In the heart of Maine’s frost-kissed wonderland, the holiday spirit descends like a gentle snowfall, casting a magical glow over the pine-laden landscapes and coastal charm. As winter wraps its chilly embrace around the state, Christmas events in Maine sparkle with joy and enchantment.
Whether you’re in the highlands or the height of Acadia National Park or welcoming Santa by lobster boat, Maine offers celebrations woven with whimsy, tradition, and a touch of old-world magic.
Presque Isle, Houlton, Van Buren
Most commonly referred to as “The County,” the Crown of Maine checks off the Winter Wonderland box of perfect holiday spots. The region gets more than 100 inches of snow each winter.
The Festival of Trees in Presque Isle is a fundraiser that has become one of the must-see holiday displays across the county.
NOTE: Aroostook County is very large and very rural. Don’t let the lack of major holiday events deter you from exploring the small-town Christmas opportunities.
A tip for planning a holiday trip to the Highlands – call to get information rather than relying on websites and social media pages. Not every event has a large online presence, but we’ve talked to some of the nicest people getting this information and provided links for more information when they were available.
Across Picataqius County
The festival happens across the county and in different ways in each community. Dover-Foxcroft celebrates by turning into “Doverville” in 2023. A holiday dance also wraps up the town’s bicentennial.
Monsoon is having the Kris Kringle Craft Fair, and in this part of the state, the homemade goods and handcrafted wood are second to none. Sangerville’s Winter Family Day offers outdoor activities to celebrate the season, both for the holidays and the weather.
It’s the one month of the year when Santa upstages Stephen King in Bangor. A night holiday parade rolls through the historic downtown in early December. Then, the community gathers around West Market Square to light the community tree.
Not a single Santa, jingle bells, or holiday tree is mentioned in this event, but we’re not sure any other on this list embraces the spirit of Christmas more than this race. In December 2015, Millinocket was down on its economic luck. A free marathon was held to bring community support, running 26.2 miles through the unforgiving Maine wilderness along “The Golden Road.”
The event is now viral, yet still free. Runners and supporters are simply asked to visit the town and spend money in local shops. Most people tip generously. The season of giving is saving this former mill town once so bustling it was known as “Magic City.”
The Kennebec Valley is easy to spot, as it runs the length of the Kennebec River down to South Gardiner.
The Grinch tries to steal Christmas in Skowhegan, and you’ll find an already splendid city transformed into Skow-Whoville for a weekend. The schedule packs a lot into two days: a parade, two craft fairs, a Skow-WhoCrawl (pub crawl), and a free showing of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” with the Grinch and Martha Mae attending.
Jackman (Brownville & Hermon, too)
Make sure the kids get a nap earlier in the day because the CPKC Holiday Train is coming through Jackman. The train is decked out in holiday splendor and stops at railyards to put on a show with live performers, but the event doesn’t start until 9:30 p.m. Herman and Brownville have performances earlier in the day.
NOTE: Some sad news for those who loved the Winter Wonderland at Augusta West in Winthrop – the holiday light show was canceled for 2023. The owners hope to bring it back in a few years.
Maines Mountains & Lakes
Maine’s Winter Wonderland shines in the holiday spirit when you enter the mountains and lakes.
Up in the picturesque mountain town of Rangeley, Holly Days brings people from across the region to the charming downtown on Rangeley Lake. This is one of the best shopping destinations for unique items. Check the calendar for updated events.
The biggest ski resort in Maine goes big for Christmas, with activities planned through one weekend. Sleigh rides, live music, tree lighting, and fireworks round out awesome activities at Sugarloaf, in addition to the numerous ski runs nearby.
Sugarloaf might have the size, but Sunday River has the pizzaz. Santa Sunday is a viral event where 250 people dressed like Santa take to the slopes. That’s just the stocking stuffer for a wicked awesome holiday season. A tree lighting, Winterfest Weekend, and Christmas Week filled with activities make Sunday River one of the top holiday destinations in Maine.
On the shore of Long Lake near Sebago Lake, Bridgton celebrates its own Festival of Lights with holiday events, craft fairs, and Santa sightings. Costumes are encouraged.
Santa and his reindeer show up for this classic small-town Christmas celebration. Carriage rides can take you through holiday lights, or you can ride skates on the ice rink. Don’t miss the giant snow globe photo op. One of Santa’s elves tipped us off that there will also be arctic animal surprises and a festive snowball contest.
Downeast & Acadia
Downeast means up north in Maine, including Mount Desert Island, where Acadia National Park is located. Acadia is open during the holiday season with some road access limitations. Reservations are not required for the sunrise summit of Cadillac Mountain.
Downtown Bar Harbor exudes that Charles Dickens vibe and coastal Maine charm wrapped into one fun place to shop, sip, and dine. This celebration is all about shopping locally and sharing holiday memories with residents and visitors from across the world. Plan for a late night because the stores are open until midnight!
This Downeast delight offers a walking trail of more than 100,000 lights synchronized to music. Check the schedule because donkeys, horses, and reindeer make special visits throughout the month-long event. It’s pretty hard to compete with this immersive holiday experience.
Woodlawn Museum in Ellsworth really knows how to deck the halls, with a special knack for decorating the trails and roads! You can drive through a holiday display or walk the Holiday Light Trail. Santa and his reindeer make a special appearance for one night only.
Midcoast & Islands
Access to the islands is limited during the holiday season, but you have ferry options to depart from Rockland or Lincolnville to Vinalhaven, North Haven, Matinicus, and Islesboro. Along the Midcoast, you’ll find two of the best activities in the state.
The charming landscape of Bath becomes an outdoor snow globe with holiday decorations and a 19th-century festive atmosphere. Don’t be surprised if Buddy the Elf or Rudolph passes you while you’re shopping at the array of unique shops. You’re also encouraged to hop on the trolley for caroling through town.
Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens is one of the best light displays in New England. The display includes 750,000 LED lights across 14 acres. It’s as festive as it is educational about sustainability without sacrificing style.
NOTE: Tickets MUST be purchased in advance.
The coastal communities of Camden, Rockport, and Lincolnville take a long holiday weekend to celebrate Christmas by the Sea. Activities cover indoor productions like The Nutcracker and outdoor adventures like sleigh rides in the snow. Santa arrives here by boat and later reads ‘“Twas the Night Before Christmas.”
While Damariscotta is known for its Pumpkin Fest, that is just planting the seeds for a sensational holiday event. Stores compete for the best window displays, with hot chocolate and snacks along the way to keep you warm while window shopping. A night parade brings a colorful Christmas activity, and Santa stops to get some wish lists.
Visiting this creative community for the most unique gifts and the best chance of a discount you’ll find all year. From unique boutiques to locally-made art displays, it’s a Christmas shoppers’ dream during the Holiday Marketfest.
Greater Portland & Casco Bay
The region surrounding Maine’s biggest city is an embarrassment of holiday riches, all within easy driving distance.
Hop aboard the Polar Express right at the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Co. & Museum. Before or after, shop in Old Port at the endearing shops and visit the tree at Monument Square.
Parade of Lights
An annual tradition in Portland is the Parade of Lights on Casco Bay. You get views from Old Port, East End Promenade, or across the water at Peaks Island.
We love all the adventures in Falmouth for the holiday and recommend upping this city on your short list of options. There’s a traditional tree lighting ceremony, but the biggest bow-wrapped event is the Merry Mix & Mingle, with a fireworks show on top of the many family-friendly events.
The holiday celebration in Yarmouth spans most of the month and includes a call to light up the town, so you know the decorations will be delightful. Several craft fairs, performances, and a winter solstice celebration round out the amazing opportunities to work into your holiday plans.
The home of L.L. Bean is among the most popular in Maine, with a holiday shopping frenzy surrounding the flagship store and outlet mall. Be sure to have a conversation with the talking Christmas tree, and don’t miss the Northern Lights at L.L. Bean.
Southern Maine Coast
The beaches of Southern Maine make for some of the most coastal Christmas opportunities on the eastern seaboard.
The town of Waterboro transforms into a glittering and glowing display of holiday magic. The town starts decorating in early fall to get all the lights and animated characters working. 2023 will be special, considering a major storm knocked out power and displays during the 2022 festival.
Jenna Bush Hager described this holiday spectacular on The Today Show as walking through a Hallmark holiday movie. The Kennbunks turn into a seaside holiday storybook town for nearly two weeks. If this doesn’t get you into the holiday spirit, nothing will.
Another Christmas by the Sea but with a unique twist of a bonfire on the beach and two waterfront locations for celebrating in this artistic community. Join the carolers between Perkins Cove and The Village. Don’t forget the miles of Ogunquit Beach, just a short walk away.
The holiday festival in Biddeford feels big enough to make a priority yet small-town enough to get that intimate holiday experience. Street performers mix in with shopping deals and live bands. Decorate cookies or stop by and make s’more before entering the scavenger hunt for early Christmas presents. Biddeford also does a menorah lighting each night of Hannukah.
Christmas Made in Maine
Expect most Christmas events in Maine to have free hot chocolate and snacks during the events, but feel free to donate a few bucks if you see a donation box. Some communities are raising money for local charities or families in need.
If you’re visiting for Christmas Eve, look for restaurants with the traditional Feast of Seven Fishes, including lobster bake.
By now, you’ve noticed many of these towns have very similar activities. The personal greetings between people from different regions – many who are third or fourth generators Mainers – truly encapsulate the holiday spirit.