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Hartford-Area Holiday Happenings

Celebrate the Season in Greater Hartford, Connecticut


The countdown to the holidays has begun! Here's a quick look at 10 Hartford-area events that are sure to put you in the holiday spirit.

1. Festival of Trees & Traditions at Wadsworth Atheneum

Festival of Trees at Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford
© 2010 Kim Knox Beckius
Hartford is home to America's oldest continually operating public art museum, the Wadsworth Atheneum, which hosts its 40th annual Festival of Trees & Traditions December 5 through 15 (closed December 9 and 10) from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day following the 5 to 8 p.m. opening event on December 5. Hundreds of colorful and creative decorations by local artists and organizations include Christmas trees, beautiful wreaths and more. The display has been expanded into additional galleries for this 40th anniversary celebration. Performing groups entertain daily, adding to the festive atmosphere. Admission is $13 for adults, $11 for seniors (62+), $8 for college and other students 13 and older and $3 for children ages 2 to 12. Reserve tickets for a special Night of Illumination cocktail and hors d'oeuvres party on the evening of December 6. Call 860-278-2670 for more information.

2. Winterfest

© 2007 Kim Knox Beckius
The Connecticut Trolley Museum in East Windsor celebrates Winterfest on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings November 29 through December 29, 2013, plus Thursday, December 26 and Monday December 30. Bundle up and climb aboard one of the "electric sleighs" (restored antique trolleys) for a three-mile ride through a "tunnel of lights" featuring thousands of bulbs. There are indoor displays and activities for children, too. Tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for those 62 and over, $6 for children ages 2 to 12 and $3 for children under 2. For more information, call 860-627-6540.

3. A Christmas Carol at Hartford Stage

A Christmas Carol: A Ghost Story of Christmas, adapted by Michael Wilson from the story by Charles Dickens, runs November 29 through December 28 at Hartford Stage. Maxwell Williams directs this classic holiday story, which Wilson has refreshed with new special effects, lighting and costumes in celebration of the theater's 50th anniversary season. For prices and ticket information call 860-527-5151.

4. Holiday Season at the Stowe Center

The Harriet Beecher Stowe Center in Hartford delves into the 19th-century origins of our modern Christmas celebrations with a holiday season exhibition, "Reforming the Season: Nineteenth-Century Reformers and Christmas," featuring rarely seen items from the Stowe Center collections and archives. On display December 4 through January 4, the exhibit complements holiday tours of Stowe's house. Hours at the historic property are 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon until 5 p.m. on Sunday. Tour tickets are $10 for adults, $9 for seniors and $7 for children ages 5 to 16. For details, call 860-522-9258.

5. Hartford Symphony Holiday Cirque Spectacular

The Hartford Symphony Orchestra teams up with Cirque de la Symphonie guest artists for a "circus meets the symphony" spectacle on Saturday, December 21 at 3 and 7:30 p.m. at Mortensen Hall at The Bushnell in Hartford. Tickets can be purchased online or by calling 860-244-2999.

6. Santa Special Train Rides

Catch the Essex Steam Train's Santa Special for a holiday train ride with Santa Claus. Mrs. Claus, Rudolph and Pablo the Penquin will be on board, too! Departures are available Saturdays and Sundays November 30 through December 22, plus Friday, November 29, and Monday, December 23, at 11:30, 1 and 2:30 p.m. Tickets must be purchased online in advance. For further information, call 860-767-0103 or toll free 800-377-3987.

7. Holidays at Hill-Stead

The Hill-Stead Museum in Farmington takes visitors back in time for a look at early 20th century holiday tales and traditions during seasonal tours offered Tuesdays through Sundays, December 3 through January 5. Visitors will have the opportunity to see holiday decorations and many objects that are exhibited just once a year. On Sunday, December 8, the museum's interpreters will play the roles of residents of the home, their staff and their prestigious guests. Hours are 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Museum admission is $12 for adults, $10 for seniors, $8 for students, $5 for children ages 6 to 12 and free for children under 6. For details, call 860-677-4787.

8. Albano's Nutcracker

The Albano Ballet Company will perform its version of the classical holiday ballet, The Nutcracker, with live orchestra accompaniment at three Connecticut venues this season. Performances are scheduled for Saturday, November 30, at the Middletown Performing Arts Center; Saturday and Sunday, December 7 and 8, at the Welte Theater at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain; and Friday and Saturday, December 13 and 14, at Mohegan Sun Arena. Tickets may be purchased online.

9. Annual Open House Tour of the Governor's Residence

From December 6 through 8, see the Georgian-Revival home of Governor Dannel P. Malloy at 900 Prospect Street in Hartford decorated for the holidays by Connecticut florists, greenhouse growers, nurserymen and Christmas tree growers. Hours are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday and Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday. Several musical groups will entertain each day. Admission is free. Guests are encouraged to bring a new, unwrapped toy for distribution via the U. S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program. A special collector's ornament featuring the Governor's Residence Guest Cottage will be available for purchase for $20, with proceeds benefiting the Governor's Residence Conservancy. For more information, call 860-524-7355.

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