December GoList: 25 Best Things to Do in NJ for the Holidays

family-friendly holiday activities in New Jersey December 2016

The turkey has been eaten, Santa has arrived at the mall, and people are driving around with trees strapped to their cars. There’s no denying it: the holidays have arrived. If you and your kids are eager to celebrate the season, you're in luck—there are so many wonderful events and activities happening throughout the state this month. You'll find plenty of free things to do, as well as activities just for little ones; you can have breakfast with Santa, catch a show, or hop aboard a holiday train. We know you’re busy with things like shopping, baking, and figuring out what the heck to do with your Elf on the Shelf, so we’ve sorted through all of this month's happenings and picked 25 of the best.

For even more ideas, check out our Holiday Guide and Event Calendar. Happy Holidays!

Holidays at Johnson's Corner Farm – Medford
Now through December 30
You'd probably have to travel to Santa's workshop in the North Pole to find a place more Christmasy than Johnson's Corner Farm: At this one-stop shop for holiday fun, you can take a picture with Santa, buy a fresh-cut Christmas tree, take a hay ride, see a musical light show, visit with farm animals, roast marshmallows, decorate cookies, and more.

Adventure to Santa – Cherry Hill
Now through December 24
Po and the rest of the gang from Kung Fu Panda accompany kids on an epic journey to meet Santa in this interactive experience. A simulated ride in a rocket-powered cart takes visitors to the North Pole, where kids can meet with Santa in his study and pose for pictures. To learn more, read our review of the Yonkers, NY, location. Online reservations recommended. 

Holiday Model Train Show – Woodbridge
Now through December 30 (except December 25 & 26)
Head to the Baron Arts Center for the 26th annual Holiday Model Train Show, a beloved holiday tradition featuring a beautiful display of trains and scenery. Look closely and you'll spot local landmarks and a boardwalk scene. Go on December 2 for the show's opening reception and town tree lighting, which includes a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus. 

Skylands Stadium features more than 2 million lights in a drive-through display. Photo courtesy of Skylands Stadium.

Skylands Stadium Christmas Light Show – Augusta
​Now through January 1
We like this one because you don't have to get out of your warm car to enjoy it! This drive-through, musical light show features more than 2 million lights, and it's one of the most popular in the state. It's also one of MANY light displays in New Jersey, so check out our roundup to find more of the best and brightest. 

Bergen County Winter Wonderland – Paramus
December 1 – January 15
Spend an evening at Van Saun Park, where after-dark activities include ice skating, unlimited carousel rides, zoo entry, a train ride, and food trucks. Santa will be there on select nights.

Buddy the Elf is bursting with the Christmas spirit in Elf the Musical. Photo by Joan Marcus/courtesy of the show.

Elf the Musical – New Brunswick
December 2–4
Buddy the Elf goes on a quest to discover his true identity (and helps people remember the true meaning of Christmas in the process) in this stage adaptation of the beloved holiday film. The production, recommended for kids ages 4 and up, will run for five performances at State Theatre New Jersey. 

Gingerbread Wonderland – Morris Township
December 2–11
If the displays at the Frelinghuysen Arboretum look good enough to eat, it's because they are. Stroll around and marvel at hundreds of edible structures, and then vote for your favorite.

Santa Ferry Ride – Belford
December 3
If you've done Christmas train rides and are looking for something new, why not visit with Santa on a ferry this year? The ride aboard the new Molly Pitcher includes a visit from Santa and friends, goodie bags, caroling, and a view of the Statue of Liberty. Ferries leave from and return to the NY Waterway Belford Ferry Terminal. 

Teddy Bear Tea – Morristown
December 3
Your little one can bring his or her favorite stuffed friend to tea at the Morris Museum, where there will be treats, a performance in the Bickford Theatre, and a visit from Santa. This event is perfect for kids ages 3–8. Call to reserve a spot at one of three seatings. 

Civil War Christmas – Morristown
December 3–4
History buffs will love traveling back in time to the Civil War era for a Christmas celebration that includes attendance at an officer's ball, complete with period music, costumes, and dancing. Visitors can also walk through a soldier's camp and speak with costumed re-enactors. 

The Polar Express: An IMAX Experience – Jersey City
December 3–17
See The Polar Express in a whole new way this season—at Liberty Science Center's IMAX Dome theater. Come early and watch a 20-minute holiday laser show in the theater before the movie. 

Scuba Santa – Camden
December 3–30
Santa swims with the sharks (also sea turtles and stingrays) this Christmas at Adventure Aquarium. Visitors can watch the "I Believe in Scuba Santa" live show in the aquarium's 760,000-gallon Ocean Realm exhibit, listen to storytime with an elf, and drop off letters to Scuba Santa.  

NJ Ballet in The Nutcracker – Morristown
December 9–24
Christmas just isn't complete without a visit to the Land of the Sweets with Clara and the Nutcracker Prince, and it's even better with live music. New Jersey Ballet will perform the holiday classic at Mayo Performing Arts Center this year, with accompaniment by the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra. Read our Nutcracker roundup to find even more performances happening throughout the state. 

Kids can decorate their own holiday treats at the Gingerbread Workshop. Photo courtesy of Liberty Hall Museum.

Gingerbread Workshop – Union 
December 10
Kids can dig into piles of peppermint, candy canes, gumdrops, and more to decorate their own gingerbread houses at this workshop at Liberty Hall Museum. The museum provides all of the materials, and you go home with a special treat. The museum will be accepting new, unwrapped toys for Toys for Tots. Reservations required. 

The Steadfast Tin Soldier – Lambertville
December 10
Hans Christian Anderson's heroic tin soldier comes to life in a charming puppet show performed by Robert Rogers Puppet Company at Lambertville Hall. 

The Laurie Berkner Band Holiday Concert – Englewood
December 11
Bestselling children's recording artist Laurie Berkner gets the band together for a performance of holiday hits at BergenPAC. The show will include traditional favorites like "Frosty the Snowman" and "The Dreidel Song," as well as original songs from the album A Laurie Berkner Christmas

The Maccabeats – Englewood
December 14
The world-renowned a cappella group performs an assortment of Jewish, American, and Israeli songs in this pre-Hanukkah concert. 

A Christmas Carol – Princeton
December 15–31
The McCarter Theatre's production is the perfect way to introduce your kids to Dickens' holiday classic. The performance starts the moment you enter the lobby, where members of the ensemble will be mingling, caroling, and spreading holiday cheer. 

Sea of Lights – Point Pleasant Beach 
December 16–17, 26–28
Head to Jenkinson's Aquarium for an indoor holiday light spectacular featuring crafts, holiday treats, photos with Santa, games, and of course, visits with fish and other underwater creatures. 

Skating with Santa and Friends – Bridgewater
December 17
Hit the ice with Santa and friends at the Bridgewater Sports Arena. After you go for a spin, you can pose for a photo with Santa, Frosty, and other characters. 

Hot Chocolate Hike Weekend – Short Hills
December 17–18
Get out of the mall and get some fresh air at Cora Hartshorn Arboretum, where naturalists will lead a guided hike through the winter woods. Look for signs of animal life and learn what kinds of creatures are in the forest this time of year, then warm up by the fire with a cup of hot cocoa in the historic Stone House. 

Forces of Nature Dance Company celebrates Kwanzaa at NJPAC. Photo courtesy of NJPAC.

Kwanzaa Festival and Forces of Nature Dance Company – Newark
December 18
NJPAC's Kwanzaa festivities include the Kwanzaa Children's Festival and Marketplace, a free event featuring arts, crafts, singing, and dancing; and two performances by Forces of Nature Dance Company, a troupe that combines modern dance with elements of West African movement, ballet, hip-hop, and martial arts. 

Hanukkah on Ice – Voorhees
December 24
Skate to contemporary Jewish music and traditional Hanukkah songs at this beloved family event held at the Flyers Skate Zone. The festivities include the lighting of a giant menorah made out of ice, as well as crafts, donuts, and hot latkes. 

New Year's Eve Splash – Camden 
December 31
Ring in the New Year at Adventure Aquarium, where you can celebrate by visiting with your favorite sea creatures, getting down at a dance party, and watching fireworks over the Delaware River. The event ends at 6 p.m., so you'll be home in time to have a New Year's Eve celebration of your own. 

The Count's Countdown to New Year's Celebration – Langhorne, PA
December 31
Head to Sesame Place to share a meal with the gang from Sesame Street and help them count down to the New Year. There are three seatings, and reservations are required.