Boston’s Holiday Happenings for Families in 2018

Nov 27, 2018

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Yes, you know: ‘tis the season to be jolly. But what if you have already had your fill of piped holiday music and forced family cheer? If you’re looking to add a new family tradition to your annual roster, here are a few events in Boston designed to deliver plenty of merriment for one and all. Beantown invariably wins high marks in the “Winter Wonderland” department, so there’s something here to delight even the grumpiest of Scrooges. Whether you take a short road trip for a day visit or fly in to Logan International Airport for the weekend, you’ll have a blast discovering Boston during the holidays.

Have a Train Maniac in the Family?

Edaville Family Theme Park is a good chug from Downtown Boston, tucked into the South Shore, but the annual Christmas Festival of Lights is a family must-see. Dress warmly as lines are long and eager littles have to spend much of the time outside, braving the elements. Patience is richly rewarded however, as you can take in lights in three different adventures in Edaville proper, Thomas Land and the Christmas Festival of Lights, which features more than 90 rides and attractions. Timings vary but the event runs Nov. 18–Jan. 1.

The Ultimate Christmas Tree Spectacle of Lights

It’s not the holidays without a Christmas tree, so the Blink! Light and Sound Show brings in the largest tree in the Northeast and goes all out with the decorations. The giant fir, set up in the city’s historic Faneuil Hall Marketplace, wears thousands of sparkling lights. Even better, the lights are set to synchronized music from the city’s beloved Holiday Pops. Daily shows, slated to run from Nov. 27–Jan. 1, are free to attend and add a generous dose of sparkle and holiday spirit. This fun event is fast becoming a family tradition for many New Englanders.

Faneuil Hall at Christmastime
Faneuil Hall at Christmastime (Photo by Kalim Saliba / Getty Images)

A Hip-Hop Twist on the Nutcracker

Got a Hamilton fan or two in your family? Bring them to the Hip Hop Nutcracker at Boston’s oldest continuously running theater, the Emerson Colonial Theatre. They’ll love this hip-hop riff on the classic Tchaikovsky original. The contemporary interpretation of the much-loved ballet delivers a romance set in 1980’s Brooklyn. The full-length production, with one show on both Dec. 15 and 16, is powered by a star cast with icing on the fruitcake: rapper Kurtis Blow will be the special guest MC for the engagement. And, for the purists, there’s always the classic Nutcracker ballet running at the Boston Opera House from Nov. 29 – Dec. 30.

Boston Colonial Hip Hop Nutcracker
Hip Hop Nutcracker at Boston’s Emerson Colonial Theater (Photo courtesy of Tim Norris)

Tour a Holiday Market Without Heading to Europe

You don’t have to travel to Europe to soak up some of that holiday market charm. The SoWa Winter Festival, held over two weekends (Nov. 30 – Dec. 2 and Dec. 7 – 9) delivers all of that quaint je ne sais quoi with something for everyone in your family. More than 100 artisans and food vendors offer unique holiday gifts at the Maker Marketplace. Kids will especially enjoy the live ice sculpting demonstration and face-painting sessions. Satiate the noms by digging into offerings from a variety of food trucks. Live holiday music from area bands gets you into the spirit of the season. Ready for some Instagram action in Beantown? Snap some photos with the Boston Ballet’s Nutcracker cast in the special holiday photo booth.

Boston SoWa Winter Festival
Boston’s SoWa Winter Festival showcases local makers. (Photo courtesy of Chris Anderson, CDA Media)

Artsy Festival of Lights

Now is the perfect time to discover the inspiring collection of Judaica at Boston’s beloved Museum of Fine Arts. On December 5, visitors can enjoy a free evening of activities celebrating Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights. The gaiety will be punctuated by musical performances, art making and other family-friendly activities. You’ll want to view the special menorah created by area artists Silvina Mizrahi and Sean Clarke and linger for a community candle-lighting to usher in the spirit of the season. Come a little earlier so you can browse the museum’s many special exhibits, including one dedicated to Boston-made arts and crafts jewelry and metalwork.

Festival of Lights
(Photo by Tim Pannell / Getty Images)

Introduce Your Kids to a Gospel Nativity

Langston Hughes’ Black Nativity, told in black vernacular, is a gospel interpretation of the Christmas story and will appeal to both music and Christmas lovers alike. Presented by the National Center of Afro-American Artists, the lively performance is staged on weekends for most of December. African drums and lively gospel music performed by men, women and children add drama and enchantment to the 48th season of the production. Performances are held at Emerson College’s Paramount Center, located in Boston’s famous Theatre District. If you have time, wander on over to Downtown Crossing, Beantown’s pedestrian shopping area, which is always warmly decorated for the holidays and offers plenty of dining options as well.

For Kids Who Love Reading

Looking for the Ghost of Christmas Past? You won’t want to miss this reading of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” and “Tea With Mrs. Dickens”, complete with characters in period costumes. The festivities will be hosted Dec. 9 at the Charles River Museum of Industry in Waltham, a half-hour drive from Boston. Given that this is the site of Francis Cabot Lowell’s first manufacturing mill, which catalyzed the American Industrial Revolution, you will be steeped in plenty of history as well. Kids can learn more about Victorian Christmas and culinary traditions (wassail punch, anyone?) and you really want to find out what “teapot racing” is all about.

Staying in Boston on Points

Hotels in the Boston area can be pricy, especially during the holiday season, but there are many points-friendly Boston hotels and it’s often possible to even make a last-minute reward stay. Marriott has a lot of options, from the Ritz-Carlton, Boston and The Liberty, a Luxury Collection Hotel, both at 60,000 points a night to the Boston Marriott Long Wharf, W Boston and Westin Copley Place, Boston — all priced at 50,000 points per night. In the 35,000 points per night range (bookable with a Marriott 35k certificate), consider the Residence Inn Boston Harbor on Tudor Wharf, the Courtyard Boston Downtown or the Courtyard Boston Copley Square. Use your Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card to generate points towards your next award stay.

Photo courtesy of Ritz-Carlton.
Photo courtesy of Ritz-Carlton.

Hyatt also has some fantastic Boston properties like the Hyatt Regency Boston and Hyatt Regency Boston Harbor, both available for 15,000 points per night or a Category 1 – 4 Hyatt award available with the World of Hyatt Credit Card. If you’ve got IHG Rewards Club points to burn, the Kimpton Nine Zero Hotel on Tremont Street is a solid option for 60,000 points per night, as is the InterContinental Hotels Boston for 70k nightly.

Don’t forget, if you are short on hotel points, you can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Marriott Rewards, World of Hyatt or IHG Rewards Club.

If you want to use your Hilton Honors points and perks, we like the well-situated Hilton Boston Downtown/Faneuil Hall (55k points per night), the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Boston – Downtown in the Theatre District (45k points per night) and, if you’re looking to conserve points, the Hampton Inn & Suites Boston Crosstown Center from 29k points per night.

Bottom Line

A quick trip to Boston during the holidays can put you in the spirit of the season. Mix and match any of these festive events for some added cheer this season. Eggnog and mistletoe optional.

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