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An Insider’s Guide to December Events in the Hudson Valley

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Staatsburgh State Historic Site. Photo courtesy of Dutchess Tourism

Hudson River tourism directors share their top picks for places to go, sights to see, and things to do throughout the December holiday season.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. There are a ton of things to do in the Hudson Valley each month. Even as the weather gets colder, there are opportunities aplenty to get outdoors and explore the snow-laden landscapes of our region. And with the holidays right around the corner, now is the perfect time to shop local and support small businesses around the Valley.

To help scout out the best events in the Valley, we reached out to local tourism directors from Albany to Westchester for their top picks for things to do. Check out their selections, then get planning!

Albany County

Empire Skate Plaza

Empire State Plaza, Albany
December – March, 12-8 p.m.

 

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Ice skating might be the ultimate winter activity. Where better to do it than the Empire State Plaza? Starting December 2, bring family and friends along to skate in the beaming sun or beneath shining stars next to the Capitol building. Hours are subject to weather conditions at this outdoor rink, and the cost to skate is free, although skate rentals are $4 for adults and $3 for children. The rink also offers free skating clinics for beginner, intermediate, and advanced skaters, so be sure to register before slots fill up!

Cohoes Holiday Market

Remsen Street, Cohoes
Weekends through December 23

The city of Cohoes is proud to host its inaugural Cohoes Holiday Market this winter. Modeled after gift markets held in German town squares, the market will feature 10 wooden stalls in Canal Square Park, Silliman Park, and a new public space on the corner of White and Remsen streets. This unique holiday experience will have a focus on gifts, artisan goods, crafts, art, and food.

Albany Symphony: The Magic of Christmas

Albany Symphony Orchestra, Albany
December 4, 3-5 p.m.

 

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Music devotees of the Hudson Valley won’t want to miss this opportunity to hear the abundant talent of the Albany Symphony as it performs an array of classic Christmas songs. With a sleigh full of hometown talent including The Music Studio, Boland Irish School of Dance, Capital District Youth Chorale, and African drummer Zorkie Nelson, guests will be treated to Christmas carols, joyous holiday favorites, and a visit from Santa. 

Columbia County

Chasing Icebergs: Art and a Disappearing Landscape

Olana State Historic Site, Hudson
Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays through March 26, 11 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.

 

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In collaboration with the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation, the Olana Partnership presents this poignant exhibition in the Sharp Family Gallery. It will feature Frederic Church’s iceberg sketches from his 1859 voyage to the Arctic as well as work from four contemporary artists who contemplate the fragility of the earth’s polar environments. The exhibition delves into the history of exploration, the Arctic, and the Indigenous peoples of Newfoundland and Labrador. Be sure to reserve your guided exhibition tour before time slots fill up.

2022 Winter Walk

Warren Street, Hudson
December 3, 5 p.m.

The Winter Walk is back and better than ever. The mile-long walk down Warren Street will be lined with performances, art installations, family-friendly attractions, local food and drinks, and holiday shopping. The evening begins at 5 p.m. with 26 chimes from the First Presbyterian Church in honor of the 26th anniversary of this beloved event. Of course, Santa will arrive in a horse-drawn carriage. The evening will conclude with a fireworks display above the brightly lit 7th Street Park and holiday tree lighting.

Valatie WinterWalk and Winter Parade

Main Street, Valatie
December 10, 4 p.m.

Santa Claus is on his way to Valatie this December for the Winter Parade! With shopping in the town’s eclectic assemblage of stores, face painting, holiday light displays, and Christmas carolers, this is a perfect activity for Hudson Valley families to ring in the Christmas season.

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Dutchess County

Wonderland of Lights

Dutchess County Fairgrounds, Rhinebeck
December 1-25, 5:30-9:30 p.m.

The Wonderland of Lights is coming back to Rhinebeck for a second year, and the lights this year look even brighter than before. Get the family together and enjoy the dozens of light displays from the comfort and warmth of your own car. With over a mile of views with accompanying Christmas music, this event is the perfect way to get in the holiday spirit. Tickets at the gate are $30 per car of eight passengers, or $25 if you purchase your ticket online ahead of time.

Sinterklaas Festival

Rhinebeck
December 3, 10 a.m.

Kids from all across the Hudson Valley are invited to this unique, magical celebration where the children are royalty for the day. The modern twist on this classic Dutch tradition celebrates Nicolas Sinterklaas, the precursor to Santa Claus in North America, and the area’s rich history as a Dutch colony. The little ones will be enthralled with the children’s workshops, thrilling dance, theater, music, and magic performances all across the village. The celebration comes to a head with the Children’s Starlight Parade led by Sinterklaas himself atop his trusty white steed to the center of the village. There, the Sinterklaas Pageant and Illuminated Star Ceremony bring the exciting day to a close. The Festival is free to all!

The Nutcracker

The Bardavon Opera House, Poughkeepsie
December 8, 9:45 a.m. and 12 p.m.; December 9, 12 p.m.

 

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The New Paltz Ballet Theater’s rendition of “The Nutcracker” is back after a two-year hiatus. Dancers from the New York City Ballet join the cast to bring Marie’s dreams of talking nutcrackers, battles between mice and toy soldiers, and the magical journey through the Land of Snow to the Kingdom of Sweets to life. 

Related: How to Create a Holiday Tablescape in the Hudson Valley

Orange County

Winter Festival at Dogwood Acres

Dogwood Acres Family Farm, Middletown
Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays through December 31, 5-9 p.m.


This holiday fest at Dogwood Acres is one of the best around. Bring the whole family to Middletown to get in the Christmas spirit with wagon rides through Christmas light displays, snowball fights, holiday crafts, and more. Visit the farm animals, race some RC cars, and get a free children’s meal and family ornament with admission. 

Holiday High Tea with Santa

The Thayer Hotel, West Point
December 3, 10, and 17, 3 p.m.


Santa’s ready to trade milk and cookies for tea and scones for Holiday High Tea this year at the Thayer Hotel’s acclaimed eatery, MacArthur’s Riverview Restaurant. Tea connoisseurs of all ages are invited to don their cheeriest teatime outfit and enjoy tea sandwiches, sweets, and holiday décor while making afternoon conversation with St. Nick himself.

Christmas Breakfast Spectacular featuring Santa and Mr. Grinch

Greenville VFW Post 3175, Port Jervis
December 11, 9 a.m. – 12 p.m.

There’s no other breakfast like this breakfast. Families can dine with Santa Claus and Mr. Grinch—both in their bright red suits—and mingle with performers. The breakfast buffet includes French toast, pancakes, eggs, bacon, sausage, coffee, and a selection of juices. Reservations for this once-in-a-lifetime dining experience can be acquired by calling the Post and leaving a message for Brenda.

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Putnam County

Holiday on the Lake and Menorah Lighting Ceremony

Lake Gleneida, Carmel
December 3, 2:30 p.m.; December 18, 4-5 p.m.

Holiday on the Lake brings the joy of the holidays to Carmel. The festivities begin in the new Christmas Village sponsored by the Knights of Kingston with vendors, food, crafts for children, and a visit from Santa complete with milk and cookies. Wagon and trolley rides around the town—the best way to enjoy the hamlet—start at 4 p.m. At 5 p.m., the Cornerstone Park Tree Lighting honors veterans.

The Santa Stroll (benefiting the American Cancer Society) kicks off the evening festivities at 6:15 p.m., followed by the Parade of Lights. Finally, the holiday fun comes to an end with the tree lighting ceremony on the shores of Lake Gleneida. Return to the lake on December 18 for the menorah lighting ceremony, complete with a Chanukah concert. 

Modern Makers Market Holiday Shopping

Our Lady of Atonement Chapel, Garrison
December 1-2, 3-8 p.m., December 3, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

 

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Looking for one-of-a-kind handcrafted gifts for loved ones? Modern Makers Market is the place to be. An impressive total of 40 local artists and artisans will sell their wares. From beautiful necklaces and earrings to fragrant soaps and candles to stunning art and everything in between, the perfect gift for everyone on your list is bound to be at this one-stop shopping extravaganza.

Visit Santa at Boscobel House and Gardens

Boscobel House and Gardens, Garrison
December 10, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.


Santa Claus is coming to town! Or, more accurately, to Boscobel House’s Winter Gardens. All grounds and gardens ticket holders are welcome, so make sure to stop by during your stroll of the House’s elegantly decorated estates. With candles, garlands, and live holiday music from the 19th century, stepping into Boscobel is like stepping back in time. Between cups of mulled cider and hot chocolate, be sure to bring the kids to Santa so they can share their Christmas lists!

Rockland County

Victorian Holiday

Jacob Sloat House, Sloatsburg
December 4, 1-5 p.m.


Head to the 1848 Greek Revival mansion for an afternoon of Victorian Christmas cheer. The mansion will be decorated in its holiday best, with live music, a visit from Santa, and festive crafts for the kids. Refreshments including sweet treats and the house’s signature hot mulled cider will be available. Don’t forget to pop in the Ye Olde Holiday Shoppe for unique handmade crafts and baked goods. Adult admission is $5, and children 17 and under may attend for free.

Saint Nicholas Day

Jacob Blauvelt House, New City
December 3-4

Continuing its tradition since 1961, the Jacob Blauvelt House will again open its doors this holiday season to the children of the Hudson Valley for a day with Saint Nicholas and his horse. Children of all ages and their families can join in the traditional Dutch celebration, which includes shoes magically filled with goodies, wondrous stories, and delicious holiday refreshments. The program lasts 45 minutes and costs $5 per participant. Time slots are filling up fast, so make sure to reserve your spot in this joyous Christmastime tradition.

Holiday Classics at Lafayette Theater

Lafayette Theater, Suffern
December 3, 10, and 17, 11:30 a.m.


There’s no better way to get in the holiday spirit than to watch some classic holiday movies. Lafayette Theater invites families to enjoy National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, How The Grinch Stole Christmas, and A Christmas Story in its single-screen theater until Christmas. The doors to the intricately decorated 1924 theater open at 10:45 a.m., and the Wurlitzer Organ will begin playing at 11 a.m. Tickets are available at the door or online. 

Ulster County

3rd Annual Holiday Hoopla Parade and Carnival

Hasbrouck Park, New Paltz
December 10, 12-3 p.m.

Holiday Hoopla returns to New Paltz for its third year. At noon, the afternoon begins with the Christmas parade departing from the middle school, complete with floats, Clydesdale horses, a “candy cane crew,” music, and an appearance by Santa Claus himself. The parade travels down Main Street and ends at Hasbrouck Park, where a winter carnival awaits with games, activities, inflatables for kids, and a full lineup of music, including Hula Hoopers for Humanity, a live DJ, and karaoke. Food will be available for purchase along with a warming station, stocked with free hot chocolate, coffee, snacks, and arts and crafts at St. Joseph’s Church Hall.

Holiday Bazaar

Belleayre Mountain, Highmount
December 10-11, 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.

 

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If you’re looking for the perfect gifts for your loved ones or lively decorations for your home, pencil this holiday bazaar into your December plans. With handmade wares, holiday items, and gift ideas from local artisans, there are countless booths to stop in and fuel your holiday fever. 

The Hottest NYE Party in the Hudson Valley

Bearsville Theater, Woodstock
December 31, 8 p.m.


Ring in the New Year with the hottest party in the region. The night promises to be jam-packed with music, featuring DJs including J-Break, Lady Verse, and Majic Juan; live drumming; performances by Diata Diata; and to-be-announced special guests alongside host Isis Vermouth. A photo booth, tarot readings, and more will be available to enjoy while counting down to the stroke of midnight.

Related: Where to See the Brightest Holiday Lights in the Hudson Valley

Westchester County

Mr. Dickens Tells A Christmas Carol

Lyndhurst Mansion, Tarrytown
December 9-23, 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.


Actor Michael Muldoon is Charles Dickens in this one-hour rendition of Dickens’ 1867 performance tour. Join Mr. Dickens and meet the spirits and characters such as Ebenezer Scrooge, Tiny Tim, and the ghosts of past, present, and future as he tells the famous Christmastime tale in the decked-out parlor of Lyndhurst Mansion.

LUMAGICA

Harvest Moon Farm & Orchard, North Salem
December 1-30

 

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Each Christmas season, the orchard at Harvest Moon is transformed into an Enchanted Forest illuminated with over 750,000 lights. This larger-than-life lights display features six magical areas, including “Sparkling Light,” “Into the Wonderland,” and “Treats and Sweets.” The half-mile, ADA-compliant trail can take 30-50 minutes to walk and passes by a 20-foot reindeer, a soaring parrot, photo ops, and so much more.

Harry Potter: A Forbidden Forest Experience

Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park, Yorktown Heights
December 1 – January 22


The Wizarding World has come to the woods of Westchester. This interactive, theatrical experience has been curated by award-winning and experiential designers. Hippogriffs, centaurs, unicorns, and more fantastic beasts stalk the woodland trails, waiting to introduce themselves to passing witches, wizards, and Muggles. Bring your wand to cast spells and summon your very own Patronus. Food and drink inspired by the Harry Potter franchise are available to round out this immersive adventure. 

Related: 5 Giftable Books, According to a Hudson Valley Expert

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