Two Holiday Festivals Attract Thousands to the Nantucket Whaling Museum

26 Oct Two Holiday Festivals Attract Thousands to the Nantucket Whaling Museum

Nantucket may seem quiet now compared with the summer, but at Thanksgiving time the island really perks up as second-home owners and visitors arrive to celebrate the holidays.

Two big attractions are the Festival of Wreaths followed by the Festival of Trees at the Nantucket Historical Association’s Whaling Museum, right downtown. Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s the museum expects 8,000 or more people, said Stacey Stuart, special events manager.

“The Festival of Wreaths features an array of wreaths – often up to 90 – beautifully crafted by local businesses, nonprofits, schools, organizations, and individuals that are displayed during the week of Thanksgiving,” she said. “Visitors may bid on their favorite wreaths in a silent auction to benefit the NHA’s year-round outreach efforts. From traditionally decorated greens to unconventional materials, all of the entries in the Festival of Wreaths capture the creativity of Nantucketers.”

Museum doors are open at no cost to visitors during the Festival of Wreaths, so it’s a great opportunity to explore while bidding.

A subscribed wreath-preview party is on November 21. The actual bidding begins the next day and ends on November 26. (The museum is closed on Thanksgiving Day).

Almost as soon as the Festival of Wreaths ends, the Festival of Trees begins, continuing through the entire holiday season, said Stuart. A tradition that began in 1994, when the historical association celebrated its centennial, it features brilliantly decorated trees designed by community members, local merchants, nonprofit organizations, artists, artisans, and school children.

Beginning with another preview party—this one between 6 and 8 p.m. on November 30—the festival continues every Friday to Sunday through December 24. During Christmas week, the festival and museum are open daily except Christmas Day.

“It’s very exciting to see the island fill up again for the holidays,” said Stuart. “It’s all about tradition. There are quite a few events around the village, including the Thanksgiving Day Turkey Plunge, when participants pay to jump into the frigid harbor in a fund-raiser for the Nantucket Atheneum’s Weezie Library for Children.

“We encourage visitors from the Cape to come over,” she said. “There’s a tree lighting and Christmas Stroll, both sponsored by the Nantucket Island Chamber of Commerce.”

“For both the wreaths and trees, we emphasize creativity. We don’t tie people down with themes. They will be decorated with everything from photographs to beads to LEGOs.”

Stuart said some wreaths come from far away. “We have donors who live in California, Ohio, and Vermont,” she noted. “Many have summer homes here.”

If you plan to visit the Whaling Museum during the two festivals, there’s plenty to see including thousands of paintings, prints, drawings, baskets, lighting devices, scrimshaw, whaling tools and implements, furniture and decorative arts, historic properties and sites, plus the complete skeleton of a 47-foot sperm whale.

The museum was expanded in 2005 into a state-of-the-art exhibition and interpretation center, and is the essential starting point for visitors to begin exploring island history.

Some highlights of your visit should include:

  • A documentary by Ric Burns in this gateway film that captures the beauty of the island and explores Nantucket’s historical significance. Shown twice daily in the Whaling Museum’s main hall.
  • A Whale Hunt multimedia show, in which presenters use historic images, film footage, and objects in the museum to tell the story of Nantucket’s rise and fall as the whaling capital of the world.
  • The Discovery Room, where families and children of all ages are invited to explore Nantucket history through activities and crafts programs in our dedicated family space.
  • The rooftop observation deck, where you may enjoy panoramic views of Nantucket Sound and the town.
  • The Essex Gam, a presentation where storytellers tell the tale of the ill-fated Nantucket whaleship Essex, which was stove by a whale and sunk in 1820 in the Pacific Ocean and inspired Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick.
  • Daily gallery tours, where you will also learn about scrimshaw in the museum’s extensive collection, which exhibits items ranging from weapons to jewelry.

For more information about the museum, click here.

For the Hy-line Cruises schedule from Hyannis to Nantucket, click here.

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