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In Massachusetts, there are more than 90 events that bring the holiday season to life across the Commonwealth.
Beyond tree lightings, caroling, holiday shows and the like, there are also some happenings that are a bit less conventional, helping revelers spread some cheer in creative ways.
From trains with elves to illuminated gardens, here are 5 ways to celebrate the holiday season in Massachusetts that are a little bit out of the ordinary.
Train to Christmas Town in Bourne, MA
Cape Cod has a number of different special festive activities and the peninsula’s Train to Christmas Town is one of the standouts. Families are welcomed aboard the heated passenger cars, where they’re treated to the story of Janice, a little girl who rides the train to Christmas Town each year.
All aboard the train to Christmas Town
Along the way, Janice gets plenty of assistance from woodland friends and cheery elves, who make appearances throughout the ride. Naturally, cookies and cocoa are served to passengers, and Santa travels through the cars to greet everyone before the tale comes to an end. The trains run through the end of December and more info on tickets is available here. To stay overnight in the area, the Dan’l Webster Inn and Spa is in nearby Sandwich.
Christmas Festival of Lights in Attleboro, MA
Once known as The Jewelry Capital of the World because of its many manufacturers, the city of Attleboro still glitters in a special way during the holiday season. Every year, The National Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette puts on a fantastic lights display, which runs from late November to early January; all in all, the 2014 festival will have more than 300,000 lights spread across 10 acres.
Lights at La Salette by Samina Quareshi
As a part of the exhibition, La Salette’s festival also showcases crèches from around the world, sprinkling them throughout the illuminated scenery. Attendance is free for all, but donations are appreciated, of course. To put your feet up nearby, the Holiday Inn Express in North Attleborough is conveniently situated.
Holly Days in Boylston, MA
Tower Hill Botanic Garden typically gets more attention for its spring blossoms and fall colors than its winter happenings but Holly Days makes this central Massachusetts spot well worth a trip during December. Starting the day after Thanksgiving, the botanic garden’s Orchard, Entry, Lawn and Winter gardens get a whole lot of holiday cheer in the form of 1,500+ hand-made ornaments and 12 miles of lights.
Tower Hill decked out for the holidays
During Holly Days, Tower Hill is open seven days a week (including Mondays), giving guests no shortage of opportunities to pick out a day and stop in; the building, grounds, shop and café are open from at least 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. each day. If you’d like to sleep over without logging much more time on the road, the Classic Suites & Inns in town makes that easy.
Look Park Holiday Events in Florence, MA
As a public space, Look Park is open to any and all comers 365 days a year. Santa’s Trains, however, can only be seen during December. From December 10 through December 24, the 150-acre park is transformed into a Victorian-style train station, complete with all the holiday season’s sights and sounds.
One of Santa’s many trains in Look Park via Facebook
Inside, guests can munch on snacks, amble among the masterfully decorated trees and chat with the train engineers, as well as see Mr. and Mrs. Claus. The festivities have a nice local touch, too, with a member from the community greeting visitors while they enter the magical park. Admission is free, and to wake up just a 15-minute drive away, look into a stay at The Hotel Northampton.
Harvard Square Holiday Fairs in Cambridge, MA
Unique, handcrafted items are all the rage these days when it comes to gift giving, and the three weekends of December offer an excellent chance to find some in the heart of Harvard Square. The first two Harvard Square Holiday Fairs have come and gone, but the longest one is just around the corner, and will last from December 18 – 23.
Harvard Square abuzz with activity
The fairs are located at the First Parish Unitarian Church courtyard and basement on the intersection of Church Street and Mass Ave. This year’s selection will have jewelry, clothing, woodwork, glass art and plenty else from more than 30 vendors, who can be viewed in full here. For those who’d also like to stay in the Harvard Square area, A Bed and Breakfast in Cambridge is just one of the choices.
Photo at the top by Samina Quareshi