There are more things to do in Connecticut over the holidays than there are people and things in the popular seasonal song “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” Every town and city in the state has its trees and decorations, and each has special events of lights, music, song and theater. There are steam train rides to the North Pole, picture ops with Santa, lantern-lit walking tours of old historic districts and, of course, performances of “A Christmas Carol,” to name just a few of the top holiday events in Connecticut.

“A Christmas Carol”
Hartford Stage
50 Church St.
Hartford, CT 06103
(860) 527-5151

Dates: Nov. 28 – Dec. 28, 2014

From just after Thanksgiving until a little before New Year’s, the Hartford Stage will present its version of Charles Dickens’ holiday classic, “A Christmas Carol.” This adaption of the seasonal favorite is by Michael Wilson, and Maxwell Williams will direct this annual offering by the company. Many key cast members from earlier years will return to recreate the familiar, mostly beloved and sometimes scary ghosts and other characters of the Dickens’ tale, which the Hartford Stage presents complete with music and special effects. The performance is deemed suitable for children ages eight and up, as elements of the story may be unsettling or even frightening to younger audiences. Tickets can be purchased for some performances for as little as $25, but even though this lasts for a month, tickets go quickly, especially for shows on the holiday weekends.

Winterfest Photos with Santa
60 Elm St.
Hartford, CT 06103
(860) 918-5423

Date: Dec. 7, 14 and 21, 2014

Starting November 28, Winterfest is open for ice skating in Hartford’s Bushnell Park. On Sundays starting with December 7, the rink will put on its annual Photos with Santa Sundays. From noon until 3 p.m. on Sunday, December 7, 14 and 21, families can visit Santa at the Pump House and have their child’s picture taken with the jolly old elf for free. Parents receive a complimentary 5×7 photo, and may purchase additional pictures if they wish. The free event is sponsored jointly by the City of Hartford and the iQuilt Partnership. The ice rink is open daily, as is the carousel, and there are always food vendors on the nearby street for those who want to warm up after a day on the ice.

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Mystic Seaport Christmas Lantern Light Tours
Mystic Seaport Museum
75 Greenmanville Ave.
Mystic, CT 06355
(860) 572-0711

Dates: Dec. 5-6, 12-13, 20-21, 26-27, 2014

During the holiday season, visitors to Mystic Seaport can participate in an 1870s old fashioned Christmas tradition – the Lantern Light Tour. The tour is a mobile play, with five scenes that costumed actors play out at different spots in the old part of town. The historic maritime village is lit and decorated for the season, and while on the 70-minute adventure, groups of 16 visitors will see dancers, listen to singers, ride along in horse-drawn carriages and hear actors perform scenes based on the events depicted in the popular holiday classic song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” Tickets may be purchased in advance as the tours fill up quickly, and ticket availability on site is limited. Visitors are cautioned to dress warmly and should expect to walk about half a mile on cobblestone and gravel. (A special tour group designed for those with wheelchairs and walkers is available upon request and with advance notice). The tours leave from the museum gift shop on Friday and Saturday evenings starting at 5 p.m.

North Pole Express
The Valley Railroad Company
1 Railroad Ave.
Essex, CT 06426
(860) 767-0103

Dates: Now through Dec. 28, 2014

On weekends starting in mid-November and every day (except Mondays) in December up through the 28th, Santa will be aboard the steam train in Essex. He will bring joy not just to the children who ride the old train on its short coastal hop, but also to the young patients at Connecticut’s Children’s Medical Center, who will benefit from the proceeds of the daily Polar Express train rides. The nightly train ride is a magical experience for young and old, and includes live music, sing-alongs with Santa and Mrs. Claus and, of course, cookies and hot chocolate. Young children are encouraged to dress in their jammies, and there are seats in both coach and first class compartments.

Fantasy of Lights
Lightouse Point Park
2 Lighthouse Road
New Haven, CT 06512
(203) 777-2000

Dates: Now through Jan. 6, 2015

Over 100,000 brightly colored lights adorn the five dozen displays that make up the Fantasy of Lights at New Haven’s Lighthouse Point Park. The annual drive-through event not only celebrates the holiday season, but it also raises funds for Goodwill Industries and the Easter Seals campaign. This year mark’s the 20th time that Easter Seals and Goodwill have worked together to put on the light show, which features familiar holiday scenes and depicts giant toys and other symbols of the season.

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Mark G. McLaughlin is a professional and prolific writer with a proven publishing record in a wide variety of fields. An historian, novelist, freelance journalist, ghost-writer, book reviewer, magazine editor, web and magazine columnist, Mark has more than 30 years of experience. His work can be found at