Winter wonderlands along the East Coast offer festive escapes for the season.
By Monica Poling
Ringing the Bells
National Cathedral concerts: “The Joy of Christmas” concerts at the National Cathedral are a favored holiday tradition in the capital. The cathedral’s carillon bells welcome guests, followed by a procession where chorus members and cathedral acolytes carry an advent wreath, garlands and candles. Caroling is led by the Cathedral Choral Society.
Winter is a three-month-long celebration in Washington D.C., starting with the lighting of the National Hanukkah Memorial and the National Christmas Tree in late November/early December, respectively. The festivities run through February, when a weekend of celebratory events commemorates President’s Day.
Lighting the Way
Sandy Point State Park: Until November, visitors can try catching their own Maryland blue crabs during the day from the designated crabbing pier. To ensure success, the onsite marina store offers all the necessary gear as well as helpful tips. Give it a go before crabbing season closes come Dec. 1. At night, the 786-acre park is illuminated by “Lights on the Bay,” a drive-through Christmas lights spectacle located along the Chesapeake Bay that runs until the New Year.
Located in the heart of the Chesapeake Bay, the whole of Annapolis turns into a postcard-perfect destination. The city is tinted in a frosty white layer and ships docked in the harbor tout their holiday finest. This also happens to be the ideal time to appreciate a steaming plate of freshly caught Maryland crabs, whether they come from one of the many local restaurants or are made in the comfort of a homey kitchen.
Boston Symphony Orchestra: When it comes to winter tradition, there’s perhaps none so enduring as the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s Holiday Pops concert series. The concerts have been a city institution ever since Arthur Fiedler conducted the first one in 1973. These singalong performances always include a visit from Santa and a heart-warming bout of caroling; kid-friendly matinees are also available.
Winter doesn’t slow things down for the rest of fast-paced Boston; it just means hockey season is in full swing. Between pro games, collegiate face-offs and even pickup matches, fans can catch hockey action almost every night of the week. To warm up, you can enjoy another Boston tradition at Legal Sea Foods Restaurant and Oyster Bar with a cup of the city’s famed Boston clam chowder.
Montreal en Lumière: One of the world’s largest winter festivals, this 11-day event is scheduled every year for late February and features more than 400 chefs, daily performances, and on the closing night is home to nearly 200 mostly-free activities, all connected by a free shuttle service.
Winter is très bien throughout Montreal, especially at the city’s Mount Royal Park, where the activity center rents ice skates, cross country skis and even inner tubes for guests to enjoy a fast-paced, downhill slide. During the evening, guided snowshoe walks highlight the park, a perfect way to see an illuminated Montreal from one of the largest open spaces in the city.
Arboretums: America’s birthplace is home to nearly 30 botanical gardens and arboretums, some of which remain open in winter to celebrate the holidays. Longwood Gardens, for one, offers “A Longwood Christmas,” which runs from late November to early January. Here, more than 500,000 outdoor lights shine against the night sky, towering trees are adorned with holiday ornaments and illuminated fountain shows run daily.
If you’d rather enjoy a traditional snow day, ice skating, snow sledding and the annual Pennsylvania Ballet’s production of “The Nutcracker” warm up the city in even the coldest temperatures. Adults can enjoy a sampling of a staggering lineup of craft beers from around the world at Winterfest, Philadelphia’s recently introduced premier winter beer festival that’s slated for early February.
New York City
Shop the Season
Winter Markets: Much like cities across the pond, New York City plays host to a variety of pop-up markets in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Among the most popular are the markets in Union Square, Grand Central Terminal and Columbus Circle, where hundreds of vendors gather to sell Santa-themed accessories, handicrafts, toys and other gift items to check off everyone on your shopping list.
Arguably the country’s most famous winter destination, New York City will not disappoint with its seemingly limitless list of other seasonal activities to enjoy. Chief among them? Outdoor ice skating. In addition to the iconic rink at Rockefeller Center, numerous open air rinks operate throughout the city every winter, including one in Central Park.