Providence, Rhode Island is known for its thriving arts community, vibrant and diverse neighborhoods, outstanding hotels, and renowned restaurant scene, but in the wintertime the city becomes even more magical. With the Illuminate PVD program at the forefront, the city’s holiday programming, light shows, tree lightings, and festive art performances are in abundance. Check out our roundup below of the best upcoming events to ring in the holiday cheer in New England’s creative capital.
IlluminatePVD: Growing even bigger and better, Illuminate PVD is returning with the installation of oversized snowflakes projecting onto the front of Providence’s City Hall, as well as five-foot illuminated snowflakes adorned over 150+ light poles located throughout the city. Super-sized holiday ornaments, a variety of colorful lighting installations and video projection on city buildings along with tree lightings at Biltmore Park will add a festive environment for visitors to enjoy. In addition, the Biltmore Garage Bridge on Washington Street has a light display that changes every half-hour. The lights begin each night at dusk and will be on display throughout the season.
Annual Tree Lighting & Ice-Skating Rink: Taking place on December 2, the Christmas tree will be illuminated at Providence City Hall at 5:30pm with live entertainment and a festive holiday program. An additional holiday program will be held at the BankNewport City Center skating rink following the tree lighting, World Champion ice-skating performances will take place, featuring demonstrations by a cast of Olympic figure-skating medalists, including guest host and emcee Nancy Kerrigan, two-time Olympic medalist, and winter sports icon. FirstWorks will present international rebels on ice Le Patin Libre in three free performances of “Carte Blanche” at The Providence Rink – BankNewport City Center on Dec. 1 at 6 p.m., 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. After the last performance there will be an hour of public skating.
Holiday WaterFire “3 Nights of Lights”: Experience a holiday celebration of 3 Nights of Lights at WaterFire December 1st through 3rd. On Thursday the State House Tree Lighting and a WaterFire Basin Lighting will take place. The following night is the Providence City Hall Tree Lighting, with another WaterFire Basin Lighting. On Saturday, the final night, there will be a WaterFire holiday lighting event with a fully illuminated 12-foot Christmas tree, a visit from Santa, Santa’s village, holiday-themed food trucks, local artists, caroling, and a holiday toy drive benefiting Rhode Island families. All the WaterFire Basin Lightings will take place in Waterplace Park with a 4:30 p.m. lighting time; the fires will remain lit until 10:00 p.m.
Christmas on the Hill: Federal Hill is excited to bring back the charm and elegance of the holidays for two magical weekends with beautiful lights that will transport you back to a bygone era. The beautiful Rima lights were handmade in Europe and Federal Hill is the first in the United States to have these old-world cross street lighting pieces. Celebrate the holiday season with family and friends by strolling the Avenue to shop, dine and enjoy a drink. Watch Providence’s first Christmas Tree lighting, featuring the Mount Pleasant High School choir on Saturday November 26th from 2-6 p.m. at DePasquale Plaza. On Saturday December 3rd from 2-6 p.m. shops and restaurants take over the sidewalks of Atwells Avenue to create a European style marketplace. Carolers, holiday performances, trolley rides, and light displays will be present at both events.
The Graduate Providence Holiday Celebration: On Friday, December 2, The Graduate’s official lobby tree lighting will take place in conjunction with the City of Providence’s tree lighting after 5:30p.m. Hot chocolate and cocoa stations will be available for attendees along with live music and entertainment, including a performance from YouTube sensation and Rhode Island local Jenna Sousa.
Holiday Lights Spectacular at Roger Williams Park: Bring family and friends to experience Holiday Lights Spectacular – an annual walk-through experience just in time for the holidays. Featuring festive, larger-than-life dazzling displays, this year’s event is even bigger and brighter boasting more than 3 ½ million illuminated lights that transform the Zoo into a winter wonderland! Join us and ring in the season nightly from November 25 through January 1, 2023. Bundle up, grab an adult beverage, hot chocolate, or roast some s’mores and stroll through 40 acres of illuminated pathways. From radiant reindeer to sparkly snowmen, this is a must-see experience this holiday season. And for the little ones, Santa will be at the Spectacular on Friday nights in December through Christmas. The visit is free to families who have a same-night ticket for the 5 or 6 pm timeslot only. Holiday Lights Spectacular is open rain or shine. The experience runs from 5:00 – 9:30 pm. Tickets are timed entry and available for purchase online only.
FirstWorks Performance Film “Urban Carnevale” Screening: On Friday, December 2 from 5:00 to 9:00 p.m. a screening will be held of the FirstWorks Performance Film “Urban Carnevale” on the side of Trinity Rep building on the corner of Empire and Washington Streets, in Downtown Providence and online at firstworks.org. This free and open to the public event will feature Chachi Carvalho, Sidy Maiga and Oumou Sangaré, Nitin Mitta, Fidel Nadal, Natále, Nova One (Roz Raskin) and others.
A Christmas Carol This joyful and heartwarming retelling of the classic tale of Christmas past, present, and future details Ebenezer Scrooge’s journey toward redemption. Hosted at Trinity Rep from Nov 3 – January 2.
Festival Ballet Providence Presents ‘The Nutcracker’ – Starting on December 16, Festival Ballet Providence will be presenting “The Nutcracker” at The Vets. This charming and enchanting performance features young dancers alongside FBP world class resident artists. Experience this timeless tradition to be transported into a holiday wonderland.
Independent Retailers and Shops
While Providence offers the convenience of knocking off the gift list all under one roof with national retailers at the Providence Place Mall, located in the heart of downtown, the city is also known for its abundance of independent, locally owned retailers through streets and neighborhoods such as Westminster, Thayer, Wickenden, Wayland Square and Federal Hill.
Eating and Pampering Through the Holidays
Known for having one of America’s hottest and most celebrated culinary scenes, visitors to Providence can eat their way through the holidays with creative, chef-owned restaurants throughout the city, including its famed “Little Italy” of Federal hill and European feel of Wayland Square to name a few.
Providence also offers an abundance of hotel options ranging from national brands such as Hilton and Marriott to distinctive boutique style properties such as The Graduate, The Beatrice and new Aloft Providence Downtown. For more information, visit: www.goprovidence.com
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