Kennebunkport is regularly listed as one of the top Christmas towns in the entire country, and in fact, it was rated the second best Christmas town in the U.S. by HGTV! And while it’s known for being one of the best summer destinations in Maine, it truly becomes a magical place in the Christmas season, with a big focus on community events where tourists are welcomed with open arms.
Not sure what to expect when spending Christmas in Kennebunkport? Want to know the very best things to do to kick off the holiday season? Then you’re in the right spot. This post is all about my insider tips on visiting Kennebunkport during their most festive time of the year, and I’m rounding up the best things to do, and where to stay to help you plan your holiday getaway.
Is Kennebunkport Worth Visiting At Christmas?
100% yes! If you’re going to pick one New England town for a Christmas getaway this season, Kennebunkport is one of the best options. Not only is the town incredibly charming year-round, it compeltely glows with twinkle lights during the holiday seaosn, and hosts so many holiday-themed events that you’ll never run out of things to do.
Between heart-warming tree lightings, doggie parades, wreath making classes, bonfires with hot chocolate and s’mores throughout town, amazing shopping, and a general atmosphere of merriment and cheer, you won’t regret a Christmas weekend in Kennebunkport.
What Is Christmas Prelude In Kennebunkport?
Kennebunkport’s Christmas Prelude event is when most of the holiday celebrations take place throughout town. Prelude is typically held the first two weeks in December, and each day during prelude, there are Christmas and shopping events all over. It kicks off with tree lighting ceremonies, and continues with gingerbread house workshops, special dining events, pop-ups throughout town and more Christmas cookies and treats than you could ever imagine.
Once Prelude is over, the trees are still up and twinkling for all to see, the shops are open and filled with unique gifts, and the town still feels like a Hallmark Christmas movie set. But if you’re looking to experience a true Kennebunkport Christmas, you’ll want to visit during Prelude to enjoy all the festive happenings.
Things To Do To Celebrate Christmas In Kennebunkport
1. Attend A Tree Lighting
One of the most heart-warming events that feels straight out of a Hallmark Christmas movie is most definitely one of Kennebunkport’s tree lighting ceremonies. And the one you’ll probably want to experience is the lighting of the Dock Square tree.
The tree in Dock Square is the one you likely see in photos of Kennebunkport at Christmas, and it truly is the focal point of town. During the tree lighting, everyone gathers in Dock Square, sings carols together, and cheers when the lights come on the tree. If this doesn’t make your heart grow three sizes, I’m not sure what will.
The second tree lighting that’s fun to attend is the lobster trap tree lighting in Cape Porpoise, which is a small village in Kennebunkport. You’ll have to drive there, as it’s a bit of a walk, so you’ll want to plan to arrive early to find parking. However, this beautiful tree is just as exciting to see, as it’s made entire of lobster traps.
Pro Tip: There are actually TWO tree lighting ceremonies at the Dock Square tree – typically taking place the first two Fridays in December. So, if you plan your visit during the first half of December, you’ll have more chances to attend. The Cape Porpoise tree lighting just happens once, usually on the same day as the first Dock Square tree lighting.
2. See Santa’s Arrival By Lobster Boat
One of the most exciting events during Prelude is the Big Guy’s arrival by lobster boat, and this is one you’ll definitely want to have on your radar if you’re visiting with kids (or not, no judgement because I’d totally go, too 😉).
Once Santa has made his way to land with Mrs. Claus and his lobster friends, there will be plenty of opportunities for photos, crafts, reindeer games, and the Keeping Spirits Bright Bar, which has adult beverages, too.
Pro Tip: In recent years, Santa’s arrival has been at the Nonantum Resort, but you’ll want to check each year’s event list to make sure the location hasn’t changed.
3. Experience Christmas Fireworks
For those who love a good fireworks show, you’ll want to make sure you don’t miss the Christmas Fireworks, which is one of the finales to Prelude. You can view the show right from the Kennebunkport Bridge, and the fireworks light up the sky right above the cove for a picture-perfect moment.
4. Sculpt Your Own Chocolate Creation
One of the most popular hands-on experiences to have during Christmas in Kennebunkport is the Sculpt Your Own Chocolate workshop at Auntie’s Bakery & Chocolate Shop.
During the event, you’ll be provided with a block of chocolate to make into your own festive creation, and then the friendly folks at Auntie’s will finish it off for you with a special coating of milk chocolate. This is the perfect event to attend if you’re coming with a group of friends, or have older children.
Pro Tip: While here, get some of their famous whoopie balls – they’ll have some special flavors for the holidays! Maybe grab a few extra and freeze them to serve at Christmas, or give some as gifts.
5. Enjoy The Merry Market
Thursdays through Sunday during Prelude, you don’t want to miss shopping at the Merry Market, which can be found at Maine Art Hill. This is the place to look for unique art pieces to give as gifts, and to make the whole shopping experience even more fun, you’ll find outdoor refreshments being served, along with an outdoor fire pit to stay warm.
6. See All The Pups Dressed Up At The Pooch Parade
While I love a good Santa arrival, I think the award for cutest Christmas event during Prelude has to go to the Pooch Parade. If your visit happens to coincide with this pup-tacular parade, you’ll probably want to get a spot front and center to absorb all the cuteness.
Kennebunkport community members and their furry friends dress up in their holiday best, and strut through Dock Square to spread cheer to all. You’ll see pups in festive sweaters, scarves, antlers, and so much more. Have your camera ready.
7. Visit Cape Porpoise
I mentioned the Cape Porpoise lobster trap tree earlier in the post, but even if you can’t attend the tree lighting, it’s so worth driving over during your Christmas visit.
For one, you’ll get a chance to see the lobster trap tree, which is a really fun photo spot.
But in addition to the tree, you can pick up some wonderful gifts at Farm + Table (one of my favorite shops in New England!), and take in the views of the harbor from Bickford Island. On a clear day, you’ll se able to see Goat Island lighthouse from a distance.
8. Sip On Holiday Cocktails At Batson River
Batson River is really fun year-round, but honestly, it’s pure magic in during the holidays. Not only is their interior ready for a holiday magazine cover, they create a special Holiday Camp menu with very festive cocktails.
With indoor seating, an insulated deck, and very cozy private fish shacks, you have lots of options to choose from during your visit. And the cocktails? Well, they’re pretty festive (and delicious!). Each cocktail has a fun holiday themed name, and in year’s past, they’ve had drinks with names like Cindy Lou Who, Charlie Brown, and Misfits Toys Mule (which is my personal favorite … I love a good Mule in the winter!).
9. Shop ‘Til You Drop In Dock Square
Kennebunkport is a wonderful place to do some holiday shopping, and cross a few gifts off your list (or, to get some for yourself 😉). Almost all of the shops in Dock Square are independent boutiques, and you’ll find everything from antiques and housewares, to bookshops and candy stores.
Be sure to budget at least a couple of hours to hit up all the shops, which all open for Prelude! Some of my favorites to check out are Daytrip Society, Minka, and Fine Print Booksellers.
10. Hop On A Christmas Trolley Ride
The Seashore Trolley Museum offers some very festive rides aboard their historic trolley cars during Christmas, and if you’re lucky, Santa himself may hop aboard, too!
Trolley cars are decked out in lots of Christmas decorations during Prelude rides, and expect your scenic ride through the woods to last around 25 minutes. I recommend arriving a bit early, or planning to stay for a bit after your ride, to enjoy the museum as well. They have lots of vintage cars to explore on the grounds, and it’s actually a really cool thing to see.
During these rides, they also offer hot cocoa for an extra festive touch.
11. Tour A Historic Home By Candlelight
One of the most beautiful houses in Kennebunkport to tour at Christmastime is the White Columns House, which can be found steps from Dock Square.
This Greek Revival house from the 1850s is elaborately decked out for the holidays in a Victorian aesthetic, and that’s enough reason to book a tour. But of course, the fascinating history you’ll learn along the way enhances the entire experience.
The best part, though? Once the sun goes down, the inside of the house is lit by candlelight, which makes for a simply magical experience.
12. Take A Wreath-Making Class At Snug Harbor Farm
One of my favorite places to stop year-round in Kennebunkport is Snug Harbor Farm, which is just about a mile outside of Dock Square. It’s worth the drive out to this garden center, though, as they offer beautiful wreaths, boughs, and other holiday decor to deck your own halls once you get home.
But, I definitely recommend booking one of their wreath-making workshops if you can! You’re provided with a 14″, pre-made, fresh pine wreath, and are given so many choices for decoration, including eucalyptus, berries, and pinecones. The workshops are run by local floral artists that can offer you tips along the way, too.
13. Stroll Through The Gingerbread Pop-Up Shop
At the Morning Walk Cottages, you don’t want to miss the Gingerbread Pop-Up Shop. On display, you’ll find gorgeous and intricately decorated gingerbread houses that feel like a fairy tale come to life. But the best part is their cookies!
I love a good gingerbread cookie during the holidays, and I’m awfully particular about them, too, But I loved the cookies here. The cookies were soft and chewy, and had a nice amount of spice to them. And the way they’re decorated will leave you speechless. This is a great place to stock up on small hostess gifts, or stocking stuffers (if you can keep them long enough before eating them, of course!).
14. Attend Fire + Ice
The biggest event during Kennebunkport’s Prelude is most definitely the Fire + Ice party, and if you have any interest in attending, you’ll want to buy your ticket in advance.
The fire and ice theme is string here, in the best possible way. You’ll see lots of beautiful ice sculptures, ice bars, and bonfires, in addition to live music, dancing, great food and awesome themed drinks.
Held at the Nonantum Resort, this is the big finale to the Prelude celebration, and is typically held on the second Friday and Saturday in December. Tickets are pricey, but honestly, this is one that’s worth spending your money on. Plus, proceeds from the event are given to local organizations throughout the community, so you can feel good about getting your tickets, too.
15. Enjoy The Hot Chocolate and Cider Bars
Several places around Kennebunkport have hot chocolate and hot cider stands and offerings throughout Prelude. In fact, it’s so many, it’s hard to keep track of!
One place in particular that whips up an awesome hot chocolate is Mornings in Paris. During Prelude, this French-inspired café offers a customized hot chocolate bar, and also has special crepes and waffles on their menu.
The Pilot House restaurant, which is just outside of Kennebunkport in Kennebunk (I know, it’s confusing, but they’re two separate towns), offers a spiked hot chocolate and cider bar, which is especially fun for adults.
And shops and hotels throughout town will have pop-up hot chocolate stands during prelude, including at the Morning Walk cottages. Keep your eyes peeled, and just always be ready to sip on a cozy cup of hot cocoa!
Bonus Suggestions – Pretty Much Everything Else!
There are so many other events and fun activities to do during Christmas in Kennebunkport, and the Prelude event is filled to the brim with happenings pretty much every day. Here are some other events to check out during your visit:
- Lobster boat rides along the Kennebunk River – Departs from either the Nonantum Resort or The Pilot House.
- Gingerbread house making events for kids and adults.
- Cookie decorating for kids and adults (Mrs. Claus makes a special appearance for the kids’ events!)
- Free classic holiday movie showings at the Vinegar Hill Music Theatre
- Christmas karaoke
- Shopping at the Morning Walk cottages
- Igloo dining
- Lights & Bites food park
- Pick up a gorgeous pre-made wreath at the cutest little stand at Spy Haven Farm.
Best Places To Stay In Kennebunkport At Christmas
The number one tip I have for you when booking your accommodations in Kennebunkport for Christmas Prelude is this – stay somewhere walkable to Dock Square. Since Dock Square is where probably 85% of the events are during Prelude, and parking is extremely limited (but more on that later in the post), this is one of those times where it’s absolutely worth paying a bit extra to stay close to all the action.
Here are my favorite hotels that are walkable to Dock Square, and open in December:
Kennebunkport Captains Collection: A collection of 4 historic houses turned into gorgeous inns, and all are within a 5-10 minute walk to Dock Square. All of the inns are also decorated perfectly for the holidays, and are also home to igloo dining.
The Kennebunkport Inn: Another beautiful and historic inn that’s literally just steps from Dock Square. In fact, you can see the town’s Christmas tree right from the inn (depending on which room you get, you may be able to see it from your window!). They also do amazing decorations on their deck, and inside the inn.
The Boathouse Waterfront Hotel: A more modern hotel that’s right on the river, and also steps to Dock Square. In mid-December, they also set-up a beautiful lighthouse village on their property for a very cool and unique dining experience.
The King’s Port Inn: A great option that’s more budget-friendly, and walkable to Dock Sqaure.
Is Kennebunkport Expensive During Christmas?
Unfortunately, yes, especially on the weekends when all the events take place. Since Kennebunkport is now nationally recognized as a top Christmas town in the U.S., prices during this time of the year are high, and considered a peak travel season. This is something you’ll want to be prepared for while you’re searching for hotels.
Where To Stay Near Kennebunkport During Christmas
If you’ve started your search too late and hotels right in Kennebunkport are sold out, or you just need some more budget-friendly options, Wells is a great town to consider. There are tons of hotels and motels in Wells, and you’ll be about a 20-minute drive to Kennebunkport.
If you choose to stay in Wells, you’ll want to read through my parking tips section toward the end to make sure you’re prepared with a parking plan upon arrival!
Tips For Visiting Kennebunkport During Christmas
✔️ Most Prelude events happen on Thursdays-Sundays. While there are Prelude events happening Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays the first two weeks of December, most of the exciting and popular events happen on the weekends, including the s’mores bonfires, hot chocolate stations, etc. However, if you have to visit Monday-Wednesday, don’t worry! There are still fun things to do that will instantly put you in the Christmas spirit. A few of them are pop-up shopping events, holiday home tours and festive dining experiences.
✔️ Book your hotel in advance, especially if staying on a weekend. I typically find it pretty easy to get a hotel last-minute for weekday stays in December during Prelude, but weekends sell out months in advance. I would recommend trying to book your weekend Prelude stay by September, if you can.
✔️ Prepare for all kinds of weather. Sometimes it snows, sometimes it’s warm and sunny, and sometimes it rains! It’s hard to predict in advance what the weather will be like, so when you book your trip, know you could experience any kind of weather. A few days before you leave, check the weather reports to get a better idea of what to pack.
✔️ Expect crowds. There’s no way around it – since this is one of the most popular Christmas events in the country, you’ll be celebrating with lots of other people. As long as you go into it knowing what to expect, there won’t be any surprises once you get there.
Parking During Christmas Prelude In Kennebunkport
I’m not going to sugar coat it for ya – parking in Kennebunkport during the Prelude event, especially on weekends, is tough. Parking right in town by Dock Square is limited as it is, and on weekends, much of it is blocked off.
But fear not! Kennebunkport has an awesome service lined up to shuttle folks into town with RideMaine Shuttle Service. On Thursdays through Sundays during Prelude, you can park your car at one of these three lots, and for only $5, pick up a shuttle into Dock Square:
- North Street Fire Station Lot – 32 North Street
- Lower Village Marketplace – 169 Port Road
- Dannah – 123 Ocean Avenue
Once you arrive at one of these parking lots, you can text a driver at (207) 502-5067 with your location and number of people in your party, and a shuttle will come pick you up. For larger parties, you can also request a ride ahead of time by clicking here.
Pro Tip: If you’re looking to arrive in time for a specific event, you’ll want to allow plenty of extra time to park and get your shuttle!
You may also enjoy:
- Best Christmas Towns In New England
- Magical Things To Do During Christmas In Maine
- Things To Do In Newport, RI In The Winter
- Things To Do On Cape Cod In The Winter
- Best New England Winter Getaways
- Best Things To Do In Maine In The Winter
- Where To See The Best Christmas Lights In Massachusetts
That’s A Wrap On How Celebrate Christmas In Kennebunkport
Feeling festive yet? I’m not sure how you could not be after reading this post on celebrating Christmas in Kennebunkport, am I right? 😉 If you’re planning your dream holiday getaway to this adorable little coastal town, I hope you’ve found this post useful, and I’m wishing you the very best holiday season this year!