Cape Cod is known as one of the best summer beach getaways in the Northeast, but did you know that it’s also an amazing Christmas destination? During the holiday season, the Cape turns into a magical holiday wonderland, filled with twinkle lights, decorated lighthouses, lots of holiday events, and heart-warming community events.
This post is all about Christmas on Cape Cod, including the best hotels that are open in December, where to go to see the best lights, the most fun Christmas events, and tips for your visit. Having been to Cape Cod in December quite a few times, I hope I’m able to share all the magic this region has to offer this very special time of the year. Let’s get started!
Is Visiting Cape Cod At Christmas Worth It?
A resounding yes! There are so many wonderful Christmas towns in New England to visit, and Cape Cod is home to some of them. Each town does something festive to celebrate the holidays, and you’ll see lots of beautiful Christmas decorations all over that make you feel like you’ve stepped foot into a Hallmark movie set. In fact, Hallmark even made a movie called A Cape Cod Christmas, so that’s definitely another reason to visit in December 😉
Even though there are so many fantastic ways to celebrate the holiday season on Cape Cod, it’s also never too busy and crowded this time of the year. You can usually find some nice hotel rates, so splurging on a stay at a nicer hotel at discounted prices is another wonderful perk.
Where To See Christmas Lights On Cape Cod
1. Gardens Aglow At The Sandwich Heritage Museum & Gardens
The premier lights display on Cape Cod is most definitely the Gardens Aglow event at the Heritage Museum & Gardens. Thousands of twinkle lights are strung around the property to transform the grounds into a true winter wonderland, so for a magical experience, this is where to go.
During your visit, there are snacks and drinks available to purchase, including donuts and mulled wine. Plan to spend about 60-90 minutes strolling through all the gorgeous displays, and be sure to have your camera ready!
Ticket Info: Tickets are required for this event, and they must be purchased in advance. I highly recommend signing up for the Trustees newsletter to be notified when tickets go on sale each year. There is usually a pre-sale for Trustees members, and then shortly after, tickets go on sale for the general public. Weekends sell out fast, so it’s best to plan ahead and buy tickets as much in advance as you can.
2. Chatham’s Main Street
One of my favorite places to visit on the Cape in December is Chatham’s Main Street. The decorations, beautiful store window displays, and twinkling lights are so festive and I can’t help but feel the Christmas spirit after a walk down Main Street. It’s worth seeing during the daylight hours, but it feels even more magical at night. For all the charming, small town feels, this is where to go!.
Just off Main Street is the lovely Kate Gould Park, which is decorated with multiple Christmas trees, and you’ll also find the bandstand gazebo aglow with lights.
3. Gibbsville at Kayla’s Light Display In Sandwich
For a festive lights display, head over to East Sandwich to see Gibbsville at Kayla’s, which has been a tradition in the town for 50 years. Located at 339 Route 6A at a private residence, they open up their famous displays to the public for a magical walk-through experience that’s completely free to enjoy.
Still run by the same family, it takes months of work to get the display ready, and the family does it all just to see the look on everyone’s faces when they walk through. It’s truly such a heart-warming experience!
While the display is free to visit, the family does encourage you bring a canned good donation for the Sandwich Food Pantry if you’re able to, which they’ve been collecting during the event since their very first year of putting up the lights.
Pro Tip: Gibbsville is less than 10 minutes from the Gardens Aglow event, so you can easily combine the two for a very festive evening.
4. Provincetown’s Lobster Trap Tree & Pilgrim Monument Lights
In Provincetown, one of the coolest light displays is definitely the Pilgrim Monument, which stands over 250 feet tall over Ptown, and can be seen from just about anywhere in town. Seeing it aglow with lights during the holidays is such a cool experience! The lights around the monument turn on in mid-November, so there’s plenty of time to see them throughout the season.
Also in Provincetown is the very cool Lobster Pot tree, which has been a town tradition for about 20 years. This tree is made entirely of lobster traps, and adorned with a cute buoy topper, red bows, and beautiful lights that illuminate the tree at night. Each year, it’s meant to be a nod to the hardworking lobstermen in the community, and it brings so much cheer to the entire town. While it’s fun to see in the daylight, you’ll definitely want to see it at night, too.
The Lobster Pot tree can be found at Lopes Square, just steps from MacMillan Pier and The Lobster Pot restaurant. The first lighting of the tree is usually the weekend after Thanksgiving, and it typically stays up through January, depending on the season and weather.
Festive Things To Do At Christmas On Cape Cod
5. Shop At The Canteen’s Holiday Market
The Canteen is a fantastic casual eatery up in Provincetown with an awesome outdoor area by the beach. But during the month of December, the entire area is turned into a very cool holiday market, and a cozy warming hut for holiday drinks and yummy street food by the fire. At night, you can book a table for a chalet-style dinner in their dining room and heated tent, too!
The holiday market and cozy warming hut is open during the day on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays starting the weekend after Thanksgiving through New Year’s. The chalet dinner service is also on weekends, and is typically offered in the evenings from 5-8-ish.
The holiday market is such a cool place to check out 25 vendors showcasing hand-crafted artisan gifts and unique finds. Be sure to plan some extra time for a festive drink by the fire after shopping!
6. Dine Inside An Igloo
The Frost Bar at Ocean Edge Resort in Brewster is one place to have on your radar when you visit Cape Cod during Christmas. Typically opening in early December, the resort’s Ocean Terrace is transformed into a winter-themed space during the colder months, and also offers giant heated igloos for a fun, private dining experience.
But the igloos are just the start of the fun! With yummy small plates and entrees offered, they also have a very cool winter cocktail list with drinks like a hot cocoa martini, ginger hot toddy, and their signature winter cocktail, the Jack Frost.
The igloos come with cozy blankets to help you stay warm, and are lit with twinkle lights. If you come during daylight hours, you’ll have a view of the ocean from the terrace.
Pro Tip: Reservations are required for private igloo dining, and can be made online at the Ocean Edge’s website, under the dining tab (just look for the Frost Bar!).
7. Attend Holly Folly In Ptown
Heading back up to Provincetown, soak up all the festive cheer with Holly Folly, a LGBTQ+ holiday-themed celebration that’s packed with exciting events. This is the perfect option for those looking to enjoy more of a lively party scene to ring in the holidays.
During Holly Folly, you can enjoy things like special discounts at the shops, fundraising events, dance parties, a champagne brunch, sing-a-longs, and drag bingo, just to name a few. If you’d like to attend this event, I’d suggest staying right in Ptown during your visit to make it easy to attend all the events during the festivities.
8. Snap A Photo With A Festive Lighthouse
Cape Cod has no shortage of lighthouses that are wonderful to see year-round, and during the holiday season, many of them are decorated with cheerful wreaths that make the perfect background for a festive photo.
Lighthouses that are usually decorated with wreaths on Cape Cod during the month of December are:
- Nauset Lighthouse
- Chatham Lighthouse
- Nobska Lighthouse
And while the other lighthouses on the Cape may not be decorated for the holidays, this is still a great time of the year to visit them without any crowds!
9. Stock Up On Holiday Treats At The Candy Shops
There are some really great candy shops on the Cape that are open in December, and this is the perfect opportunity to grab some yummy treats to fill stockings, stock up on hostess gifts, or to just have out on Christmas Eve and the day of Christmas for all to munch on.
Kandy Korner in Hyannis is one of the best, and this giant candy shop has everything you could possibly need for delicious homemade holiday treats. They also make their own candy canes, and the building is beautiful decorated on the outside, so you’ll feel that holiday cheer before you even step foot inside.
Candy Manor is another favorite of mine. Located in Chatham on Main Street, this cute little shop makes all their chocolates and caramels from scratch, and you can definitely taste the difference. They do a wonderful job with holiday seasonal offerings, including candy canes, decorated holiday chocolates, truffles and lots more.
There are tons more chocolate and candy shops to check out on Cape Cod in December, including Brewster Sweets, Chocolate Café in Eastham, Provincetown Fudge Factory, and Cape Cod Chocolatier in Osterville. And that’s still just scratching the surface!
10. Grab A Festive Drink
There are some really fun places to grab a festive drink on Cape Cod during the holiday season, and you’ll want to check out Truro Vineyards and Cape Cod Winery.
Truro Vineyards is always so much fun to visit, and in December, the outdoor bar is usually open on weekends, with their gift shop open Thursday-Monday. This time of the year, they typically have offer a delicious hot spiked cider with their own rum, mimosas, and bloody mary’s. They also have some really fun events that take place through December, so be sure to check out their social media for updates!
Truro Vineyards also has really cozy covered outdoor seating, and depending on the weather, you can gather around a warm fire pit while relaxing in Adirondack chairs while you sip on your hot spiked cider.
Cape Cod Winery in Falmouth is another fun place to check out in December for festive holiday events, and wonderfully delicious seasonal drinks. They usually have a tree lighting event the weekend after Christmas with live music, food, and of course, their fun drinks – hot mulled wine, and their Poinsettia bubbly.
11. Attend A Windmill Lighting
I’ll talk more about tree lightings down below in the festivals section, but on Cape Cod, you can also see some windmills aglow with festive lights to celebrate the season.
The most notable one to check out is the Higgins Farm Windmill in Brewster, which comes with its own lighting event that typically takes place the first Saturday in December. You can find this windmill in Drummer Boy Park along Route 6A.
The oldest windmill on the Cape is in Eastham, and it gets a special holiday treatment with colorful twinkle lights, too. This windmill can be found in its own little park green along Route 6.
Lastly, you can also swing by to see the Jonathan Young Windmill decked out lights in Orleans.
12. Start Your Holiday Shopping
I’ve mentioned a few ideas for holiday shopping on Cape Cod, but since there are so many great boutiques in the area, I wanted to give this its own section.
To quickly recap, I’ve already mentioned the holiday market at The Canteen in Provincetown, and lots of options for candy shops, but I have so many other suggestions for you! Main Street in Chatham is, of course, wonderful for holiday shopping. Where The Sidewalk Ends bookshop is perfect for the reader on your list, and the Mayflower Gift Shop is always full of unique finds.
For the coffee lover on your list, you may want to swing by Snowy Owl Roasters and pick up a few bags of specialty coffee beans. For the gourmet cook, pop into Lighthouse Keeper’s Pantry for specialty spreads and jams that are hand made.
For stores that have a bit of everything, check out Wish Gift Co. in Sandwich, Murphy’s General Store in Harwich Port, and Fisherman’s Daughter in Chatham.
For anyone who loves the beach, you may want to consider getting them a Cape Cod Beach Chair for Christmas. Each chair is still hand-made right in Harwich using only the best materials for a piece that will last for years. With different styles and colors to choose from, and the option to monogram your chair, this is a unique gift that your beach-lover is sure to love.
Pro Tip: They also have a pretty cool giant beach chair out front that’s decorated with Christmas lights in December, and it’s worth visiting just to see it!
I actually have an entire post all about shopping on Cape Cod, so be sure to check that out. Just be mindful that some places may have different hours in the winter, so be sure to check before making a special trip to a particular place.
13. Attend A Special Workshop Or Festive Event At The Chatham Bars Inn
The Chatham Bars Inn is one of the top places to stay on Cape Cod, especially during Christmas, and one of the reasons is because of all their very festive events and workshops they host at the resort.
First thing’s first, though – the hotel is completely decked out for the holidays. You’ll find beautiful Christmas trees, garlands, giant gingerbread houses, toy trains, and more decorations that are sure to put you in the Christmas spirit.
And the events are especially fun! You can sign up for holiday mixology and wreath-making workshops, gingerbread house decorating, holiday wine tastings, and special Nutcracker performances. For the kids, there are teddy bear tea parties and workshops with Santa featuring the big guy himself.
14. Hop Aboard The Polar Express
All aboard at Buzzard’s Bay! For a truly magical experience while you celebrate Christmas on Cape Cod, you’ll want to get tickets to the Polar Express train, which takes kids (and kids and heart) to the North Pole. Once you arrive at the North Pole, Santa and his Elves will join you on the train to hand out special gifts to all the children.
During the ride, costumed characters will provide wonderful entertainment, and read the cherished book that started it all for a memorable story time. Also on board, hot chocolate and cookies will be passed out to enjoy during the ride.
Christmas Festivals On Cape Cod
While there are plenty of things to do during the month of December on Cape Cod, you may want to consider timing your visit with one of the spirited and festive holiday events!
15. Chatham’s Christmas By The Sea Stroll
Typically taking place the second weekend in December, the Chatham Christmas by the Sea stroll is a really fun one to attend.
The kick-off events take place that Friday night, and begin with a lights parade, followed by the tree lighting with Santa himself. During this part of the stroll, there are usually carolers, special entertainment, and holiday characters walking the streets.
On Saturday, you can start your morning with breakfast with Santa, and then stroll the streets of downtown Chatham to enjoy more caroling, special sales at the shops, live entertainment, and lots of holiday cheer to go around.
Each year, Chatham usually releases special hats or scarves that commemorate that year’s stroll. They can typically be purchased online, or at select merchants around town.
16. Brewster For The Holidays
Taking place the first weekend in December, the cute little town of Brewster has some wonderful events to attend.
Kicking off on Friday night, you can experience the tree lighting, as well as the windmill lighting at Drummer Boy Park, which includes carolers and hot cocoa. You’re also encouraged to bring an unwrapped toy for their Toy Drive, which helps local families in need.
Saturday morning starts with breakfast with Santa at the Ocean Edge Resort, and pictures with Santa at the Cape Cod Natural History Museum later that morning.
And of course, the town will be beautifully decorated for the events, with stores offering special sales. You may also want to try and get the commemorative Brewster Holiday ornament, which is a limited release each year, and a very cool souvenir to take home.
17. Seaside Christmas In Orleans & Winterfest
Kicking off the Saturday after Thanksgiving with Santa’s arrival by boat, and breakfast with Mrs. Claus, events for Seaside Christmas in Orleans, as well as Winterfest, continue through the month of December.
Enjoy special events like candlelight strolls around Main Street, a Santa Stampede run, a party at the Artist Cottages, and the opportunity to vote on the best holiday decorations for a chance to win a prize.
18. Falmouth Holidays By The Sea
Held on the first weekend in December, Falmouth’s Holidays by the Sea is a great event to check out in the Upper Cape area! The festivities kick off Friday night with a special night of caroling at Nobska Lighthouse.
Saturday brings Santa’s arrival in Falmouth by boat in Falmouth Harbor, and is followed by races for both kids and adults, where everyone is encouraged to dress up in a festive holiday outfit for the run. Later on Saturday, enjoy the official stroll part of the event, where streets are lined with beautiful decorations, and you’ll find fun entertainment like face painting, crafts, refreshments, and live music.
Saturday ends with the lighting of village green and a special parade.
19. Christmas In Harwich
Last, but definitely not least, check out Christmas in Harwich for more fun-filled holiday events! These festivities also take place the first weekend in December, and kick off Friday night with the town’s tree lighting, and Santa’s arrival by fire truck. Later that night, all the other Christmas trees will be turned on throughout Harwich, so you can drive around to see them all.
On Saturday, enjoy trolley rides, a Holiday Boutique by the Harwich Garden Club, and a special holiday market open house.
Fun Christmas Day Trips From Cape Cod
While Cape Cod’s mainland is jam packed with holiday cheer to go around, you may also want to consider taking a day trip to one of the islands, or nearby areas, that are also famous for their holiday celebrations. Here are a few of my favorites that are close to the Cape that make perfect additions to your Christmas getaway on Cape Cod.
Nantucket’s Christmas Stroll is one of the best holiday celebrations in New England, and if you’re able to visit as a day trip the first weekend in December, it’s more than worth it. I often combine a Christmas trip to the Cape with a day trip over to Nantucket for the stroll, and it’s always a magical weekend!
Hop on the ferry and head over to the island 30 miles out to sea, and enjoy endless activities during the stroll. Santa’s arrival by boat, his parade on a fire truck through town, arts and crafts markets, a Main Street lined with dozens of Christmas trees, special holiday performances, gorgeous decorations around town, the red ticket shopping event, and the Whaling Museum Festival of Trees are just a few of the wonderful activities you can enjoy during the stroll!
21. Martha’s Vineyard
Taking place the second weekend in December is Christmas in Edgartown on Martha’s Vineyard. Hop on the ferry and enjoy a magical weekend on one of the most beautiful towns on the island, and enjoy things like the lighting of Edgartown Lighthouse, special shopping events, beautiful decorations around town, holiday light shows, pizza parties, Santa’s arrival with meet and greets, and so much more.
Boston is the perfect way to plan a holiday city escape for a more lively atmosphere! With so many amazing Christmas trees and light displays around the city, awesome holiday dining opportunities, tons of holiday markets, ice skating at Frog Park, and amazing hotels decked out in their holiday best, this makes for a fantastic holiday getaway from Cape Cod.
Just about an hour from Cape Cod is the amazing lights display in Taunton. The official Lights On Festival takes place the first Saturday in December, and includes the lighting of the town green, special music performances, hot chocolate and cookie stations, cookie decorating, and so much more. Celebrations take place all day long until the lighting at night, so you can make a whole day of it.
But of course, seeing the town’s incredible lights all turn on is the biggest reason to visit. It’ll feel like a true winter wonderland once the switch is flipped! But even if you can’t make it to the official lighting, the lights stay on all month long, so a day trip here from the Cape is a great option throughout December.
Bonus Suggestions: Enjoy The Area Without The Crowds!
Since December weather on Cape Cod typically isn’t freezing cold, this is a great time of year to enjoy the stunning coastal New England scenery and nature trails. While you’re on the Cape for a festive Christmas getaway, I also recommend checking out these things because, let’s face it, the coastline is gorgeous any time of the year 😉
24. Visit Quiet Beaches
The beaches and coastline are the biggest draw to Cape Cod, and during your Christmas visit, these are something you want to try to squeeze in. I always enjoy a morning or afternoon walk on the beach during my Christmas trips to the Cape, and you’ll hardly run into any other people this time of the year – usually just the locals.
Parking will be free at all the beaches, too, so some popular ones to check out that usually come with a bigger parking fee in the summer months are Nauset Beach, Cahoon Hollow, Race Point, and Coast Guard.
25. Have The Trails To Yourself
Taking a scenic walk or hike during the month of December is also a great way to enjoy this quiet time on Cape Cod. There are so many amazing trails that offer spectacular views, and you’ll likely have them to yourself in December. Plus, the weather tends to be pretty mild in December, so it shouldn’t be too cold (although, you never know in New England!).
Some of my favorites are the Pamet Bog Trail in Truro, the Dunes Shack Trail in Provincetown, the hikes out to Race Point Lighthouse, and the John Wing Trail in Brewster.
I actually have an entire post on the most scenic walks and hikes on Cape Cod, so be sure to check that out for more suggestions!
Where To Stay On Cape Cod At Christmas
As previously mentioned, December on Cape Cod usually offers some nicely discounted rates at the hotels, and this is a great time to plan a stay at the fancier places. But there are hotels that fall into every category from budget to luxury open in December. Here are the best places to check out this time of the year:
Luxury: The Chatham Bars Inn: Known as the only luxury resort on Cape Cod, this hotel is very expensive in the summer season, but offers discounted rates during the month of December, including weekends! The holiday decorations here are out of this world, and they will also decorate your room for an additional fee (and you get to take home all the decorations!). There are also restaurants and a spa on-site, and the hotel is right across the street from the beach.
As mentioned, this hotel goes all out for Christmas, and puts on all kinds events and workshops, caroling and hot cocoa nights, and always has their incredible gingerbread display out for you to enjoy in the lobby (see photo below!).
Splurge: Pelham House Resort: Located in Dennis Port right on a beach, the Pelham House is more affordable in December than the summer season, so this is a great time to splurge on a stay here! There are restaurants on-site, many rooms come with an ocean view, and it’s a great central location on the Cape.
Moderate: Benchmark Inn: This is a great place to stay that’s a 5-minute walk to the heart of downtown Provincetown. Each room comes with a fireplace, and they include a nice expanded continental breakfast with your room. It’s good to note that parking is limited at this hotel, as with all hotels in Ptown, so definitely reach out to the hotel after booking to let them know if you’re arriving with your car.
Budget: Bayside Resort: Located in West Yarmouth, you can often find rates less then $100/night here in December (even weekends!). While rates may vary from year to year, this hotel tends to be very well-priced during the holidays. They also have an on-site pub and indoor pool that’s open year round.
More posts you may enjoy:
- Christmas Lights In Massachusetts: Where To Find The Best Ones!
- The Nantucket Christmas Stroll: Everything You Need To Know
- Best Christmas Festivals In New England
- Ways To Enjoy Winter On Nantucket
- Christmas In Maine: The Most Magical Things To Do
- Christmas In Kennebunkport: A Full Guide On Visiting During The Holidays
- Best Christmas Towns In New England To Visit
- Massachusetts In The Winter: Where To Go & Things To Do
That’s A Wrap On Christmas On Cape Cod!
And there you have it! All my suggestions on planning the perfect Christmas on Cape Cod getaway. Between the super fun holiday markets up in Provincetown, Chatham’s Main Street for holiday shopping, Gardens Aglow in Sandwich, and of course, the gorgeous natural beauty of the coastline, this is such a magical place to do during the month of December. Happy planning!