Five Festive reasons to celebrate the holidays in Williamsport.
By Kate Rader • Photos by Mark Youngblood
“Christmas magic is silent. You don’t hear it–you feel it. You know it. You believe it.” – Kevin Alan Milne
Traditions. The holiday season kindles the spirit of magic in all of us. The twinkle of candlelight in the window. Familiar smells of pine and apple cider. Baking cookies for Santa. Trimming the tree with colored lights and cheerful decorations.
Communities across the region spread cheer with their traditions. Town square tree lightings, Christkindl markets, parades, festivals, and special shopping events bring people together. Named as one of Maryland’s “15 Christmas Communities to Travel to During the Holiday Season” in a post on Facebook by the Maryland Tourism Coalition, it’s plain to see that Williamsport believes in the spirit of Christmas.
Nestled against the Potomac River with a population of around 1,500 — It’s quite amazing how passionate the tiny town is about spreading holiday joy. Volunteers and town staff spend a considerable amount of time during the year planning Christmas festivities. In 2021, even the 84-foot U.S. Capitol Christmas tree made a stop at Town Hall on its way to Washington, DC.
Want to share in the holiday happenings? Here’s a countdown of ways to participate in the holiday spirit of Williamsport.
THE POLAR BEAR PLUNGE
The Town of Williamsport hosts its (mostly) annual Polar Bear Plunge on New Year’s Day, where hundreds gather at River Bottom Park to dive into the icy waters of the Potomac River and raise money for a local nonprofit—this year benefiting the Parkinson’s Foundation. Afterward, local businesses provide coffee, hot chocolate, and pastries to help take off the chill. Wear your favorite costume for the costume contest. Register to take the plunge at Williamsport Town Hall.
OLD-TIME CARRIAGE RIDES
Residents Brittany Arizmendi and Lane Routzahn organize traditional horse and carriage rides through Williamsport during the holiday season. The college friends bought a historic property that was once a livery stable where long-ago travelers parked their horses and buggies—naming it The Livery on Potomac. “We wondered how we could add to the “Hallmark” feeling of Williamsport at Christmastime,” Brittany says.
So, the women contacted Max and Linda Reid, owners of Triple R Livery, who agreed to provide their spectacular horses and antique carriage for the rides. Max, accompanied by his dog Dixie, drives the carriage through the streets of Williamsport, past the historic Springfield Barn, and through the display of lighted figures in Byron Memorial Park. Guests can sip hot cider and relax by the fire to complete the charming adventure.
Tickets are limited and sell out quickly. Visit http://theliveryonpotomac.com for more information.
THE HOLIDAY LIGHTS IN BYRON MEMORIAL PARK
This fantastical display stretches throughout Byron Memorial Park. Three-dimensional candy canes, structures, winter scenes, and even the Statue of Liberty light up the night sky. You’ll recognize traditional characters like Santa and his reindeer, trumpeting angels, and gingerbread men—and some nontraditional ones, too, like baby shark and a monster truck with huge wheels. A drive through the park will become a new family tradition.
THE WILLIAMSPORT CHRISTMAS PARADE
On December 2, high school bands and floats will accompany Santa in a horse-drawn sleigh through the streets of Williamsport and into Byron Memorial Park to light up the Christmas display. This well-attended event doesn’t end there though. Do some shopping or grab a bite to eat at one of the many stores and restaurants popping up around town.
THE CELEBRATION OF TREES AT SPRINGFIELD FARMS
Over 150 businesses, nonprofits, and individuals come together for this special event to decorate a Christmas tree as a memorial or in honor of a cause. Every year during the first two weeks of December, visitors can tour the Springfield Barn to view the magical display of trees, visit with Santa, and drink some cocoa. Each year, one tree is awarded the coveted title of “crowd favorite.”
This volunteer-run event is completely free for those decorating a tree and for the community to walk through the beautiful historic Springfield Barn. Visit the Events at Springfield Barn or Main Street Williamsport page on Facebook for information on decorating a tree and for the tour schedule.
From its fantastical light displays to its welcoming sense of community, Williamsport offers something special for anyone ready to celebrate the magic of the season.