It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, and this weekend, there’s plenty of family-friendly activities to feel festive and make memories. Enjoy a storytime with Santa’s elves and watch an Ugly Sweater Showdown at Christmas Con2021 in Edison, see Santa dive into the aquarium tank at Sea of Lights Spectacular on Jenkinson’s Boardwalk, check out animals and lights at Let It Glow: A Lantern Spectacular at the Bergen County Zoo in Paramus. And for more ideas and places to go, check out our Winter Festivals in NJ.
Featured Photo Credit: @jenksboardwalk
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(Note: Since COVID-19 rules and regulations are continually changing, it’s best to check ahead for in-person events)
December 9, 10, 11, 16, 17, 18, 23, 30
Take a self-guided tour at Kip’s Castle to experience the holidays circa the 1920s. Kip’s Castle Park grounds are open from dawn to dusk seven days a week.
22 Crestmont Road, Verona, NJ 07044
Christmas Con 2021
Grab your sleigh and head to the New Convention & Exposition Center to the original, first-of-its-kind celebrity autograph convention with celebrity guests from your favorite Holiday movies. There will also be storytime with Santa’s elves, IncreiKids, Gingerbread Wars, and an Ugly Sweater Showdown, along with fun holiday-themed contests, a concert, Santa, and more.
Cost: Prices vary
NJ Expo Center, 97 Sunfield Ave., Edison, NJ 08837
Durand-Hedden’s Gingerbread House Contest
Deadline: Entry form due by December 10; creation dropped off between December 7 and December 11
Everyone — from the littlest littles to the pros — can participate in this contest. Feel free to construct any building, and your kiddos can use cardboard for their structure (as long as it’s completely covered in edible materials); adult and professional submissions have to be entirely edible (except for the base). Winners will be announced on December 13 and displayed at the Hilton Branch Library until January 7. First and second place winners from each category will get gift cards to the Durand-Hedden House Country Store and ribbons, and one grand prize winner (from the entire competition) will get a trophy and a $50 gift card.
Cost: Free 532 Ridgewood Road, Maplewood, NJ 07040
Rahway Winter Wonderland
December 10, 17, 18
Live jazz, fire pits, hot chocolate, giveaways, decorate an ornament, candy canes, ice sculptures, a holiday DJ, and photos with Santa. Don’t miss Santa on parade on December 18.
Train Station Plaza, Cherry Street, The Paseo, and Arts District Park (weather permitting), Rahway, NJ 07065 (732) 669-3600
Sea of Lights Holiday Lights Spectacular
December 10-28, select dates
Where else can you see an actual diving Santa Claus, but at Jenkinson’s in Point Pleasant Beach? The Holiday Lights Spectacular also includes treats, crafts, pictures with Santa, games, entertainment too.
Cost: $9 and up
300 Ocean Avenue, Point Pleasant Beach, NJ 08742
Skate with Santa
December 10-23, select dates
Lace-up your skates and get ready to hit the ice this December at American Dream. And we didn’t even mention the best part—you can skate with Santa and his elves and listen to festive carols as you glide.
Cost: $18 and up
American Dream Mall, 1 American Dream Way, East Rutherford, NJ 07073
Battleship New Jersey Holiday Train Display
Experience a new model train display in the Wardroom aboard the Battleship New Jersey. The show is courtesy of the South Jersey Garden Railroad Society.
Cost: Free with the purchase of the tour
100 Clinton Street, Camden, NJ 08103
Candy Cane Hunt and Holiday Festival
Have festive fun at Inman’s Sports Complex with tons of candy canes, games, prizes, music, crafts, local vendors and businesses, as well as time & photo opportunities with Santa. In the event of rain, they may move the festivities inside to the basketball courts or postpone to Sunday, December 12.
2 Villa Drive, Edison, NJ 08820
Allaire Christmas Lantern Tours
Stroll through the Historic Village at Allaire by candlelit and enjoy the rich history of Christmas in the 1800s. Visit the Chapel, Bakery, Blacksmith’s Shop, Allaire Residence, and more as your guided tour brings alive the spirit of Christmas past with traditions and holiday decorations. There will be music, history, and theater too.
Cost: $30 and up
4263 Atlantic Avenue, Farmingdale, NJ 07727
5th Annual Cookie Walk
The whole family will love picking delicious festive treats from this Cookie Walk. Select your favorites from a huge assortment of homemade cookies. Cookies are first come, first serve.
Cost: You can even customize your box for $10/pound.
555 Russell Ave., Wyckoff, NJ 07481
The Nutcracker State Ballet of Ukraine
‘Tis the season for making unforgettable holiday memories. The State Ballet Theatre of Ukraine’s holiday spectacle will transport you to a dazzling winter wonderland in this special matinee performance. Step into choreographer Andrei Litvinov’s magical world of toy soldiers and colorful characters. Enjoy this magical classic for all ages.
1 Center Street, Newark, NJ 07102
The Creative Center Arts Exhibit
Observe the original artwork of the Thompson Park Creative Arts Center’s students and instructors during this show. Many pieces are available for sale. Parking is free.
805 Newman Spring Road, Lincroft, NJ 07738
Edible History Series at Historic Walnford: Coffee Cake
Grab a cup of coffee and a piece of coffee cake made from a 19th-century recipe. Learn all about the history and evolution of coffee and coffee cake.
62 Walnford Road, Upper Freehold, NJ 08501
19th Century Christmas Ballads at Historic Longstreet Farm
Listen to 19th century Christmas ballads on the piano at Historic Longstreet Farm in Holmdel.
44 Longstreet Road, Holmdel, NJ 07733
Newark Museum Of Art Community Day Winter Wonderland
It’s a Winter Wonderland filled with food, art, and festive fun. The transformed Museum Garden presents hip-hop performances, music, and dance that celebrates holidays worldwide. You can pick up gifts from local vendors, create some art, and try ice skating. Grab food from Hot Dog Lady and Tonnie’s Minis, and the first 300 people will receive a free treat from Tonnie’s Minis.
Alice Ransom Dreyfuss Memorial Garden, 49 Washington Street, Newark, NJ 07102-3176
Somerset County 4-H’s Gingerbread Contest
Deadline: December 11 from 8 AM-10 AM
You don’t have to be a 4-H club member to participate, so get your littles and kiddos together to build a gingerbread house or gingerbread art (such as a cookie jar or ornament). You can choose to skip the competition part and just drop it off for display at the Ted Blum 4-H Center in Bridgewater or fill out a form to join the contest when you’re there. Judges will review the competition entries and pick their winners.
Cost: Free, but please bring a canned vegetable donation (for the 4-H holiday dinner)
Metuchen’s Love It or List It — Gingerbread House Edition
Deadline: December 11 at 2 PM
Just like the show, community members will judge your gingerbread creation on whether it’s a place you’d want to live in or list, built using only edible materials (except for the base). Competitors will bring their entries to What’s the Scoop, and then the community will vote on the entries, picking one to “love” and one to “list.” The “Love It” winner will get a gift card to Downtown Metuchen stores, while the “List It” winner will get a fixer-upper set.
457A Main Street, Metuchen, NJ 08840
The Backyard Experience’s Gingerbread House Building Contest and Movie Showing
Deadline: Day of Event on December 11 at 3:30 PM
Have your littles and kiddos participate in this day of gingerbread house competition event (kit included), and if their house wins, they’ll get a prize. Afterward, don’t forget to stop by the hot chocolate station for a well-earned treat. You can also grab some other food and drinks (available for purchase). Kids will also love the surprise visitor in red, face painting, and a Christmas movie.
Cost: $40, or $30 with toy donation
50 Waterworks Road, Freehold, NJ 07728
Artist & Maker Market Happy Holiday Market
Last-minute gifting is inevitable, so why not shop for locally-made jewelry, candles, specialty food items, and handmade gifts all in one convenient spot. Shop directly from emerging new makers and established artists to find one-of-a-kind items and meet the people who made them. The bazaar seeks to support handmade goods as an alternative to mass-produced items and works to cultivate small businesses and entrepreneurship by providing a thriving place for them to sell.
Grove Street PATH Plaza and The Ashford Rooftop, Jersey City, NJ 07302
Terhune Orchards Celebrate the Holiday Season
Find the perfect Christmas tree and wreath, warm up by the bonfire with hot chocolate and s’mores kits, and bring home Decorate Your Own Holiday Cookie Kits too. There will be a special visit with Santa from 12 PM-3 PM. Take a family photo or photo of your children at their Holiday Winter Wonderland display.
Cost: Prices vary
330 Cold Soil Road, Princeton, NJ 08540
Ocean County Library (Berkeley Branch) ‘s Gingerbread House Contest
Deadline: Now-December 15
Encourage your littles, kiddos, and older kiddos to build masterpieces, and then create a gingerbread house of your own. And as long as your creation stays under 12″ x12″, you can make your house from anything — edible or not — including objects from home. Winners from each category will get prizes from The Friends of the Berkeley Library.
30 Station Road, Bayville, NJ 08721
Bayshore Holiday Bazaar
Local and regional artists, vendors, and shops selling vintage, handmade, art, jewelry, home goods, and more. While you shop, enjoy a holiday show with Father Frost (Russian Santa) and a Kids Craft Workshop hosted by the Keyport Library. Don’t miss the holiday photo wall designed by Lauren Michael Events, and enjoy delicious spirits from 3BR Distillery (the only distillery in the world using 100% garden peas to make their spirits).
7 Main Street, Keyport, NJ 07735
Count Basie Center Holiday Market
Shop for everyone on your list, and enjoy festive drinks, treats, and more at The Count Basie Center For The Arts.
The Count Basie Center For The Arts, 99 Monmouth Street, Red Bank, NJ 07711
Holiday Market in the Park in Hopatcong
December 12, 11 AM-3 PM, Tree lighting – 6 PM-8 PM
The tree lighting—along with a visit from St. Nick—will be happening in the evening, but come earlier to explore what the holiday market has to offer. Grab a bite to eat from the food trucks—they have kid-approved choices like fudge and pizza—and do some shopping at the craft vendors. They’re selling a range of goods, from fashion accessories to soap to holiday gifts. And, of course, holiday music will be playing throughout the event.
Modick Park, 28 Hopatchung Road, Hopatcong, NJ 07843
The Sounds of Christmas at Historic Longstreet Farm
Celebrate the holidays by visiting Historic Longstreet Farm, Holmdel, and enjoying wistful music as Larry Moser and Mary Nagin play Christmas carols on the hammered dulcimer and fiddle.
44 Longstreet Road, Holmdel, NJ 07733
Sauce for the Goose Holiday Market
Pick up a beautiful, handmade treasure at this 28th annual sale of artwork by local and area artists. It’s sponsored by the Arts Council of Princeton and features eclectic and one-of-a-kind ceramics, glassware, ornaments, and other forms of fine art to gift to friends and family. Rain date December 14.
Princeton Shopping Center, 301 N. Harrison Street, Princeton, NJ 08540
Let it Glow: A Lantern Spectacular
Now-January 30, Thursday through Sunday
Take an enchanting stroll through the Bergen County Zoo to see over 30 scenes of handmade delight and the animals that live there. You can even hop aboard the train. This event is separate from Winter Wonderland in the park and requires a separate admission ticket.
Cost: $15 for adults, $7.50 for children, under 2 is free
216 Forest Avenue, Paramus, NJ 07652
American Dream Heart of the Holidays
It’s the “The Heart of the Holidays” celebration throughout December at American Dream Mall. You can visit the Elf Workshop tucked inside Nickelodeon Universe daily to visit stations run by elves, where guests can write a letter to Santa, decorate ornaments, or color some pictures. Or see toy soldier stilt walkers or listen to local performers showcased across American Dream’s social channels and live pop-up performances throughout the mall on Music Mondays. On Wish Wednesdays, beginning December 9, make a wish in the Garden Court with one of American Dream’s holiday elves. There’s a Candy Cane Passport Hunt, and on Saturday, it’s Holiday Sweater Saturdays. Tickets for Nickelodeon Universe are not required to participate.
Cost: Prices vary per event
1 American Dream Way, East Rutherford, NJ 07073
Dickens Village Maplewood
Now-December 18, select dates
Dickens Village will bring various scenes from Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol to life in miniature houses arranged in Ricalton Square. This community tradition opens in December and runs each Saturday until Christmas. The festivities include horse and wagon rides, a petting farm, tree lighting, and Menorah lighting.
Ricalton Square, Maplewood, NJ 07040
Cape May Congress Hall Breakfast with Santa
Now-December 24, every Saturday and Sunday
Enter the Grand Ballroom and great ready for a delicious buffet and meet the big guy too. Dress in your holiday best for photos with Santa by the poinsettia tree.
Cost: Adults $28, Children (4-12) $16, Kids under 3 are free
200 Congress Place, Cape May, NJ 08204
Asbury Fresh Pop Up at Porta
Now-December 23, Thursdays and Sundays
Experience a warm and toasty holiday market season in good ol’ Asbury Park. Shop locally curated vendors and enjoy pizza and festive drinks.
Porta, 911 Kinsley Ave., Asbury Park, NJ 07712
Morris County Winter Farmers’ Market – Grow It Green
Now-March 27 (except December 26)
The Morris County Winter Farmers’ Market features more than 20 farmers and local food vendors to develop a local food system that patrons can eat locally and seasonally. There will be freshly grown produce, farm-raised beef, pork and poultry and fresh seafood, baked goods, farm eggs, and so much more.
Convent Train Station, Convent Road, Morris Township, NJ 07960
Asbury Park Holiday Bazaar 2021
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 participate in a festive holiday craft workshop while you shop for gifts.
The Asbury Hotel, 210 5th Avenue, Asbury Park, NJ 07712
Long Branch Holiday Bazaar
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
Now-December 22, Wednesdays
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
Turtle Back Zoo Holiday Lights Spectacular
Now-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. Donations are recommended.
560 Northfield Avenue, West Orange, NJ 07052
Thomas Sweet’s Holiday Village
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
Smithville Holiday Light Show On The Lake
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 and the bridge.
Historic Smithville, 615 E. Moss Mill Rd., Smithville, NJ 08205
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.
82 Paterson Road, Fanwood, NJ 07023
Now–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.
1048 Washington Street, Cape May, NJ 08204
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.