This East Coast Town Becomes An Old-Fashioned Winter Wonderland That'll Warm Your Heart

No matter your age, December can be a nostalgic time, stirring up memories of holidays past and childhood Christmas cheer. The traditional carols, the story of Santa Claus passed down from generation to generation, the holiday cookie recipe your family has followed for ages — it's hard not to look back fondly to the past when the holiday season rolls around each year.

If your heart craves a nostalgic, old-school Christmas, you might want to take a trip to Bath, Maine, this year. Bath is a tiny town of just 8,800 people, located along the East Coast about 40 minutes northeast of Portland by car. Despite its small population, the town is full of character, especially in the winter when the historic downtown area transforms into a hidden gem holiday destination. During December, Bath hosts a series of holiday-themed events and attractions that feel authentically old-fashioned — so much so that you might forget what decade you're in.

Bath's small-town holiday spirit is infectious

If it's been a while since Christmas felt as fun and jolly as it did when you were a kid, Bath will help reinvigorate your holiday spirit. The town's Yuletide season begins in late November when Santa Claus makes his yearly debut in the downtown gazebo, and carolers sing their first songs of the winter. Santa and Mrs. Claus also join in for Bath's annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony to officially kick off the holiday season.

From early December, you'll find other festive sights and activities suitable for the entire family. On Friday and Saturday evenings throughout the month, hop on the poinsettia-colored trolley for some Christmas caroling around the town. The ride is free and offers a unique area tour, perfect for both locals and newcomers.

Another Friday night event to look forward to is Bright Night Bath, an evening of family-friendly games and late-night shopping. The special evening is a great opportunity to soak up the town's Christmas lights but plan your trip carefully because it only happens once per season. If you're more of an early riser than a night owl, look out for Bath's annual Santa's Day festivities (including a wholesome breakfast with Santa at the town's local restaurants) and the charming Spirit of Christmas Craft Fair.

How to spend Christmas Day in Bath

Most of Bath's holiday events take place before Christmas, leaving December 25 as a day to be spent with family and loved ones. If you're in town for the big day, stay in a cozy short-term vacation rental or inn near the Bath Historic District (some local accommodations aren't available or fill up quickly around the holidays, so it's best to book in advance). Exchange gifts, snack on Christmas cookies, or just bask in the winter wonderland of Bath just outside your window.

When you're ready to venture outside, bundle up first — Maine is known for its white Christmases, so you might have to trek through a blanket of snow when exploring the town on Christmas Day. Though you likely won't find Santa or large groups of carolers, Bath is still bursting with Christmas cheer on the 25th with its festive decorations and jolly storefronts set against Front Street's quaint New England vibes.

If you'll continue your stay beyond Christmas, try to catch the final holiday celebrations on New Year's Eve. Bath hosts an annual Paul Revere Bell Ringing event to welcome the new year, along with the last carols of the season. Good news if you have children: You don't have to stay up until midnight to partake. The bulk of the festivities occur between 11:30 a.m. and noon, right in the heart of the town.