‘Tis the season when holiday activities in New Jersey are all aglow, and there’s plenty of festive fun happening now and in the weeks to come. Whether it’s seeing sparkling light displays, visiting the big guy in a new place, or shopping at a European-style Christmas market, these holiday activities are guaranteed to put everyone in the spirit until the New Year. Scroll down to make a list of these holiday activities in New Jersey and check it twice for family fun—no bah humbug here. (featured photo credit: @themagicoflights)
Get set for fun during the holidays
Santa at Bridgewater Commons
Now through December 24
Ho, ho, ho—Bridgewater Commons is sponsoring the NJMOM holiday activities in New Jersey guide, and they have lots of exciting activities to spark joy this holiday season. Capture the holiday magic with Santa in the 25 garland-topped light curtains (each adorned with thousands of white, glistening lights) and candy-cane-inspired twists cascading from high above. Santa will be on his chair in grand style, inviting kids of all ages to share their wish lists for memorable moments and keepsake photos. This year, dress up with Santa during three different theme nights for joyful and unique holiday photos. From luau attire to ugly sweaters, there’s a theme night for everyone to join the fun where participants receive Santa’s magic sparkle 3D glasses and more—Luau Night: Wed., Nov. 30 – 4 PM to close, PJ Night: Wed., Dec. 7 – 4 PM to complete, and Ugly Sweater Night: Wed., Dec. 14 – 4 PM to close. Santa will also host sensory-friendly events to experience the time-honored tradition of a visit and photos with Santa in a quiet setting: Sunday, December 4: 10 AM to 11 AM and Sunday, December 18: 9 AM to 10 AM.
Bridgewater Commons, Lower Level and Center Court, 400 Commons Way, Bridgewater, NJ 08807
Get lit at one of the tree lightings in NJ
One of the best holiday activities to kick off the season is to see a big tree get a festive glow up. Make a date to attend one of the tree lightings that put on a big show, whether it’s a chance to glide across the ice before in Palmer Square in Princeton or take a carriage ride at the Holiday Jubilee in Somerville. And, of course, you can expect a visit from the man in red, who officially lights up the night.
Share your wish list with Santa
He’s here—Santa Claus is coming to a town near you, and this year, why not visit him in your not-usual place? Dress the family in their best and take a seat next to Santa on his grand chair at the Bridgewater Commons, drive Santa’s virtual sleigh at Santa’s Flight Academy at The Mall At Short Hills, or visit Santa by the lake at Johnson’s Corner Farm. And for a ride to remember, book a Santa train ride, dress in PJs, sip hot cocoa and give a list to the big guy.
Be mesmerized by the Sugarplum Fairy
The timeless story of the Nutcracker is a classic for all of the family to see. Watch Clara, the Rat King, and Uncle Drosselmeyer come to life right before your eyes at the Nutcracker this year. And if you are looking for a different kind of holiday treat, see a holiday performance at one of the many venues across the Garden State.
Discover holiday movie magic IRL
Cue the Hallmark movie—if you want to experience glittery lights, traditional decorations, and lots of charm made even better after a fresh snowfall, there are a few places in NJ that will not disappoint. From the Victorian delights of Cape May to the glittering lights of Smithville, these towns go all out for the holiday season and turn into a Christmas wonderland. Get lost in the Victorian age in Cape May with Santa’s Trolley rides, see a beautiful Festival of Trees at the Red Mill Museum in Clinton or take in the charms of traditional spots in Princeton for a Christmas village come-to-life experience. And what’s a Hallmark movie without gingerbread? Do like they do in the movies, and enter a Gingerbread House Competition to show off your decorating skills.
Soak up the holiday spirit at a winter festival
Bundle up and head outside to one of the many winter festivals where you can cozy up to a fire pit, shop for unique gifts, skate next to a twinkling tree, and sip hot cocoa among sparkling lights. Stop by the Dickens Festival in Smithville for an old-fashioned celebration, check out the Vinter Wonderland at Renault for tractor rides, skating, and fire pits, or experience the stunning light displays and festive games at the Christmas Light Show & Village at Skylands Stadium in Augusta.
Explore one-of-a-kind experiences
No matter what holiday you celebrate, the lights and wonder at Night Forms at Grounds For Sculpture’s exhibit is truly a masterpiece come to life—the interactive exhibits for all ages let you experience art in a whole new way. Or take a trip over the pond to Longwood Gardens for A Longwood Christmas, where you can see gorgeous light tunnels and trees decorated to the nines, warm up by blazing outdoor fire pits, watch miniature model trains rev their engines, and experience dazzling fountain shows.
Celebrate the season of giving
Warm up the heart of others and yourself during this giving season with charities in NJ. Whether you and your family decide to volunteer your time or donate to a cause, you can find a way to help those in need. Donate diapers and period supplies to a foundation like Moms Helping Moms or volunteer as a family to host a food drive. No matter how you decide to help others, it is always appreciated during the holiday season.
Experience all the holidays this season
With the first night of Hanukkah on December 18 and Kwanzaa starting on December 26, there are plenty of ways to celebrate the traditions all season. Watch the menorah lights come to life in Collingswood at their menorah lighting or feast, dance, and shop at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center Annual Kwanzaa Festival and Marketplace in Newark.
Illuminate the chilly nights
When the sun sets, bundle up to walk or ride in a winter wonderland of holiday light shows where the whole family will be in a merry mood. Don’t want to get out of the car? A drive-through Christmas display with decorated tunnels and trees, like the Magic of Lights in Holmdel, makes for a truly magical and memorable night.
Step into a nursery rhyme and get into the holiday spirit all at the same time with holiday activities in New Jersey. Photo taken at Storybook Land
Didn’t get to an amusement park this summer? You can catch one now decorated in all the holiday finery. Head to Six Flags Great Adventure for Holiday in the Park, drive through twinkling displays of lit-up construction vehicles at Holidig at Diggerland in West Berlin, or watch Santa wave his magic wand at Storybook Land in Egg Harbor Township.
Take a holiday road trip
If your family is itching for a getaway, book a few days in Cape May for a storybook holiday vacation. Spend the night at Congress Hall during their Winter Wonderland, book a breakfast with Santa, or shop for gifts at the charming downtown. Want a break this holiday season? Consider renting a cabin in NJ, where you can make your own old-fashioned fun.
Shop ’til you drop
Spend time looking for gifts at a winter market like those you’ll find abroad, where local makers, artists, and specialty vendors offer unique gifting ideas. Head to the Asbury Bazaar at the Convention Center in Asbury Park, which feels like a European shopping hall, or stop by the outdoor German Christmas Market in Augusta for an authentic experience. Don’t know what to get? We’ve highlighted the best local gifts this season to give you ideas for everyone on your list.
See the zoos after dark
A zoo after dark with lights? Yes, please. Take a winter stroll at the Turtle Back Zoo for their Holiday Lights Display with over 50 winter and animal characters. Head to the Bergen County Zoo for a Let It Glow Holiday Lantern Spectacular with a train ride and glowing lights. Or stop by the Cape May County Zoo for their tree lighting. And if fuzzy, soft creatures are more your speed, pose for cozy pics with gentle alpacas dressed for the holidays at one of the alpaca farms in NJ.
What holiday activities in New Jersey are you planning this season?
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