New Jersey

A Dozen Must-Do Holiday and Christmas Experiences for NJ Kids

This year, 2018, has the earliest possible date for Thanksgiving: November 22. What we lost in turkey prep time, we'll make up for in a lovely, elongated holiday season on the road to Christmas and New Year's. In between your Christmas shopping and holiday to-dos, we've assembled our annual list of activities kids will love—and won't cost an arm and a leg. From holiday light shows to breakfast with Santa to Christmas trains, we’ve compiled 12 great memory-making activities for this month.

Check out our full calendar of events and our holiday guide for even more options.

Where To Go Ice Skating Indoors with Kids in NJ

Indoor ice skating is a fun way to take part in a winter activity without exposing yourself to the elements. Happily, there are many indoor rinks throughout the Garden State. We've focused on those that host public skate sessions, but most of them also offer skating lessons, hockey, birthday parties, and more.

Read on for our indoor rink recommendations for NJ families—and for more wintry sports, check out our Ski & Snow Guide.

Weekend Fun: North Pole Express, Holiday Lights , Friendsgiving

This mid-November weekend sparkles and shines with the debut of holiday light displays throughout the state. Take a nighttime stroll through Turtle Back Zoo with its brilliant winter scenes, or drive though Skyland Stadium's dazzling, musical light displays. Storybook Land's holiday parade features the lighting of the park's tree, while Tropicana's interactive Christmas Tree synchronizes to music.

There's plenty of family-friendly theater to choose from this week, including performances of A Christmas Story: The Musical, Pinocchio, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Elf The Musical, and Sesame Street Live. And Thanksgiving prep is underway with PAWS Discovery Farm's Friendsgiving Feast and Early 19th Century Day of Thanks.

Find even more options in our Fall Fun Guide for NJ Kids, plus plan ahead for all those days off with 25 Family Staycation Ideas for the NJ Holidays. And look to our November GoList and event calendar for a complete listing of happenings this weekend and beyond.

The Top Baby Names of the Next Decade Are Here

Doesn’t everyone wish for a crystal ball during the baby naming process? Aren't we all looking for that perfectly unique but not too weird baby name? Just us?

Well, Nameberry.com just released its list of the baby names it expects to be the most popular in 2028. So get ready all you expecting parents! Pull up a chair and scroll through this futuristic list to see which baby girl and baby boy names are rising to the top in the next decade—and which are tanking. For those who have already gone through the baby naming milestone, Nameberry's list might just give you a hint as to whether or not your little Olivia or Oliver will be sitting next to half a dozen other kids who share their name come schooltime.

New Indigo Bookstore Brings Kid-Friendly Fun to Short Hills Mall

I have fond memories of finding a quiet spot to read Curious George in Waldenbooks and B. Dalton as a child. Then in college, I flocked to Barnes & Noble and Borders, which offered cool cafes and products beyond just books.

But other than Barnes & Noble, it seems most of the big bookstore chains wrote the last page in their stories years ago. You don’t hear about too many bookstore openings these days—until now.

Indigo, Canada’s largest bookseller, opened its first U.S. location in the Short Hills Mall last month, and it’s just what we needed. Billed as a "cultural department store," Indigo is a cross between an upscale bookstore and Crate & Barrel, with neutral colors, clean style, and an elegant use of space. But most importantly, there is a huge children’s section, complete with plenty of space to play and explore, as well as a calendar packed with storytimes and special events, like the recent visit from Goosebumps author R.L. Stine. 

Disney Princess Subscription Boxes Arrive Just Before Holidays

Disney has just launched a brand-new princess subscription box filled with tiaras, tulle — and fairy tales, of course. With the holidays right around the corner, and many kids (not just ours, right?) already working up their wish lists, we suspect this latest, kid-targeted subscription service will land at the top of a few most-wanted toys' lists.

Promising to deliver this Disney magic straight to your favorite princess-loving kid’s door for either a year, six months, or month-to-month, the first boxes will make it in time for Christmas delivery, we're told.

Where To Have Breakfast with Santa in New Jersey

Ho, ho, ho! It’s that time of year when Santa Claus starts making his list and checking it twice. If your kids are looking to spend a little QT with the Big Guy, then a breakfast with Santa might be for you. At these events, kids can enjoy some delicious food and share their holiday wish lists with St. Nick. And of course, there will be time for photos, too. Read on for our roundup of breakfast events happening this season.

Want more time with Santa? Book your ticket on a Christmas train ride. And for more seasonal activities, check out our Holiday Fun Guide.

12 Family-Friendly Hotels Where Kids Stay Free

Traveling with family can be a serious investment. After shelling out for planes tickets, you still have to book a hotel and cover the cost of meals. Package deals and all-inclusive resorts can be a great way to save, but an even better bargain is when kids stay and/or eat for free at the hotel.

While early fall seems to be the best time to book such family travel deals, it's not too late to get in on the savings. Whether your destination is the Caribbean, Mexico, or a U.S. city, hotels that offer free rooms and meals for kids are a big budget saver. Here are our picks for some of the best family vacations around.

Best Nutcrackers and Holiday Shows for New Jersey Kids

The holidays are the most wonderful time of the year for lots of things, including performances. Over the next several weeks, New Jersey theaters will come alive with dancing sugar plum fairies, singing elves, and more than a few Christmas ghosts. 

This season, you can dance and sing along with the Laurie Berkner Band or check out musical versions of holiday favorites like Elf and A Christmas Story

Charlie Brown and friends learn the true meaning of Christmas in A Charlie Brown Christmas: Live Onstage, with productions taking place at multiple venues throughout NJ. And Ebeneezer Scrooge gets spooked into a change of heart in several productions of A Christmas Carol, including an area favorite at McCarter Theatre, as well as kid-friendly musical versions at Paper Mill and bergenPAC.

If your child is nuts about The Nutcracker, you don't have to go to New York City to see a great production—there are several top-notch companies performing the holiday fave right here in NJ, at multiple venues across the state, including American Repertory Ballet, New Jersey Ballet, and Moscow Ballet. For a sweet twist on the classic, don't miss the Hip Hop Nutcracker at NJPAC. We couldn't list all of them here, so be sure to check out our event calendar for more!

Read on for a list of the best productions happening this holiday season.

Watchung Reservation Sensory Trail Caters To NJ Kids of All Abilities

Sensory play—any activity that stimulates any one or all of a child’s five senses—is a crucial part of development. And for children who have difficulties processing all the different sensations that they receive from their senses, sensory stimulation can be even more valuable.

Enter the Watchung Reservation Sensory Trail in Mountainside. The first of its kind in Union County, the trail, located in Union County's largest park, is designed to provide sensory stimulation and interaction for all kids, with an emphasis on special needs children and their families. According to Union County park officials, it is the most extensive sensory trail in the U.S.

On a recent visit with my 5-year-old, we set out to determine if this sensory-friendly trail would stimulate all five of our senses. Read on to find out what we saw, heard, smelled, touched, and yes, maybe tasted, too.

Check out our Fall Fun Guide to find more easy trails along with other seasonal fun.

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