New Jersey knows how to celebrate Christmas. We’ve got magical events and attractions all across the state, perfect for family fun, time spent with friends, and even a little holiday romance. Whatever you’re looking for this season, the Garden State has got you covered. With so many options, it can be difficult to decide where to begin. We’ve got a few suggestions for you, starting with some of New Jersey’s most charming Christmas towns.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
1. Cape May
Cape May isn't just a top Christmas destination for New Jerseyans, it brings in visitors from all over. Overflowing with cheer and charm, events and attractions include candlelight tours, authentic Victorian Christmas decorations, An Old-Fashioned Christmas gallery exhibit, a Dickens Christmas Extravaganza, the Cheery Cherry House Christmas Tour, three separate tree lighting ceremonies and plenty more.
You'll find a Winter Wonderland at Congress Hall, complete with vendors, farm-to-table feasts, live choir music, breakfasts with Santa, and train & carousel rides. Cape May MAC will be offering seasonal trolley tours including rides with Santa, the Ghosts of Christmas Past tour, and holiday lights trolley rides. When it comes to theater, you've got options - Murder For Two: The Holiday Edition at Cape May Stage and The Great Tree and Other Tales by the East Lynne Theater Company. Events begin in late November and run throughout the month of December.
2. Red Bank
The season kicks off on November 29th with the annual Holiday Concert & Town Lighting (it's not just a tree - there are lights all over town). Kids will love the free Santa Express Train Ride & Parade that same day. Winter On Broad Street is another can't-miss event, held on December 9th from 11-7. It features an ice skating rink, a life-size snow globe, a special word scavenger hunt, a holiday bazaar, and more. You'll also want to check out the free horse and wagon rides from 1 to 5 p.m. every Saturday from November 30th to December 21st and shows at the Count Basie Center For The Arts including Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer, The Nutcracker, and A Charlie Brown Christmas.
It's not just the name, Ho-Ho-Kus is home to a host of holiday events. Many will be held at the historic Hermitage (pictured circa 1890) including the annual holiday craft show (until December 1st), Victorian Christmas candlelight tours (November 30 & December 22), a tree lighting with carolers and cocoa (December 8), productions of A Christmas Carol (December 13 &14), and Santa's Workshop (December 15). The workshop will feature visits with Santa, a scavenger hunt, holiday tours, tales, and songs.
In addition, the Ho-Ho-Kus Inn will be hosting a Holiday Family Brunch Buffet on December 15th at 10, 12, and 2. The brunch will include a chef-manned station serving fresh omelets and roasts, a variety of hot and cold dishes including soups, waffles, pancakes, French toast, salads, eggs benedict, chicken, and pasta. There will also be bagels, pastries, muffins, a Viennese dessert table, unlimited mimosas and bloody marys, coffee, tea, and soda. Enjoy a special visit from Santa and live music while you dine! Tickets are $39.95 per person and $17 for guests 10 and under. If you'd like to give back when you dine out, they are accepting donations of baby wipes, formula, and unopened diapers.
Hammonton is loads of fun for families! This Christmas town is mostly about the kiddos but offers visitors of all ages a jolly good time. The town's must-see holiday attraction is the DiDonato Family Fun Center. Home to the Magical Express, a $14.95 ticket will score you a train ride through over 3,000,000 sparkling lights, a meet and greet with Santa and his elves, free photo ops, a Christmas gift, access to the holiday movie tent, and walk-through holiday village, a cookie treat, AND one free game of indoor mini-golf, a round of bowling + shoe rental. WOW! This unforgettable attraction is already up and running for the season.
But the Christmas fun doesn't stop there. You'll also find a holiday tree lighting with carolers and carriage rides on December 7th, a parade on December 14th, and a Christmas-themed Third Thursday shopping/dining event on December 19th. Visitors may also want to check out the Philadelphia Boys Choir caroling at the Kathedral Event Center on December 8th!
There are so many fantastic small businesses in this town, making it a perfect shopping destination for unique gifts. Of course, that's only the beginning. I'm most excited for candlelight tours of the Crane House and historic YWCA, beautifully decorated for the season. Dates are December 5th and 17th. There will also be daytime tours, a holiday craft market and children’s activities on December 7th. History buffs will also appreciate the Van Vleck House, all decked out for the holidays and open to the public for a holiday boutique on November 22nd from 10-4.
St. Luke's Episcopal Church will be hosting a Christmas in Italy event on December 15th and the Montclair Art Museum will be having a holiday ceramic sale on December 8th. There will be several holiday crafting and candy workshops at The Eclectic Chic Boutique and Pinot's Palette will be offering a variety of Christmas-themed painting workshops. The Commonwealth Club will be hosting a Swedish Christmas Fair on November 29th featuring handcrafted Christmas decorations, home‑baked goods, traditional foods, accordion music, a Swedish Café, and Lucia Procession at 11 a.m. & 2 p.m. I'm not done yet! The Studio Playhouse will be performing Madeline's Christmas on December 7th, 8th, 14th, and 15th at 1:30 and 3:30. Tickets are just $12! Then, there's the Run Santa Run at Brookdale Park on December 7th at 9 am. This family-friendly fun run is led by Santa and comes with cocoa, Santa hats, holiday music, and plenty of prizes. Finally, the Montclair Tree Lighting will be held on December 6th from 6-9. Expect caroling, cocoa, local vendors, ice sculptures, s'mores, and Santa!
The heart of the holiday season here is The Shoppes At Lafayette. You'll find several Christmas events including sled painting workshops, A Victorian Christmas Affair, and Dog Walk Of The Dead's A Christmas Nightmare. A Victorian Christmas Affair on December 14th will include an Ugly Sweater contest, voting for the best dressed storefront, Christmas carols, roasted chestnuts, and plenty of shopping. A Christmas Nightmare will support One Step Closer Animal Rescue and includes kid/adult/pet photos with Santa J. Skell, 8 unique vendors, antique shopping, pet-friendly shops, free refreshments, and door prizes. Check it out on November 30th from 12-4.
There will also be a Victorian Christmas Open House at the Ludlum/Mabee House Museum from 11-4 on November 30th. The festivities will include Victorian music, vintage crafting demonstrations, weaving on an antique loom, spinning, a tour of a real summer kitchen, cookies, and a wassail bowl! Nearby attractions include the Lake Mohawk Christmas Market in Sparta and the Christmas Lights Show at Skylands Stadium in Augusta.
I recently wrote an entire article about the magic of Haddonfield during the holidays. Its neighbor, Collingswood, is just as worthy of a Christmastime visit. All of the local businesses are decked out with lights and garland and the town itself puts up over a quarter-million lights. You can enjoy the decorations on a free trolley tour, held on Dec 6, 12. 13, 19 and 20, with tours departing roughly every 30 minutes from 5 pm to 8:30 pm. The trolley boards at the corner of Haddon and Woodlawn Avenues. There will also be caroling, visits from Santa, a tree lighting on November 29th (7 p.m.), and TWO parades.
On November 30th, you'll find the largest holiday parade in South Jersey at 10 am. On December 6th at 6:30, there's the enchanting Parade of Lights. On December 14th, you can enjoy a Second Saturday shopping event with art and live entertainment. That same evening, you'll find Keb' Mo's Jingle Bell Jamboree at the Scottish Rite Auditorium.
This bucolic town comes alive with lights during the holiday season. The festivities kicked off on November 23rd with the Festival of Trees, running until December 8th. You'll find a beautiful display of trees and wreaths at the Red Mill Museum, coinciding with their Winter Village event. The village will be open from November 29th - December 1st and will feature over 40 artisan vendors each day in heated tents. There will also be food trucks and historic tours.
The town itself hosts a tree lighting on November 29th (6:30 p.m.), parade on December 6th (7 p.m.), Candlelight Night on December 12th (6 p.m.), and a visit from Santa on December 15th (1 p.m. - 3 p.m.). We also love their Dickens Days Celebration! Held November 29th - December 1st from 11-4, it takes you back in time to Christmases past. There will be Victorian costumes, horse-drawn carriage rides, classic Christmas carols, street vendors selling sugar plums and roasted chestnuts, and plenty more to enjoy.
Morristown has a lot going on this season, starting with the Christmas Festival at the Morristown Green. It kicks off with a tree lighting on December 1st and runs until December 22. There will be live music, hot cocoa, a miniature train, family-friendly activity tents, and plenty more. Also starting on December 1st is A Very Merry 19th-Century Christmas. Hosted by the Morris County Historical Society and held at Acorn Hall, this event runs until January 5th. You'll find 19th-Century Christmas fashion on display, Victorian decorations, and exhibits on English Christmas customs.
The Holly Walk on December 6th, 7th, and 8th includes seven local historic sites, all decked out for the holidays. There will be candle-lit tours, live music, special programming, exhibits, and refreshments. From December 13th-15th, you'll find Holiday CraftMorristown at the Morristown Armory, an artisan craft market featuring 165 makers and craftspeople from across the United States. You'll also enjoy basket weaving and copper-smithing demonstrations as well as a gourmet specialty food boutique. Then, there's Sing We All Merrily: A Colonial Christmas at Washington’s Headquarters Museum. This free event takes place on December 12th and explores Christmas traditions in early America through English carols, American folk hymns, dance tunes and drinking songs. Quotes from diaries, poems, toasts and wassail recipes will be interspersed with music played on hammered dulcimer and other instruments of the times. Still seeking more Christmas fun? Head to the Mayo Performing Art Center which will be putting on a variety of holiday shows throughout the season.
The heart of this Salem County town's Christmas celebration is Woodstown By Candlelight. This old-fashioned holiday event will be held on December 6th. It starts at 4 p.m. with a craft show and sale. Beginning at 6, you can tour historic local homes and enjoy businesses all decked out for the holidays. There will be strolling carolers, music performances, free wassail and cookies (included with your ticket), and transportation through town available.
On December 14th, you can enjoy Breakfast With Santa at Friends Village and on December 15th, there will be a Tuba Christmas musical event at Woodstown High School. Another can't-miss event is the 3-mile Santa Run/Walk on December 21st. In lieu of a registration fee, participants are encouraged to donate dog/cat food or cat litter for the South Jersey Regional Animal Shelter. Every 3 pounds of donated goods equals 1 ticket for giveaways sponsored by local businesses!
If you're looking for FREE Christmas fun, Somerville is the place to go. On November 30th, the town hosts a Holiday Jubilee, sponsored by local businesses and the Downtown Somerville Alliance. You'll find a tree lighting, gingerbread cookies, cocoa, carriage rides, Santa Claus, costumed characters, ice carving, and live music. Many area shops will be offering deals and giveaways. The fun starts at 5 pm. You'll also want to check out their Holiday Lights Parade at 6 pm on December 6th. Prizes will be given out for the best decorated fire and emergency vehicles, personal floats, and best decorated houses/ businesses. There will also be a free holiday art show on December 7th and 8th. Gift of Art will run from 12-6 at 190 W Main Street.
Ringwood makes this list for two terrific reasons - Ringwood Manor and Skylands Manor. Skylands Manor will be hosting open houses between December 5th and December 8th. In addition to spectacular decorations, you'll find a holiday shop and cafe. On December 7th, the manor is hosting an evening reception with champagne, light snacks, and tours - reservations are required.
Ringwood Manor will be hosting a Victorian Christmas on December 7th, 8th, 14th, and 15th. Take a tour, participate in a festive scavenger hunt, and check out the selection of handmade goods for sale by local crafters. During these dates, there will also be a holiday fine art and craft sale in the adjacent Carriage Barn Gallery. On December 11th, there will be a holiday tea & tour, but this event has already sold out. Put it on your list for next year!
Enjoy caroling, hot chocolate, a visit from Santa, and the Bordentown City Christmas Tree Lighting on November 30th. The fun starts at 4 pm. Don't miss the holiday Chocolate Walk on December 6th! Purchase a chocolate passport for $5 and stop by participating businesses for delicious chocolate treats. That same day, you can make festive holiday cards at Leaping Dog Art Studios. Last, but not least, there will be a holiday train show at Old City Hall throughout December.
Kick off the Christmas season at the Palmer Square Tree Lighting on November 29th. The 65-foot tree is adorned with over 30,000 lights! There will also be live music and a special ballet performance. Following the event, Palmer Square will host holiday entertainment every Saturday and Sunday until December 22nd. The town will also be offering holiday trolley tours every Saturday and Sunday from November 23rd until December 29th, held on the hour from 11 am through 5 pm.
Head to the Princeton Shopping Center on December 7th (at noon) to meet Santa and enjoy free cookies or meet him at the barn in Terhune Orchards (also at noon on 12/7). You can also visit farm animals, drink hot cocoa, toast marshmallows by the fire pit, and pick out your Christmas tree. The Morven Museum will be hosting a variety of holiday craft workshops, tours after dark, a holiday tea party, Festival of Trees charity benefit (tickets for this exclusive event start at $250), and Christmas storytime for the kids. Not enough Christmas for you? Check out A Christmas Carol at the McCarter Theatre between December 10th and 29th.
This list isn’t in any particular order – every town is worth a visit. While the locations featured are among the best of the best when it comes to Christmas celebrations and events in New Jersey, there are so many others that will make the holiday season merrier. Check out Spring Lake, Madison, and Ocean City, for starters and don’t forget to check out my article on
Christmas events in Haddonfield, if you’re interested.