Free-For-All: Holiday Fun That Won’t Break the Piggybank
Years ago, when I was single, I had a great part-time gig as a travel correspondent for the Associated Press. The paycheck wasn’t anything to write home about, but the opportunity to see and do things I might not have otherwise experienced more than made up for it.
Of all the things I discovered in my travels, the one thing that resonates most profoundly is the abundance of enriching sites, destinations, events and experiences we have here in the Northeast. Yet, many of the New Englanders I meet often miss what is right under their noses.
From Westchester County in the west to Boston in the east, Webster’s four-state footprint is overflowing with arts, culture, history, recreation, spectator sports and cuisine. In the spirit of the Bank Roll, which is to offer budgeting and saving advice, my aim is to bring you, from time to time, some quality and affordable leisure time and vacation ideas you can access on a tank of gasoline or less.
In the spirit of the season, here are some free, family-friendly holiday events located throughout Webster Land:
HARTFORD: Two of the city’s most beloved celebrations offer free activities for the whole family:
Through January 21: Winterfest Hartford, Bushnell Park. Free ice skating, Sundays – Thursdays, Noon – 8 pm, Fridays & Saturdays, Noon – 9 pm. Free rental skates available. Free photos with Santa on Saturdays & Sundays, Noon – 3 pm. This event is sponsored in part by Webster Bank.
December 8: Festival of Trees & Traditions, Wadsworth Athenaeum. Admission free this day from 10 am – 1 pm, as part of the museum’s “Second Saturdays” program. This event is sponsored in part by Webster Bank.
MERIDEN: Through January 6: Festival of Silver Lights, Hubbard Park. 200,000 white lights and 300 lighted characters, beginning at dusk. Telephone: (203) 630-4259.
MILFORD: December 7 -8: 11th Annual Lamplight Stroll, Downtown Milford. Horse & Carriage rides with Mrs. Santa, storytelling, strolling carolers, choirs, refreshments and more. Saturday, 5 – 9 pm; Sunday, 10 am – 5 pm.
MYSTIC AREA: This historic seafaring region has a variety of free holiday events in December, including:
December 4: Mystic Stroll, Historic Downtown Mystic, 6 – 9 pm. Caroling by local choirs, appearances by characters from “The Nutcracker” ballet, music by the Union Baptist Bell Choir, and a visit from Mystic’s saxophone-playing Santa.
December 7: Olde Mistick Village Festival of Lights, dusk – 9:30 pm. Over 4,000 luminaria, entertainment, refreshments and more.
December 9: 24th East Lyme/Niantic Winterfest and Light Parade. Winterfest begins at noon, Light Parade and fireworks at 5 pm.
December 23: Mystic Seaport Carol Sing and Open House. Caroling, 2 – 4 pm. Museum admission is free from 10 – 4 pm with the donation of a canned food item.
NEW HAVEN: Through February 3: Joyeux Noel: Christmas in Canada, Knights of Columbus Museum. Admission and parking are free. Daily, 10 am – 5 pm, except Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
SOUTH WINDSOR: Through December 14: Annual Gingerbread House Extravaganza at the Wood Memorial Library. Billed as one of New England’s largest gingerbread house displays. Mondays and Thursdays, 10 am – 8 pm; Saturdays and Sundays Noon – 6 pm.
ATTLEBORO: Through January 6: 59th Annual Christmas Festival of Lights, LaSalette Shrine. More than 300,000 lighted and lighted vignettes on a 10-acre campus. Nightly, 5 – 9 pm.
BOSTON: DECEMBER 7: Community Messiah Sing & Sly Voxes, Roxbury Latin School, 7:30 pm. First half of concert is a holiday presentation by the men’s a capella group, Sly Voxes. Second half is a community sing of Handel’s Messiah, with aspiring vocalists from New England Conservatory singing the solo parts.
DECEMBER 9: A Light Through the Ages, Central Reform Temple, 4 pm. Free holiday concert celebrating the deep spiritual meaning of Chanukah.
DECEMBER 11: Christmas Concert with Apollo Club of Boston, Boston Public Library. Founded in 1871, the 30-voice Apollo Club is the second-oldest men’s chorus in the country. Free concert of holiday and other favorite songs, 7 – 8 pm.
NEW BEDFORD: DECEMBER 7: Padanarum Village Christmas Festival, 5 – 8 pm. Free refreshments, free activities and goodies for kids, entertainment, holiday décor contest
DECEMBER 8: New Bedford 5K Santa Fun Run, starts at 11 am at New Bedford City Hall. Last year more than 1,600 Santa-suit-clad runners took part. Free for spectators, but there is an entry fee for those who wish to run.
WESTCHESTER, NEW YORK
WHITE PLAINS: DECEMBER 16: New Westchester Symphony Orchestra Holiday Concert, White Plains Public Library, 3 pm. This community-based orchestra will perform seasonal favorites.
NEWPORT: 42nd Annual Christmas In Newport. The City-by-the-Sea’s month-long holiday celebration has something for everyone, including a wide selection of free events:
December 7: Newport Yachting Center Tree Lighting Ceremony, with music, refreshments, Santa and Mrs. Claus, 5:30 p.m. Discounted ice skating available after lighting ceremony ($7 adults/$5 children).
December 8: Holiday Open House and Reading of The Night Before Christmas, International Tennis Hall of Fame and Museum. Visit from Santa and reading at 2:30 pm, open house 9:30 am – 5:00 p.m. Free with donation of nonperishable food item for local food pantry.
December 9: Touro Synagogue Community Candle Lighting, second night of Chanukah. Latkes, entertainment and more, 5 – 7 pm.
December 10: A Living Nativity, presented by Cluny School, live animals, choral music, refreshments served, 6 pm (rain date: Dec. 17)
December 11: 101st Medieval Christmas Pageant, St. George’s School Chapel. Candlelit service of the portrayal of the Christmas story, 7:30 pm.
December 15: Holiday Glow Open House at the Seamen’s Church Institute, complimentary tour of this National Register Historic Site, 2 – 4 pm.
December 16: Christmas Music at the First Presbyterian Church of Newport, handbells, instruments, sanctuary choir, soloist and small ensembles, 7 pm. Phone: (401) 847-1749.
PROVIDENCE: DECEMBER 14: 2nd Annual Christmas WaterFire, 5 – 8:30 pm. Special WaterFire lighting will start at the Waterplace Park basin by Providence Place Mall and end at Steeple Street. Tree lighting, caroling, visit from Santa Claus, cookies and hot beverages. Event is free; visitors are encouraged bring a donation of nonperishable food or a toy for the Providence Rescue Mission.
WESTERLY: DECEMBER 5: 16th Annual Holiday Stroll and Luminaria, 5 – 9 pm. Historic downtown will be lit with hundreds of luminaria. Caroling, Free hayrides with Santa, cookies and hot cocoa.
DECEMBER 16: Open rehearsal, Chorus of Westerly Christmas Pops, 12:15 – 2 pm. The 190-voice chorus’s afternoon rehearsal will full orchestra is free and open to the public.