When you think of Cape Cod, warm summer days on the beach might be the first thing that comes to mind. But come the holiday season, everyone is in the spirit, whether it’s enjoying dinner by a cozy fire, caroling by a lighthouse, or donning red speedos to dash through the snow.

Read on for 13 ways you can catch the Christmas spirit on Cape Cod.

1. Greet Santa Dockside
Orleans kicks off its Seaside Christmas celebration on Saturday, November 30th, with a pancake breakfast hosted by Mrs. Claus, followed by the arrival of Old St. Nick by boat at the Orleans Yacht Club.  In Chatham, Santa arrives by Coast Guard escort on Sunday, December 1; he’ll greet children at the Chatham Fish Pier before heading to the Chatham Community Center for a merry  meet & greet. Holiday revelers can next see Seafaring Santa on Saturday, December 6 when he sails into Falmouth Harbor (watch form the Flying Bridge Restaurant dock).

2. The Lobster Pot Tree
There is quite possibly nothing more quintessential New England than a Christmas Tree made entirely out of lobster traps. Provincetown’s Lobster Pot Tree is made using over 100 of them – all borrowed from local lobstermen – and is accentuated by 3,000+ LED lights and colorful buoys. The annual tree lighting tradition takes place Saturday, November 30 in Provincetown’s Lopes Square.

3. Chatham Christmas by the Sea Stroll
On December 13-14, downtown Chatham transforms into a winter wonderland; you’ll find homemade cookies, strolling carolers, horse-drawn carriage rides, Santa Claus at the Kate Gould Park bandstand, a tree-lighting ceremony and festive promotions at local shops.

4. Unique Holiday Shopping
Speaking of shops, Cape Cod has been named one of the country’s top places to visit during the holidays, and a quick stroll through any of the bustling downtown hubs will quickly show why. You’re sure to find a one-of-a-kind gift as you browse eclectic art galleries, charming bookstores, trendy boutiques, exquisite jewelers and charming stores both on and off the beaten path. 

5. “Elf: The Musical”
Elf, the story of a human raised at the North Pole who returns to New York City to find his true identity, has become a touching yet hilarious holiday classic. Harwich Junior Theatre presents a musical version of the film throughout the month of December that’s sure to put a smile on your face.

6. Train to Christmas Town
All aboard! Magic is in the air on the Cape Cod Central Railroad’s Train to Christmas Town, where passengers will sing carols with Santa’s elves over cookies and hot cocoa. When the train pulls into the illuminated Christmas Town, a special guest from the North Pole will come aboard to join the fun.

7. Cozy Inns
Nothing makes the holiday season more warm & welcoming than a stay at a quaint Cape inn or B&B. From antique farmhouses to historic sea captains’ homes – many of which feature luxurious amenities and fireplaced guestrooms - you’re find a warm welcome for a wonderful winter escape.

8. Grand Illuminations 
Gardens Aglow at Heritage Museum & Gardens in Sandwich celebrates the season with over nine miles of holiday lights. Stroll through the illuminated grounds, while also taking time to pose with Santa in a 1914 Ford Model T, take a ride on a vintage carousel, roast marshmallows, and participate in a reindeer scavenger hunt. For an unexpected extravaganza of holiday lights, drive around the Mashpee Rotary one evening on your way to the Mashpee Commons shops and eateries. Thousands of colorful lights twinkle at passerby; we guarantee you won't go around the rotary just once.

9. Parades
Falmouth has one of the state’s largest Christmas parades, featuring floats, costumed characters, marching bands, Clydesdales and plenty of Christmas cheer (Sunday, December 8). Mashpee’s Christmas Parade on Saturday, December 7th is sure to dazzle as the Cape’s only nighttime walking parade featuring colorfully lit floats. Also that evening is Hyannis’s highly anticipated harbor lighting and illuminated boat procession through Hyannis Harbor.

10. Festive Runs
The holidays are notoriously bad for the waistline, so combat the overindulgence with a fun 5k run. In Orleans, the Santa Stampede has more than 25 prize categories (including a costume contest) and takes place on December 7th. The Holly Folly Jingle Bell Run (also on December 7th) kickstarts the holidays as only Provincetown can, with participants donning either Santa suits or red bathing suits.

11. Holiday Pops
Get in the spirit with classic holiday songs, a Celtic Christmas celebration, and carols with the Chatham Chorale at the Cape Symphony’s Holidays on the Cape concert, which has become a beloved holiday tradition.

12. Dine Fireside
Escape the winter chill and enjoy a warm meal next to the glow of a fireplace. Dine on hearty fare by the dining room’s crackling fireplace at the Dan’l Webster Inn & Spa in Sandwich. The Roadhouse Tavern in Hyannis has two fireplaces to choose from, one in the lounge and one in the dining room; pair a selection from their extensive wine list to the sounds of live piano. At The Pheasant in Dennis, sit by the fire in the charming surrounds of a 250-year-old farmhouse and partake in locally sourced eats and top-notch hospitality. Or warm yourself by the hearth at Alberto’s, in Hyannis while you nosh on delicious Italian cuisine.

13. Caroling at Nobska Lighthouse
The Falmouth Holidays by the Sea weekend gets a rousing start with Christmas caroling at Nobska Lighthouse Friday, December 6 at dusk. There’s nothing quite like a rendition of “Jingle Bells’ as you watch the sun set over Vineyard Sound to get you in a festive mood.