Almost every New Jersey town has its own holiday celebration, some are more spectacular than others. West Orange has an incredible light show at Turtle Back Zoo and Wall offers something similarly spectacular. This list focuses not on singular events, but specific towns with the most magnificent myriad of holiday celebrations. They keep the holiday spirit alive and well with tree lightings, live nativity scenes, parades, historic happenings, and more.
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
The nation's first summer resort, Cape May is also a winter wonderland. The charming Victorian homes are splendidly decorated, and visitors can take holiday house tours by candlelight. There are also trolley rides available to see the outdoor displays. Choose from three separate tree lighting ceremonies - Cape May City, Congress Hall, and the Emlen Physick Estate. The historic estate is decked out in Victorian holiday splendor.
Celebrate the Dickens Christmas Extravaganza from the 6th - 8th, featuring lectures, performances, and a Dickensian-style holiday feast. Shop Washington Mall on December 10th or 11th for Holiday Hospitality Nights featuring great deals and free refreshments. The Cape May Stage will be putting on a special Christmas production until January 2nd. See the show on December 18th for Pay What You Wish Night. Other events include breakfasts with Santa and a Christmas bazaar.
2. Historic Smithville (Galloway)
Besides offering amazing shops for all your holiday needs, Historic Smithville hosts a fantastic light show on the lake. Orchestrated to music, the event is made even more magical by the reflections on the water. The show will be held evenings until January 6th. Santa Claus will be coming to town on December 4th, 12th, and 19th.
There's a lot happening here this holiday season, and you won't be disappointed. Visit the Ford Mansion or Macculloch Hall for a holiday lights tour, head to the Mayo Performing Arts Center to see The New Jersey Ballet's Nutcracker, and be sure not to miss the Christmas Festival on the Morristown Green. Events are scattered throughout the month (though are mainly on weekends) and include holiday crafts, performances, visits from Santa, miniature train rides and ice sculpture demonstrations. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will be hosting a non-denominational holiday celebration with a live nativity, over 300 nativity displays from around the world, performances by local musicians, and a children's craft room.
The highlight of the holiday season, watch 120,000 lights dance along to 19 songs at New Jersey's most magical Christmas display for charity! Though it is free to watch the show, please donate if you are able. The homeowners even offer special VIP packages for those who donate over $20. The address is 128 North Main Street, and the show runs between 6 - 9 p.m. on the following December nights: 4th, 5th 6th and 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th and 18th, 19th, 20th, 21st, 22nd and 23rd, 25th, 26th, 27th, and 30th, with the last night on the 31st.
If the event isn't enough to make you head to Cranbury, the town also has its own tree lighting on December 3rd and a Christmastime tea at Cranbury Museum on the 6th.
5. Ocean City
Ocean City is an amazing community year-round, and Christmastime is no different. Be sure to check out the festive and fantastical Christmas Parade on December 4th, a holiday dash the same day, weekly breakfasts with Santa at downtown restaurants, FREE horse and carriage rides on weekends, and the Christmas Spectacular, presented by the Greater Ocean City Theatre Company. Ocean City Tabernacle will be hosting a live nativity and sing-along on December 12th. Join in on the holiday fun and enter the Flanders Hotel Gingerbread House Contest, running until December 30th. The prizes are incredible!
This historic village is full of holiday cheer! The Definitely Dickens' Holiday Carolers will be serenading in downtown streets and shops on December Saturdays. The Streets of Chester Shopping Center is hosting a 12 days of giveaways event and will feature "A Window Wonderland," magnificent holiday window displays. On December 6th, there will be an ice sculpting demonstration downtown, and the annual tree lighting will be held on December 7th. Head to Alstede Farms for Santa's Country Christmas and a holiday brunch. From December 5th - 12th, the town will also be hosting a Festival of Trees to benefit the Senior Center.
7. Red Bank
This trendy town is offering a wide range of holiday activities including a Christmas scavenger hunt, holiday horse & carriage rides and carolers in the downtown district. Visit Santa at the Galleria or watch one of many holiday productions at the Count Basie Theatre.
Visit the massive Christmas tree in Palmer Square, be serenaded by strolling carolers, take children on a "Santa's Helper Walking Tour," or check out the McCarter Theater's production of A Christmas Carol. Another favorite? Visit the Morven Museum's Festival of Trees. They will be hosting a wreath making workshop from December 2nd - 4th, along with featuring some fabulously decorated trees until January 3rd. The Holiday Family Weekend at Terhune Orchards is another option, featuring wagon rides and a tree farm.
9. Atlantic City
The casinos are splendidly decked out with holiday lights, the town itself offers a 30-foot tree to enjoy, and of course we can't forget the DO AC Holiday Tree & Light Fest at the Tanger Outlets. Boardwalk Hall features a gallery of trees and a fantastic holiday show, projected on the side of the building. The Quarter at Tropicana puts on an interactive light show set to music, and casinos across the boardwalk will be hosting a variety of holiday concerts.
Most of the magic in Medford happens at Johnson's Corner Farm. Enjoy visits with Santa, a holiday lights hayride, a lovely light show on the lake, roast s'mores, decorate Christmas cookies and so much more! The town also offers a tree lighting and Dickens Festival on December 5th.
There are so many great holiday events in the state, but these towns are truly filled to the brim with Christmas cheer. What is your favorite “Christmas Town” in New Jersey?