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35 Cheerful Ways to Enjoy Christmas in Rhode Island

Wondering what to this Christmas in Rhode Island? We can’t promise a White Christmas, but we can offer a holiday season filled with sparkling lights, crackling fires, visits from Santa, and memory-making performances.

We have rounded up the best holiday events to bring a little cheer to this Rhode Island Christmas.

Providence Area Holiday Events

Big Nazo in front of Providence City Hall

Three Nights of Lights

In early December, this three-day festival with citywide light-themed events kicks off the Christmas season in Providence. The highlight is three evenings of WaterFire, Providence’s signature arts event, featuring a series of bonfires illuminating downtown’s rivers. 

The Avenue Concept adds to the experience with a nighttime public art gallery with illumination, sound, and cultural experiences at murals and sculptures throughout Downtown. 

There are also ice skating performances presented by FirstWorks. From tree lightings to holiday shopping events, the city will be aglow with warm light and holiday cheer. Each of the three nights of the WaterFire Holiday Celebration will feature Holiday ArtMart vendors and food trucks offering seasonal treats. One night Santa will even arrive at Santa’s Village by boat.

This three-day festival kicks off with the annual tree lighting in front of City Hall on December 1, 2023.

Christmas tree in Waterplace Park at Waterfire

Festival Ballet Providence Presents The Nutcracker

Dazzling sets, enchanting music, and beautiful choreography all come together in the crown jewel of the holiday season with the timeless holiday story of The Nutcracker from December 16 – 24, 2023 at The Vets. Watch in awe as this holiday tradition comes to life on stage for the whole family’s merriment. 

This family-friendly production features a tree that grows 38 feet, a charming Nutcracker character designed by Big Nazo Lab, clever magic tricks, vibrant and shimmering costumes, and dozens of delightful young dancers that perform alongside the Festival Balley Providence Company of world-class resident artists.

A Christmas Carol- Trinity Rep

From November 9, 2023 through December 31, 2023, A Christmas Carol returns to Trinity Rep for its annual run. A popular Christmas tradition, Trinity Rep dazzles audiences each year with the story of the infamous Ebenezer Scrooge and Tiny Tim. All ages will enjoy this classic holiday tale on stage.

Holiday Lights Spectacular at the Roger Williams Park Zoo

Ball ornament at Roger Williams Park Zoo

From November 24, 2023 through December 31, 2023, the Roger Williams Park Zoo transforms into a holiday wonderland with a dazzling light display throughout the Zoo. Visitors walk through 40 acres of festive larger-than-life luminous displays and over 3.5 million illuminated lights to brighten the holiday season.

Open rain or shine, this walkthrough Holiday Lights Spectacular is available with a timed-entry ticket only, which must be purchased online. The event is held nightly from 5:00 – 9:30 pm but is closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  Santa will even be at the Spectacular on select Thursday nights in December through Christmas.

Ice Skating & Bumper Cars at the Bank Newport City Center  

Bumper cars on ice in Providence
Image courtesy of Go Providence

While not particularly unique to Christmas, ice skating or bumper cars at the BankNewport City Center rink in Downtown Providence is one of my favorite things to do in Rhode Island in winter.

Providence is the third city in the country and the first in New England to offer ice bumper cars. Just be sure to make timed reservations very far in advance because tickets sell out fast.

Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical

From November 28, 2023 – December 3, 2023, Dr. Seuss’ HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS! THE MUSICALreturns to Providence for ten performances at the Providence Performing Arts Center

Holiday Painting

Gnomes holiday painting
Image courtesy of Paint and Vino

For those that are feeling crafty, local paint and wine studio Paint and Vino is offering a series of holiday-related painting classes including Winter Gnomes with LED Lights, Starlit Snowman with LED Lights, Home for the Holidays wooden sign, Grinch with LED Lights, and more. When you reserve your seat at this session you will enjoy two complimentary beverages (beer, wine, or soda) and all supplies are included.

Holiday Wreath Making Workshops

Learn to make a holiday wreath decoration at the Roger Williams Park Botanical Center. This workshop includes an evergreen wreath, all materials, and admission for up to four people to the Botanical Center. Tickets are $65 and additional Wreaths are $55. The gardens will also be decorated for the holidays with festive train displays in the two main greenhouses. Tickets must be purchased in advance.

Holiday Markets

If you are looking for fun, affordable and festive holiday shopping, Providence Flea is hosting the Annual Holiday Markets indoors at Farm Fresh RI Market Hall every Sunday from November 26 through December 17, 2023 and every Friday from Black Friday through December 15, 2023. The Market features 80+ local indie makers, artisans, vintage vendors, food trucks, fresh local coffee and spirits, craft beer and cocktails, ice cream, baked goods, fresh flowers and plants, and more! 

Hope & Main Holiday Market

This Holiday Market will take place on December 7, 2023 from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm in the atrium of 100 Westminster and feature Hope & Main Makers and treats from Bellini Providence. This is a perfect place to find locally-sourced holiday gifts, stocking stuffers, and gourmet treats.

Christmas ornaments in front of Providence City Hall

See a Holiday Show at The Vets

The Vets is upping the holiday entertainment game with a number of fun shows for different audiences. In addition to the Nutcracker, you can also enjoy performances of A Magical Cirque Christmas, which is a dazzling variety show full of nostalgia, charm, and awe-inspiring performances for all ages on November 25, 2023. 

On November 22, 2023, “A Drag Queen Christmas”, the longest running drag tour in America, comes back to Providence. And finally, on December 10, 2023 the Providence Singers pair with the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra for a moving performance of Handel’s Messiah at The Vets.

Holiday Light Show

After Confreda Farms wraps up its pumpkin patch and Scary Acres, it transforms into Rhode Island’s longest running drive-through holiday light show. The Rhode Island Holiday Light Show features several hundred holiday themed displays synchronized to music along a one mile route. The Rhode Island Holiday Light Show is open from November 17-December 31, 2023 from Thursday through Sunday and seven days a week from December 14-31st. Tickets can be purchased online or at the door (credit card is preferred.)

Garden City Stroll

Garden City Gazebo and Christmas lights

On Saturday, November 25, 2023, Garden City Center in Cranston hosts “It’s a Wonderful” Stroll. The event features a tree lighting, a visit from Santa and live entertainment. 

Shoppers can also visit Santa in his cozy cabin right outside the Garden City Center Gazebo to meet and greet the most holly jolly guy in the neighborhood and get photos with the Big Guy. Reservations are strongly encouraged. Walk-ups are welcome, but will be given a return time upon arrival.


Northern Rhode Island Christmas Events

Hearthside House decorated for the Holidays
Photo credit: Justin Baro

Old Fashioned Christmas at Hearthside House

If you ever wondered what Christmas was like during the colonial era, then a visit to the Hearthside House Museum is the perfect place for you. Here you will find three floors of this 200-year-old mansion decorated for the holidays. 

An Old-Fashioned Christmas takes place on Saturday, December 2-3, and 9-10 2023. During this event, families can meet Santa (and take some photos) to remember the moment. Festive musical entertainment and refreshments are also provided.

During the last weekend in December, the house will still be decorated for the holidays and visitors can experience both the history and the decorations in this “candlelight” tour by our docents in period attire.

Pawtucket Winter Wonderland

Slater Park is transformed into a winter wonderland for the whole family to enjoy. The display is made up of 650 Christmas trees decorated by their sponsor families across 30 acres the first two weekends in December from 4:00 to 8:00 pm.

Families will enjoy hayrides, children’s train rides, the carousel and a visit from Santa. In the entertainment tent there is free entertainment provided by talented students and adults from local area. The Food tent has hot dogs, hot chocolate, snacks and cookies for sale all at very reasonable prices.

The Polar Express

Girl holding Christmas bell with Santa on Polar Express train

Hop on board the historic Blackstone Valley Train for a three-hour journey that brings Chris Van Allsburg’s Christmas classic to life. Storytelling, sing-a-longs, games, scrumptious cookies, and delicious hot cocoa make this event a true delight for children. Santa himself even delivers the first gift of the season to each child aboard (a silver bell of course)!

In addition to the 90-minute train ride to view the North Pole, the fun starts outside of the depot with a stage show, photo opportunities with the characters, and children’s activities that are sure to fill everyone with the spirit of Christmas!

The Polar Express departs from Woonsocket and trips run on weekends from mid-November through Christmas with two shows a day. Keep in mind that this sells out so book your tickets early!!

Annual Scituate Village Candlelight Stroll

For the first four Thursdays in December, Chepachet Village offers candlelight shopping all along Main Street from 5:00 to 9:00 pm. Local shops are decorated for the season and the streets glow with antique street lights. 

The sounds of holiday music add to the old-fashioned ambiance that folks have enjoyed for many years. Chepachet Village Wine & Spirits also offers photo opportunities with Santa and his reindeer all throughout December and the town’s annual Christmas Tree Light Ceremony takes place on the first Thursday of December at the Pavilion at Kent Field. 

Stadium Theater

The Stadium Theater in Woonsocket rings in the holidays with many performances from late November through Christmas including a Trans-Siberian Orchestra Tribute band, The Nutcracker Ballet, It’s a Wonderful Life Radio Hour, A Christmas Carol, Divas of Drag Deck the Halls, and The Carpenters Tribute Christmas Show.

Blackstone River Theater Holiday Craft Fair & Festival

The Blackstone River Theater Holiday Craft Fair and Festival lets you shop local while supporting the theater and local home-based businesses. Taking place on the first Saturday in December, there are 24 vendors on site between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. The event will also feature continuous live music.

Santa’s Jeeps Parade

On December 2, 2023 from 3:00 to 6:00 pm in Diamond Hill Park in Cumberland, Jeep owners and resident gather for the Santa’s Jeep Parade. Presented by PVD Food Truck Events, the event includes DJ entertainment, Cumberland High School Clef Singers, pictures with Christmas characters, train rides, create your own ornaments, meet and greet with Santa, and the Kick off the Jeep Parade with Santa through the Town. 


NEWPORT AREA HOLIDAY EVENTS

North Pole shed in Newport RI

Sparkle! at Blithewold

On select dates from November 24, 2023 – December 31, 2023 from 6:30 to 8:00, Blithewold Mansion, Gardens, and Arboretum sparkles with holiday cheer. You can stroll through the illuminated grounds of Blithwold Mansion and collect scavenger hunt clues. Follow beautifully illuminated paths throughout the grounds to discover stunning, newly expanded light displays, handmade bamboo lanterns, and fun photo ops.

Afterwards, gather around cozy fires in the Enclosed Garden and listen while seasonal music floats through the air. RI Cruisin’ Cocktails will warm you up with a hot beverage, including drinks with a kick! 

You can add on a visit to the Mansion and take in the splendor of holiday spirit in each room and the Big Tree. Advance registration is required.

Christmas in Newport

Bowen's Wharf Newport Christmas tree

A month-long celebration, each day boasts a new event or activity such as walking tours, craft fairs, and museum visits. Downtown Newport is transformed with clear bulbs that are meant to replicate candles, which brings back memories of the candlelit holiday of the past. 

November 24, 2023 marks the Newport Illuminated Boat Parade at 6:00 PM when spectators can view the dazzling display of nautical holiday spirit from many points on the Newport waterfront as the decorated vessels circumnavigate Newport Harbor. 

Other events include Holiday Lantern Tours, Santa Magic at Long Wharf, the hot chocolate bar at The Chanler, and many concerts, bazaars, and open houses.

Bowen’s Wharf has a tree lighting on December 2nd and stores have special promotions just in time for the holiday shopping season. The enormous tree is lit promptly at 6:00 – the official beginning of the holiday season at Bowen’s Wharf! Santa and Mrs. Claus motor into Bowen’s Basin by boat (weather permitting) eager to listen to every child’s wish. 

Christmas at the Newport Mansions

Marble House Newport front with Christmas tree

Newport Nutcracker at Rosecliff

Rosecliff Mansion offers a unique and interactive twist on an old favorite. Guests will follow the main character through the fabulous rooms of the Mansion as she celebrates the holiday season with her family, battles the Mouse King, dances with the Snow Queen, and travels with her beloved Nutcracker to the magical Land of Sweets.

The first act of this unique performance is an experiential journey where guests walk and stand to watch the story unfold. The second act then unfolds in the Land of the Sweets, in the grand ballroom, where guests are assigned table seating. The performance is approximately 2 hours in length including the intermission.

Sparkling Lights at The Breakers

One of Newport’s newest Christmas attractions is the Sparkling Lights at The Breakers Mansion. On select evenings from November 17, 2023 through December 30, 2023, The Breakers lights up for the holidays. Visitors can stroll through a dazzling 50-foot-long tunnel of light and along a half-mile-long path glittering with hundreds of thousands of holiday lights while friendly gnomes point the way and music fills the winter air. 

Sparkling Lights include illuminated snowmen, reindeer and many more sparkling surprises. Kids will enjoy peeking into Santa’s Workshop inside the Children’s Cottage and families should be sure to get a family photo at the Van”deer”bilt  selfie station. 

Six fire pits will help visitors stay warm and festive and the back terrace of the mansion will have warming stations and adult beverages including hot chocolate with liqueur, apple cider with bourbon, wine and beer. There are holidays sweets and treats, and even s’mores kits to cook over the fire pit.

Winter Afternoon Tea at Blithewold

On select dates from November 22, 2023 – January 4, 2024, enjoy Afternoon Tea in Blithewold’s Dining Room. Gather with friends or family to delight in a cup of tea, freshly baked scones with sweet cream, and a three-tiered tray filled with sweet and savory treats. The price for Tea includes admission to the Mansion and Grounds, so be sure to leave time for strolling!

If brunch is more your vibe, celebrate with a Holiday Jazz Brunch at the Mansion with mimosas, tea, coffee, and a delectable plated brunch featuring live jazz musicians.

Fireside Concerts at the Linden Place Museum

Gather with friends and family and partake in one of the many holiday-themed events happening at Linden Place. A 200-year-old Gothic-style mansion is transformed for the holidays with decorations, elegant tables, special musical events, and even a visit from the big jolly old elf himself. 

Bright Night at Tiverton Four Corners

On Friday, December 1, 2023, Tiverton Four Corners comes alive with an evening of holiday shopping and special events. Luminaries light the way with an array of shops to visit as well as a special holiday feature presented by the Four Corners Arts Center. 

The Annual re-Tree, an outdoor showcase of home-made trees of recycled material created by community members, is a fun and joyful event sponsored by The Tiverton Farmers Market. Shops and restaurants offers special treats, games, prizes, and holiday decor. 

Coastal Queen’s Candy Cane Express Cruise

The Coastal Queen’s Candy Cane Express Cruise is holiday fun for the kids! The boat ride cruises around Newport Harbor and Narragansett Bay, with appearances by Mrs. Claus to read to the kids while hot chocolate is served. 

A candy cane is given to each child as they depart the boat after a 60-minute cruise. The boat departs from 1 East Ferry Wharf in Jamestown at 10:30 am. 

Bristol Santa House

The Bristol Santa House provides an inclusive Santa experience for children with special needs and their families. They provide an accessible, sensory-friendly environment that is festive and comfortable for children with Autism, Down Syndrome, mobility impairments, and other developmental disabilities, regardless of physical or mental challenges. Visits to Santa are always free and it is open from November 12, 2023, through December 23, 2023, on most Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday evenings. Be sure to check times and dates before you go and arrive 45 minutes prior to close.


Southern Rhode Island Holiday Events

Stone Ridge Luminaria
Image courtesy of Stone Ridge Neighborhood Association

Stone Ridge Luminaria   

A yearly tradition that spans over 30 years, the neighborhood of Stone Ridge in East Greenwich dazzles locals with its holiday light display. Featuring over 4,000 paper bag lanterns and traditional holiday decorations, Rhode Islanders from all over flock to drive through this neighborhood display. 

Ocean State Artisan’s Holiday Craft Show

From November 24, 2023 – November 26, 2023, the annual Ocean State Artisans Holiday Craft Show returns to 5600 Post Road in East Greenwich. This popular Thanksgiving weekend event is a shopping tradition for many and is one of the largest holiday craft shows in Rhode Island, featuring a wide variety of handcrafted items made by local artisans with over 80 booths.

This year’s show also features made-to-order fresh wreaths from Big John Leyden’s Tree Farm. Children can enjoy face painting and a visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus.

Festival of Lights Wickford

The Festival of Lights is a three-day event from November 30 through December 3, 2023 that begins with Santa arriving by boat at the town dock and culminating with a community chorus performance.

Downtown Wickford is transformed by thousands of twinkling white lights and holiday events happening throughout the three-day festival. Art shows, Smith Castle tours, and hayrides with Santa are just some of the activities planned. 

Holiday Stroll & Luminaria

Downtown Westerly is lined with luminaria as shoppers enjoy special store promotions, listen to carolers sing, and even take a hayride with Santa. Complimentary hot cocoa and cookies will make your candlelit stroll through downtown complete. 

Gondola Village at the Ocean House

Experience the magic of the holidays in the French Alps here in Rhode Island. The Ocean House’s North Lawn transforms into a village of fully restored vintage ski gondolas for private dining experiences. Each gondola has been outfitted with warm woods, fine textiles, chandeliers, and sophisticated Le Creuset tableware, surrounded by an enchanting winter wonderland and attended by a private server.

Gondola Village opens in early November and is available for reservations for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and apero.

The Ocean House also hosts many special holiday events including an annual tree lighting, brunches with Santa, Santa check ins, gingerbread decorating, ornament making, and truffle-tree making workshops.


Nearby Massachusetts Holiday Events

LaSallette Shrine
Photo credit: Joy Adamonis

La Sallette Festival of Lights

Just over the border in North Attleboro, MA lies LaSallette with over 300,000 twinkling lights that will surely amaze the whole family. This religious lights display also features a creche museum, religious store, food court, kids activities, and more.

Once the holiday season is over, there is still much fun to have during the winter season here in Rhode Island. Be sure to check out the favorite winter activities in Rhode Island and things to do in Newport in winter to learn how you can keep busy all throughout the winter season here in Little Rhody!

Also see 21 festive ways to celebrate Christmas in Massachusetts.

tamara

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