‘Tis the season when holiday activities in New Jersey are all aglow and plenty of festive fun is happening now and in the coming weeks. Whether seeing sparkling light displays, visiting the big guy in a new place, or shopping at a European-style Christmas market, these festive things to do 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 with holiday activities in New Jersey
The New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) in Newark, New Jersey, stands as a vibrant cultural hub and a prominent venue for world-class performances. This state-of-the-art facility, inaugurated in 1997, sprawls across 12 acres in downtown Newark. NJPAC boasts multiple venues, including the grand Prudential Hall, accommodating over 2,700 guests, and the intimate Victoria Theater, hosting around 500 patrons. Renowned for its diverse programming, NJPAC stages an eclectic mix of events, from classical concerts and Broadway shows to jazz, dance, comedy, and more. It is a dynamic platform for local artists and international stars, fostering cultural exchange and artistic innovation. This holiday season, NJPAC has a unique lineup of holiday programming, including The Illusionists Magic of The Holidays, The Nutcracker with The State Ballet Theatre of Ukraine, The Hip Hop Nutcracker, Cirque Dreams Holidaze, and Paw Patrol Live!. Beyond performances, NJPAC actively engages with the community through educational initiatives, offering workshops, masterclasses, and outreach programs to foster creativity and enrich the lives of individuals of all ages. The center’s striking architecture, coupled with its commitment to artistic excellence and community enrichment, solidifies NJPAC’s position as a premier cultural institution in New Jersey, drawing in audiences from across the region to experience the transformative power of the arts.
1 Center Street, Newark, NJ 07102
Get lit at one of the tree lightings in NJ
One of the best holiday activities to kick off the season is to watch a gigantic 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 visit Santa’s Village at Cape May County Park & Zoo. And, of course, you can expect a visit from the man in red, who officially lights up the night.
Take a ride to remember
All Aboard! Get on your holiday pj’s and get ready to take the ride of your life. Book a Santa train ride, sip hot cocoa, and give a list to the big guy all while riding over the river and through the woods. From The Polar Express Train Ride with Delaware River Railroad Excursions to DiDonato’s Magical Holiday Express—the whole family can get onboard with tons of holiday spirit.
Share your wish list with Santa
He’s making his list and checking it twice—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.
He’s back! Santa will begin welcoming children of all ages for visits and photos filled with holiday magic. Located in Center Court on the shopping center’s Lower Level, visits to Santa Celebration are happening now through Sunday, December 24. Capture the holiday magic with Santa amongst 25 garland-topped light curtains (each adorned with thousands of white, glistening lights) and candy-cane-inspired twists cascading above. The Santa Celebration will feature an authentic Kris Kringle perched in his grand velvet chair on an elevated platform behind his adoring guests. A bright and cheery red photo frame will sit in front of the famed wish-fulfiller proclaiming, “Holiday Joy.” Click HERE to make your reservation and for additional photo information and customer service. Reservations will be optional and limited to Monday – Thursday only. Presented by Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset.
Bridgewater Commons, Lower Level, and Center Court, 400 Commons Way, Bridgewater, NJ 08807
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.
This season, the American Dream has been transformed into a NEW Holiday Dreamland with a Santa experience, holiday shopping, new attractions, and festive events. Visit Santa at his new home, American Dream’s Holiday Dreamland, and snap your yearly Santa photo. Find a gift for everyone on your list with over 200 places to shop and dine, including 50+ new stores and 10+ new dining destinations with extended holiday hours. Stroll through American Dream’s snow-covered Winter Wonderland, and while you are there, you won’t want to miss American Dream’s many holiday events for the whole family, including Brunch with Santa, A Toys “R” Us Wishlist Workshop, HO_HO Holiday Fun At The Aquarium, Theme Skate, Winter Wonderland Night, and the LEGOLAND® Discovery Center Holiday Bricktacular.
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, visit a life-sized Gingerbread House and Santa’s Post Office at Anne Ellen Tree Farm, 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? Enter a sweet creation in 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 Vinter Wonderland at Renault for tractor rides, skating, and fire pits, or experience the stunning light displays and festive music 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 hearts 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 deed is too small and much appreciated during the holiday season.
Join us from November 24-December 23, 2023, as we light up the entire farm and celebrate in an Old-Fashioned Christmas kind of way. This year, we’ve expanded our footprint and added a walking tour and our new Polar Express Train. Of course, we will still have hayrides through our tunnel of lights, and on display will be our beautiful Christmas Village and Christmas Train displays. We will also serve old-fashioned hot chocolate, hot cider, baked goods, hot dogs, and soda as we show Christmas movies in our pavilion. Our Market will be loaded with gift-giving ideas for you to do some holiday shopping. All tickets will be sold on-site at the door. Make special holiday memories of your family enjoying the Spirit of Christmas. You’ll have peace of mind knowing all proceeds of the event go directly to supporting our rescued animals over the winter season—and for that, we THANK YOU. The event is open on Thursdays-Sundays from 4 PM – 8 PM, with Santa Claus visiting from 5 PM-7 PM. Admission is $6 for children and $10 for adults.
1923 Bailey’s Corner Road, Wall Township, NJ 07719
Experience all the holidays this season
With the first night of Hanukkah on December 7 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 to see Forces of Nature Dance Company: Kwanzaa Celebration 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.
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 the Drive Thru Holiday Light Show at Diggerland USA 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 dreamy 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 taking a road trip to a family-friendly resort decked out in all the finery and filled with lots of activities for the kids.
Photo Credit: Congress Hall
Celebrating its 13th season, Congress Hall, America’s first seaside resort, once again hosts the decked-out Winter Wonderland for Cape May’s iconic holiday season. The beloved tradition continues starting November 24, 2023, through January 1, 2024, with everyone’s favorite activities and decor. The festive lineup includes Congress Hall Carousel rides on the front lawn, Santa’s Workshop activities on Thursdays to Sundays —Christmas crafts, mailing letters to Santa, Storytime with Mrs. Claus, holiday cookie decorating—and the Congress Hall Express, a festive train ride that winds its way around the grand hotel’s picturesque lawn and veranda. Other holiday activities include the Vendor Village, complete with candy cane-striped tents and seven specialty stores, offering Cape May gifts, souvenirs, and curiosities, and weekend breakfasts with Santa in the Congress Hall Grand Ballroom, featuring a full buffet menu and photos with Saint Nick by the poinsettia tree. Visit Winter Wonderland online for more information or to book “A Cape May Christmas” Package or call (855) 290-8467.
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. Or head to a mall in NJ where kids can get distracted with lots of built-in entertainment while you sneak in some gift shopping.
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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