Travel

Where to See Vibrant Holiday Light Displays in Boston

Boston is home to some full-fledged winter wonderlands.

City of Boston
City of Boston
City of Boston

It’s the holiday season, and there’s no better time to enjoy a stroll around Boston than right now. Sure, it might require some base layers. But the city’s array of twinkling holiday lights is worth bundling up. So in an effort to get you out and about, making sure not to miss any of the worthwhile, awe-inspiring sights, we’ve rounded up the top destinations around Boston to catch some of the best light displays. Check out the list of festive trees and decked out skating rinks here, and join in on some fun holiday celebrations along the way.

Tree for Boston
Tree for Boston
Tree for Boston

Boston Common and Public Garden

The creme de la creme of holiday light peeping and city strolls, check out the Common and Public Garden for a worthwhile jaunt. On December 1, at approximately 7:55 pm, the City of Boston will officially light its annual gift from Nova Scotia, this year, a 45-foot white spruce hailing from Christmas Island-seriously, that’s what the place is called. Leading up to the event, you can head over to the Frog Pond for a Skating Spectacular kicking-off at 5 pm. If you can’t make it that early, don’t fret-you have an entire season of ice skating to enjoy at this iconic rink.

City of Boston
City of Boston
City of Boston

Columbus Park Trellis

For walks along the waterfront, the park’s 260-foot-long trellis will sport 50,000 blue lights all season long. It’s like an LED tunnel of your dreams. Plus, it’s a pretty ideal location as you’re super close to Faneuil Hall, which hosts one of the most massive trees in the city, and the North End for some serious food and drink selections-not to mention you’ll find another tree worth stopping for at the corner of Hanover and North Street.

Faneuil Hall Marketplace
Faneuil Hall Marketplace
Faneuil Hall Marketplace

Faneuil Hall

It wouldn’t be a trip to see the city lights without a stop in Faneuil Hall. And as mentioned, there’s one massive tree smack dab in front of Quincy Market for your viewing and picture-taking pleasure. This year’s tree, coming to Faneuil Hall via Pennsylvania, might look a little different. Not only is it placed in a different spot, it will take on a classic, warm white light look decked out in red and white ornaments instead of its typical spread of bright multicolour lights.

City of Boston
City of Boston
City of Boston

Commonwealth Avenue Mall

Given the city is known for its breathtaking brownstones, it’s only appropriate to find yourself strolling down the Commonwealth Ave Mall. Actually, it’s necessary. Starting December 1, the trees that line the Mall for miles will officially be lit up for the holidays. The ceremony will kick-off at 8:30 pm, with cookies and hot chocolate provided by The Newbury. The classically beautiful light display looks straight out of a Hallmark movie-and it is certainly something you don’t want to miss.

Boston Parks and Recreation Department
Boston Parks and Recreation Department
Boston Parks and Recreation Department

Copley Square

If you find yourself in the area to shop, Copley Square is a great destination to channel your holiday spirit and see some lights. It’s also worth mentioning that its official tree sits in front of the city’s historic Trinity Church for quite the gorgeous backdrop. While you’re in the area, you can also grab quality hot chocolate and treats at L.A. Burdick Handmade Chocolates, pop by Lenox Boston for drinks and their holiday decor, or simply walk down Clarendon and Newbury Street for local shops and restaurants galore.

Charles Street and Beacon Hill

With street lights wrapped in ribbon and garland and residential brownstones dressed in their holiday best, Beacon Hill is guaranteed to fulfill your festive dreams. Stroll down Charles Street, where storefronts are decked out in decor and lit up for a nightly stroll like no other, or venture further into the neighbourhood to see how each individual home does it up.

Boston Seaport
Boston Seaport
Boston Seaport

Seaport

Starting December 2, Seaport will officially turn into Snowport for the holiday season. The celebration kicks off with its annual Light Up Seaport event featuring music, aerial performances, tree lighting, and a holiday stroll, including a bunch of sweet freebies from nearby participating vendors. There’s also Snowport’s Holiday Market, which has been up and running already this winter. The market, which has doubled the size of last year’s, features more than 120 makers, a tree market, food, and cocktails.

Somerville Arts Council
Somerville Arts Council
Somerville Arts Council

Somerville

Returning in 2022, you’ll be able to make your way to Somerville for the neighbourhood’s annual Illuminations Tour. Beginning December 8, the Somerville Arts Council will provide an online map featuring the area’s best decor and holiday light displays so you can peruse throughout the night. If you’re interested in being on the map, sign up online before December 5. What’s more, the council has planned carolling on December 15 and a bike tour on December 17 for added fun.

Get the latest from Thrillist Australia delivered straight to your inbox, subscribe here.

Jillian Hammell is a contributor for Thrillist. Follow her on Instagram.

Travel

Ditch your Phone for ‘Dome Life’ in this Pastoral Paradise Outside Port Macquarie 

A responsible, sustainable travel choice for escaping big city life for a few days.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

The urge to get as far away as possible from the incessant noise and pressures of ‘big city life’ has witnessed increasingly more of us turn to off-grid adventures for our holidays: Booking.com polled travellers at the start of 2023 and 55% of us wanted to spend our holidays ‘off-grid’.  Achieving total disconnection from the unyielding demands of our digitised lives via some kind of off-grid nature time—soft or adventurous—is positioned not only as a holiday but, indeed, a necessity for our mental health. 

Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, an accommodation collection of geodesic domes dotted across a lush rural property in Greater Port Macquarie (a few hours’ drive from Sydney, NSW), offers a travel experience that is truly ‘off-grid’. In the figurative ‘wellness travel’ sense of the word, and literally, they run on their own independent power supply—bolstered by solar—and rely not on the town grid. 

Ten minutes before you arrive at the gates for a stay at Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, your phone goes into ‘SOS ONLY’. Apple Maps gives up, and you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, driving down unsealed roads in the dark, dodging dozens of dozing cows. Then, you must ditch your car altogether and hoist yourself into an open-air, all-terrain 4WD with gargantuan wheels. It’s great fun being driven through muddy gullies in this buggy; you feel like Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park.  As your buggy pulls in front of your personal Nature Dome, it’s not far off that “Welcome…to Jurassic Park” jaw-dropping moment—your futuristic-looking home is completely engulfed by thriving native bushland; beyond the outdoor campfire lie expansive hills and valleys of green farmland, dotted with sheep and trees. You’re almost waiting to see a roaming brachiosaurus glide past, munching on a towering gum tree…instead, a few inquisitive llamas trot past your Dome to check out their new visitor. 

To fully capture the awe of inhabiting a geodesic dome for a few days, a little history of these futuristic-looking spherical structures helps. Consisting of interlocking triangular skeletal struts supported by (often transparent) light walls, geodesic domes were developed in the 20th century by American engineer and architect R. Buckminster Fuller, and were used for arenas. Smaller incarnations have evolved into a ‘future-proof’ form of modern housing: domes are able to withstand harsh elements due to the stability provided by the durable materials of their construction and their large surface area to volume ratio (which helps minimize wind impact and prevents the structure from collapsing). As housing, they’re also hugely energy efficient – their curved shape helps to conserve heat and reduce energy costs, making them less susceptible to temperature changes outside. The ample light let in by their panels further reduces the need for artificial power. 

Due to their low environmental impact, they’re an ideal sustainable travel choice. Of course, Tom’s Creek Nature Domes’ owner-operators, Cardia and Lee Forsyth, know all this, which is why they have set up their one-of-a-kind Nature Domes experience for the modern traveller. It’s also no surprise to learn that owner Lee is an electrical engineer—experienced in renewable energy—and that he designed the whole set-up. As well as the off-grid power supply, rainwater tanks are used, and the outdoor hot tub is heated by a wood fire—your campfire heats up your tub water via a large metal coil. Like most places in regional Australia, the nights get cold – but rather than blast a heater, the Domes provide you with hot water bottles, warm blankets, lush robes and heavy curtains to ward off the chill.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

You’ll need to be self-sufficient during your stay at the Domes, bringing your own food. Support local businesses and stock up in the town of Wauchope on your drive-in (and grab some pastries and coffee at Baked Culture while you’re at it). There’s a stovetop, fridge (stocked as per a mini bar), BBQs, lanterns and mozzie coils, and you can even order DIY S’More packs for fireside fun. The interiors of the Domes have a cosy, stylish fit-out, with a modern bathroom (and a proper flushing toilet—none of that drop bush toilet stuff). As there’s no mobile reception, pack a good book or make the most of treasures that lie waiting to be discovered at every turn: a bed chest full of board games, a cupboard crammed with retro DVDs, a stargazing telescope (the skies are ablaze come night time). Many of these activities are ideal for couples, but there’s plenty on offer for solo travellers, such as yoga mats, locally-made face masks and bath bombs for hot tub soaks. 

It’s these thoughtful human touches that reinforce the benefit of making a responsible travel choice by booking local and giving your money to a tourism operator in the Greater Port Macquarie Region, such as Tom’s Creek Nature Domes. The owners are still working on the property following the setbacks of COVID-19, and flooding in the region —a new series of Domes designed with families and groups in mind is under construction, along with an open-air, barn-style dining hall and garden stage. Once ready, the venue will be ideal for wedding celebrations, with wedding parties able to book out the property. They’ve already got one couple—who honeymooned at the Domes—ready and waiting. Just need to train up the llamas for ring-bearer duties! 

An abundance of favourite moments come to mind from my two-night stay at Tom’s Creek: sipping champagne and gourmet picnicking at the top of a hill on a giant swing under a tree, with a bird’s eye view of the entire property (the ‘Mountain Top picnic’ is a must-do activity add on during your stay), lying on a deckchair at night wrapped in a blanket gazing up at starry constellations and eating hot melted marshmallows, to revelling in the joys of travellers before me, scrawled on notes in a jar of wishes left by the telescope (you’re encouraged to write your own to add to the jar). But I’ll leave you with a gratitude journal entry I made while staying there. I will preface this by saying that I don’t actually keep a gratitude journal, but Tom’s Creek Nature Domes is just the kind of place that makes you want to start one. And so, waking up on my second morning at Tom’s —lacking any 4G bars to facilitate my bad habit of a morning Instagram scroll—I finally opened up a notebook and made my first journal entry:

‘I am grateful to wake up after a deep sleep and breathe in the biggest breaths of this clean air, purified by nature and scented with eucalyptus and rain. I am grateful for this steaming hot coffee brewed on a fire. I feel accomplished at having made myself. I am grateful for the skittish sheep that made me laugh as I enjoyed a long nature walk at dawn and the animated billy goats and friendly llamas overlooking my shoulder as I write this: agreeable company for any solo traveller. I’m grateful for total peace, absolute stillness.” 

Off-grid holiday status: unlocked.

Where: Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, Port Macquarie, 2001 Toms Creek Rd
Price: $450 per night, book at the Natura Domes website.

Get the latest from Thrillist Australia delivered straight to your inbox, subscribe here.

Related

Our Best Stories, Delivered Daily
The best decision you'll make all day.