Wonderful Winter Weekends
Venturing Out-of-Town for Holiday Cheer
Do snowy holiday weekends make you wish you were somewhere warm? Or maybe you’re not a big skier, or just need an alternative to a winter sporting weekend? Well, you needn’t fret, because there are lots of interesting holiday-inspired things to do within a two-hour drive of Fairfield, with or without the kids. Here are some favorites.
This picturesque New England town, only an hour or so from Fairfield, knows how to celebrate holidays. It all begins with Trees in the Rigging on November 30, a community carol sing and illuminated boat parade that includes a traditional, lantern-lit carol stroll down Main Street where spectators are invited to bring their own lanterns and watch a parade of antique cars as they make their way down to the harbor. Santa and his elves will arrive by one of the parade boats for visits with the children on the lawn of the Connecticut River Museum, which will also be open that evening for a special viewing of the 19th Annual Holiday Train Show at a reduced admission of $5. And if you want to make a special holiday weekend of it, take a step back in time and stay at the Griswold Inn, an 18th century tavern with an authentic historic feel and comfort food. Book tickets on The Polar Express, a nostalgic steam engine train ride complete with Santa and Mrs. Claus, and then do a little holiday shopping at Toys Ahoy. More info at
essexsteamtrain.com and essexct.com
Old Mystic Seaport
Many are familiar with Mystic Aquarium, but a real gem, especially in winter, is Old Mystic Seaport. Beginning on November 29, and on weekends throughout December, nothing says New England charm as much as the Lantern Light Tours that the Seaport has been holding for 35 years. It is actually a play that unfolds through five scenes in exhibits around the Museum’s 19th-century maritime village. There’s a horse-drawn carriage ride, a holiday dance, and even visits from St. Nick. Bored with the kids post-Christmas? From December 26 through January 1, kids will have a ball exploring the village and taking part in special activities, workshops, and programs throughout the week, including viewing the winter sky at the Planetarium, a magic trick workshop, and more.
File this one under “Romantic Getaways,” not that the kids wouldn’t enjoy it too, but if you need a weekend respite not here but near, this is the place. Madison is a darling town on the Sound, with a charming main street, including an award-winning bookstore—R.J. Julia Booksellers. But the jewel in the crown is the Madison Beach Hotel, steps from the beach. For the holidays, the hotel has special jazz entertainment on December 11, a rocking New Year’s Eve dance party, and great spa weekend package deals from January through March. After a major renovation in 2012, the hotel unveiled 32 elegantly appointed rooms, each with modern amenities and spacious Sound-view balconies.
adisonbeachhotel.com and madisonct.org
Besides being the first public art museum in America and housing a very impressive collection of Hudson River School, Impressionist, Romantic, and modern art with virtually no crowds, this museum sponsors a yearly seasonal event, The Festival of Trees and Traditions, from December 5 to 14. Every year community members, artists and organizations are asked to decorate holiday trees and wreaths to be displayed in the galleries throughout the week. All items are for sale, and profits help fund the museum’s special exhibitions, educational programs, and operating expenses. The gift shop here rivals MoMA’s—a carefully curated collection of terrific items for stocking stuffers, teacher gifts, and everyone else on your list.
One of America’s finest Gothic revival mansions, once the summer home of railroad tycoon Jay Gould, the house and grounds are open to the public. For the holidays Lyndhurst presents Mr. Dickens Tells a Christmas Carol, a theatrical performance recreating Charles Dickens’ own readings of the classic tale that brings the travails of Ebenezer Scrooge, Bob Cratchit, and Tiny Tim to life. The adaptation takes place throughout the Lyndhurst mansion, spectacularly decorated for Christmas. Working from Dickens’ actual scripts, actor Michael Muldoon tells the tale as guests travel throughout the mansion “meeting” the different spirits and characters. The performance is approximately 90 minutes and is appropriate for all ages. Performances begin Friday, December 13, and continue through Sunday, December 29.