There are so many ways to be entertained this season, and we’re not talking about Blake Shelton’s holiday TV special. Musicians are belting out holiday jams, actors are channeling Charles Dickens and shopping districts are having rollicking block parties. Put down the remote and take part in the amazing arts and culture this state has on its agenda this month.
You can’t throw a snowball in Providence this month without hitting a holiday theatrical performance. The veritable stages at PPAC, the VETS and Trinity Rep are churning out high-quality Christmas classics as precisely as elves making toys in Santa’s workshop. We’re beyond #blessed to have this type of world-class entertainment within our reach, with a holiday entertainment calendar bursting at the seams to boot. But if a classic production is a bit too, well, predictable for your alt tastes, there’s no need to be a Scrooge about it. There are plenty of twists on traditional holiday fare for all of us, every one.
Take Festival Ballet’s The Nutcracker. Each year the prestigious East Side dance studio presents an elegant production of the holiday ballet at PPAC. But one way to make this viewing really unique is by reserving a seat for Clara’s Tea at Gracie’s on December 20. Guests get the rare opportunity to nosh on petit fours, sip on international tea and rub elbows with Clara and other Nutcracker characters. The Nutcracker runs from December 18-20 at PPAC, 220 Weybosset Street. Clara’s Tea at Gracie’s starts at 11:30am, 194 Washington Street. 353-1129.
So you probably know that Ebenezer is visited by three ghosts on Christmas Eve and (spoiler!) does a 180 by the end of A Christmas Carol. But do you know exactly how the set designers transform the downtown theatre to look like 17th century London? Get a behind-the-scenes look at how the set, lights and costumes all come together at Trinity Rep’s Lunch and Learn series on December 4 at 12pm. Bring a lunch, grab a free seat and enjoy the discussion. Lunch and Learn is free; register via firstname.lastname@example.org. A Christmas Carol is playing through December 31. 201 Washington Street. 351-4242.
What would those awesome sound-activated Christmas light displays be without the music of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra? Way less awesome, obviously. The over-the-top band certainly has a distinctive sound and look that can simply be described as Everything Big. TSO brings it when they play live, leaving fans fist pumping to the rock opera-style music while in a trance from the non-stop light shows. You, too, can have your face melted at their Ghosts of Christmas Eve concert, happening on December 16 at the Dunk. One LaSalle Square, Providence. 272-7337.
Don’t let the hustle of the holidays put you in a deep funk. Instead, get in theright holiday groove with the smooth stylings of Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis on December 4 at the VETS. Presented by FirstWorks, the Big Band Holidays concert promises to feature a jazzy and snazzy collection of old and new holiday standards sure to keep you in a swinging good mood. 7:30pm, 1 Ave of the Arts. 421-4278.
Play in the City
Providence really knows how to doll itself up for the holidays. From the old world Christmas feel you get from cruising through decked out Federal Hill to the modern bright lights of downtown (navigated by a dancing cop, no less), the City really shines bright in December. And there’s no time like holiday time to immerse yourself in the diverse neighborhoods that make up PVD.
Hope Street on the East Side is the city’s sweet spot where affordable local art, trendy styles and diverse dining happily co-exist. It’s also home to some of the best neighborhood parties, like the annual Hope Street Winter Stroll on December 3. Shops and restaurants get further in the spirit with fun activities and special deals, while street performers, food trucks and a Children’s Film Festival adds a fun element for small tikes. 4-8pm.
Downcity goes for silver and gold with their Celebrate Downcity extravaganza on December 5. Food trucks and vendors, along with the city’s indie cafés and restaurants, will serve up hot toddies, warm cocoa and roasted chestnuts to keep visitors toasty and merry. Saint Nick is making a visit, as is the Providence Flea, who’s hosting a pop-up vintage and handmade shop inside Aurora. What Cheer pumps up the holiday cheer on Grant’s Block with a DJ set of sing-a-long carols mixed in with beats by local musicians. And when it starts to get dark, Movies on the Block makes a winter comeback by screening a classic holiday flick. If you miss this party, you’ll be shaking off a case of FOMO for weeks. 10am-6pm.
Holiday Classics on Aquidneck Island
When you combine the graceful Island Moving Company with the grandeur of Rosecliff you always get a spectacular experience. The classically trained ballet troupe is returning to the Newport mansion for the 14th annual Newport Nutcracker at Rosecliff. The audience moves with the performance from grand room to grand room, following Clara and the Sugar Plum Fairies as they prance to Tchaikovsky’s timeless score. November 27-29 and December 1-4, 548 Bellevue Avenue, Newport. 401-847-4470
The award-winning children’s book by Rhode Island’s own Chris Van Allsburg comes to life on The Polar Express Train Ride. The first-class ride, complete with elves, dancing chefs and a personal greeting from the conductor, shoots up and down the Newport and Narragansett Bay Railroad for an hour and 15 minutes of good, old-fashioned family fun. Take note: this is the only time wearing pajamas in public is acceptable, so make the most of it. Through December 18. Departs from Green Lane, Portsmouth. 401-295-1203
No one does the holidays quite like the Preservation Society of Newport County. Christmas at the Newport Mansions offers guests an insider’s view into the glamorous “summer homes” of the Gilded Age’s rich and famous now through January 3. Gorgeous all year round, the Breakers, the Elms and Marble House get further decked out with displays of delicately decorated trees, wreaths and table settings that would put any Pinterest holiday board to shame. 424 Bellevue Avenue, Newport. 847-1000
Get a Selfie with Santa
The man in the big red suit does the rounds throughout the Bay this month, dropping in and stealing the show at a variety of community events. He can be spotted on December 3 when he swings by Blithewold Mansion for the annual Sing-Along with Santa. Classic songs will be sung, hot chocolate and cookies will be served and memories will be made as kids (and kids at heart) gather around Santa in the estate’s gorgeous living room. Reservations recommended. 6-8pm, 101 Ferry Road, Bristol. 401-253-2707
The Bristol Christmas Festival hosts its Annual Breakfast with Santa on December 6 at the Mt. Hope High School. Free for kids under five and just $5 for the rest of us, the morning will serve up hot pancakes with a side of arts and crafts, face painting, a magic show and of course a photo opportunity with the man himself. The event is part of a weeks-long town festival; see their Facebook page for more ways to get your jingle on. Breakfast served 8-11am, photos available 9-10:30am. 199 Chestnut Street, Bristol.
Enjoyed Decked Out Halls
Barrington gets a lot brighter on December 5 during the town’s annual Tree Lighting. The fun family activities start in the afternoon at Town Hall with screenings of children’s holiday movies, letter writing to Santa and a variety of festive arts and crafts projects. Next door at the Barrington Library, Ballet Prestige will perform scenes from the Nutcracker, while outdoor merrymakers can enjoy horse-drawn wagon rides, food trucks and a visit from Santa. As the sun goes down, student choral and theatrical groups perform on the Town Hall steps before the 5pm ceremonial tree lighting. Starts at 2pm. 283 County Road, Barrington. 401-247-1900
Leave it to artsy Tiverton Four Corners to put a creative – and sustainable – twist on tree decorating. The Third Annual Re-Tree Event showcases an eclectic display of trees created with recycled materials. Individuals and families can register to make a tree and be in the running to win the grand prize of $150 for best tree, or just come visit and be inspired by the unique exhibit. The event kicks off on December 12 with an opening reception, and runs through January 4 for your pre- and post- holiday viewing pleasure. Registration is due on November 30. Trees on exhibit on the Meeting House lawn, Tiverton Four Corners, 3850 Main Road, Tiverton.
Towns That Twinkle
Good, old-fashioned holiday cheer is what the Festival of Lights is all about. The celebration, which is celebrating its 30th year from December 3-6, lights up Wickford Village with thousands of white string lights as independently owned businesses get in the spirit with special offerings. Santa arrives by boat for an “only in South County” tradition, followed by hayrides and photo opportunities with the jolly man himself. The weekend’s festivities also include a breakfast with Santa, an elf parade, choral presentations, ice sculptures and so much more. Downtown Wickford. 877-295-7200
Downtown Westerly presents old-timey holiday charm at their 19th Annual Holiday Stroll & Luminaria on December 2. Candle-lit paper lanterns line the sidewalks for a scene straight out of a Lifetime holiday movie. Carolers sing, hot chocolate is served, kids take hayrides with Santa and local merchants offer spirited hospitality and special discounts. 5pm-9pm. Downtown Westerly. 596-7761
Songs on High
By now you’re probably already sick of Christmas music. With dedicated radio stations pumping out the stuff 24/7 since Halloween, it’s hard not to get all Scrooge-like when it come to holiday tunes. The Warwick Symphony Orchestra’s Joyous Sounds of Christmas is here to offer you a unique and more refined listening experience on December 13, 17 and 19. Enjoy holiday favorites masterfully performed by the local orchestra, and revel once again in the beautiful sounds of the season. 3pm. St. Kevin’s Church, 333 Sandy Lane, Warwick. 737-2638