There’s magic in the air. Seeing the first few houses of the season strung with lights, smelling cinnamon and sugar-laced delights baking in the kitchen and hearing the soft hum of Christmas tunes on the radio are all telltale signs that it’s the most wonderful time of the year. Check out these sparkling holiday light shows that will turn even the greenest of Grinches into a harbinger of holiday cheer.
Christmas Festival of Lights at the National Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette
La Salette provides a shining light when hope sometimes seems lost through its Christmas Festival of Lights display “Christ: Living Light.” Take a brisk walk through the illuminated vignettes featuring thousands of lights strung in trees or travel on a hayride to Bethlehem while the story behind the birth of Jesus surrounds you through storyboards and an elaborate Nativity scene. While the lights can be viewed each evening, guests can also get a photo with Saint Nicholas and take a spin on the carousel, Friday through Sunday, until the new year. Free admission; donations accepted.
HOURS: Nightly through Jan. 1, 5–9 p.m. Closed on Christmas.
LOCATION: 947 Park St., Attleboro, Mass., 508-222-5410, lasaletteattleboroshrine.org
Roger Williams Park Zoo Holiday Lights Spectacular
What started out as a COVID-driven event to help the zoo recoup pandemic losses (it was literally a drive-through lights display two years ago) has become the next big thing after the Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular. This is its second year as a walk-through event, says Vicki Scharfberg, director of marketing and public relations for Roger Williams Park Zoo, and she thinks it will become just as popular as the Halloween spectacular. It’s even bigger and brighter this year: 3.5 million bulbs will illuminate the entire zoo. “Both are wonderful, both appeal to a wide range,” says Scharfberg. “You can come with little kids, grandparents, a date — there’s something for everybody.” Bundle up, grab an adult beverage or hot chocolate and roast some s’mores, then stroll through forty acres of illuminated pathways.
HOURS: Nightly through Jan. 1, 5–9:30 p.m., rain or shine. Closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Free to families with a same-night zoo ticket for the 5 or 6 p.m. time slots only. Tickets for the Holiday Lights Spectacular must be purchased in advance online; find time slots and ticket prices on the website.
LOCATION: 1000 Elmwood Ave., Providence, 785-3510, rwpzoo.org/holidaylights
Pawtucket Winter Wonderland
Held in Slater Memorial Park, the city’s multiple-day festival includes parades, photo ops, Christmas trees, light displays and children’s events. On opening night, catch WJAR Channel 10’s Mario Hilario leading a small parade showcasing local talent from Tolman High School, dance studios and other groups as they make their way to the carousel for the lighting of 650 Christmas trees, twenty Victorian houses, and displays on land and in the trees. Warm up with a cup of hot chocolate, snacks and other treats in between photos with Santa in the boathouse and children’s train rides. On non-festival nights, the display will be available for viewing Dec. 4–Jan 1. by vehicle or on foot.
HOURS: Dec. 10–11, 4–8 p.m. Free admission; free parking at the tennis courts.
LOCATION: 401 Newport Ave., Pawtucket, 726-3185, winterwonderlandpawtucket.com
Westerly Holiday Stroll and Luminaria
Enjoy the twenty-fifth annual celebration in historic downtown Westerly and Pawcatuck, Conn. Walk down the beautifully lit sidewalks while listening to strolling carolers filling the air with holiday cheer. Snack on a complimentary cookie and cup of hot cocoa while checking items off your shopping list at local shops. All businesses will be open and celebrating in their own ways, be it through sweet treats or sweet deals.
HOURS: Dec. 7, 5–9 p.m.
LOCATION: Downtown Westerly and Pawcatuck, Conn., 596-7761, oceanchamber.org
Santa’s Magical Drive-Thru Christmas Display and Musical Light Show
The Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation is hosting this fun event for all ages, day and night. Tune in to 106.1 FM and sing along to more than forty songs coordinated to musical light shows as you pass by the displays and inflatables stretching down the Gemma family driveway. To make it a more immersive experience, make sure to roll down your windows (if it’s not too chilly!) to take in the different scents of the season as well. If you happen to go on a Saturday evening, you’ll get special gifts and treats hand-delivered from Santa and his magical friends. The family is accepting
donations to the Gloria Gemma Foundation in honor of the namesake matriarch, Gloria Gemma, who loved Christmas with all her heart and lost her battle with breast cancer. Honor and remember your loved ones by dedicating an ornament on the “Tree of Life” in the drive-thru at gloriagemma.rallybound.org/tree-of-life.
HOURS: Daily through Jan. 2, 10 a.m.–10 p.m.
LOCATION: 106 Ten Rod Rd., Exeter, 861-4376, gloriagemma.org
Holidays at the Newport Mansions
Experience the holiday spirit mansion-sized with two extravaganzas: Sparkling Lights at the Breakers and the Breakers, Marble House and the Elms Dressed for the Holidays. Sparkling Lights is an outdoor path glittering with thousands of lights with friendly gnomes pointing you in the right direction as music fills the air. Besides a dazzling fifty-foot-long tunnel of light, pose with illuminated snowmen, reindeer and at the Van“deer”bilt selfie station. Stop by one of six new fire pits to stay warm with spiked hot chocolate, apple cider with bourbon, or wine and beer along with holiday sweets and s’mores. Tickets include both interior and exterior tours of the Breakers.
If you feel like stepping into the scenes from “The Gilded Age” at Christmas time, you can also see the inside of the Breakers, Marble House or the Elms throughout the season at the Dressed for the Holidays event. Make sure to see the spectacular fifteen-foot-tall poinsettia tree in the Great Hall of the Breakers.
HOURS: Sparkling Lights at the Breakers runs Thursday–Sunday through Dec. 23, and nightly Dec. 26–Jan. 1, from 4:30–6:30 p.m. Closed Dec. 17, 24 and 25. The Breakers, Marble House and the Elms Dressed for the Holidays are open daily 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Closed on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. Properties close at 3 p.m. on December 24. Find time slots and prices online.
LOCATIONS: Newport Mansions, Newport, 847-1000, newportmansions.org
UNDER THE TREE
Make an evening out of these tree-lighting celebrations.
The Preserve Sporting Club & Residences , Richmond, Nov. 25, 5 p.m.
City Hall Plaza, East Providence, Nov. 26, 3 p.m.
Wilcox Park, Westerly, Nov. 26, 4:30 p.m.
Providence City Hall, Dec. 2, 5 p.m.
BankNewport City Center Rink, Providence, Dec. 3, 3 p.m.
Bristol’s Grand Illumination, Burnside Building, Dec. 3, 5:30 p.m.
Bowen’s Wharf, Newport, Dec. 3, 6 p.m.
Barrington Town Hall, Dec. 3
Source: Rhode Island Monthly