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

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

 

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Starting in December, the Empire State Plaza ice rink is open for skating and fun all winter long. Head to Albany to enjoy free skating at the rink all month, and don’t miss the holiday kick-off celebration on December 4, including the New York State Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony with open skating, fireworks, carriage rides, and much more. Santa will also be in town to celebrate with indoor events on December 3.

Downtown Albany Hot Chocolate Stroll

Downtown Albany
December 2, 12-4 p.m.

Stay warm this month on a delicious stroll through downtown Albany when you can sample a variety of hot chocolates from participating businesses. Once you’ve tasted them all, be sure to cast your vote for the best hot chocolate in town. On your stroll, you’ll receive a passport to check off the spots as you hit them and a free, exclusive souvenir mug. While you’re in the area, stop by Kenmore Ballroom’s Holiday Market for gift shopping at the same time.

Holiday House at Ten Broeck Mansion

Ten Broeck Mansion, Albany
December 1–20

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Take a tour of Albany’s historic Ten Broeck Mansion this holiday season to learn about the mansion’s history and grounds. While there, see the historic house decked out in festive decorations and find out about the origins of holiday traditions.

Columbia County

WinterWalk & Winter Parade

Main Street, Valatie
December 9, 5 p.m.

Regarded as the “biggest small winter parade in Columbia County,” Valatie’s WinterWalk and Winter Parade are back this year for holiday fun. Shop the town’s stores, get your face painted, enjoy holiday lights displays and carolers, and come together with your community at this event. The parade will be complete with firetrucks and rescue vehicles, carolers, and Santa on his sleigh.

Kwanzaa

Hudson Hall, Hudson
December 16, 5 p.m.

 

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Come celebrate African American culture and unity with friends and family at Hudson’s Kwanzaa celebration. Join community members at Hudson Hall for an evening of arts and crafts for children, dancing, drumming, a candle-lighting ceremony, and the sharing of Nguzo Saba – the seven principles of Kwanzaa.

Christmas Chaos

Hornet’s Nest Paintball, Ancramdale
December 17, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Join Santa Claus and the Grinch in their Christmas battle at Hornet’s Nest Paintball this December. The Grinch is building up an army to steal Christmas, and it’s up to Santa and his elves to fight off this familiar foe and save the holiday. Come out and pick a side to defend for Christmas Chaos; the Hornet’s Nest is still searching for a local to lead the Grinch’s army.

Dutchess County

Sinterklaas Festival

Village of Rhinebeck
December 2

Celebrate the holiday season at the Sinterklaas Festival, a centuries-old Dutch tradition that’s rooted in the Hudson Valley’s rich heritage. At the festival, the kids become royalty for a day and march in the Children’s Starlight Parade, which is led by Sinterklaas himself on his trusty white steed. Throughout the day, enjoy live performances of dance, music, and theater at the magical event unlike any other.

Wonderland of Lights

Dutchess County Fairgrounds, Rhinebeck
Through December 30

This holiday lights display is truly out of this world with dozens of spectacular exhibitions that are all set to musical accompaniment. Enjoy driving through the wonderland in the comfort and warmth of your own car, and bring along some hot chocolate to make the experience extra festive. Last year’s second annual event was a great success, and this year looks even brighter.

“The Nutcracker”

Bardavon, Poughkeepsie
December 9 & 10

The New Paltz Ballet Theatre presents the timeless holiday classic “The Nutcracker” for the whole family to enjoy at the Bardavon Opera House in Poughkeepsie this season. The production will also include dancers from the New York City Ballet to help tell the story of Marie in her dreamland battle between giant mice and toy soldiers. Follow along her magical journey through the Land of Snow to the Kingdom of Sweets.

Orange County

Winter Wonderland

Dogwood Acres Family Farm, Middletown
All December, Friday – Sunday

During the evenings on December weekends, head to Dogwood Acres Family Farm in Middletown for a winter wonderland holiday lights display. While there, take a wagon ride, watch holiday movies, play games, have a snowball battle, visit the animals, eat s’mores, and enjoy all the holiday cheer of the season. Look out for special event days throughout the month.

Annual Christmas Parade

Vern Allen Park, Washingtonville
December 2, 6-8 p.m.

Join the Blooming Grove Chamber of Commerce as it celebrates the 13th Annual Christmas Parade in Washingtonville. Historically, the parade runs at the start of December to kick off the holiday season right with community and local businesses. Beginning at Vern Allen Park, the parade will follow Main Street and end with Santa leading the annual tree lighting ceremony.

Gingerbread House Party

Pennings Farm and Orchard, Warwick
December 2–17, Saturday – Sunday

Visit Pennings Farm and Orchard this holiday season to decorate a festive gingerbread house. All ages are invited to get creative with dozens of candy supplies, icing, and graham crackers. While at the farm, get your Christmas tree, greenery, and garlands, and grab a bite to eat before you take home your keepsake gingerbread house.

Putnam County

Holiday on the Lake

Lake Gleneida, Carmel
December 2, 2:30 p.m.

The historic Hamlet of Carmel hosts its annual Holiday on the Lake on December 2. Join the community for all-day fun starting with a holiday market at 2:30 p.m. followed by fun and lively crafts, hayrides with Santa, a chowder festival, live music, a parade of lights, and finally a tree lighting ceremony of 70 trees along the shore of Lake Gleneida at 7:30 p.m. with local school choral groups.

Boscobel Twilight Tours

Boscobel House and Gardens, Garrison
Through December 16, Friday – Saturday

Experience historic Boscobel House and Gardens lit by candlelight and decorated for 19th-century holidays this season. Take a twilight tour to see the property dressed up in festive décor with an ambiance of live music as you enjoy a cup of mulled cider or hot chocolate, or chow down on cookies in the Carriage House. Don’t miss out on a stroll through twinkling lights in the apple orchard, formal garden, and winter garden.

Hudson River Potters Holiday Show & Sale

Putnam Arts Council, Mahopac
December 2 & 3, 11 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Join the Putnam Arts Council as they welcome the Hudson River Potters to this holiday pottery show and sale in their gallery in Mahopac. Shop for unique, handmade pottery pieces that are both functional and decorative and sure to please everyone on your holiday gift list. Meet with local artists as you browse to learn about their pieces, process, and inspirations.

Rockland County

Nanuet Tree Lighting

Orchard Street, Nanuet
December 2, 5:30-7 p.m.

 

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Kick off the holiday season in Nanuet at the annual tree lighting ceremony on December 2. Head to Orchard Street for festive fun including food and seasonal festivities for the whole family. In the spirit of the season of giving, the Greater Nanuet Chamber of Commerce asks that the community bring unwrapped gifts to donate to Toys for Tots.

Victorian Holiday

Jacob Sloat House, Sloatsburg
December 3, 1-4 p.m.

Jacob Sloat House hosts its Victorian Holiday event on December 3 to celebrate the spirit of the season. The celebration will feature live entertainment, handmade arts and crafts, baked goods, hot mulled cider, and a visit from Santa. The event is sure to be fun for the whole family.

Holiday Affordable Art & Pottery Bazaar

Rockland Center for the Arts, West Nyack
December 7-22, 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.

 

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Just in time for holiday gift giving, this popular show and sale of regional artists and artisans returns this year. The show features glass, hand-crafted jewelry, greeting cards, functional pottery, and more. Shop at the Rockland Center for the Arts to find unique crafts and gifts that will be cherished as you support the local arts and artists.

Westchester County

Westchester’s Winter Wonderland

Kensico Dam Plaza, Valhalla
Until December 31

Head to Kensico Dam Plaza in Valhalla for this 1.2-mile drive-through experience filled with thousands of lights. Guests will surely be captivated by new additions this year, including Snowball the Elf, The Transporter Tunnel, Rudolph’s Runway, and, of course, dazzling lights. The whole winter wonderland is centered around Westchester’s largest holiday Christmas tree.

The Great Holiday Train Show

Horace Greeley House, Chappaqua
Until January 7

Returning to the New Castle Historical Society for its third year, the Great Holiday Train Show captures the joy of the holidays. Experience the show in the historic 19th-century Horace Greeley House Museum, which will be decorated with charming train sets, miniature landscapes, snowy villages, and intricate details that will leave visitors in awe. This year, new additions to the show include a LEGO Harry Potter village and a custom-made Holiday Tree Train.

Grand Holiday Illumination

Untermyer Gardens Conservancy, Yonkers
December 8 – January 1

Started in 2015, the Untermyer Gardens Conservancy’s Grand Holiday Illumination has quickly become a Yonkers tradition, inviting thousands of visitors each year to enjoy the spectacle. This free annual holiday tradition features more than 100,000 lights on display for your holiday enjoyment. The nighttime light show bathes the outdoor park in dazzling lights and encompasses many secular celebrations.

Related: Pick Your Perfect Pine at a Hudson Valley Christmas Tree Farm

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