It’s the most wonderful time of the year - and New York State is jam packed with festivities the whole family will love. Spend your December days exploring a winter village, stopping by the North Pole, and ringing in the New Year in Times Square. No matter what mother nature serves up this month, there’s no shortage of fun things to do in New York State!

Winter Village

Sleigh ride lakeside- Chautauqua Institution

The Chautauqua Institution is best known for its summer programming, but this year it opens its gates to unveil a winter wonderland. In addition to special vendors and exhibitions, the Winter Village showcases Chautauqua’s picturesque grounds and boutique shops, restaurants, spas, and other businesses in a celebration of the joy and fellowship of the holiday season. Kids will love the chance to visit with Santa, you can take the family for a sleigh ride in the snow. Chautauqua; weekends through December 31 (excluding December 22 - 24); free

Castle by Candlelight

Castle by Candlelight

Welcome the holiday season in the style of the 1700’s at Old Fort Niagara. This seasonal fund-raiser includes hands-on activities and interactive history demonstrations, including the "feu de joie" celebratory musket firing. The fort and its pathways will be illuminated by candlelight, and the French Castle will be festively decorated for the holidays by the Youngstown Garden Club using natural evergreen boughs, ribbons, flowers and ornaments. Tickets will be on sale from 6:30 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. and admission is $10 per person, available at the door. Visitors are encouraged to dress for the weather, wear walking footwear and bring a flashlight.Youngstown; December 3, 10; $10

Village of Lights at the North Pole

Village of Lights at the North Pole

The Village of Lights at the North Pole  is a magical way to get into the Christmas spirit. The park is transformed into a Christmas fantasy with something for the entire family. Enjoy caroling, roast marshmallows in the fire, visit the shops, feed the reindeer and put in that last-minute request to Santa himself. Lastly, don’t miss the Nativity Pageant presentation, set on the village hillside. December 3, 10, 17, 20, 21, 22, 23. 4:30 - 8pm, entrance closes at 7:30pm. Wilmington; December 3; $22.95

Taste NY Holiday Market

Taste NY Holiday MarketEnjoy an afternoon of holiday cheer at the New York State Museum’s third Annual Taste NY Holiday Market. Stroll through the halls of the museum while shopping and sampling food and beverages from dozens of vendors. Goodies on offer include hand-crafted beer, wine and spirits; cheese; chocolate; and apple and maple products. Cooking demonstrations will be held throughout the day and living historians will share recipes from the past. Sweet teeth take note: There will be a chocolate dipping fountain compliments of Price Chopper and We Do Fondue. Albany; December 3; $5 (cash only); Children 12 and under free

The Polar Express Returns to Kingston!

Catskill Mountain Railroad Polar ExpressDiscover the magic of Christmas with your kids on a train ride on the Polar Express. Wear your pajamas and expect your favorite characters to come to life as you are whisked away, hot cocoa in hand. All aboard! Kingston; Through December 28; Adults: $39, Children: $32

New Years Even in Times Square 

Times Square Ball Drop

Every year as the clock nears midnight on December 31, the eyes of the world turn to the dazzling lights and bustling energy of Times Square. As the famous New Year's Eve Ball descends atop One Times Square, an estimated one million people will be standing in Times Square, bidding a collective farewell to the departing year and getting excited for the year ahead. The Times Square New Year's Eve celebration features star-studded musical performances, balloons, confetti, a colorful pyrotechnic display and the chance to feel some majorly good vibes with about a million of your closest friends. New York City; December 31; free  

35th Annual Victorian Stroll

Athens Annual Victorian Stroll

Celebrate the holidays with family and friends at the 35th Annual Troy Victorian Stroll, the Northeast’s largest free holiday festival with more than 100 live performances throughout the day! While you're at it, there's still time to wrap up your holiday shopping at the more than 35 clothing, jewelry, and gift boutiques throughout downtown. And you can eat, drink and be appropriately merry for the season at dozens of cafes,restaurants and food vendors in Monument Square. Troy; December 3; free

Skate Rink at Empire State Plaza

Skate Rink at Empire State Plaza

The popular Empire State Plaza Ice Rink is open daily through March 12, and skating is free all season long! Located in the shadow of Albany's majestic State Capitol, amenities include a full-service snack bar on Friday nights and weekends, and a skate lounge with lockers. Rentals ($4, children under 12 $3) are available. Every Friday is Hannaford Free Skate Rental Day. The season will feature an assorted line-up of special events including instructional clinics, hockey exhibitions, and more. Albany; through March 12; free

Dickens Fest

Dickens Fest

Come December 2, the Village of Port Jefferson will magically transform into the Dickensian era with streets filled with roaming characters such as Father Christmas, Dickens Mayor, Scrooge and the beloved chimney sweeps. The 22nd annual Dickens Fest will feature festivities such as ice skating, choirs and a cappella performances. Don’t miss a chance to be apart of this literary event that will end its run with a Santa Parade. Port Jefferson; December 2 - 3; free

Candlelight Evening at the Farmer’s Museum

Farmers Market -candle lighting

Candlelight Evening at the Farmer’s Museum in Cooperstown is one of Central New York's most cherished holiday tradition. The museum takes on a magical appearance, decorated with greenery and illuminated by hundreds of candles providing the setting for caroling, sleigh rides, winter games, and wassail. Santa will be dressed in his 1840s costume, greeting visitors, telling stories as well as riding through the village on a vintage sled. Cooperstown, December 9;  $12, $10.50 age 65 and over, $6 children age 7-12, free for children under 7

Holiday Open House at The Rockwell Museum

Holiday Open House at The Rockwell Museum

Holiday Open House at The Rockwell Museum offers free admission for the kick-off to the holiday season. Enjoy authentic, un-plugged play with winter-themed activities in the Family Exploration Studio and explore the Gingerbread Invitational with a special Gingerbread Art Hunt for kids. Warm drinks and tasty treats will be free in the Museum Store, where you can also shop for unique gifts for everyone on your list.Corning; December 2 - 3; free

Corning's Sparkle festival

Corning Sparkle - Photo courtesy Finger Lakes Wine Country

This year marks the 43rd anniversary of the Corning's Sparkle festival and as with the previous years it’s full of holiday cheer! The town's businesses offer an array of fun family activities, including horse and wagon rides, a visit from a few of Santa's reindeer, shopping and dining promotions, and more! Corning; December 2; free

Winter Walk

Winter Walk

The Hudson Opera House presents the 20th annual Winter Walk. For one magical evening, thousands of area locals and visitors from throughout the region flock to our city to enjoy free, family-friendly festivities including a musical parade, live reindeer, a fireworks show, and hundreds of performers throughout town, including carolers, fire-throwing jugglers, and one saxophone-playing Santa Claus. Hudson; December 3; free

Oswego Railroad Museum

Oswego Railroad Museum

Oswego Railroad Museum is getting into the festive spirit presenting "Toy Trains & Christmas," featuring more than 40 years worth of of Hallmark train ornaments, and all kinds of toy trains. The Museum is open on Saturdays and Sundays. Oswego; through December 17; $2

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