While the holidays are looking different this year, one thing never changes: the lift in spirits offered by taking in the sights of twinkling holiday lights against a winter night sky. Whether you’re looking to stroll through the trees on foot or reimagine your car as a reindeer-led sleigh on a drive-thru spectacular set to holiday tunes, we rounded up five area light shows that offer physically distanced season’s greetings for all ages. All you need to do is pack a thermos of hot chocolate or eggnog and go.
Through Dec. 30
Pile into the car and head to the Marshfield Fairgrounds, where dozens of glowing installations await, with light shows synced to the tune of music jangling through car radios tuned to 102.1 FM. The attractions, like dainty poinsettias and candles made of lights to a huge tunnel topped with twinkling snowflakes, offer a larger-than-life lift to the spirits, with some installations over three stories tall. Tickets are available both online and at the fairgrounds. At over a mile long, the event is like a quick trip to the North Pole, all without leaving the toasty warmth of your car.
Through Feb. 28
Spy the 54-foot Norway spruce that’s aglow with 10,000 white lights on the Seaport Common, through Dec. 30, as well as a nine-foot menorah on view from Dec. 10-18. Throughout the whole neighborhood, visitors can enjoy tree displays and creative window installations offered by shops, many with in-store offers throughout the holidays during “Winter Wonder Walks” on Saturdays. If you’re looking to bring some of the festive spirit home with you, a tree market sells Christmas trees, wreaths and more through Christmas Eve, with a nearby takeout window serving hot cider and other treats. You might also catch Betty the Yeti, the neighborhood’s newest hot pink transplant, wandering around as she’s here on an extended holiday from her home in the Himalayas. Also through Jan. 3, revelers can choose to board the electric cars with hot pink Christmas trees that run a route around Post Office Square, the New England Aquarium, South Station, Seaport Boulevard and the Boston Innovation Design Center for an easy (and warm) way to navigate the neighborhood. The spirit doesn’t stop with the new year either, with outdoor games — including curling with free lessons offered by the North End Curling Club — offered through the end of February.
Through Jan. 1
Since you probably need a reason to get out of the house, the first annual Winter Lights on Cape Ann invites you to soak up the season as you stroll through the North Shore. Businesses and organizations in Gloucester, Essex, Rockport and other towns on the Cape Ann peninsula are feeling festive with light displays and holiday window scenes, from the delicate strings of lights along the gazebo at Gloucester Stage Fort Park to the good tidings (and pizza slices) served up at Bravo by the Sea in Manchester-by-the-Sea. A weekend day-trip is your chance to wander the beautiful wintery beaches by day and by night, support local businesses and restaurants who need the cheer after a hard year.
Though it’s well-known as an eerie backdrop for films like “Shutter Island” and more recently the Marvel sendup “The New Mutants,” the former Medfield State Hospital celebrates the spirit of the season with a light show from Dec. 17-20. Revelers can reserve tickets for a drive-thru deck the halls as they tour the grounds of the former psychiatric hospital, which was built in 1892 and closed in 2003. The 40-minute drive from Boston is well worth the chance to see the illuminated trees and giant decorations, like a gingerbread house and sleighs, against the backdrop of the historic Greek Revival and Queen Anne brick buildings. The event is part of the recent push by the Medfield TV and Cultural Alliance of Medfield to breathe new life into the historic property.
Through Jan. 17
With a little luck, you might catch a glimpse of the arctic foxes, black bears and Canada lynx in the Yukon Creek area of the Stone Zoo in Stoneham, but the real treat is the winter wonderland created within the park’s 26 acres, which you can wander by foot during a reserved time slot to keep physical-distancing standards in place. The trees lining the zoo’s paths are illuminated with lights, and new this year are the large lanterns, shaped like penguins and more, that offer a glowing contrast to the starry sky. While there’s no Santa this year, it’s still a memorable evening for the little ones.