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North Fork Christmas tree lighting

Annual Tree Lighting Credit: Katharine Schroeder

From Thanksgiving weekend through the New Year, there’s no shortage of activities, family gatherings and community events to keep us busy. But all those obligations can leave us craving some downtime with our families to enjoy old traditions, or even make new ones.

If you make the time, you will rediscover the little wonders of the season that bring us together.

We’ve selected five family-friendly experiences that will create that holiday magic, North Fork style.

Santa’s Christmas Tree Farm

Santa's Christmas Tree Farm, Cutchogue
Credit: Northforker file photo

30105 Main Road, Cutchogue
(631) 734-8641

Celebrating with a Christmas tree that you and your family chose, cut, brought home and decorated is one of the best traditions to share. Santa’s Christmas Tree Farm in Cutchogue is one of many places offering cut-your-own Christmas trees and more. Its gift shop of more than 2,500 square feet is filled with handmade wreaths, kissing balls, swags, custom gifts, decorations, ornaments, collectibles and more — plenty to fill an entire day out. More important, the hidden magic is in the details. They will transport you to their own North Pole in Cutchogue for a unique Santa meet-and-greet.

Starting Friday, Nov. 25, and continuing every weekend until Christmas, Santa will be available for photos from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. There will be face painting, balloon making, hayrides and samples of hot, spiced apple cider – all complimentary. Also available for purchase, with free refills, are hot chocolate with whipped cream for $1 and popcorn for $2. If meeting Santa Claus isn’t enough, they also have live deer to feed and take photos with. There’s no shortage of holiday cheer at this location for both kids and adults. Plan to visit for the day. (They encourage tailgating and tossing the football, too!)

Gingerbread University

Gingerbread University
Matt Kenneally of Wading River helps son Dylan, 3, decorate his gingerbread house. (Credit: Monique Singh-Roy)

3225 Sound Avenue, Riverhead
(631) 727-7309

Nothing could be better at infusing holiday spirit into family outings than the sweet smell of gingerbread in the air. Add in the creative challenge of decorating your very own gingerbread house and you’ll be humming “Jingle Bells” in no time! We recommend reserving a spot for your family at Gingerbread University, located just across the deck from Lobster Roll Northside on Sound Avenue in Riverhead.

You’ll enjoy a festive atmosphere while you turn your house into your own merry masterpiece with sugar icing and candies. They offer kits for $34.95 that include a pre-constructed house, icing (for the glue) and assorted candy. You can purchase additional decorations as well. There are also themed jumbo cookies if you’d like to add to the experience.

The best part about completing this project is taking home a decorated, yet edible, piece that you all worked on together. Delicious!

The Polar Express Trolley Ride

North Fork Trolley Polar Express
The North Fork Trolley’s Polar Express. (Credit: Courtesy photo)
Departing from The All Star, 96 Main Road, Riverhead
For schedules, ticket information and reservations visit

The North Fork Trolley Company helps bring to life this classic children’s story about believing in the magic of Christmas.

As passengers on the Polar Express Trolley, you and your family will interact with a character from the movie and listen to a reading of the book. After heading north, you’ll arrive at the “North Pole” to visit with Santa and his elves. Hot cocoa and cookies are served and pajamas are a must for everyone on board during this special outing. (Yes, Mom and Dad, that means you, too!)

The Polar Express starts its journey Friday, Nov. 25, and runs every weekend. Daily trips begin Thursday, Dec. 15, and continue through Friday, Dec. 23, with departure times throughout the afternoon and evening.

Get in the spirit on Love Lane

Love Lane Christmas
Love Lane at Christmas. (Credit: Vera Chinese)

Love Lane, Mattituck

Mattituck’s quaint and nostalgic Love Lane, decorated for Christmas with sparkling strings of lights on trees and in storefront windows, is sure to create a special memory for you and the family. Take a simple stroll along the sidewalk and visit the boutique shops, then add a stop at Love Lane Kitchen for a meal. The restaurant offers a menu of delicious seasonal choices for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Don’t forget the hot cocoa or cappuccino!

There are shops to suit a range of gift-giving needs, but we specifically recommend a little holiday sweetness from Love Lane Sweet Shoppe. Then sample some artisan cheese at The Village Cheese Shop to select special additions for your dinner gatherings. And pick up the Christmas Eve antipasta at Lombardi’s Love Lane Market.

North Fork Village Tree Lighting Events

North Fork Christmas tree lighting
Credit: Katharine Schroeder, file photo

Various locations

The North Fork has often been referred to as bucolic and, especially during the holiday season, there’s no doubt that its towns and hamlets depict country living at its finest. Join in and spread a little cheer at one of the scheduled tree lighting events, featuring caroling, refreshments, local artists and merchants, Toys for Tots drop locations, a visit from Santa Claus and more. You’ll find details on these specific happenings throughout the North Fork in our holiday calendar of events.