By Gillian Burdett

Traditions unite us. They carry our cultural values, our sense of identity and feelings of belonging into the future. No time of year is more steeped in tradition than the holiday season. For children especially, it is a magical time, and across Connecticut there are many events celebrating the holidays, either in the traditions of old New England or in modern, 21st Century style. Here’s a roundup of some of the best Holiday events in the state, annual favorites that may become a tradition with your family.

Essex Steam Train North Pole Express
One Railroad Ave.
Essex, CT 06426
(890) 767-0103

Date: Through Dec. 29, 2016

Children will step into the magic of Chris Van Allsburg’s holiday classic on this 90-minute train ride to the North Pole. Children are welcome to come in their pajamas to celebrate the season with Santa and Mrs. Claus in a railcar decorated with holiday lights. The train ride includes a live musical performance of “The Night Before Christmas,” a sing-along, hot chocolate and cookies. Santa will present each child with a gift.

Holiday Light Fantasia
Goodwin Park
1130 Maple Ave.
Hartford, CT 06114
(860) 742-2267

Date: Through Jan. 1, 2017

This drive-through holiday light display has been a Hartford-area favorite since 1999. It stretches for two miles through Goodwin Park and features holiday scenes and 200 individual displays. Animations celebrate multiple holiday traditions including Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year’s and Three Kings Day. Admission is $15 for cars with up to 10 passengers, $25 for limousine, $50 for minibusses with up to 30 passengers and $100 for full-size buses. All proceeds benefit the Channel 3 Kids Camp.

The Shubert Theatre Presents “Elf: The Broadway Musical”
247 College St.
New Haven, CT 06510
(203) 562-5666

Date: Dec. 20 – Dec. 24

The modern Christmas movie classic comes to life on the Shubert stage as the adventures, and comic misadventures, of Buddy the Elf are portrayed in this Broadway Musical. Fans of the movie as well as those new to the story will enjoy the tale of a boy who grew up believing he was an elf and brought the true meaning of Christmas to New York City. Tickets may be purchased online through the Shubert website or in person at the 247 College Street box office.

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Mystic Seaport Lantern Light Tours “The Nut-Cracker Sweets”
Sanger Visitors Reception Center
47 Greenmanville Ave.
Mystic, CT 06355
(860) 572-0711

Date: Through Dec.23, 2016

Step back to Christmas Eve 1876 and follow the Lantern Light Tour actors as they perform a play in six acts based on The Nutcracker Suite. The progressive performance moves along the cobblestone streets of this 19th Century maritime village and includes a dance, carriage ride and visit with St. Nick. The Lantern Light Tours have been a tradition at Mystic Seaport since 1979. This year’s play was written by local playwright Anna Maria Trusky. The tours are held in fair and foul weather. If a production is canceled due to snow, ticket holders may use their tickets on the snow date. Organizers do not recommend this event for toddlers as walking is required.

Greenwich Holiday Stroll Weekend
Greenwich, CT 06830
(203) 531-3047

Dates: Dec. 3 – 4, 2016

The Greenwich Holiday Stroll has all the sights and sounds of a traditional New England Christmas. Imagine holiday songs sung by a choir and horse-drawn carriage rides through the winter streets. The event features a live nativity, letter writing to Santa and ice sculpture demonstrations. A Food Truck Village will offer sweet treats from Dough Girl Baking Company and hot buttered lobster by Lobster Craft among others. Santa will be on hand with his reindeer for photo opportunities. More than 100 merchants will be offering holiday refreshments and special promotions.

Related: Best Concert Halls & Theaters In Connecticut


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