The 10 Best Free Events Happening in December

Where you can have fun on (less than) a dime this month

photo by david j. murray, clear eye photo
Enjoy holiday entertainment and festivities at Portsmouth's Vintage Christmas celebrations throughout the month.

1. Vintage Christmas, Portsmouth, December 1-31

With events all over the city all month long, Portsmouth's annual holiday extravaganza offers something for every budget — including "free." Check out the competitors in the gingerbread house competition, take in the tree lighting and illuminated holiday parade (12/3), or just do some window shopping at Portsmouth's varied and exciting downtown boutiques, all without spending a dime.

2. Midnight Merriment, Concord, December 2

Get in a practice run for your New Year's Eve curfew with this eventide event. In addition to paid elements like holiday shopping and dining, this annual fete from Intown Concord features all kinds of no-cost fun. Stroll through a newly revamped downtown holiday-scape, enjoy roving carolers, and stop by the s'mores-roasting and "elfie" photography stations for all of your foodie and selfie needs. (603) 226-2150;

3. The Franklin Opera House 4th Annual Festival of Trees, Franklin, December 2-4

There are plenty of Christmas tree festivals going on around the state this month, but this one might be our favorite. Held entirely inside Franklin's historic city-hall opera house, the festival features live entertainment all weekend long and displays of wreaths, holiday goods, and trees big and small. Admission is free, but the trees and other products will be auctioned off, so we'd advise bringing money for the raffle — proceeds benefit the Opera House's important mission of revitalizing Franklin's downtown. (603) 934-1901;

4. Tuba Christmas, Keene, December 4

Back off, holiday pops — Tuba Christmas is the instrumental event of the season. Participation in this quirky event is open to tuba and euphonium players of all ages and skill levels; players simply show up the morning of for a brief rehearsal before diving in. The resulting concert is a free and fun selection of holiday tunes from one of the jolliest instruments around.

5. Alumni Band of the New Hampshire National Guard Concerts; various; December 5, 19 and 21

The Granite State's veteran-and-civilian National Guard band will perform several free concerts in the Manchester area this month. Enjoy holiday favorites, patriotic tunes, and other crowd-pleasing numbers such as marches and show tunes. While admission is free, the band is partnering with Manchester's Liberty House veterans' home this season, so keep your eyes peeled for opportunities to donate. (603) 471-0248;

6. Santa Paws Holiday Open House, Stratham, December 8

What could be cozier than a night full of Christmas cookies, hot cocoa, and holiday cheer? A night of all of those things and kittens. That's precisely the recipe for this open house from the New Hampshire SPCA, so come on down to their shelter to meet some furry friends, snap a picture with Santa Claus, and see one of the state's finest charities in action. (603) 772-2921;

7. Military Appreciation Days at King Pine, Madison, December 16-24

"Free" is conditional for this ski resort promotion, but this week was too good a deal not to include. From the mountain's first day of the season until Christmas Eve, all active US military and their dependents and all retired US military personnel ski for free. If you count a vet or a military family among your loved ones, spread the word about this noble and wallet-friendly arrangement. (603) 367-8896;

8. Santa's Stocking Stuffer Craft Fair, North Conway, December 17-18

If you're still shopping for Christmas gifts a week from the 25th, you're likely to drop a few more than zero dollars at this last-second craft fair. But you know what costs nothing at all? Making a days-before-the-holidays artisan fair a spectator sport. Admission is free to this bazaar, so we won't tell if you're there to get a laugh out of some frantic procrastinating husbands rather than to window shop. (603) 528-4014;

9. UVMC Messiah Sing with Orchestra, Lebanon, December 18

Audience admission to this performance is free, so for music lovers who prefer listening to participating, this is a great way to catch a holiday favorite without making a dent in your holiday-season wallet. For performers, though, a $10 fee will earn you an even better perk — a spot in the show. This concert is "the more, the merrier" style, so singers and musicians are welcome to join the communal choir and orchestra for a low-cost, no-strings night of bringing Handel's "Messiah" to life. EventBrite

10. New Year's Eve Fireworks, Hampton Beach, December 31

End 2016 with a bang — or several. The state's favorite beach will host its final fireworks show of the year to ring in the New Year, so grab the family, bundle up, and welcome 2017 with a bit of explosive sparkle.

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