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Christmas lights along Boat House Row in Philadelphia

New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire

4 Places to Have a Quintessential Northeast Christmas in the USA

By: Jim Benning

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  • States:
    New York
    Massachusetts
    Pennsylvania
    New Hampshire

Christmas is a special time in the northeastern USA.

In the weeks leading up to Dec. 25, many cities and towns transform into holiday wonderlands, complete with glittering lights, decorated trees, ice-skating rinks and festive markets. Locals and visitors alike can’t help but share in the good cheer. Temperatures drop and snowfall is common, so pack a scarf, cap, warm coat and winter shoes. The average low temperature in December in New York City, New York, is 0 degrees Celsius. In Boston, Massachusetts, the average low is -2 C. And, of course, don’t forget to bring a little of your own Christmas spirit. Here are four great places to enjoy a quintessential Christmas.

New York City, New York

New York City is at its most festive at Christmastime, and a great place to start any holiday tour is Rockefeller Center in midtown Manhattan. Stroll, skate or dine at the art deco office complex and adjacent promenade, which feature a stunning Norway spruce Christmas tree, sparkling lights and decorations, and a beloved ice-skating rink. For dazzling panoramic views of the city, take the elevator at 30 Rockefeller Center up 70 floors to the observation deck at Top of the Rock. Look for the Hanukkah or Christmas lights atop the Empire State Building, or have a cocktail on the 65th floor at Bar SixtyFive at the Rainbow Room.

From Rockefeller Center, take part in a time-honored New York City tradition: Admire the extravagant Christmas window displays at the city’s top department stores: Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman, Bloomingdale’s, Barneys and Macy’s.

Finally, don’t miss nearby Bryant Park. At Christmastime, the park features a sprawling ice-skating rink and more than 100 boutique stalls selling crafts, artwork and snacks.

A winter day in Central Park, New York City

A winter day in Central Park, New York City
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Boston, Massachusetts

Featuring a Christmas tree that’s taller than Rockefeller Center’s and free nightly sound and light shows with more than 350,000 LED lights, Boston’s historic Faneuil Hall Marketplace is an ideal place to start your holiday visit. Walk the cobblestone promenade and enjoy performances by bell ringers and Christmas carolers. Warm up with chowder or a hot drink in Quincy Market, which is home to several restaurants and dozens of food merchants. Finally, don’t miss Boston Common, the oldest public park in the USA. It features a dazzling Christmas tree and ice-skating rink flanked by twinkling lights.

Faneuil Hall in Boston during the Christmas season

Faneuil Hall in Boston during the Christmas season
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Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Philadelphia is known as the City of Brotherly Love year-round, but, you can especially feel the love at Christmastime. Start at Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest, a seasonal park overlooking the Delaware River that has an Olympic-size ice-skating rink, fire pits, glittering holiday trees and a ski chalet-style lodge offering food and drinks, including hot apple cider. Then head to Macy’s in the historic Wanamaker Building. Dating to the 1950s, the Macy’s Christmas Lights Show includes more than 100,000 LED lights. It starts after Thanksgiving, the fourth Thursday in November, and begins anew every two hours daily.

A Christmas tree illuminated in the downtown district of Philadelphia

A Christmas tree illuminated in the downtown district of Philadelphia
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Portsmouth, New Hampshire

The historic waterfront New England town of Portsmouth is the place to celebrate an old-fashioned U.S. Christmas. Horse-drawn carriages roll down streets lined with red brick buildings. The Music Hall offers a wide range of holiday performances. Ice skaters glide across the oval Puddle Duck Pond. And, perhaps most magically, the four-hectare Strawbery Banke living history museum hosts Candlelight Strolls through the grounds and historic houses, where costumed performers recreate Christmas traditions from the past.

Winter scene in Portsmouth, settled in the early 1600s

Winter scene in Portsmouth, settled in the early 1600s
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