Maine is home to some of the most wonderful Christmas towns in New England, and one of them has even been regarded as one of the top Christmas towns in the entire country! But beyond small town celebrations and whimsical light displays, there are so many magical things to do during Christmas in Maine, and you’ll want to have all of them on your radar when you plan your visit!
If you’re planning a visit to the Pine Tree State during December, then just keep reading to get all the insider information on the best events, Christmas lights, town celebrations, tree lightings, and things to do during the holiday season in Maine. Let’s get started!
What Is Maine Like At Christmas?
Christmas is a truly wondrous time of year to visit Maine, and even though the state is rather large, there are festive celebrations all over that are worth checking out, beyond even what I’ve included on my own list. That means that no matter where you go, you’re sure to find some kind of holiday decoration or community event to attend.
You’ll also usually find lighthouses decked out in wreaths, lobster trap and buoy Christmas trees, and charming Main Streets aglow in twinkle lights.
Weather During Christmas In Maine
Weather will vary in December in Maine depending on where in the state you go. The northern regions are more likely to have a blanket of snow once Thanksgiving is over, while the southern regions could be warmer, with a lesser likelihood of snow. That said, snow varies each year, and really depends. Sometimes, you’ll find places in Southern Maine like Kennebunkport covered in a blanket of fresh snow the first two weeks in December, some years it’s been rainy, and some years, warm-ish and sunny!
But generally speaking, Maine sees average daytime highs around 35°F, and lows around 18-20°F. Snow is likely, but isn’t guaranteed in December, so it’s a good idea to check the weather reports before leaving to know what to expect on your trip.
Best Things To Do & Places To Go In Maine At Christmas
1. Experience Kennebunkport’s Christmas Prelude
If you only attend one Christmas celebration in Maine, the Kennebunkport Christmas Prelude is one of the best to experience. This two-week long event takes place the first two weeks in December, and is packed full of holiday cheer. In fact, HGTV named Kennebunkport as the second best Christmas town in the entire country!
During your visit to Kennebunkport during Prelude, you can expect tree lightings, candlelight home tours, hot cocoa bars, special shopping events and pop-ups, gorgeous Christmas decorations all over, cookie decorating, parades, and of course, appearances by Santa and Mrs. Claus.
There’s so much to do during the Kennebunkport’s Prelude event, in fact, that I’ve written an entire post about it! For all my tips and suggestions on things to do, more places to stay, parking info, and how to plan your Prelude trip, check out my post on Christmas in Kennebunkport.
Where To Stay In Kennebunkport At Christmas:
When booking your hotel in Kennebunkport for Christmas Prelude, I can’t recommend enough that you book a place that’s within walking distance to Dock Square, which is the center of town. Parking during this event can be tricky and requires some planning, and the easiest way to enjoy the festivities is by booking a hotel that’s walkable to everything in town. These suggestions are all places that are walkable to Dock Square:
2. Attend The Sparkle Celebration In Freeport
About 30 minutes north of Portland in Freeport, you’ll find the very fun Sparkle Celebration, which is such a great way to celebrate Christmas in Maine. Also taking place the first two weeks in December, there are plenty of opportunities to catch the magic and enjoy everything this event has to offer.
Martha Stewart even named Freeport as one of the most charming towns in Maine to visit during the Christmas season, so you know you’re in for a lot of holiday magic during your visit.
The Sparkle Celebration kicks off with the Parade of Lights, and the grand finale of the parade includes Santa’s arrival to turn on the famous talking Christmas tree! Not sure what this is? Guess you’ll have to visit Freeport to find out 😉
During the rest of the event, you’ll find so many fun things to do like the Sparkle Frosty Frolic food trucks, special holiday shopping events, a gorgeous Northern Lights displays at the L.L. Bean Flagship Campus, live music, bon fires, and so much more.
Where To Stay In Freeport At Christmas:
Much like Kennebunkport, it’s a great idea to stay somewhere that’s walkable to downtown Freeport to save you the hassle of parking. While parking is a bit easier in Freeport than in Kennebunkport, the option to walk to town is always a nice perk for a stress-free getaway! These cozy inns are all a 10-minute walk or less to downtown Freeport:
3. Enjoy The Magical Events In Boothbay Harbor
While known as a popular summer destination on the coast of Maine, Boothbay Harbor is most definitely also one of the most beautiful and charming places to visit during the holidays. There are so many wonderful events and light displays to check out in Boothbay this time of the year that it’ll be hard to not find your Christmas spirit during your visit.
One of the best things to check out in Boothbay in December is the very magical Gardens Aglow event at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. Starting in mid-November, and running through New Year’s Eve, you’ll enjoy a mile-long walk with over 750,000 lights illuminating your path along the way. Snacks and drinks are also available to purchase for an extra festive touch.
Boothbay Lights also offers a myriad of holiday events you don’t want to miss. With some festivities starting in November, and continuing through mid-December, you’ll have lots of time to check out this cute little harbor town during the holidays.
The first Saturday in December usually brings the Lighted Boat Parade and fireworks, which is usually the big kick-off to the holidays in Boothbay. This is when you can see Santa’s arrival, and a very festive illuminated boat parade in the harbor for the perfect Christmas night on the coast.
Other events you can attend during Boothbay Lights are the Gingerbread Extravaganza, Polar Express train rides, and of course, seeing the giant buoy tree at the harbor.
Where To Stay In Boothbay Harbor At Christmas:
All of these places to stay are within walking distance to the harbor, so you won’t need to worry about parking on the days popular events take place!
4. Head To Rockland For the Festival Of Lights
To see a coastal town aglow in lights, you’ll want to head to beautiful Rockland along the Midcoast! This town’s Festival of Lights begins the Friday after Thanksgiving, so this is also one of the first Christmas events in Maine you can attend during the season.
Starting with Santa’s arrival in the afternoon by boat, he’ll greet everyone at the harbor and lead the way to his workshop where he’ll invite the kids to tell him what’s on their Christmas list this year. Later that night, he’ll come back and attend the lobster trap tree lighting for an event you won’t want to miss. Rumor has it that Santa gives out cookies and cocoa to all the kids, so keep an eye out.
But the fun definitely doesn’t stop there! You’ll want to head to Main Street on the following Saturday to enjoy the Festival of Lights Parade, and enjoy the town lit up for the season. There will be hot chocolate stations set up to keep you warm during the parade, so come with some cash on you to buy a few cups of cheer.
The rest of the weekend, you can also enjoy a silent auction for beautiful tabletop trees while sipping on hot cider and munching on baked treats, and brunch with Santa is the grand finale on Sunday.
Where To Stay In Rockland At Christmas:
5. Stroll Through Portland
As the state’s biggest city, of course Portland has a few things up its sleeve for the holiday season that you won’t want to miss! Between festive decorations around Old Port, lobster trap trees down by the harbor, giant trees downtown, awesome shopping, and fun dining options, you won’t have to look far for things to do in December.
For those looking to get all the holiday shopping done during their visit, you’ll want to sign up for the Merry Madness shopping event in Portland. Kicking off with a big party that gives you a reusable shopping bag, snacks, and a drink of your choice, the event rounds up the best retailers in the city that offer special discounts and late hours for all participating shoppers.
Along the waterfront, you can also enjoy the Portland Parade of Lights, where boats will cruise by decked out in their holiday best for all to see. You can also attend the Monument Square tree lighting, and take pictures at the very cool lobster trap tree at Luke’s on the pier!
Where To Stay In Portland At Christmas:
6. Celebrate Christmas By The Sea in Camden
Can you spot the Mount Battie Star in the photo above? 👀
The quaint coastal town of Camden is wonderful year-round, and extra magical at Christmas, of course! With their Christmas by the Sea celebration that takes place the first weekend in December, you’re sure to get your fill of holiday cheer during your visit. In fact, this celebration has been a Maine tradition for over 20 years.
Not only does Camden have a fabulous Main Street for shopping and dining, it’ll be illuminated with twinkle lights during the month of December – so be sure to plan an after-sunset stroll to get the full effect. Thanksgiving night, the town also lights a giant star at the top of Mount Battie, so you’ll want to see if you can catch a glimpse of it while walking around town, too, which is best seen at night.
But for the Christmas by the Sea event, you can expect to see Santa’s arrival by lobster boat, attend a Christmas parade, and of course, an exciting tree lighting. Also head over to nearby Lincolnville and sit by their community bonfire while sipping on hot cocoa to warm up on a chilly December day.
Pro Tip: Camden is just a few minutes from Rockport, so you can easily attend the Christmas festivities at both towns during the same trip.
Where To Stay In Camden At Christmas:
7. See Nubble Lighthouse Aglow In Lights
One of the most photographed lighthouses in Maine during the holiday season is Nubble Lighthouse on Cape Neddick, and it definitely has a little something to do with the festive Christmas lights that are hung in December 😉
The lighthouse is worthy of seeing year-round, but of course, it’s magical to see when it’s aglow with twinkle lights during the holidays. The lights turn on the weekend after Thanksgiving, and you can expect to see them through the New Year holiday.
Where To Stay Near Nubble Lighthouse At Christmas:
8. Get All Your Holiday Shopping Done In Maine
Maine is a fantastic state for shopping, and you’ll find lots of different places where you can pretty much cross everyone off your gift list.
As previously mentioned, the Merry Madness shopping extravaganza in Portland is an awesome event to check out, especially if you’re visiting with the intention of getting all your holiday shopping done.
But Maine is also home to some pretty awesome flagships stores, namely L.L. Bean and Stonewall Kitchen. L.L. Bean’s flagship campus in Freeport is packed with everything the company sells, and it truly is a big campus! Snap a photo with the giant boot out front, and then head indoors to stock up perfect gifts like the wicked good slippers, flannel jammies, and cozy bedding.
The Stonewall Kitchen flagship store can be found in York, and it’s not too far from Nubble Lighthouse. I love to pop into this store year-round, but at Christmas, you’ll be able to stock up on all kinds of goodies. They also have a café that serves delicious food and baked goods, and all their seasonal things will be out, too. I especially love to get their mini jams and jellies as cute little stocking stuffers, or additions to gift baskets.
The outlets in Kittery are also a great place to go for some shopping, and you’ll find brand like Le Creuset, Lululemon, Barbour, and tons more.
All the cute towns I’ve mentioned throughout this post also have great little boutiques to shop at during the holiday for unique finds, so keep an eye out during your visit!
9. Visit The Batson River Holiday Camps
One of my personal favorite things to do during the holiday season in Maine is visit the Batson River Brewing & Distilling locations. They have four locations throughout southern Maine: Kennebunkport, Biddeford, Portland, and Wells, and each one is completely decked out for the holiday season in a very impressive way.
The decorations alone are worth a visit, but they also come up with a very fun holiday menu, featuring festive drinks that are a delicious nod to this cheerful time of the year. I’m especially fond of the Kennebunkport location because they set-up these really cute fish shacks on their deck, which are private dining experiences with a very cozy ambience inside. But really, every location is pure magic this time of the year.
10. Have Dinner At The Decked Out ViA VECCHiA In Portland
Speaking of gorgeous decorations, one of the most Instagram-worthy places to eat in Maine during the holiday season is ViA VECCHiA in Portland. Going all out with their festive decor, it’ll be impossible to walk out not feeling inspired by the holiday season.
With a focus on Italian cuisine, and a small-plate menu, you’ll find excellent pasta dishes here, as well as awesome pizzas and a few large entree options. They also release special holiday cocktails that are the perfect compliment to your meal, so definitely order one of those during your visit 😉
11. Munch On Seasonal Whoopie Pies
The whoopie pie is the official state dessert of Maine, and while these delicious little treats are available year-round pretty much everywhere, the holidays bring special flavor releases that are worth seeking out.
In Kennebunkport and Portland, Auntie’s House is a great place to go, and they release seasonal flavors all the time, with lots of different options. They also always have their famous whoopie balls in seasonal flavors, too, which are whoopie pie cake balls coated in chocolate – and they’re so good.
Cape Whoopies in South Portland also always has some kind of seasonal release, and in the past, they’ve done their Christmas Crunch flavor, which features chocolate cakes, a peppermint cream filling, and peppermint candy crunch. Perfect for a hostess gift, or for a holiday party!
Two Fat Cats in Portland usually releases their awesome gingerbread whoopie pie in December, which is perfect for those looking for a seasonal flavor that doesn’t stray too far from the original. It features gingerbread cakes with a vanilla filling, and it’s perfection.
Psst! I have an entire post on the best whoopie pies in Maine, if you’d like yo check that out 😉
12. Experience An Old Fashioned Christmas In Bath
Bath is a cute little town along Maine’s Midcoast region that does a very festive Old Fashioned Christmas celebration worth checking out.
The festivities for this event typically begin the Saturday after Thanksgiving with Santa’s arrival at Library park. Quickly following that night, enjoy a heartwarming tree lighting with caroling and cookies – it’ll feel like you’re on the set of a Hallmark Christmas movie!
Throughout the rest of December, you can attend events like Santa Day (complete with a Santa RTV Parade), trolley caroling, and late night shopping events to get a good chunk of your holiday shopping done.
And of course, you can expect the downtown area to get completely aglow with lights and decked out in festive decorations. Depending on which event you visit, you may even spot the big guy himself strolling around town, and live music is known to pop up throughout town as well.
Where To Stay In Bath At Christmas:
13. Attend The Wiscasset Holiday Marketfest
Typically taking place the first weekend in December, the Wiscasset Holiday Marketfest is such a fun way to start the holiday season in Maine. And since the town is often regarded as the prettiest village in Maine, you know you’re in for a treat when you visit in December.
The Holiday Marketfest is much more than just a shopping event, but you’ll definitely want to pick up a few things during your visit as well. All the local shops will be open and ready to help you select the perfect gift, and offering special sales and promotions, too.
But in addition to the regular shops being open, the weekend brings all kinds of artisan pop-up shops, holiday raffles, hand-crafted wreaths for sale, and boxwood tree demonstrations.
That same weekend, the Light Up Wiscasset! event will also take place on Saturday, and you can expect to see Santa, pet some adorable wooly sheep, sip on hot cocoa, attend the tree lighting, and enjoy a wonderful fireworks display.
Where To Stay In Wiscasset At Christmas:
14. Book A Wreath-Making Workshop
A fun way to celebrate the holidays is by learning how to make your own gorgeous wreath for your front door (or any door in your house!). There are a few wonderful places around Maine that offer really great workshops that are perfect for getting into the holiday spirit.
Snug Harbor Farm in Kennebunkport is a great place to book a wreath workshop! On select days in December, they offer expert-led classes that teach you the art of crafting the perfect holiday wreath, and they provide the most beautiful trimmings, including eucalyptus, ribbons, and fresh herbs like rosemary for the finishing touch.
In Kennebunk, the Maine Wreaths & Design workshops are also lots of fun. Taking place in her studio, all the supplies will be given to you, and you’re guided along on the process of creating a stunning holiday wreath. She also offers different options and styles to choose from, with a focus on simple designs with a big impact.
The Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens has also had events in years past (including 2022, so stay tuned for 2023 events!) with expert-guided Christmas wreath-making workshops. This is the same location as the famous Gardens Aglow event, so if you can visit both on the same day, you’ll have an epic day of holiday fun planned.
15. See The Very Festive Santa Sunday
Last, but most definitely not least, one of the most unique events to attend in Maine during the Christmas season is the very cool Santa Sunday at the Sunday River ski resort in Newry.
Typically taking the place the second Sunday in December, this event features over 250 people dressed as Santa skiing down the mountain for charity, and it’s honestly such a cool thing to see in person! It’s even been featured on the Travel Channel 😉
Proceeds from the event go toward the River Fund, which supports local youth education and recreation efforts in the community.
Skiing at Sunday River typically opens just before the Thanksgiving holiday, so if you happen to be visiting in December for the Santa Sunday event, definitely look into life tickets for a fun day on the slopes, too.
Where To Stay In Newry At Christmas:
What To Pack For Christmas In Maine
As mentioned, the weather can vary a bit in December, so you’ll want to check the forecast a few days before leaving to get a good idea of what the weather will be like during your trip. Generally, though, snowfalls are likely, even if they’re just a light flurry in the air that doesn’t stick to the ground, and you can expect chilly weather that will require coats and sweaters.
Here’s a list of some things you’ll want to think about packing for a Christmas trip to Maine:
- Winter coat to stay warm. Even if the weather isn’t too cold, this will be versatile to keep you warm at night when the weather is colder, or along the coast where the wind can make the air feel colder than it is.
- Boots. You may not need bulky winter boots, depending on the forecasts, but a warm casual boot, like the Sorel Out N About boots are very versatile, and work well this time of the year. I wear boots like the Out N About pretty much all the time in December for visiting cute town celebrations, tree lightings, and even out to dinner. They also do well with light snowfalls.
- Sweaters and jeans. This is pretty much all you need to wear each day unless you’re planning a fancier dinner out, as most places in Maine are casual. Be sure to pack your festive holiday sweaters if you have any!
- Hats, scarves, and gloves/mittens. These are especially important for night time events when it’s colder outside.
More posts you may find helpful:
- Best New England Winter Getaways (Even For Non-Skiers)
- Fun Things To Do In Portland, Maine In The Winter
- Best Things To Do In Maine In The Winter
- Best Breweries In Portland, Maine
- Where To Find The Best Whoopie Pies In Maine
That’s A Wrap On Christmas In Maine
And there you have it! Now you’ve got the inside scoop on all the best things to do during Christmas in Maine. Whether you’re planning a festive getaway to Portland to get some shopping in, spending a weekend in Kennebunkport to attend the Prelude festivities, or you’re hoping to learn how to craft the perfect holiday wreath, one thing’s for sure – Maine is simply magical during the holiday season.