10 NJ Christmas Towns that Go All-Out for the Holidays
Santa Claus is coming to the Garden State, and we’ve picked the 10 best places in New Jersey where sleigh bells ring, carolers sing, and thousands of Christmas lights sparkle. From magical train rides and magnificent parades to tree lightings, horse-drawn carriage rides, and visits with Santa, these towns really get into the holiday spirit.
So pull out all the warm clothes, put on some holiday cheer, and take a drive to these charming, Christmas-crazed NJ towns—including Asbury Park, Cape May, Clinton, and Princeton—your family will be in for a holiday filled with some of the season’s best.
Visit Santa at the Holiday Bazaar in Asbury Park. Photo courtesy of Asbury Park
If your holiday travels takes you down the shore, make Asbury Park a stop on your tour. Kicking-off with the annual grand tree lighting ceremony, Santa Claus then strolls down the boardwalk bringing holiday cheer straight from the North Pole. The Holiday Bazaar at Convention Hall is another must, filled with vendors and local shops selling the cutest and coolest art, jewelry, home goods, and more. While you shop, kid-friendly activities abound. Little ones can make ornaments, cookies, and crafts to gift grandma or grandpa, as well as snap photos with Santa. (Insider tip: Don't miss the delicious donuts!) Free movie screenings (National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, anyone?) and concerts galore round out Asbury Park's holiday fun.
Take a Christmas train ride in Cape May. Photo by Laura Cocivera
The seaside town of Cape May goes all out for the holiday season, trimming the historic Victorian houses with gorgeous garlands and wreaths. Take a trolley ride with Mrs. Claus to see the Christmas lights, or swing by Congress Hall’s Winter Wonderland. There you’ll find a carousel, train rides, shopping village, and tons of family-friendly events. At Santa’s Workshop kiddos can mail a letter to Santa, make an elf hat or ornament to take home, or listen in to storytime with Mrs. Claus. You can also enjoy breakfast with Santa and gingerbread house decorating, or try new favorites like holiday bingo and dinner with Blue the Pig & the Clauses.
The Clinton Christmas Parade is always a hit!
There's no better way we can think off to kick-off the holiday season than at the Clinton Christmas Parade. Held the first Friday in December for the last 33 years, this parade in historic Clinton features floats, fire trucks, costumed characters, and, of course, the jolly old man in red himself. There's just so much joyful sparkle, you'll be lit up inside for days! It's a freeze-worthy reason to bundle up and be a part of the crowd. Get there early for a good spot.
Shop by candlelight in Haddonfield.
Experience the beauty of the holiday season as your family strolls through downtown Haddonfield, which is illuminated by candlelight for this annual Friday-night shopping tradition. The small businesses that line the town’s main street—King’s Highway—stay open late as you shop accompanied by candlelight and carols sung by local bands and musicians. Already finished with your shopping list? Take the kiddos on a festive and free horse-drawn carriage ride around town. Candlelight Shopping takes place every Friday through December 22, 2019, and carriage rides are available on select dates. Check the website for the full schedule.
Hoboken is always buzzing with activity, and the frenzy takes on a festive feel during the holidays. Skip SantaCon, which is strictly an adults-on affair, and instead make a beeline for the Hoboken Holiday Craft Fair at City Hall. With three floors of handcrafted gift items from local vendors and businesses, you're guaranteed to find something for anyone on your list. For a unique photo experience, hop on over to the Hoboken Business Center, where Main Street Pops has decked the halls and created eight playful holiday settings that provide the perfect backdrop for your family holiday cards or Instagram stories.
Morristown's month-long Christmas Festival is a child's holiday dream.
The month-long Christmas Festival in historic Morristown starts with the lighting of the Morristown Green, with its dazzling display of brilliant lights and wreaths. Each weekend throughout December, bring your little elves for miniature wooden train rides around the Green, vintage oversized rocking horses, ice-sculpting demonstrations, and of course, visits and photos with Santa. Warm up in a heated tent featuring holiday crafts like gingerbread house and holiday card making, all set to music by local choirs and entertainers. With the exception of $10 for photos with Santa, everything else is absolutely free.
See the lavishly decorated Christmas trees at Morven Museum's Festival of Trees.
Holiday happenings in this idyllic collegiate town offer something for everyone. Looking for low-key and warm, indoor fun? The festive display of decorated Christmas trees at Morven Museum's annual Festival of Trees gets kids of all ages into the holiday spirit. If you want to take it up a notch, ride in style and comfort on a holiday trolley tour through many of Princeton's picture-perfect neighborhoods. To go all-out, Terhune Orchards transforms into a veritable North Pole. Kids can ride Santa's sleigh, make crafts, sip hot chocolate, roast marshmallows, and decorate gingerbread houses, while parents sample local wines and shop the farm store for gift baskets and homemade baked goods.
Your family will discover the best of Red Bank’s downtown and arts and antiques district during the annual seasonal scavenger hunt to find the Red Bank Elf. Also returning this year is the outdoor skating rink and shopping bazaar on Broad Street. Step inside the life-size snow globe to take a one-of-a-kind family "usie." In addition to photos with Santa and carolers along the sidewalks, horse and wagon rides are available through the downtown area every Saturday in December.
There's plenty of good cheer to be had in Ridgewood, and the lighting of the town tree provides a festive start. The high school marching band and orchestra keep the crowd entertained, as well as a track-less train for kids and families to enjoy. The next day, Santa arrives downtown by fire truck. Bring the little ones to see him ride into town and receive a free gift and photo. You can also visit Santa every Saturday in December at his home away from home in Memorial Park at Van Neste Square. Ben & Jerry's will provide free hot chocolate to keep everyone warm and cozy.
The floating Christmas trees on Lake Meone in Historic Smithville are an amazing sight.
There’s no shortage of seasonal entertainment at Historic Smithville. With charming cobblestone-lined streets, the colonial village offers a blend of old-time celebrations with a dizzying light show on the lake that will shine in your memory for decades. As well as breakfast with Santa, December weekends feature s’mores on the village green and storytime with Mrs. Claus. Having trouble finding Mrs. Claus? Ask the Magic Talking Christmas Tree that, yes, really talks! Weather-permitting, the train and carousel are open for riders through December.
Unless noted, photos courtesy of the towns/events.