Holiday Guide

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

It's a very Rhody holiday time

The Bay 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 (TrinityRep.com) 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 (GraniteTheatre.com) 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 (Artists-Exchange.org) has its 13th annual production of the show from December 8-17. The Stadium Theatre in Woonsocket (StadiumTheatre.com) uses the theatre’s historic 1926 Wurlitzer organ in their production, on stage from December 2-11.

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 (ContemporaryTheaterCompany.com) offers the comedic variety show An Evening with Donner and Blitzen from December 2-24. In Warwick, Ocean State Theatre Company (OceanStateTheatre.org) stages It’s a Wonderful Life: The Musical, a family friendly adaptation of the classic film, from December 1-27. Stadium Theatre in Woonsocket (StadiumTheatre.com) has two productions in November and December. Elf the Musical Jr., based on the Will Ferrell movie, goes up November 18 and 19. On November 26, Stadium Theatre Christmas brings a big, Broadway-style musical revue with dance numbers, big band music and a living nativity finale.

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 (RIChristmasTrees.com) 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 (AlexAndAniCityCenter.com) for your annual dose of winter-in-the-city warm and fuzzies, or the Newport Skating Center (NewportSkatingCenter.com) 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 (FestivalBallet.com) stages their production at the Providence Performing Arts Center from December 16-18, and Heritage Ballet performs theirs at Woonsocket’s Stadium Theatre (StadiumTheatre.com) from December 17-18. Island Moving Company (IslandMovingCo.org) presents The Newport Nutcracker at Rosecliff, performed in an actual mansion, which sells out so quickly that they’ve added more performances: November 25-27 and November 29-December 2. Providence Ballet Theatre (ProvidenceBallet.com) 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 (DiscoverNewport.org) 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 (BlackstoneValleyPolarExpress.com) runs November 18-December 23, and offers various surprises in the Dasher, Dancer and Prancer cars.

7. Hoof It
The holiday season has more eating and drinking than any other – and right around December 26, you start feeling it in your waistband. Get on your feet and get moving for the East Providence Turkey Trot (Active.com) on November 19. On Turkey Day, work off those calories at the Family Turkey Trot (FamilyTurkeyTrot.com) in Pawtucket or the St. Luke’s Trot Off Your Turkey 5K (StLukesRI.org) in Barrington. Don your finest holiday regalia for the Downtown Jingle 5K (DowntownJingle5K.com) in Providence on December 4 – it will make you feel less guilty about eating all of those cookies that were meant for Santa.

8. 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 (WBNA.org) 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.

9. 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. In Watch Hill, Ocean House (OceanHouseEvents.com) offers a Madeline Children’s Tea on November 25, and a Children’s Christmas Tea: The Nutcracker on December 11. Providence’s Lippitt House Museum (PreserveRI.org) offers Victorian Holiday High Tea on Sundays, starting November 27. Blithewold in Bristol (Blithewold.org) 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 (CastleHillInn.com).

10. 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 (TheVetsRI.com) on December 16. Brown University presents their annual, beloved Latin Carol Celebration (Brown.edu/Academics/Classics/Events) to the First Baptist Church in Providence on December 5, featuring classic Christmas carols performed by Brown acapella groups in, you guessed it, Latin.

11. Eat, Drink and Be Merry
To adequately prepare for the holidays, you’re going to have to up your cooking game. Middletown’s Newport Cooks (NewportCooks.com) is hosting a Holiday Baking and Cooking with Chef Sharyn class on November 19. Things are sure to get delicious at Sweenor’s Chocolates Holiday Open House (SweenorsChocolates.com) on December 4 at their Wakefield location. The annual event features live candy cane making demos, samples of candy and hot chocolate, and photos with Santa. Bring your Martha Stewart game to The Artists’ Exchange Gingerbread House Decorating Contest (Artists-Exchange.org) in Cranston on December 3, where you and your family build a house from scratch and compete for glory and prizes. To do some good for others, visit the Rhode Island Food Bank Holiday Food Drive & Open House (RIFoodBank.org) on December 3 – bring canned goods and partake in the festivities.

12. Sing A Kwanzaa Song
Mixed Magic Theatre (MMTRI.com) 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.

13. Get Crafty
Handmade decorations add a certain kind of sparkle to your celebrations. Channel your crafty side at The Farmer’s Daughter (TheFarmersDaughterRI.com) in South Kingstown for DIY workshops in holiday centerpieces, wreaths and holiday plant containers, offered throughout November and December. Flowers By Semia (FlowersBySemia.com) in Providence offers a Wreath Workshop on December 4 and a Winter Terrarium Workshop on December 10. The talented gardeners at Blithewold Mansion (Blithewold.org) offer a Wreath-Making Workshop on December 2.

14. 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 (StadiumTheatre.com) is hosting a free viewing of A Christmas Story on December 22.

15. Rock Around the Christmas Tree
If your holiday merriment won’t be complete without a larger than life rock performance of your favorite Christmas carols, check out The Trans-Siberian Orchestra (Trans-Siberian.com), performing two shows on November 20 at The Dunk in Providence. The wild concert has been compared to the arena shows of the ‘80s hair band greats, in the best possible way.

16. 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 (Blithewold.org), 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.

17. Make Black Friday Great Again

Don’t spend all of your holiday cash on the internet the day after Thanksgiving – save your budget and support the local economy while shopping at Small Business Saturday. A block party to Celebrate Downcity (InDowncity.com) is happening on Westminster Street in Providence on November 26. In addition to the fabulous small shops on the street, there will also be an outdoor pop up by the Providence Flea, libations by Trinity Brewhouse, photos with Santa, food trucks and performances on the Grant’s Block stage. Similar celebrations are happening on Black Friday and Small Business Saturday all over Rhode Island, in communities like Bristol, Block Island and East Greenwich

18. 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 (ChorusOfWesterly.org) Messiah Sing on December 3 or their Christmas Pops on December 18. The Rhode Island Civic Chorale and Orchestra (RICCO.org) presents A Jubilant Bach Christmas on December 3 in Providence and December 4 in Newport. The Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra and Providence Singers (ProvidenceSingers.org) perform Handel’s Messiah on December 10 at The Vets in Providence. The good news is that if you’re a little pitchy, no one is going to notice.

19. Take in the (Very) Decked Halls
If you haven’t seen the grandeur that is Christmas at the Newport Mansions (NewportMansions.org) 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.

20. Add Some Sparkle To Your Weekend
There’s no reason your holiday shopping has to include long lines in crowded malls. Neighborhoods all over the state have made the search for the perfect gift a much more pleasant experience. In Bristol, the festivities kick off on Holiday Preview Weekend, November 18-19, with luminaria lining the streets, stores staying open late and lots of festive fun. That weekend kicks off Bristol’s Snowflake Raffle, where you get a ticket for a cash prize for every $25 you spend at a participating merchant (and double tickets on Preview weekend). Through December, there are festive events happening every weekend, including shuttle buses between Bristol, Warren and Barrington on Black Friday. Hope Street in Providence (HopeStreetProv.com) is expanding their beloved Holiday Stroll – this year, it’s happening on December 4, but there are fun things happening every weekend between Black Friday and Christmas, like trunk shows, cooking demos and pop up shops.

21. Walk In A Winter Wonderland
Pawtucket’s Winter Wonderland (WinterWonderlandPawtucket.com) 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 (TivertonFourCorners.com). 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.

22. 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 (WeekapaugInn.com) in Westerly and Pane e Vino (PaneEVino.com) in Providence both serve delicious versions of the feast.

23. 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 (OceanHouseEvents.com), 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 (ProvidenceG.com) 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.

24. 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 (NarragansettLionsClub.com) happens at Narragansett Town Beach. Block Island’s Polar Plunge (BlockIslandInfo.com) takes place on Fred Benson Town Beach. The Penguin Plunge (SpecialOlympicsRI.org) is on Wheeler Beach in Narragansett. Tiverton Yacht Club Penguin Plunge (TivertonLibrary.org) happens on Grinnell’s Beach. Lots more happen on beaches around the state, from Portsmouth to Misquamicut.

25. 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 (VMARI.org) 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.

This story was originally posted by The Bay Magazine. Click here to view the original story in its entirety.

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