Winter in Connecticut used to be brutal.
The silver lining of global climate change is that the winters on the Connecticut shoreline don’t have the bite that they used to have.
And the worst of winter weather often doesn’t appear until after December festivities have wrapped-up and a new year has begun.
In recent years, I can count on one hand the number of snowstorms we have any given winter.
And while that cuts-down on the wintry photo opportunities, it does make traveling and being outside way easier.
And despite the best efforts of the 2020 pandemic, there’s still plenty of things to do in Connecticut in December.
Read on for our list of recommendations that we give to our own guests.
But first, can I visit Connecticut right now?
That’s a tricky one.
According to state guidelines, anyone traveling into Connecticut from a state with a positive case rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents, or higher than a 10% test positivity rate over a 7-day rolling average, has to quarantine.
You can read Connecticut’s list of states on the state’s website. The state updates who’s on and off the list every Tuesday.
To get some insight as to how this affects your stay at a Connecticut hotel, be sure to read our guide to the changes we’ve made to do our part in limiting the spread of Covid-19.
Outdoorsy things to do in Connecticut in December
But wait! It’s cold outside!
That’s true, but the New England wisdom of managing November in Connecticut applies to the rest of the months of winter.
New Englanders are not naturally better-bred to withstand colder temperatures. We just know how to dress in layers better.
So, slip-on the long underwear, then cover that with jeans and a warm flannel before you put on the standard jacket, hat, and gloves. Then go outside.
But do go outside, you need some sunshine.
Walks along the Connecticut shoreline
While most people associate the summer months with visiting the best beaches near Greenwich, Connecticut, December is fantastic, too.
There are way fewer people visiting the beaches during the day, and many an author has written about the quiet solitude afforded from walking along the beach on a winter day.
Added benefit is that with so few people visiting the beaches, there’s no fee for non-residents to visit. It makes it one of the best free activities in Connecticut.
Greenwich Point Park
Be sure to explore Greenwich Point Park for a walk along its beach and the walking trails. Walk to the far end of the park to witness a sweeping view of the Manhattan skyline off in the distance.
Sherwood Island State Park
Head up the coast to Westport, one of the most cute towns in Connecticut.
There, sprawling all over Sherwood Island along the coast, is one of the most visited parks in Connecticut.
Sherwood Island offers an expansive beach and beautiful woods and marshes to walk along in December.
Hiking Connecticut Trails in December
On a sunny, not too cold day, wandering through the winter woods is a splendid way to enjoy a December afternoon.
While the fall foliage has long ago fallen by December, the bugs are all dead, so you can hike unencumbered by bug spray.
Some of the top Connecticut hiking trails that are especially beautiful in December include trails that pass waterfalls. If the temperatures are at or below freezing, seeing frozen waterfalls is worth the hike.
A few options to see frozen waterfalls include:
- Ice Falls at Valley Falls in Rockville, Connecticut
- Naugatuck State Forest, near Naugatuck, Connecticut
Downhill Skiing at Connecticut Ski Resorts
Avid Connecticut skiers often demand making the trek to Upper New England, Quebec, or even Colorado to enjoy the best downhill skiing.
But sometimes, it’s okay to plan a less-complicated (and less expensive) ski trip closer to home.
Some of the top downhill skiing mountains across the state include:
- Mohawk Mountain in Cornwall
- Mount Southington in Plantsville
- Ski Sundown in New Hartford
- Powder Ridge Mountain Park & Resort in Middlefield
Cross-Country Skiing through Connecticut in December
This sport is not my favorite. It’s a lot of effort for infrequent and always short bursts of trips downhill.
Not judging, just stating facts.
Some options for cross-country skiing in Connecticut are:
- White Memorial Conservation Center Museum in Litchfield
- Winding Trails Cross Country Ski Center in Farmington
Ice skating in Connecticut in December
Ice skating in Greenwich has always been a well-known phenomenon since Dorothy Hammill left town to become an Olympic medalist.
In the 1990s and early 2000s, many of the biggest names in ice figure skating passed-through Greenwich.
A few skating rinks in Greenwich and nearby include:
December ice fishing in Connecticut
You don’t need to travel to the Great White North to enjoy a little ice fishing!
Assuming we’ve had a good solid freeze, ice fishing is just as doable in Connecticut. That said, it’s typically reserved for the lakes in the north of the state, like in Litchfield County.
Lake Waramaug, one of the most beautiful lakes in the entire state, is a perfect place for ice fishing.
December sleigh rides in Connecticut
The fastest way to feel like you’re in a Currier & Ives print while on your Connecticut winter vacation is to take a sleigh ride through the countryside.
This equestrian Connecticut winter activity is definitely one of the most unique things to do in Connecticut in December on this list.
Finding an area with a large-enough countryside for this activity straight out of the 1800s requires a longer car ride from Greenwich than many of the other activities on this list. Find Allegra Farm out in East Haddam, Connecticut, for your own real-life version of Jingle Bells.
Not sure how the drivers, or horses, will appreciate you singing, though.
Indoor things to do in Connecticut in December
Winter in New England is like summer in the South.
You spend most of your time indoors, and only go out for a fun activity or two.
But sitting inside often results in cabin fever.
So here’s a list of indoor activities across Connecticut in December.
Now that the 2020 pandemic has ebbed, museums are following all the necessary safety protocols to welcome back visitors.
While not all of them have reopened, plenty of the museums in Greenwich, Connecticut, and nearby are open and ready to keep you occupied while the snow falls outside.
The two closest to downtown Greenwich are the Bruce Museum and Greenwich Historical Society.
Axe throwing in Connecticut
Axe throwing was originally all the rage with hipsters and bachelor parties, and has slowly been spreading across the country.
Blue Ox Axe Throwing introduced Connecticut to axe throwing, after the owners enjoyed it in Minnesota. The studio in nearby Bridgeport can be an intense way to blow-off some steam.
December High Tea in Connecticut
If axe throwing isn’t your cup of tea, perhaps something slightly more genteel-feeling would better suit?
As befits a state associated with all things quaint, there are Connecticut tea rooms scattered throughout the state:
- Cady’s Tea Room, at Stanton House Inn in Greenwich
- The Drawing Room, in Cos Cob
- Sundial Gardens & Tea Shop in Higganum
- Alice in the Village in Mystic
- Tea Roses Tea Room in Cromwell
Connecticut Hockey Teams
December is hockey season in Connecticut, and the northern half of America.
Before or after throwing an axe or two, head over to the Webster Bank Arena to catch a game by the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
Dine by an open fire
This is one of the most wintry of winter activities.
Dining, or even just having a drink, by an open fire is as delightful in December as waterfront dining is in the summer.
Our top downtown Greenwich restaurants with fireplaces in their dining area include:
How to Celebrate the December Holiday Season in Connecticut
There’s a reason they created a movie called, “Christmas in Connecticut”.
As a state closely associated with all things quaint, Connecticut is the place to be for a charming celebration of the holiday season.
Holiday activities in Connecticut
Like riding a sleigh through the countryside, many of the best Connecticut holiday activities will feel as quaint and charming as any you’ll find elsewhere.
Find (or create) unique holiday gifts
The Greenwich Avenue shopping district is typically bustling with shoppers during the holiday season. Shopping and exploring the Ave is always high on the list of things to do in Greenwich, CT, in the winter. That said, it’s not your only option for gift-giving in Connecticut.
There are plenty of places throughout the state to find the most unique gifts to delight your family and friends. And even a few options to make your own unique holiday presents.
Holiday and winter markets for December shopping
Connecticut is home to some fantastic flea markets and farmers markets, some indoor, some not.
Top places to shop for antiques, vintage items, and locally-crafted gifts include:
But you can explore a full list of holiday and winter markets on the Connecticut state website.
Hand-made craftsmanship (of your own making)
Want to really impress your friends and family?
Give them something you made yourself.
Depending on the results, it may not actually be that impressive.
But it’s the thought that counts.
Create a handcrafted gift this season when you visit A Maze in Pottery. You could also paint a holiday work of art (paintbrush in one hand, glass of liquid courage in the other) at Pinot’s Palette in Harbor Point in Stamford.
And if throwing axes at Blue Ox Axe Throwing inspires you to (safely) dive headfirst into metal-working, you can take blacksmithing and bladesmithing workshops and lessons at the Guilford Art Center in Guilford.
Holiday festivals in Connecticut
As soon as Connecticut fall festivals end, the holiday festivals start-up.
Greenwich Reindeer Festival
The Greenwich Reindeer Festival starts shortly after Thanksgiving in Greenwich. It’s one of the best things to do in December in Greenwich, CT. As the name suggests, reindeer are a focal point of the festival. You can even get a picture with Santa and his reindeer at McArdle’s.
Bethlehem Christmas Town Festival
Bethlehem, Connecticut, is almost obligated to throw a holiday festival. And the Bethlehem Christmas Town Festival does not disappoint. 2020 will be a year focused on safety, but much of what made the festival a delight persists:
- Tree lighting ceremony
- Free outdoor musical entertainment
- Sending your holiday mail from the town’s Post Office to get Bethlehem stamped on your mail
Beardsley Zoo Winter Art Festival
Stop into the Beardsley Zoo in Bridgeport, Connecticut, to see the reindeer hanging-out before Christmas. And while you’re there, explore the art on display throughout the zoo to celebrate the Beardsley Zoo Winter Art Festival.
Kent Gingerbread Festival
After a decent amount of research, this writer has to admit that he still doesn’t know if the Kent Gingerbread Festival is happening in 2020.
But if it is, walking from shop to shop in Kent, admiring holiday gingerbread creations, is as quaint as the holidays can get.
Connecticut Pick-Your-Own-Tree Farms
Aside from holiday sleigh rides and snowball fights, most Currier & Ives prints showing-off things to do in Connecticut in December focus on getting your own Christmas tree.
And there are Christmas tree farms throughout the state to pick out your own tree.
As I mentioned before, be sure to bundle-up for this activity. Finding the perfect tree could take hours, and hypothermia is real.
Christmas tree farms scattered throughout the state include:
- Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tree Farm in East Hampton
- Lou’s Christmas Tree Farm in Orange
- Yurechko Tree Farm in Griswold
- Jones Family Farm in Shelton
Holiday Lights Displays in Connecticut
Night time drives (or walks) through outdoor holiday lights displays can be a fantastic evening activity in December in CT.
Many of the best holiday lights displays in Connecticut are scheduled to return in 2020. At least one on this list is waiting until 2021 to return.
Wonderland at Roseville has been a spectacular lights display created each year by just one family in Fairfield, Connecticut. Previous years, the owners at 226 Roseville Terrace would delight passers-by with an overwhelming amount of lights crammed on their property. While I’m not sure if this will be happening in 2020, if it does, it will be sure to impress.
Goodwin Park in Hartford, Connecticut, plays host to the Holiday Light Fantasia. Click below to see a video of the festivities:
Head to East Windsor to take a holiday trolley ride at the Winterfest and Tunnel of Lights. The closed car or open-air car are great depending on the weather, but the entire Connecticut Trolley Museum is decked in lights and decorations to mark the season.
Lake Compounce’s holiday event, Holiday Lights at Lake Compounce, bills itself as New England’s Favorite Holiday Tradition. New Englanders will have to wait until 2021 for this fantastic holiday lights display.
Shortly after Thanksgiving until January 4, head to Meriden, Connecticut after dark to see the Festival of Silver Lights in Hubbard Park. Over 350,000 white twinkling lights decorate over 200 figures and buildings in this amazing display.
Explore cute Connecticut towns festooned with holiday decorations
The most cute towns in Connecticut are worth a visit any time of year.
But during the holiday season, their street decorations and shops are sure to bring some holiday cheer to even the biggest Scrooge.
Places like Greenwich usually light the trees of downtown with festive lights and give-out annual awards for the best decorated businesses in town.
If you’re in the mood to celebrate the holiday tradition the way they did in the 1800s, Lantern Lights tours at Mystic Seaport would be a perfect addition to your holiday season.
Many of the top activities and attractions in Mystic, Connecticut, are just as delightful in December, when the town dresses itself-up in its holiday best.
Now that December is planned, what about the rest of winter in Connecticut?
Winter in Connecticut doesn’t end when December does.
Head to our guide on romantic things to do in CT in the winter if you’re planning a more romantic visit to our state.
You can also check-out our guides to:
- Connecticut winter activities
- Best places to visit in Connecticut in the winter for winter vacation getaways
- Most unique things to do in Connecticut
Whatever you do, we hope you enjoy doing all the various things to do in Connecticut in December!