Holiday Spirit in Rochester cover

December Events: A Heartwarming Guide to Rochester’s Festivities and Traditions

It’s December, and Rochester is a picturesque winter wonderland filled with joyful melodies, glistening lights, and festive jubilations. As we navigate through the varied public celebrations and personal reflections, let’s not merely observe but take part, adding our own stories to the rich narrative that defines our community.

Rochesterians have a deep-seated nostalgia for midtown at Christmastime. Roc Holiday Village encapsulates the holiday magic in one month-long event featuring yuletide festivities, shopping, refreshments, and entertainment.

Our city becomes a stage where traditional holiday performances such as the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra’s Gala Holiday Pops, Rochester Broadway Theatre League’s The Nutcracker, and Geva’s A Christmas Carol enchant audiences and kindle the holiday spirit within.

The Little Theatre and Dryden Theatre screen classic holiday movies while live music is performed in halls and houses of worship.

Because December is the darkest month, we welcome grand displays of Christmas lights to brighten the night. Pack the car with snacks and hot cocoa, and sing along to Christmas carols as you drive around the area. It’s a magical time of year, full of wonder and joyful celebration.

So, wrap yourself in something cozy and step into a month-long celebration of love, togetherness, and the enchanting allure of the holiday season.

Best of Rochester - Day Trips Around Rochester book

Day Trips Around Rochester, New York

Best of Rochester Award-Winning Book for Best Published Literary Work of 2023.

Featured December Events

Skaneateles Lake Dickens Fest Sherwood Inn
Sherwood Inn in Skaneateles

Nov 24–Dec 24: Dickens Christmas. The World’s Smallest Parade kicks off this month-long weekend festival on Bright Friday (the day after Thanksgiving). The festival continues every Saturday and Sunday, leading up to Christmas. Charles Dickens and other characters can be seen roaming the streets, shops, and restaurants, greeting guests and spreading holiday cheer. Enjoy horse-drawn wagon rides around the village, caroling and plays at the gazebo, and chestnuts roasting on an open fire. Multiple venues, Skaneateles, Onondaga County, (315) 685-0552, skaneateles.com

Lamberton Conservatory holiday show lights in December and January
Lamberton Conservatory holiday show

Dec 1–Jun 14: Holiday Show at Lamberton Conservatory. Enjoy evening hours on Friday and Sunday nights until 9 p.m. to appreciate the holiday lights after dark. The show begins on the first Friday in December and continues through the second weekend in January. Note that Saturday evenings are reserved for weddings. Admission fee. 180 Reservoir Avenue, (585) 753-7270, learn more

George Eastman Museum Holiday Christmas Tree Display

Nov 11–Dec 31: Holidays at the George Eastman Museum. GEM is a gorgeous place to experience the joy of the holiday season. Besides the delightful Sweet Creations gingerbread houses, wreaths, and tabletop Christmas tree displays, Dryden Theatre offers a wide selection of festive films, including White Christmas on Saturday, Dec 23. Admission fee. 900 East Avenue, (585) 327-4800, eastman.org

Show schedule:

Dec 2: Little Women

Dec 7: The Muppet Christmas Carol 

Dec 14: Scrooge

Dec 20: To Be Determined

Dec 21: Little Women 

Dec 22: The Muppet Christmas Carol

Dec 23: White Christmas

Genesee Country Village in December
Genesee Country Village

Dec 2–21: Holidays at the Genesee Country Village. Experience the joys of past Christmases on a guided tour of the village. Meet families as they plan traditional meals, share stories, and prepare for the long winter. Take part in various December events, such as candlelit Yuletide in the Country Dec 2, 3, 8, 9, 10, 15, and 16, Holiday Afternoon Teas Dec 13, 14, 20, and 21, Breakfast with St. Nick Dec 16, and the Holiday Open House and Breakfast with St. Nick Dec 17. Admission fee. 1410 Flint Hill Road, Mumford, (585) 538-6822, gcv.org

Rochester Public Market Santa high-five
Rochester Public Market

Sundays, Nov 26, Dec 3, 10 from 8 a.m.–2 p.m. and Thursday, Dec 14 from 6 p.m.–9 p.m.: Holidays at the Rochester Public Market. This delightful tradition showcases vendors offering fresh trees, wreaths, decorations, specialty foods and drinks, handcrafted items, and more. You can enjoy music, carriage rides, and even see Santa on select Sundays. 280 N. Union Street, (585) 428-6907, cityofrochester.gov

Lights on the Lake workshop
Lights on the Lake

Nov 13–Jan 12, 2024: Lights on the Lake. The drive-through holiday light show at Onondaga Lake Park features a two-mile route lined with towering displays, a fantasy forest, vibrant arches, and a magical fairy-tale ending. Admission fee. 106 Lake Drive, Liverpool, (315) 451-7275, lightsonthelake.com

ROC Holiday Village in December
Roc Holiday Village

Dec 1–23: Roc Holiday Village. The festivities kick off on the first Saturday of December with the Main Street Liberty Pole lighting and a Santa-led procession to Roc Holiday Village. In the heart of downtown, the charming village offers a range of free holiday-themed activities and community events, including ice skating, live music, and a visit with Santa Claus. Visitors can also shop and dine in the village. Closed Mondays & Tuesdays. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park, 353 Court Street, rocholidayvillage.com

Dec 2: Sparkle. Held annually on the first Saturday in December, Sparkle is a joyful holiday experience transforming Historic Market Street into a Christmas shopping winter wonderland. The event features the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony, concerts, caroling, and horse-drawn carriage rides. 1 West Market Street, Corning, gafferdistrict.com

Dec 8–10: It’s a Wonderful Life Festival. This three-day festival celebrates the bond between Seneca Falls and Bedford Falls. Members of the original It’s a Wonderful Life cast, their descendants, and the public gather to enjoy film screenings, themed dinners, and cast signings. Fall Street, Seneca Falls, (315) 568-5838, wonderfullifemuseum.com

Dec 16: Rutabaga Curl, mid-December. Whether you are watching or hurling, this is a high-energy, comedically absurd event with Olympic-style pomp and circumstance. You’ll witness the torchbearer run in from Mount Cruciferous and hear the choir perform “Roo-tah-bay-gah” to the joyful melody of Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus.” 545 3rd Street, Ithaca, (607) 273-7109, ithacamarket.com

Dec 23: Carolcade. Bring a thermos of hot cocoa and join nearly 2,000 singers on Main Street in front of Vidler’s 5 & 10. 676 Main Street, East Aurora, (716) 652-8444, eanycc.com

Ops to Shop Locally

Dec 1–23

Roc Holiday Village
Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays

Dec 2

Dec 2–3

Dec 2, 3, 16

Dec 3

Dec 5

Dec 7, 14, 21 (Thursdays, 3–9 p.m.)

Dec 9

Dec 10

Dec 16

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Holiday Trains Rides and Displays

New York Museum of Transportation December trolley rides
New York Museum of Transportation

Nov 18–Dec 17: Arcade and Attica Railroad. Hop on the Wonderland Express and travel to the North Pole to spend quality time with Santa and his elves. Admission fee. 278 Main Street, Arcade, (585) 492-3100, aarailroad.com

Nov 25–26, Dec 2–3: Medina Railroad Museum. Experience the magic of The Polar Express™ as you journey to pick up Santa. Admission fee. 530 West Avenue, Medina, (585) 798-6106, medinarailroadmuseum.org

Dec 8, 9, 15, 16: Rochester & Genesee Valley Railroad Museum. The 1909 train station at Industry, 20 minutes from downtown Rochester, offers festive real Santa train rides to the North Pole. Visitors can enjoy a holiday atmosphere, complimentary hot chocolate, and cookies. Aboard vintage cabooses, you’ll journey through scenic forests and countryside. Upon reaching the North Pole, children meet Santa and Mrs. Claus and receive a candy cane from an elf. Suited for young children, the entire enchanting experience, including the train ride and Santa visit, lasts approximately one hour. 282 Rush Scottsville Road, Rush, (585) 533-1431, rochestertrainrides.com

Dec 9–10, 16–17: Medina Railroad Museum. The Medina Railroad offers a festive one-hour round trip to the North Pole on Santa’s Toyland Express, providing guests with a heartwarming journey filled with hot chocolate, cookies, and Christmas carols. Admission fee. 530 West Avenue, Medina, (585) 798-6106, medinarailroadmuseum.org

Dec 10, 17: New York Museum of Transportation. Start your day with a ride on the Holly Trolley and a visit with Santa. Then, explore the museum to find the two Midtown Plaza monorail cars on display. Admission fee. 6393 E. River Road, Rush, (585) 533-1113, nymtmuseum.org

Edgerton Model Railroad winter display
Winter

Edgerton Model Railroad. In December, the Edgerton Model Railroad is open for additional hours and offers free tours of its four season-themed model train layouts. 41 Backus Street, (585) 428-6769, edgertonmodelrailroadclub.com

Garden Factory December train display
Garden Factory holiday train display

The Garden Factory. Check out the magnificent model train display on weekends through mid-December and every day during the school break. 2126 Buffalo Road, Gates, (585) 247-6236, gardenfactoryny.com

Amans Farm Market train display holiday
Aman’s Farm & Market

Aman’s Farm & Market. The Stuhler Family Whyte Winter Village returns to Aman’s Farm Market annually. Be sure to visit us this holiday season and see this spectacular, one-of-a-kind display. 2458 E Ridge Road, Irondequoit, 585-544-8360, amansfarmandmarket.com

More December Events

Geva stage in December
Geva

City of Rochester

Sep 14, 2023–May 5, 2024

Nov 28–Dec 30

Dec 1

Dec 1–2

Dec 2

Dec 2, 7, 14, 20, 21, 22, and 23

Dec 3

Dec 7

Dec 7–10

Dec 8

Dec 8, 13, 14, 15, 16, 18, and 20

Dec 8–30

Dec 10

Dec 12

Dec 12–17

Dec 13

Dec 14

Dec 15

Dec 16

Dec 17

Dec 30–31

Dec 31

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Monroe County

Dec 1–3

Dec 2

Dec 2, 3, 9, 10, 16, & 17

Dec 3

Dec 4

Dec 7–23

Dec 9

Dec 17

Dec 18

Greater Rochester

Nov 24–Dec 31, Friday–Sunday

Dec 1

Dec 2

Dec 2, 3, 9, 10

Dec 10

Surrounding Counties

Nov 25 & 26, Dec 2, 3, 9, 10, 16, 17, 23, 30

Dec 2–3

Dec 7

Dec 16

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What are your favorite December events?

Your insights and experiences are valuable. Please share them in the comments.

Debi Bower, Day Trips Around Rochester NY

Debi Bower is the founder and creative director of daytrippingroc.com and author of the award-winning book Day Trips Around Rochester, New York.

People often ask me if I get free access to places while exploring. The answer is no unless I’m invited to previews or granted behind-the-scenes access as part of my media role. Generally, I don’t mention my project, Day Trips Around Rochester, NY, because I want the same experience you would have. I create and share content simply because it brings me joy. I would appreciate your support—a cup of coffee or two to help fuel future field trips—if you have found valuable information here that has helped you explore the Rochester area.

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