skiing or glamping, there’s no shortage of ways to ring in the new year and celebrate the holiday season.  Woodstock truly brings the charm during the wintertime, including its adorable downtown shopping, scenic winter walks, and Christmas at the Farm

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