Why We Love the Holidays on Cape Cod, Nantucket, and Martha’s Vineyard
With summer days long over and the rush of fall fests behind us, Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket have slipped into a quieter, more serene season. But something truly magical happens to this coastal destination at the end of November – the arrival of the holidays.
From Thanksgiving through the end of the year, the Cape and Islands are adorned with twinkle lights, downtown shops offer unique finds for everyone on your list, and a festive event occurs almost every day of the week. The area offers a pocket of classic Christmas spirit in a world that is often too busy to enjoy the holidays.
This holiday season, bundle up by the seashore and rediscover all that is magical about the holidays. Brilliant winter sunsets, quaint village centers, fireside dining and cozy inns await. If you’re lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of a reindeer overhead.
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The cobblestoned streets of Nantucket beckon as the holidays arrive on this small island. You’ll feel as though you’ve stepped into a bygone era as you explore charming boutiques, warm up with a cup of chowder, and stroll among the classic, twinkle-lit architecture.
Kick-off the Nantucket Noel season with the Christmas Tree Lighting & Caroling ceremony, presented by Stop & Shop, held at dusk on Friday, November 23. Over 150 trees lining main Street will magically illuminate followed by a chorus of traditional carols.
The Island’s 45th annual Christmas Stroll Weekend (November 30-December 2) exudes romance with glittering fir trees, strolling minstrels and Victorian carolers. The magic begins when Santa arrives via Coast Guard Cutter, then leads a festive parade up picturesque Main Street. Craft shows, special menus at Island restaurants, live entertainment and a live talking tree are other highlights of the stroll, which is presented by The Steamship Authority.
Each year, the Nantucket Whaling Museum is ablaze with color during the 25th Annual Nantucket Historical Association Festival of Trees (November 30-December 31). This month-long Island tradition features a myriad of Christmas trees creatively decorated by local merchants, artists and children.
As the holiday season draws to a close, The Nantucket Hotel will usher in 2019 in style with a nautical-themed New Year’s Eve party. This being Nantucket, you can expect a countdown whale to drop at midnight, in lieu of the traditional ball.
Insider’s Tip: If you shop on Nantucket between November 15-December 24, you can earn red tickets and enter for a chance to win up to $5,000 on Christmas Eve.
The island of Martha’s Vineyard takes on a quaint charm during the holiday season and transforms into nothing short of a winter wonderland.
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Holiday shopping opportunities abound at the Holiday Gift Show at Featherstone Center for the Arts, where shoppers can purchase unique, hand-crafted gifts from November 16-December 16. Martha’s Vineyard loves celebrating its locals, and the work of talented local artisans is on full display at the Vineyard Artisan Festival ( November 23-24 and December 15), where you can pick up everything from clothing and ceramics to jewelry and fine art.
While a ceremonial tree lighting certainly isn’t unique to Martha’s Vineyard, the Oak Bluffs Tree Lighting (November 28) exemplifies the Vineyard’s alluring small-town atmosphere. A crowd gathers in the cool ocean air – hot cocoa in hand – as the Vineyard Brass Ensemble performs carols and the colorful lights of the town tree wash the streets with a warm Christmas glow.
On December 7–9, revelers can watch the lighting of the Edgartown Lighthouse, have Breakfast with Santa, and enjoy one of Massachusetts’ must-haves at the Annual Chowder Contest during Christmas in Edgartown.
On December 15, families will love Christmas on the Farm! Enjoy a hayride and craft-felted ornaments, and string cranberry and popcorn to help decorate the tree. Families can take their Christmas card picture in the photo booth, play with the farm animals, and warm up with cider by the fire.
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During Christmas on Cape Cod, every town and village puts their special stamp on festive strolls, parades, concerts and harbor lightings.
Cape Cod takes pride in its prominent place in U.S. history, and each season celebrates the arrival of the Pilgrims with the traditional Lighting of the Pilgrim Monument in Provincetown, held at dusk the evening before Thanksgiving (November 21). Cape Cod’s unique take on a tree lighting – the Provincetown Lobster Pot Tree – is a sight to behold, stacked with over 100 real lobster pots borrowed from local lobstermen. Nothing says community like a parade, and Cape Cod boasts three during the holiday season: the Hyannis Boat Parade (December 1) features a procession of illuminated boats, while the Mashpee Christmas Parade (December 8) and the Falmouth Christmas Parade (December 9) showcase bands, bagpipers and festively decorated floats.
Christmas strolls are held in downtown villages across the Cape, including the Yarmouth Christmas Stroll (December 2) and the Chatham Christmas Stroll (December 7–9). In the spirit of celebrating Christmas by the sea, don’t expect Santa to arrive on land. Jolly Old. St. Nick will arrive by boat, naturally, and you can expect to spot him in towns including Orleans, Falmouth and Chatham.
Other festive celebrations throughout the month include the sparkling Gardens Aglow at Heritage Museum and Gardens, the magical Train to Christmas Town Aboard the Cape Cod Central Railroad, and the splendid Cape Symphony Holiday Concert. Take a ride down Route 6A to view artist Michael Magyar’s giant lighted sculptures. Finally, ring in the New Year at First Nights in Sandwich, Provincetown, and Chatham, where you can take a town picture in front of the lighthouse, participate in a fun run, and dance until 2019 arrives.
In between all the festivities, make time to check off your holiday shopping list. A vibrant arts community and bustling downtown hubs offer a boatload of unique treasures for loved ones.
The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas in this small corner of New England exemplifies the classic holiday spirit that is too often lost in our modern world. If you’ve been searching for some holiday magic, there’s no better place to find it
This post is funded by the Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism.