The Christmas music playing in department stores is an indicator that the holiday season is upon us. Before the holiday quickly approaches, enjoy both indoor and outdoor activities while visiting Connecticut. A variety of events and new traditions are occurring across the state including ice skating, train rides, visiting Santa and even a trip to Bethlehem. Follow this guide for fun ideas to celebrate the holiday season and also for how to have an enjoyable Thanksgiving weekend for visitors in Connecticut.
Hartford Holiday Light Fantasia
1130 Maple Ave.
Hartford, CT 06114
Date: Nov. 27, 2014 through Jan. 1, 2015
Celebrate the spirit of the holiday season at Holiday Light Fantasia. Each year, Goodwin Park located in Hartford, CT transforms into a winter wonderland full of light displays. Say warm in your own vehicle as you and your friends or family drive through the light display. Children and adults alike will enjoy this holiday event that can become a new tradition when visiting Connecticut. Admission is $15 per car for up to 10 people or for larger vehicles the cost is $25 for limousines and $50 for a mini bus. Cash is the only form of payment accepted. Admission is Sundays through Thursdays from 5 to 9 p.m. and on Saturdays and Sundays from 5 to 10 p.m.
Naugatuck Railroad Holiday Santa Train
242 E Main St.
Thomaston, CT 06787
Date: Nov. 29 through Dec. 21, 2014
The trains of Naugatuck Railroad transform to one of lights and holiday spirit. Two holiday-themed train rides are featured this winter: Santa Express and Northern Lights. Northern Lights is held on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. Lights decorate the interior of the train and the exterior of the ride to Santa’s workshop. Upon arrival to the workshop, Santa will board the train and pass a gift to each child. This event is $25 per person and free for ages two and younger. An alternative holiday train ride is the daytime Santa Express on Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m. Guests will also visit Santa’s workshop and get a chance to greet Santa on the train. Admission price is $17 per adult, $15 per senior or child and free for ages 2 and younger.
60 Elm St.
Hartford, CT 06103
Date: Nov. 28, 2014 through Feb. 1, 2015
Winterfest Hartford is an annual event hosted in the city of Hartford. It features a series of two free events that are highly popular for families. Free ice skating is set up at Hartford’s Bushnell Park daily from November 28 to February 1, 2014. Seven days a week, guests can enjoy free skating and ice skate rentals from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. On weekends during this time period, kids will be elated to meet Santa and tell him their wish list. Santa will visit at the Pump House and each guest will receive one free 5×7 photo.
Route 132 & Route 61
Bethlehem, CT 06751
Date: Dec. 5-6, 2014
With the name like Bethlehem, this small town in Connecticut goes all out for the holidays. The best time of season to visit is during the Christmas Town Festival which takes place December 5-6 this year. The celebrations are located on the town green. Spend Friday riding the little train around town and spend Saturday splurging on local food vendors. Visiting the post office draws visitors as they travel to send mail post marked from Bethlehem. The post office is at 34 East Street. Extend your stay to sample local foods at Woodward House and The Painted Boy.
75 Greenmanville Ave.
Mystic, CT 06355
Date: Nov. 29 through Dec. 27, 2014
Mystic, Connecticut is known for many things including its sightseeing activities, Mystic Village and pizza that was based on a major motion film. What you might not know is how the town transforms for the holiday season. Mystic Seaport hosts a variety of events to keep friends and family entertained. From November 29 to December 27, guests can partake in a 70-minute Lantern Light Tour of Maritime Village. Santa might even make an appearance. Tours leave every 15 minutes starting at 5 p.m. Horse-drawn carriages help to transform the atmosphere to Christmas Eve of 1876. On December 13, Santa is guaranteed to make an appearance form 1 to 3 p.m. where affordably little ones can tell Santa what they want for Christmas and enjoy cider and cookies at the low price of a $1 donation. Deck the halls by joining carolers on December 21 at 3 p.m. to spread holiday cheer in Anchor Circle. Make your travels a weekend trip by staying at a nearby Whitehall Mansion Inn, Inn at Mystic, Hilton Mystic or Marriott.
Kimberly Ord is a freelance writer and lifetime resident of Connecticut. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.