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 they used to have.
In addition, 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 on any given winter.
While that cuts down on the wintry photo opportunities, it does make traveling and being outside way easier.
And besides, there are still plenty of things to do in Connecticut in December.
Read on for our list of recommendations we give our own guests here at Stanton House Inn.
Outdoorsy Activities 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 winter months.
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, cover that with jeans, and throw on a warm flannel before you put on the standard jacket, hat, and gloves. Once you’re wrapped up, you’re ready to go outside. And you can always reward yourself afterwards with a sit by the fireplace in the room of your New England inn.
Even if it seems daunting, be sure to go outside and take a day trip to somewhere new in Connecticut. You need some sunshine.
Walks Along the Connecticut Shoreline
There are way fewer people visiting the beaches during the day, allowing you to spread out and enjoy peace and quiet alone or with your loved ones.
Plus, many authors have written about the quiet solitude afforded by walking along the beach on a winter day. It’s hard not to want to write some bleak poetry while walking along a windy beach on an overcast day.
The added benefit is that with so few people visiting the best beaches in CT, there’s no fee for non-residents to visit.
Greenwich Point Park
Be sure to explore this top Greenwich 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 or see the rolling waves of the water. This is a really special park because of the different nature it offers and its solitude during the winter.
Sherwood Island State Park
Head up the coast to the cute town of Westport. There on 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.
- Great parking
- Two beaches
- A pavilion with bathrooms
- Grilling areas
- And fishing spots
You really can’t beat the versatility of Sherwood Island State Park.
Hiking Connecticut Trails in December
On a sunny, not too cold day, wandering through the winter woods is a splendid way to pass an afternoon.
While the fall foliage is long gone in the winter, the bugs are all dead, so you can hike unencumbered by bug spray. And bare trees mean better views of the surrounding winter wonderland.
Close your eyes and picture it:
You’re wrapped in a warm, comfortable coat. You hear the crunching of fresh snow under your fear with the birds chirping from the treetops overhead. You smell the sweetness of pine, and you feel the gentle breeze of winter air. Heaven, right?
Some of the top Connecticut hiking trails that are especially beautiful in the winter include those 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:
- Naugatuck State Forest, near Naugatuck, Connecticut
- Ice Falls at Valley Falls in Rockville, Connecticut
Connecticut’s hiking trails are beautiful, with or without frozen waterfalls. Some personal favorite trails include Mianus River State Park and Devil’s Den Preserve. There, you can walk past creaks, hike through snowy trees, and witness the mountains.
Downhill Skiing at Connecticut Ski Resorts
Avid Connecticut skiers and snowboarders often demand making the trek to:
- Upper New England
- Or even Colorado
To enjoy the best powder and slopes.
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 takes a lot of effort for infrequent and short bursts of trips downhill.
It may not be the activity for everyone, but it’s certainly a thrill for some!
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 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. And many of them have stayed in one of our guest rooms or suites, including Tara Lipinski and Michelle Kwan.
A few skating rinks in Greenwich and nearby include:
- Mill River Park in the city center of Stamford, Connecticut, though only during the winter
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 couple of solid freezes that same winter you’re looking to ice fish, the activity is just as doable in Connecticut. That said, it’s typically reserved for the lakes in Connecticut‘s north, like in the Litchfield Hills.
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 winter activity is definitely one of the most unique things to do in Connecticut in December on this list.
Finding an area with large-enough countryside for this activity straight out of the 1800s requires a longer car ride from Greenwich. But don’t let that discourage your dreams!
Head to 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 Activities 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. While staying inside can be fun, it can also result in the classic case of cabin fever.
So, be sure to get out of your house and do something—even if it’s inside somewhere else!
Here’s a list of indoor winter activities across Connecticut.
Plenty of the best museums in Connecticut are easily accessible and open all winter. They’re ready to keep you occupied while the snow falls outside.
The two closest to downtown Greenwich are:
- The Bruce Museum, known for its art and natural history exhibitions
- And the Greenwich Historical Society, which highlights the town’s history from the National Landmark Site of the Bush-Holley House
Obviously, Greenwich isn’t the only destination. The winter months are a great time to explore the extensive museum collection on the Yale University campus in New Haven, Connecticut, for example.
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.
It can even be a great place for a Connecticut date night idea. Just depends on your vibe.
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
- Sundial Gardens & Tea Shop in Higganum
- Alice in the Village in Mystic
- Tea Roses Tea Room in Cromwell
Here, you can spend the afternoon chatting with friends, enjoying the wintery scenery outdoors while warming up with a hot cup of tea.
Or a hot chocolate. You do you.
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.
You can be the biggest hockey fan in the world or someone loosely interested in the sport and still have a great time.
Dine by an Open Fire
Dining fireside is one of the wintriest of winter activities in Connecticut.
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. So, if you’re looking for Christmas things to do in CT, read on!
Find (or Create) Unique Holiday Gifts
The Greenwich Avenue shopping district typically bustles with shoppers during the holiday season. 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 Connecticut gift ideas to delight your family and friends. There are even a few options to make your own unique holiday presents. Or explore our guide to the best road trip gifts, if you want something both functional and creative.
Holiday and Winter Markets for December Shopping
Connecticut is home to some fantastic flea markets and farmers markets—some indoor, some not.
The top places to shop for antiques, vintage items, and locally crafted gifts include:
You can explore a full list of holiday and winter markets on the Connecticut state website. Who knows? You may run into Santa Claus at a few of these.
Hand-Made Craftsmanship (of Your Own Making)
Want to really impress your friends and family? Give them something you made yourself.
Well, 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 the Harbor Point neighborhood of the city of Stamford.
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.
Some personal favorites among holiday events are:
Greenwich Reindeer Festival
The Greenwich Reindeer Festival in Greenwich starts shortly after Thanksgiving in Connecticut. As the name suggests, reindeer are a focal point of the festival, and you can even get a picture with Santa Claus and his reindeer at Sam Bridge Nursery. It’s one of the best things to do in December in Greenwich, CT.
The Greenwich Reindeer Festival is a great way to start your holiday shopping, too!
Bethlehem Christmas Town Festival
Bethlehem, Connecticut, is almost obligated to throw a holiday festival—and the Bethlehem Christmas Town Festival does not disappoint.
Here are some of the festivities to look forward to:
- 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, 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.
Any time of year is great to visit one of the best things to do in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
Kent Gingerbread Festival
The annual Kent Gingerbread Festival returns in December.
Walking from shop to shop along the main street of Kent, admiring holiday gingerbread creations, is as quaint as Christmas events 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. Plus, most have a stand selling winter staples like hot chocolate.
As I mentioned before, be sure to bundle up for this activity. Finding the perfect Christmas tree could take hours—and hypothermia is real.
- 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
Be warned: if you’re indecisive, perusing Christmas trees may take a very long time.
Map design by Stanton House Inn with elements from Flaticon
Holiday Lights Displays in Connecticut
Nighttime drives (or walks) through outdoor holiday and Christmas lights displays across the state can be a fantastic evening activity in December in CT.
Wonderland at Roseville has been a spectacular lights display created yearly by just one family in Fairfield, Connecticut. During previous years, the owners at 226 Roseville Terrace would delight passers-by with an overwhelming number of lights crammed on their property.
Head to East Windsor to take a holiday trolley ride at the Winterfest and Tunnel of Lights. The closed car or open-air car is great depending on the weather, but the entire Connecticut Trolley Museum is decked in lights and decorations to mark the season. And their polar express train ride is a must with the kids.
Lake Compounce’s holiday event, Holiday Lights at Lake Compounce, bills itself as New England’s Favorite Holiday Tradition.
Shortly after Thanksgiving until January 4, head to the city of 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 dazzling display.
Explore Cute Connecticut Towns Festooned with Holiday Decorations
The cutest 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 string the trees 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.
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 some of our other guides:
Whatever you do, we hope you enjoy doing all the various things to do in Connecticut in December!
Updated and republished: August 2, 2023