Experience the best of the best with this Top 8 list of things to do and see in Portsmouth.
Walk through history and see Olde Towne’s origins and it’s continued evolution.
Plan for your visit and explore Portsmouth with the Visitor Directory.
Winter Wonderland: The Coleman Collection is a popular holiday tradition at the Portsmouth Arts & Cultural Center. However, a centerpiece of the collection resides just around the corner at Monumental Methodist Church. The Nativity Scene, because of it’s religious significance, was best housed outside a public building and separate from the rest of the collection. However, it remains a very important part of Winter Wonderland and visitors enjoy viewing it year after year.
Coleman’s Nursery crica 1980
Winter Wonderland began in the 1960s after the owners of Coleman’s Nursery, Floyd Twiford and the late A.J. Lancaster visited the New York World’s Fair and noticed a Pepsi-Cola exhibit of animated figures. Seeking a way to bring people to the nursery during slow winter months, the display generated an idea that grew from one sleeping, snoring Santa into a display of thousands of lights and hundreds of figures known as Winter Wonderland.
The Holy Family and Wise Men were purchased in 1966 from R.K. International for $3,500. The original figures were of latex and 1977 had deteriorated the point of requiring replacement. The donkey, camel, and sheep were purchased from David Hamberger, and are original.
Tragedy struck Coleman’s in 1982 on New Year’s Eve when vandal set fire to the nurseryAmazingly, the Nativity Scene was undamaged. Community supporters raised $22,000 to help rebuild Coleman’s. The Nativity Scene had its own wooden shed outside and everyone knew Coleman’s was ready for Christmas visitors when the little shed shone with lights.
Monumental Methodist Church 450 Dinwiddie Street
When the nursery closed, its owners retired. To keep the Winter Wonderland figures a Portsmouth tradition, the Portsmouth Museums Foundation purchased all the figures. The charming characters are on display each holiday season in the 1846 Courthouse, known now as the Portsmouth Art & Cultural Center. Monumental Methodist Church purchased the entire scene and created its new home because the scene could not be displayed on public property but was an integral part of the collection itself.
The Church members lovingly refurbished the figures with the help of museum staff. A special manger scene was built to fit the chapel and showcase the figures. For all these years, visitors return to enjoy Winter Wonderland and to walk around the corner to the church to view this very special Nativity Scene display.