Holiday Guide

19 Ways to Celebrate the Most Festive Time of Year in Rhode Island

It's a very Rhody holiday time

Providence Monthly Magazine ·

1. See A Christmas Carol...
Rhode Island’s most beloved holiday tradition is seeing Ebenezer Scrooge’s heart grow three sizes, live on stage. While Trinity Repertory Company in Providence is staging its 40th annual production through December 31, it’s not the only theatre company in the state to host the ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Yet To Come. Granite Theatre in Westerly stages its annual production of A Christmas Carol, A Musical, an original musical adaptation by company Music Director Stephen DeCesare from November 25-December 23. Artists’ Exchange in Cranston has its 13th annual production of the show from December 8-17.

2. ... Or Expand Your Theatre Horizons
Believe it or not, A Christmas Carol isn’t the only holiday play gracing Ocean State stages this month. Wakefield’s Contemporary Theater Company offers the comedic variety show An Evening with Donner and Blitzen from December 2-24. In Warwick, Ocean State Theatre Company  stages It’s a Wonderful Life: The Musical, a family friendly adaptation of the classic film, from December 1-27. Stadium Theatre in Woonsocket has two productions in November and December.

3. Tag Your Own Christmas Tree
There are farms all over Rhode Island where you can venture out months in advance to choose your own tree, rather than leaving it up to fate and the big box stores whether you’re going to find the perfect pine to be the centerpiece of your entire holiday celebration… No pressure or anything. The Rhode Island Christmas Tree Grower Association has a complete list of tag-your-own farms all over the state.

4. Glide Into the Season
You might not be Michelle Kwan, but that shouldn’t stop you from welcoming winter with one of our most quintessential cold weather activities: ice skating. The state’s various skating rinks open on Mother Nature’s timetable, but should be ready for visitors in early December. Check out Providence’s Alex and Ani City Center for your annual dose of winter-in-the-city warm and fuzzies, or the Newport Skating Center for an oceanside experience.

5. Have Visions of Sugarplums
You might not consider yourself a ballet aficionado during the rest of the year, but at the holidays, all bets are off. Once you’re watching sugarplum fairies and toy soldiers come to life during The Nutcracker, it’s straight down the childhood nostalgia rabbit hole. Festival Ballet stages their production at the Providence Performing Arts Center from December 16-18, and Heritage Ballet performs theirs at Woonsocket’s Stadium Theatre  from December 17-18.  Providence Ballet Theatre brings the classic poem ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas to life at the McVinney Auditorium in Providence on December 16, and at The Prout School in Wakefield on December 18.

6. Get On the Christmas Train
Think the only holiday transportation is a sleigh? Think again. Santa has been spotted on two different trains in Rhode Island. The Newport Polar Express runs Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, November 20-December 25. On board, enjoy hot chocolate and cookies while everyone from conductors to elves ensure a merry experience, including a reading of the story itself. Woonsocket’s Blackstone Valley Polar Express runs November 18-December 23, and offers various surprises in the Dasher, Dancer and Prancer cars.

7. Go Caroling
Remember the good old days when people actually went Christmas caroling? On the West Side of Providence, it still happens on the Sunday before Christmas, December 18. West Side Caroling gathers a group of spirited carolers – sometimes hundreds of them – to walk the neighborhood singing to anyone and everyone who will listen. Neighbors come out with egg nog and treats, and it’s a wonderful life for everyone involved.

8. Have Holiday High Tea
Maybe formal tea service isn’t your cup of tea the rest of the year, but there’s something magical about china cups and perfectly decorated tiny cakes at the holidays. Providence’s Lippitt House Museum offers Victorian Holiday High Tea on Sundays, starting November 27. Blithewold in Bristol offers Children’s Holiday Tea on Monday afternoons in December, and Afternoon Teas during the week throughout the month. On December 17, bring your favorite kid and their favorite teddy bear for Teddy Bear Tea at Castle Hill Inn in Newport.

9. Channel International Traditions

Celebrate like the Irish at A Christmas Celtic Sojourn, a live performance of the popular radio show A Celtic Sojourn, at The Vets in Providence on December 16. 

10. Sing A Kwanzaa Song
Mixed Magic Theatre is known for its challenging and thought-provoking programming – but at this time of year, it’s all about celebrating. They’re bringing their 17th annual performance of A Kwanzaa Song in Concert to their stage in Pawtucket on January 1, celebrating African culture, unity and heritage.

11. Celebrate on the Silver Screen
You may have your annual viewing of It’s a Wonderful Life with your family, but there’s nothing quite like a holiday tradition on the big screen. Stadium Theatre in Woonsocket is hosting a free viewing of A Christmas Story on December 22.

12. Be Merry and Bright
Let’s face it: December is the last time you’re going to enjoy being outside until the tulips are blooming again. Enjoy the moments at Sparkle! An Outdoor Family Event on Friday evenings November 25-December 23 at Blithewold Mansion in Bristol , when the whole property lights up with holiday cheer. Trees on the extensive grounds are decorated with lights, there’s a bonfire to roast marshmallows and there’s a lot of cocoa, family fun and merrymaking. 

13. Raise Your Voice
There’s no more instant way to channel holiday spirit than to make a joyful noise, like at the Chorus of Westerly Christmas Pops on December 18. The good news is that if you’re a little pitchy, no one is going to notice.

14. Take in the (Very) Decked Halls
If you haven’t seen the grandeur that is Christmas at the Newport Mansions then you haven’t really seen the mansions. They may be summer cottages, but The Breakers, Marble House and The Elms go all out for the holidays. Think a 15-foot tall poinsettia tree at The Breakers and a Gilded Age streetscape in the ballroom at The Elms, complete with sleighs and a topiary horse, in addition to 28 Christmas trees that reflect the decor in the mansions and festive events all month long.

15. Walk In A Winter Wonderland
Pawtucket’s Winter Wonderland is a sight to see – Slater Park comes to life with over 500 trees decorated with twinkling lights, as well as Victorian homes done up for the holidays, visits with Santa and family-friendly entertainment. In Tiverton, there’s a different kind of wonderland: the Re-Tree Exhibit in Tiverton Four Corners. People craft trees out of recycled materials and install them on the grounds of the Four Corners Meeting House for a must-see art exhibit.

16. Have An Italian Christmas Eve
Any other day, an Italian meal would be a carb fest – but not on Christmas Eve. The traditional Italian Feast of the Seven Fishes is a religious meal, but anyone can enjoy it as part of your holiday celebration. The Weekapaug Inn in Westerly and Pane e Vino in Providence both serve delicious versions of the feast.

17. Say Auld Lang Syne
If there’s one night of the year you should do it up right, it’s New Year’s Eve. Send off 2016 in style at the New Year’s Eve Gala, a black tie party at the chic Ocean House in Westerly. The party includes tastings of cuisine from all around the country. If you’re really going to go all out, rent one of their oceanfront rooms for the night. The Providence G is hosting three very different celebrations: an Old Downcity Glamour ball in the ballroom, a Southern barbecue buffet at the G Pub and a dance party under the stars at the Rooftop at the Providence G.

18. Plunge Your Way Into 2017
Whether you need to sober up from your New Year’s revels or you’re looking to give 2017 a fresh start, spend January 1 at a polar plunge. The Pier Plunge happens at Narragansett Town Beach. Block Island’s Polar Plunge takes place on Fred Benson Town Beach. The Penguin Plunge is on Wheeler Beach in Narragansett. Tiverton Yacht Club Penguin Plunge happens on Grinnell’s Beach. Lots more happen on beaches around the state, from Portsmouth to Misquamicut.

19. Celebrate The New Year
If you opt for a quiet New Year’s Eve, spend New Year’s Day at the Salute To Vienna New Year’s Concert at The Vets in Providence. This classical concert by the Strauss Symphony of America features the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra and dancers from the Kiev-Aniko Ballet of Ukraine and international ballroom dancer champions. Think Strauss Waltzes, songs from operettas and a new year started on a mellow, cultured note.

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