It’s Thanksgiving week, and you know what that means—it’s time for the official kick-off to the holiday season with lots of family-friendly activities over the long weekend. Get into the spirit of Christmas past at the Holiday Dickens Fest in Smithville, see the festival of trees at the Winter Village at Red Mill Museum in Clinton, or shop for gifts, watch the tree light up and get a glimpse of the big guy at the Long Branch Bazaar and Tree Lighting at Pier Village. And for more family fun, check out Christmas Tree Farms in NJ and find more ideas of what to do over the long Thanksgiving Weekend.
Featured Photo Credit: taken at Pier Village, Long Branch
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(Note: Since COVID-19 rules and regulations are continually changing, it’s best to check ahead for in-person events)
Holidig Drive-Thru Light Show at Diggerland
Starting November 17
Take a drive through America’s only construction theme park and enjoy the lights, tunnels, holiday displays, and more. Don’t forget to tune into Diggerland USA’s radio station and get the whole family to sing along to holiday favorites.
Cost: $29.95; priority will be given to online purchases
Diggerland USA, 100 Pinedge Drive, West Berlin, NJ 08091
Christmas Light Spectacular at Allaire Community Farm
November 18-December 30
Take a holiday hay wagon ride around the farm while taking in the twinkling holiday lights. Hayrides leave promptly according to ticket time, and you must purchase tickets in advance. Poinsettias and hanging trees will be available for purchase, as well as snacks.
Cost: Prices start at $15
1923 Baileys Corner Road, Wall Township, NJ 07719
South Jersey Holiday Light Show
November 19-December 30
Get in the festive spirit at this drive-through holiday light show that features dozens of dazzling displays and scenes that celebrate everything your family loves about this season. Pack a snack and turn on the car radio to a station that syncs the light show with holiday tunes as you drive among the twinkling lights on the mile-long route.
Cost: $25 per car; tickets must be purchased in advance
Bridgeport Speedway, 83 Flood Gate Road, Swedesboro, NJ 08085
Turtle Back Zoo Holiday Lights Spectacular
November 19-December 31, select dates
Grab your winter coat and get ready to stroll through the Essex County Turtle Back Zoo to see over 50 winter and animal characters. The event will feature weekend Santa visits, a train, carousel, reptile house, aquarium, and Essex Farm and Pony rides.
Cost: Donation recommended
560 Northfield Avenue, West Orange, NJ 07052
Old Fashioned Christmas Cape May
November 19-January 2
Get into the spirit of Christmas in Victorian Cape May? The seaside town becomes a Dickens village with fresh garland, twinkling gaslights, and more for the holidays. Get into the holiday spirit and sample a variety of fun tours and events.
Cost: Prices vary per event
1048 Washington Street, Cape May, NJ 08204
Magic of Lights New Jersey
November 19-January 2
Strike up a holiday mood by seeing a dazzling holiday light display entirely from the comfort of your car. Set your radio to their light show station, and then enjoy festive music as you drive through a merry arrangement of Christmas lights, trees, and decorations that will surely put your whole crew in the holiday spirit.
Cost: $25 per car if bought in advance, $30 per car at the gate
PNC Bank Arts Center, 116 Garden State Pkwy, Holmdel, NJ 07733
2nd Annual Winter Wonderwalk
November 19–into winter 2022
Wrap yourself in the warmth of the holiday season as the grounds of Cape May’s only Victorian House Museum. The Emlen Physick Estate will be lit up and glowing. Join the Winter Wonderwalk to walk the grounds and view these fun and whimsical display of winter’s past. And continue the festivities by walking along the streets of Cape May’s decorated homes.
Cost: Free admission to the grounds
1048 Washington Street, Cape May, NJ 08204
The Santa Express and the Starlight Santa Express
November 20-December 22 and for Starlight, Friday evenings, December 10-25, and Wednesday, December 22
The Seashore Lines will take you on a historic, comfortable, fun train ride with the big man himself. The 75-minute round-trip ride will feature Santa and his helpers, onboard entertainment, and snack service on the First Class cars. You can hop on board at either Richland Village or Tuckahoe Village, and The Starlight Express includes the same, but the magic happens at night.
Cost: prices starting at $23.95
Richland Village- 1272 Harding Highway, Richland, NJ 08350
Tuckahoe Village- Reading Avenue and Railroad Avenue, Tuckahoe, NJ 08250
Christmas Light Show & Village
November 20-January 3, dates and times vary (check ticket schedule for full details)
Drive through a beautiful exhibit that twinkles with over two million dazzling lights: Your littles will be amazed by all the sparkle and shine on this mile-long course. The displays include two light tunnels, a wreath arch, skating bears, and more. Afterward, head to the village to spot Santa, go ice skating, dine on hot cocoa and s’mores, and play lots of festive-filled games.
Cost: $29 per car; tickets must be purchased online and in advance.
Skylands Stadium, 94 Championship Pl., Augusta, NJ 07822
Skating on the Square Princeton
November 20-February 27, select days
Lace-up and skate on a synthetic skating rink under twinkling lights outdoors in the Princeton downtown. Bring your skates or borrow skates (included in the ticket price). Tickets are only sold at the door; there are no reservations. All skaters must sign the electronic waiver to be eligible to participate.
Cost:$10 cash per person/ $12 +fees with credit card
40 Nassau Street, Princeton, NJ 08542
What could be better than gliding along a beautiful skyline? Jersey City’s only outdoor skating rink is open for skaters of any level to enjoy stunning views of the New York City skyline. Online ticketing is available, and Newport Skates offers private lessons and party packages as well.
Cost: $8 (Newport residents get half-price admission) skate rental $7.95
River Drive S, Jersey City, NJ 07310
Head out to Diggerland for the diggers and stay for the Winterfest fun. The whole family can spend the day operating all the fantastic machines while enjoying live music, the famous Parade of Machines, specialty food, hayrides, and fun and games. Of course, you’ll get to celebrate all things winter with Photos with Santa, a Candy Cane Hunt, Fire Truck rides, and more.
Cost: $44.95 per ticket
100 Pinedge Drive, West Berlin, NJ 08091
Christmas Fantasy with Lights
Now-December 30, dates and times vary
The magic of Christmas has taken over Storybook Land for one of the most unforgettable light shows in NJ. Santa Claus is ready to wave his magic wand and light the park with over one million lights for the holiday season. Your littles will love seeing the park glow after dark, as well as be thrilled to go on rides and attractions (all open at night) during this magical time.
Cost: $26.95 per person if bought in advance, $29.95 per person at the door.
Storybook Land, 6415 Black Horse Pike (Routes 40/322), Egg Harbor Township, NJ 08234
DiDonato’s Magical Holiday Express
Hop aboard a train ride through millions of Christmas lights with a meet and greet with Santa and his elves in his workshop. Don’t miss the Holiday Movie tent and take a photo with your favorite snowman and the Toy Market and Walkthrough Holiday Village.
Cost: 12 months and younger are free, $17.95 online, $19.95 at the door, there is a discount after December 26
1151 South White Horse Pike, Hammonton, NJ 08037
The Polar Express Whippany
Punch your golden ticket and get all aboard The Polar Express. Experience the magic of The Polar Express and take a one-hour trip to the North Pole with the whole family. Experience the sites and sounds of the motion picture while enjoying hot chocolate, Walkers’ Shortbread, storytime, and a silver sleigh bell surprise too.
Cost: $48 and up
1 Railroad Plz., Whippany, NJ 07981
Holiday in the Park Six Flags Great Adventure
Get ready to experience your favorite amusement park in a festive way that puts you in the holiday spirit. Hope on the Ferris wheel, ride a coaster or take a spin on the carousel, all while being surrounded by glittering lights. There will be shows, rides, food, and of course, beautiful holiday displays along with the arrival of Santa.
Cost: $24.99 and up
1 Six Flags Blvd., Jackson, NJ 08527
Holiday in the Park Drive-Thru Experience
Now through January 9, select dates
Six Flags Great Adventure is also hosting its drive-through lights show again so you can experience the magic from the comfort of your car. Ten immersive scenes include the Jolly Jamboree with live entertainment and the new Merry Market Place Walk-Thru Experience. And make sure your kiddos keep an eye out for Santa and Mrs. Claus.
Cost: $14.99 per person, reservations required.
Six Flags Great Adventure, 1 Six Flags Blvd., Jackson Township, NJ 08527
Smithville Holiday Light Show On The Lake
November 25-January 6
Over 120 Christmas Trees with over 50,000 Christmas lights float on Lake Meone in the center of Historic Smithville. When darkness falls, an orchestrated show of lights and music plays across the lake. The show can be seen from either side of the village as well as the bridge.
Historic Smithville, 615 E. Moss Mill Rd., Smithville, NJ 08205
November 26-January 7
Save 25% on Wild Passes, ticket cards, water park admission, and more. Try the classic signature Wild Pass for unlimited summer fun for $300, the Wild Water Park Pass, a pass for water park admission only, the Multi Visit Pass, a pass that entitles the holder to (4) visits during the 2022 season, or more.
Boardwalk, Wildwood, NJ 08260
Winter Wonderland at Van Saun Park Paramus
Take the Bergen Express Train Ride, the Carousel, Ice Skating, and more. There are also kids’ activities, a beginner rink, food trucks, and Santa Claus.
Cost: $10 and up
216 Forest Avenue, Paramus, NJ 07652
Starting November 26
Celebrate a successful harvest at Renault Winery by gathering with loved ones, savoring the season, and creating new memories. This season, there’s something for everyone from ice skating to culinary and wine to local artisans and live entertainment. There will also be horse-drawn carriage rides, local vendors, and a community food drive. Don’t miss the fun extras like the fire pit experience, champagne bubble-igloo experience, cabana experience, and the rink-side fire pit experience.
Cost: Prices vary per event
72 Bremen Ave., Egg Harbor City, NJ 08215
Avalon’s Festive Friday, Santa Lights at Dune Drive, and Avalon’s Drive-in Movie
November 26 from 11 AM-4 PM, Santa Lights at 4:30 PM, Drive-In Movie at 6:30 PM
Embrace the holiday season with Festive Friday, featuring more than 40-holiday activities for the entire family to enjoy. There will be live music, children’s performances, and head over to Dune Drive at the end of the day for a special appearance by Santa during the 2nd annual Santa Lights Dune Drive parade. After the official nod from Santa to start the holiday lights, cozy up for a showing of “Home Alone!” at the drive-in.
Dune Drive and 80th -8th Street and 29th Street Parking Lot, Avalon, NJ 08202
Barnegat Light Tree Lighting and Santa’s Viking Christmas Village
November 26 at 6:30 PM and November 27 from 10 AM-4 PM
Santa arrives on the fire truck to light the “Borough Christmas Tree” and will be ready to greet visitors at the First Aid Squad building. Then on November 27, there will be live music, local artists, and crafters. Local shops will be open from 10 AM- 5 PM. Santa will arrive by fire truck at 1 PM and will be available for visits and pictures.
19th and the Bay, Barnegat Light, NJ 08006
29th Annual Town Lighting & Holiday Express Concert in Red Bank
November 26, Santa and Mrs. Claus Parade – 6:45 PM, Holiday Express Concert – 7 PM, Tree Lighting – 8 PM
The most magical day in Red Bank, this 29th annual event is one you won’t want to miss. Start the day shopping on Broad Street, followed by a fun parade from Monmouth to Broad Street, a Holiday Express concert, and the tree lighting. There will be tons of refreshments, photo ops, and so much more.
Broad Street, Red Bank, NJ
Horse and Carriage Rides
The Asbury shopping district in Ocean City will transform into a “Miracle on Asbury Avenue,” celebrating the holiday with decorated shops and special holiday offers. There will also be free horse and carriage rides throughout the downtown and much more.
6th and Asbury Avenue, Ocean City, NJ 08226
Stone Harbor Holiday Weekend
Watch a pet parade, join in a scavenger hunt, experience family activities, enjoy a merchants’ hospitality night, partake in Small Business Saturday activities, and don’t miss the Christmas Parade too.
Stone Harbor, NJ 08247
The Polar Express with the Delaware River Railroad Excursions
November 26, 27, 28 and December 3, 4, 5, 10, 11, 12, 13, 17, 18, 19
If your kids want to be the stars of their favorite holiday movie—this one is for your family. Inspired by the film and the award-winning book by Chris Van Allsburg, this holiday favorite comes to life as you and your family take a ride on The Polar Express. Set to the sounds of the Polar Express, kids can sing along with roaming hobos, watch a Juggling Chef, spend time with Santa, and receive a silver bell. And to make it truly authentic, don’t forget your PJs for the ride.
Cost: $32 per child and $42 per adult
100 Elizabeth Street, Phillipsburg, NJ 08865
Meet Father Christmas, shop in a craft market, take a horse-drawn carriage ride. You can even role-play with Charles Dickens and Scrooge.
Clinton, NJ 08809
Winter Village at The Red Mill Museum
This three-day event is an annual tradition that is fun for the whole family. Complete with over 40 local craft artisans, activities and food trucks, this is the perfect way to get into the holiday spirit. There’s also a beautiful Festival of Trees with decorated trees and wreaths along with 12 gorgeously decorated historical buildings that you can tour and enjoy.
Red Mill Museum, 56 Main St, Clinton, NJ 08809
Light Show on the Lake
November 26-December 23
Gather ’round the fire pits at Johnson’s Corner Farm’s Discovery Barnyard to roast marshmallows and watch the lake light up in this breathtaking display. Be sure to hop on the Christmas “Light Show” Hayride to see more of the farm lit up for the holidays.
Cost: $6.95 and up
Johnson’s Corner Farm, 133 Church Rd., Medford, NJ 08055
Creamy Acre Farms Night of Lights
November 26-December 24, select dates
Drive through a dairy farm transformed into a Christmas Wonderland filled with huge light displays, a Musical Dancing Tree light show, and lights everywhere. Bring the family for an old-fashioned hayride while listening to all your favorite Christmas songs or stroll through our Barnyard Walk with lights a glow. There will also be concessions, a country store, and fire pits.
Cost: $30 per vehicle
448 Lincoln Mill Road, Mullica Hill, NJ 08062
The Winter WonderLights
November 26-January 2
New Jersey’s largest animated holiday light show drive-thru will dazzle your whole family. Over 1.5 million lights will dance to your favorite holiday music. The trees, the 200′ tunnel, and a tribute to first responders are just a sample of what you will see on the half-mile drive.
Cost: $27 per car or $100 season pass per car; guests are encouraged to buy their tickets online.
655 Cranbury Road, East Brunswick, NJ 08816
Thomas Sweet’s Holiday Village
November 26 to January 3
Stop by Thomas Sweet Chocolate for their annual Winter Village, a miniaturized winter scene in the store windows. You can gaze upon this gorgeous lit village for the entire holiday season. While you’re there, go skating on the square, or enjoy the beauty of the Christmas tree.
Thomas Sweet Chocolate, 29 Palmer Square West, Princeton, NJ 08542
Fanwood’s Famous Christmas House
November 26-January 8 from dusk to 10 PM
See over 30,000 lights at Fanwood’s Famous Christmas House, which has twinkling displays and a light show every evening. Donations will be accepted for the NJ Institute for Disabilities.
Cost: Donations are appreciated
82 Paterson Road, Fanwood, NJ 07023
Collingswood Holiday Parade
Bring the whole family out to watch seasonal entertainment, marching bands, dancers, holiday characters, giants on stilts, floats, mummers, sports mascots, and live music too. The parade begins on Zane Avenue and will continue to West Linden Avenue.
Haddon Avenue, Collingswood, NJ 08108
Holiday Parade on Spring Street Newton
November 27 at 10 AM
It’s the 50th anniversary of the Spring Street Parade in Newton. This year’s theme will be an Old-Fashioned Christmas, and Santa will be a part of the parade. Nearby shops and restaurants will be open after the event. Cost: Free
Spring Street, Newton, NJ 07860
Annual Swedesboro Christmas Parade and Tree Lighting
November 27 Parade at 1 PM and Tree Lighting at 6:30 PM
Kick-off the holiday season with a parade featuring floats and community and performing groups. Stick around for the tree lighting at 6 PM, and then join in the festive Christmas Caroling.
Kings Highway, Swedesboro, NJ 08085
Holiday Dickens Fest
November 27 at 1 PM and 7 PM and November 28 at 1 PM
The Riddlesbrood Touring Theatre Company will bring the Spirit of Christmas back to Historic Smithville when they return to present their two-day outdoor “Dickens Fest” with interactive singing for all ages. There will also be holiday-themed art, artistry, and collectibles show. Admission to “Dickens Fest” is free and parking is free.
Historic Smithville, 615 E. Moss Mill Road, Smithville, NJ 08205
Santa’s Tree Lighting Celebration
November 27 from 3 PM-6 PM
Head down to Cape May for this celebration will include live holiday music by the John Walter Cape Community Band, an ice sculpture demonstration, holiday train ride, bounce house castle & slide, character appearances, dance performances, free treats for all, and a visit by Santa.
Cape May Court House, NJ 08210
Santa’s Tree Lighting Ceremony at Cape May County Zoo
Can you keep a secret? Rumor has it that the zebras at the Cape May County Zoo brought Rudolph and his crew in through the back gates. Come see for yourself, and while you’re there, get your photo taken with the jolly man in the big red suit and go for a ride aboard the holiday train. Catch a holiday performance, check out the ice sculpture demonstration, free treats, and so much more.
Cape May County Park & Zoo, 707 US 9 North, Cape May Court House, NJ 08210
Santa Viking Christmas Village Barnegat Light
See over 40 artists and crafters, enjoy live music, pictures with Santa, there will be a fire pit and lawn games. Santa will arrive by firetruck at 1 PM.
19th and Bayview, Barnegat Light, NJ 08006
Greenberg’s Great Train and Toy Show
November 27-28 from 10 AM-4 PM
It’s the largest and longest-running train and toy show in the Northeast, with model train displays, free demonstrations, and a test track to give the trains a whirl. There are also on-site train repairs and free door prizes and giveaways.
Cost: Prices vary depending on the day
New Jersey Expo Center, 97 Sunfield Ave., Edison, NJ 08837
No More Grist For the Mill
Decorate a stocking, take a selfie in a sleigh, or sip on a cup of hot cocoa to celebrate the start of the holiday season. Take a tour of the historic house, built in 1773, and enjoy the rumbling of the gristmill during its last run of 2021.
Historic Walnford, 62 Walnford Road, Allentown, NJ 08501
Rock and Mineral Weekend at the Morris Museum
Meet Morris Museum Mineralogical Society members who will be on hand to identify rocks and minerals. Plus, you can shop for minerals, gems, and fossils. Books and jewelry will be available too.
Cost: Free non-members, free with museum admission
6 Normandy Heights Road, Morristown, NJ 07960
Long Branch Holiday Bazaar
November 27-December 19
There will be food, vendors, and more at this Bazaar, with live music, holiday photo stations, craft workshops, and beautiful holiday décor. The holiday market is inspired by the traditional “Weihnachtsmarkts” held in Germany. While you shop, enjoy delicious food and libations, and craft beers from Whitechapel Projects.
15 2nd Ave., Long Branch, NJ 07740
Bell Works Fresh Holiday Market
November 27-December 22, Wednesdays, 12 PM – 6 PM
If the weather outside looks frightful, you can still shop at this indoor market with 80+ local farmers, food purveyors, local artisans, and more. While you browse, kids can be entertained with crafts and live music, plus sample plenty of festive treats and drinks.
Bell Works, 101 Crawfords Corner Road, Holmdel, NJ 07733
Long Branch Tree Lighting at Pier Village
November 28, 4 PM-6 PM
You can kick off the holiday season this year at this festive holiday tree lighting at Pier Village with fun activities, including ice skating, a performance by the Long Branch High School Marching Band and Dance Team, and a special visit from Santa Claus. After the tree is lit, enjoy shopping while you look at the window displays and take in the festive cheer.
Pier Village, Long Branch, NJ 07740
Avenel’s Very Merry Holiday Lighting
November 28, 4 PM-6 PM
Come to the Avenel Fire House to watch the tree light up. Before the Christmas tree lighting, get in the holiday spirit with a photo with Santa, holiday caroling, horse and carriage rides, marshmallow toasting fire pits, and so much more. Bring a new, unopened toy to donate to the Bristol Myers Children’s Hospital.
Cost: Unopened toy donations are appreciated
Avenel Fire House (346 Avenel Street), Avenel, NJ 07001
Asbury Park Holiday Bazaar 2021
November 28-December 19
Peruse the aisles at the Asbury Hotel for the best local and regional artists, vendors, and shops selling art, jewelry, home goods, food gifts, and more. After, catch holiday entertainment, holiday photo stations, and enjoy seasonally inspired food and drink. Littles can take part in a festive holiday craft workshop while you shop for gifts.
The Asbury Hotel, 210 5th Avenue, Asbury Park, NJ 07712
RWJBarnabas Health: Cooking Classes for Kids
Dates and times vary depending on the program
Kids of all ages will love cooking up healthy treats in these virtual hands-on cooking classes (adult supervision required during class): Try Healthy Kids in Hannah’s Kitchen for kids 8-12, where they’ll learn to use a recipe, cook with nutritious ingredients, and utilize kitchen basics or try Taste Testers in Hannah’s Kitchen, a Mommy and Me style class for 2-4-year-olds.