The E List

An Excruciatingly Opinionated Guide to the Shoreline

November 22, 2019

Things To Do for the Holidays 2019


Here’s our relatively exhaustive list of pop-up boutiques, holiday events, concerts, teas, tree-lightings, strolls, and shops that do it up for the season.


Pop-Up Holiday Shops:

Artistry at the Guilford Art Center – Over 300 fine American crafters, artisans and jewelers are featured at this celebrated annual sale, open thru 1/5/20.

Florence Griswold Museum Shop is all stocked up with ornaments, children’s toys, books, jewelry and gifts for the holidays — complimentary gift-wrapping included. Through 12/24, save every day with Sleigh Days — featuring daily themed items at 10% off (15% off for members).

Mystic Museum of Art Holiday Gift Show, 11/22 – 12/22, 11 – 5pm: An inspiring and unforgettable selection of fine art, crafts, jewelry, accessories and more by local artisans.

Hill-Stead for the Holidays, Hill-Stead Museum, 11/22 – 1/5: Beginning the day after Thanksgiving and continuing through early January, the former Pope family mansion is decorated for the holidays. The Annual Holiday Boutique features 25 artists and crafters who bring their best to this two-day sale, 12/7 – 12/8.

Wesleyan Potters Annual Exhibit and Sale:  This is a must-see for ceramic lovers: 11/29 – 12/15, 10 am – 6 pm and Friday evenings til 8 pm with Friday Night live music and refreshments. The Gallery Shop reopens for holiday shoppers from December 18 through Christmas Eve.

East Haddam Holiday Market, 11/23: A collection of artists, specialty artisan products, holiday-inspired vendors, prepared foods, and talented local musicians.

Chester Holiday Market: The Chester Holiday Market resumes on Sundays, 12/1 – 22 from 11 am – 2 pm.

Wadsworth Mansion Holiday Bazaar, 12/8:  Featured vendors from the Open Air Market will be selling handmade products, unique holiday gifts for your family and friends.

Stonington Vineyards Holiday Market, 12/6: Don’t miss this holiday market featuring local vendors and live jazz at the vineyard.

Holiday Shopping Extravaganza at Chester Meeting House, 12/6:  Peruse the wares of some of the area’s most talented, hand-picked artisans. Enjoy live music and local food in an old-fashioned holiday shopping experience at the historical Chester Meeting House.

Maynard’s Christmas Shop (only open from Thanksgiving through Christmas) always gets me in the mood for decking the halls!

Colchester Holiday Market, 11/30: Features some wonderful artisans with an array of eclectic products such as jewelry, pottery, woodwork, clothing, skin and body care products, farmer-canned goods, holiday decorations, prepared foods, Sitting with Santa, and more.

Killingworth Historical Society Annual Christmas Fair, 12/7: Parmelee Farmhouse will be transformed into a holiday boutique with lots of handmade items crafted by members, including live arrangements, baked goods, holiday decor, gift items, knitted accessories.

Holidays at the Farm, 11/14 – 11/17: Visit the Lakeside Feed and Farmstand to sip, shop, and stroll through a relaxing shopping experience at the farm to find special gifts, manly priced under $20!

Dudley Farm Museum Open House and Holiday Market, 12/7, 12/8, 12/14: Step back in time in the 1845 Farmhouse and Museum for cookies, carols and merriment. Browse through unique items home grown and hand made by more than 30 vendors, listening to performances by The Dudley Farm String Band.

Higganum Holiday Pop-Up Market, thru 12/22: Handcrafted giftables at this huge pop-up in the Haddam Elementary School building at 272 Saybrook Road in Haddam.


Decoration and Inspiration:

Looking for a little inspiration for decking the halls? Here are some favorite shops for everything from decorations to ribbons to greens.

Saybrook Home (formerly Saybrook Country Barn) is a feast of inspiration for the holidays, with room after room of ornaments, trees, swags, centerpieces, candles and gifts.

Madison Flower Shop, for trees, swags, greenery, centerpieces and an enormous selection of ribbons and ornaments.

R.J. Vickers Herbery, Chester for handmade, one-of-a-kind wreaths, topiary, ribbon and dried herbs and flowers.

Maynard’s Greenhouse, a fantasy land of fairy dust and holiday trimmings inside, and trees, roping, wreaths and greens outside.

Mar Floral‘s long-lasting arrangements are far from ordinary.


Get in the holiday mood with these upcoming events:

Santa Special on Essex Steam Train, 11/29 thru 12/23: Enjoy the spirit of the season as you relax with family and friends aboard festive railway cars adorned with vintage decorations.

Madison Chamber’s Ladies Shopping Night in Madison 11/29: Specials and events at participating shops in Madison.

Thanksgiving Dance Party at Madison Beach Hotel, 11/29: Dance your stuffing off with the Magic of Motown LIVE.

Lantern Light Tours at Mystic Seaport, 11/23 – 12/22:  Head to Mystic for an evening of seasonal surprises with Lantern Light Tours: A Christmas Sea-Chantey. Set on Christmas Eve in the year 1876 in Greenmanville, the play offers small windows into the lives of people on the verge of great change, both personal and cultural.

Ocean House Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony, 11/30: Ignite the Christmas Spirit at Ocean House’s Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony and Christmas Village. Santa Claus will make his big arrival on a fire truck! While enjoying Christmas carols and complimentary cookies and hot chocolate, get your holiday shopping done early in our Christmas Village featuring an array of products from local purveyors.

Black Friday Shoreline Soup Kitchen Benefit at The Kate,  Black Friday 11/29: The Meadows Brothers, Ebin-Rose Trio, Moving Target, Lauren Agnelli & friends, Hugh Birdsall, and Carter Gowrie & Friends will gather for a concert at The Kate to raise funds for The Shoreline Soup Kitchen & Pantries.

Holiday Lighted Boat Parade on 11/30:  Santa Claus is coming to town and so is Mystic’s Holiday Lighted Boat Parade in Historic Downtown Mystic. Thousands gather at the Mystic River Park to watch Santa arrive at 2 pm on a 60’ tugboat, the John Paul.

Essex Trees in the Rigging Community Carol Sing and Boat Parade on 12/1: Take a lantern-lit carol stroll down Main Street culminating with a parade of vessels dressed in holiday lights.

The Terris Theatre presents A Connecticut Christmas Carol, 12/4 – 12/28: Custom-made for Goodspeed with all-original music, enjoy a tuneful, heartfelt confection spiced with enough Nutmeg State flavor to sweeten your season.

An Unforgettable Nat King Cole Christmas at the Goodspeed, 12/20 – 12/22: Award-nominated Chicago sensation Evan Tyrone Martin (Jesus Christ Superstar) lovingly relates Cole’s personal journey alongside a festive cocktail of signature songs and holiday favorites.

The Magic of Christmas at Florence Griswold Museum, 11/29 – 1/5: Enjoy Miss Florence’s Artist Trees, designer Fantasy Trees, and the Florence Griswold House decorated for a 1910 Christmas. Christmastime Teas, special events for families, hands-on crafts for children and adults, and wonderful items in The Shop bring holiday cheer.

Lyman Allyn Free First Saturday, 12/7Head to the art studio at Lyman Allyn to decorate festive winter ornaments! While you’re there, explore the galleries and our ongoing exhibitions. Free admission from 11 am – 1 pm.

Musical Masterworks, 12/7 – 12/8: Immerse yourself in MM’s performance of Debussy: L’isle joyeuse for Solo Piano, Villa-Lobos: Assobio a Játo (The Jet Whistle) for Flute and Cello, and more at the First Congregational Church of Old Lyme.

The Bach Christmas Oratorio Concert,12/15: Enjoy the Cappella Cantorum’s Annual Christmas Concert, during it’s 50th Season, at Valley Regional High School.

An Ivoryton Playhouse An Actor’s Carol, 12/13 – 12/22: Burned-out actor Hugh Pendleton, not-so-fresh from playing Scrooge one too many times in the backwater community theatre where his once promising career has met its unglamorous end, is surprised to encounter three spirits of his own in this quirky and compelling ode to the holiday classic.

Girls’ Night Out in Guilford, 12/12. Meet The E List team between 5 and 6:30 pm at The Marketplace at Guilford Food Center for a glass of 1/2 price wine, hors d’oeuvres and to pick up your sticker to qualify for discounts (second CHECK-IN location at Java Hut at 20 Church Street). Then head out to the shops along the green and take 20% off almost everything (some exclusions apply) at participating boutiques.

A Mystic Christmas at Mystic Aquarium, 12/6: Hear Saxophone Santa as he serenades the crowd then get your picture with him – on dry land or while he’s diving with some of his elves – all while enjoying the splendor of holiday festivities at the Aquarium. Also experience some seasonal entertainment by local school carolers, bands, and dance teams. Free admission with a non-perishable food donation.

Con Brio Christmas Concerts at Christ The King Church, Old Lyme on 12/6 and 12/8: Don’t miss the shoreline’s renowned all auditioned chorus presenting a program of holiday music.

Chapel Street Ice Carving Competition and A Capella Concert, 12-4pm, 12/7. Professional ice carvers will each transform 900lbs of ice into spectacular sculptures while live performances by many accomplished a cappella groups take place. Free and open to the public.

Essex Holiday House Tour and Holiday Market, 12/7: Visit 7 decorated homes, the Essex Historical Society’s Pratt House Museum, and the Connecticut River Museum to kindle Christmas cheer while helping to support the Child & Family Agency of Southeastern CT. Visitors can also stop by the Holiday Boutique, featuring hand-crafted clothing, bespoke jewelry, unique home décor, festive holiday floral arrangements and more.

The Nutcracker at The Garde, 12/14 – 12/15: Get tickets to see this holiday favorite performed by Eastern CT Ballet at The Garde.

Lady Katharine Cruises – Rudolph’s Holiday Cruise, 11/29 – 12/22:  Limited seating and going fast! Dine on a hot buffet brunch or dinner, and then gather with Santa and his elves for story time. Children of all ages will love creating a special holiday keepsake to live musical entertainment.

New Haven Ballet Nutcracker at The Shubert 12/14 thru 12/15: Don’t miss this family-friendly holiday classic, performed by the students of the New Haven Ballet.

Mystic Seaport Community Carol Sing on 12/22: Head to this community carol sing plus holiday concert at the Seaport, free admission with a donation of canned food item from 10 am – 4 pm.

Horse Drawn Carriages in downtown New Haven, 12/1, 12/7, 12/8, 12/15 & 12/22: Revel in free horse-drawn carriage rides along the charming streets of New Haven. Pick-up/Drop-off on the Corner of College & Chapel Streets on College Street, (across from Claire’s Corner Copia, 1000 Chapel Street) and at the corner of York Street and Elm Street (across from Patagonia New Haven and GANT).

Story Time and Snacks with Santa at The Shops at Yale, 11/30, 12/1, 12/7, 12/8, 12/14, 12/15, 12/21, 12/22: Santa will visit The Shops at Yale and will read stories to children at The Yale Bookstore. Free snacks and photos with Santa will also be available. Saturdays: Nov. 30, Dec. 7, 14 and 21 at The Yale Bookstore, 77 Broadway. Snacks provided by Katalina’s Bakery! Sundays: Dec. 1 and 22 at Willoughby’s Coffee & Tea, 194 York Street. Sundays: Dec. 8 and 15 at Claire’s Corner Copia, 1000 Chapel Street.

Santa’s Trolley Winter Wonderland, from November 29 through December 22, check the website for exact dates and times. Take a ride into the past and visit with Santa at The Shore Line Trolley Museum, all decked out for the holidays. Complimentary cookies and hot chocolate, as well as a gift from Santa himself. Tickets can be purchased online or at the door.

Winterfest at the Mystic Aquarium, 12/26 through 1/1/2020: Enjoy ice carving, live music, photo opps with Sea Princess and Ice Princess and toast to the New Year while beluga’s swim in the background! Celebrate the start of 2020 with a complimentary cider bubbly toast.

Annual Holiday Train Show at CT River Museum 11/27 through 2/23: Bring the whole family to this 26th Anniversary exhibit, created by train artist Steve Cryan, featuring more trains, new scenery, and lots of surprises in the fully operational 26-foot model train layout.

Holiday Carnival at Olde Mistick Village, 12/7: Stroll throughout the Village with FREE entertainment all afternoon. The Fly-by-Night Comedy Jugglers performance will delight audiences of all ages starting at 1:00pm. Children can meet at the Duck Pond for a live Birds of Prey demonstration from 3:00-3:45pm hosted by the Denison-Pequotsepos Nature Center.


Stroll the Shoreline:

Holiday strolls in Shoreline villages feature Santa visits, sleigh rides, caroling, tree lightings and special events in the shops. Here are some dates:

Niantic Holiday Stroll on 11/30

Madison on 11/30

Branford Tree Lighting and Parade on 11/30

Clinton on 12/1

New Haven Tree Lighting on 12/5

Guilford Tree Lighting on 12/6

Chester on 12/6

Stonington on 12/6

Ivoryton Illuminations on 12/7

Groton on 12/7

Essex on 12/7

Westbrook on 12/8

East Lyme on 12/8

Mystic on 12/10

Old Saybrook on 12/14

Deep River on 12/14

Niantic/East Lyme Light Parade on 12/14



Holiday Teas

Nothing we like better than to take a break from the holidaze with an afternoon spent sipping and snacking!

Florence Griswold Museum Christmastime Teas, Tuesdays thru Saturdays at 3pm. Scones, tea sandwiches, and cookies with Miss Florence’s Tea. $40 includes museum admission and 10% off at the Museum Store. 12/3 – 28

Bee & Thistle Inn offers Afternoon Tea, Thursdays through Sundays from December 5  – January 5, 12:00 pm–2:30 pm $35 per guest, $40 per guest for ‘Royal Tea’, plus tax and gratuity, reservations suggested. Enjoy savory and sweet goodies and tea of your choice while enjoying the Inn’s over-the-top holiday decor!

Lyman Allyn Cupcakes and Cocoa, November 24, December 1, 8 & 15. Fun-filled afternoon beginning with a hot chocolate bar and festive treats. After, kids and adults can find a zoo’s worth of animals in a Grand Menagerie themed I-Spy. Then head to the studio to sculpt exotic animals out of clay. $15 adults, $12 kids, free for kids 3 & under (includes museum admission)

Hill-Stead Holiday Tea + Tour, November 26 through December 24. Guided tours through the house followed by a half-hour tea service for groups from 10 to 25 people. Reservations required.

Savvy Tea is offering Holiday Afternoon Teas in their Madison tearoom.  Celebrate with friends and family enjoying fancy tier trays with delicate tea sandwiches, fresh baked holiday pastries and treats, quiches and scones with clotted cream and jam. 6 different teas are poured tableside. $40 per person with advance reservations. Reserve by 12/5 (credit card requested at the time of reservation to hold the party). 203.318.8666



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