With Thanksgiving just a memory now, many of us have just one thing on the brain: the holiday season. Many towns begin installing the telltale snowflakes on street lamps as early as October, but it’s not until the festive lights are up and the trees are sparkling that we know it’s time to light that yule log. Here are our picks for the best Christmas towns in Maine if you really want to feel the Christmas spirit this year.
Disclaimer: This list was a hard one! We wish every lovely town in Maine could have been included, but with all the decorating, baking and wrapping to be done, you just don’t have time to read a list that long!
There are so many fun holiday events in Gardiner that you'll be busy throughout December. On December 5th, head downtown for the annual Holiday Parade of Lights beginning at 4:30pm on Water Street. Arrive early to take part in the 1st Annual Ugly Christmas Sweater Contest. Ugly Sweater wearers may participate in the parade by walking as a group or simply showing up as fancy spectators! Prizes will be given for the "Most Overall Ugly" and "Most Awfully Embellished." Several shops will stay open late for evening festive shopping and free gift wrapping will be provided by Gardiner Main Street.
Bath celebrates Christmas all month long in their annual "Old-Fashioned Christmas" celebration that began just after Thanksgiving. Join in the celebration during Trolley Christmas Caroling on Fridays & Saturdays in December from 5 p.m. – 9 p.m. The downtown Bath open house event will be held the same night. Restaurants and stores will stay open late, offering refreshments from 5-8 p.m.
Enjoy Christmas by the Sea during Camden's annual holiday event. Start by attending the Opening Ceremonies at the Public Library from 4-6pm. Holiday selections will be performed by vocal groups and instrumental ensembles. Bring new or like new hats, mittens, gloves and scarves to decorate the Hat and Mitten Tree. The night continues at 6pm when the parade kicks off downtown and goes from Main Street Camden to Harbor Park.
4. Bar Harbor
On Friday (12/4) head to Bar Harbor for the Village Holidays and Midnight Madness event. Beginning at 4:30pm on the Village Green in downtown Bar Harbor, there will be carolers and hot cocoa for all attendees. Judy Pancoast, Emmy nominee and host of The Eave will sing "Here Comes Santa Claus" to welcome Saint Nick to the Village Green.
From there, attendees will follow Santa and the carolers down to the MDI YMCA for family activities and crafts from 5:30-7:00pm.
The Midnight Madness Sale begins at 8:00pm.
Perhaps the best name of all the Maine Christmas celebrations, the Freeport Sparkle Celebration brings together holiday cheer and shopping in one lovely weekend. The weekend kicks off Friday night with a Parade of Lights down Main Street, and the fun continues all weekend with a Sparkle Express Train Adventure, free horse drawn wagon rides, visits with Santa, and the talking Christmas Tree.
Come to Downtown Bangor on Saturday, December 5th for Santa's Workshop with free cookie decorating. Santa's appearance will take place at Central Meeting House (29 Central Street) from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Following Santa's visit, the Festival of Lights Parade will begin at 4:30 pm. The parade is presented by the Rotary Club of Bangor, Maine and will feature marching bands, floats, dancers and other performing groups representing various winter holidays such as Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, New Year's and more! The City Tree Lighting will take place in West Market Square directly following the parade.
7. Owls Head
The Owls Head Transportation Museum is where Christmas lives in this town. On December 6th, Santa will trade his sleigh for an airplane for his appearance at the museum. The Midcoast Community Band will perform at this well-attended event, which is completely free to the public. Children should come with letters to Santa and elves, and an airmail pickup will take place at 1pm.
There are so many fun events packed into the holiday season here! The annual Christmas Prelude runs from December 2nd to the 13th and features two tree lightings and lots of merriment. Begin at 5:30pm on December 4th with the Tree Lighting Ceremony in Dock Square to officially start the season. On the same night join in Christmas caroling with the Kennebunk High School Chamber Choir. Afterwards head to Cape Porpoise Square for the famous lobster pot tree lighting at 7pm.
9. Rangeley Lakes Region
Pack up the kids and head upta camp for this year's Christmas festivities. Beginning on December 5th at 5pm, the Parade of Trees will include a buffet dinner served from 6:30 - 7:30pm, followed by the Tree & Wreath live auction. The second weekend in December brings the 12th annual Mountain Holly Days. There will be shopping and dining events and contests.
The 2015 tree in Monument Square has been lit, kicking off this year's Portland Christmas festivities. On December 4th, after you've seen the tree in its holiday splendor, check out the lighting of the Copper Beech Tree at PMA in Congress Square at 6pm. Prepare for some extra fun as this takes place the same night as December First Friday Art Walk. The MECA holiday sale will begin the very next day at 10am. On December 12th see the harbor light up for the 15th Annual Boat Parade of Lights beginning at 4:45pm. For one of the best views, book your space on Casco Bay Cruises for a 4:30pm sailing. Remember, this is also the month for the Narrow Gauge Railroad's Polar Express!
11. Presque Isle
On December 5th, make your way to Presque Isle for the 26th Annual Light Parade. The parade sets off from North Street and proceeds to Clukey's Auto Supply for the lighting of the Tree of Hope before continuing to Gentile Hall at the University of Maine at Presque Isle.
12. Cape Neddick, York
The annual lighting of the Nubble event may have passed, but you can drop by to see its beauty. After some initial issues, things seem to be back on schedule with lights on nightly at 4pm.
13. Waterville (otherwise known as Kringleville!)
Welcome to Kringleville! The Parade of Lights took place the Friday after Thanksgiving, but there's much holiday cheer in Waterville. Downtown Waterville’s Santa Claus tradition began in 1969 when Waterville volunteers brought in an unheated log cabin to Castonguay Square and lit up a young spruce tree. Today, you can visit Santa in Kringleville just about every day of the week (he takes the day off on Monday) before he heads off for his Christmas obligations just before the holiday.
We know we’re not alone in thinking that Maine is the best state in the country for cozy fires, winter vibes and holiday cheer. Where have your best Maine Christmases taken place? And, what will you be doing to prepare for the holiday season this year?