25 Things to Do with New Jersey Kids Over Holiday Break

Best activities for NJ families when school is closed for the holidays

The lazy days of December break may be the best time to take part in New Jersey's family-friendly holiday activities—especially if you have visiting relatives to entertain. From spectacular light displays to cold-weather fun, there's plenty to do during the days off from school. 

Most New Jersey schools are closed from Friday, December 22 through Monday, January 1, allowing plenty of time to experience some of the holiday highlights you may have missed in the hectic run-up to Christmas. It's also the perfect time to check out an indoor play space, museum, or fun zone. In my family, ice skating and movies always top the December vacation must-do list.

Be sure to check out our December GoList and Holiday Fun Guide for more great ideas. Happy Holidays, NJ!

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Sea of Lights – Point Pleasant
December 17, 26, 27, 28
Head down the shore to Jenkinson's Aquarium for an indoor light display featuring holiday crafts, treats, and a visit with Santa. The adjacent Jenkinson's arcade and sweet shop will also be open during the light show. 

Santa will be flying in to the Princeton Airport on December 24. Photo Courtesy of the Princeton Airport

Santa's Flight Landing – Princeton
December 24
Gather at the Princeton Airport hangar for cookies and cocoa, and watch Santa land his plane on the tarmac! The man in red will greet waiting children and families, and he will hand out gifts (provided by parents ahead of time). Donations of wrapped gifts for Mercer County Social Services also accepted.  

Winter Break Art Studio – Trenton
December 26, 27, 28, 29
Kids of all ages get crafty at New Jersey State Museum's art workshops, with a new project each day that's inspired by the current exhibition, American Perspectives: The Fine Art Collection. FREE

Winter Discovery Series – Hillsborough
December 26, 27, 28, 29
Bundle up and enjoy hands-on nature at Duke Farms' four-day nature exploration program. Choose any or all workshops, which focus on plants, animals, meadows, forest, and water cycles. 

RELATED: Best Holiday Lights Displays in New Jersey

Celebrate winter vacation at the Morris Museum. Photo courtesy of the Morris Museum Children's Theater

Winter Vacation Celebration at Morris Museum – Morristown
December 27
There's so much to do at Morris Museum's vacation celebration, including crafts, a performance of No Elves! No Elves!, exploring the Mega Model Railroad, and participating in a Touch the Music Workshop.

Kwanzaa Celebration – Cherry Hill
December 28
Celebrate African American traditions with interactive storytelling from Queen Nur, who lights up the stage with joyful songs and stories.  

Holiday Fun Days – Newark
December 27, 28, 29, 30, 31
Gather up the family to wander the galleries of the Newark Museum, and then find your way to the Education Lobby to tinker, discover, and create your own works of art using the same media featured in the museum's collections. Each day will feature a different material, including clay, paper, wood, and plastic, to help you tap into your own creativity. 

RELATED: 20 Drop-in Play Spaces for NJ Kids That Cost $15 or Less

Scuba Santa.

Christmas Underwater – Camden
Through December 30
Kids will be amazed by the Ocean Realm exhibit, which is all decked out for the holidays. Check out the world's tallest underwater Christmas tree, boogie at a Snow Shower Dance Party, and settle in for storytime with an elf. 

Christmas Lights – Cranbury
Through December 27 (except December 24) 
Bring some blankets and hot chocolate, and amaze the kids at this dazzling light show with a small-town feeling. Colorful lights are choreographed to blink in time to holiday music. FREE

Holiday Model Train Show – Woodbridge
Through December 30 (closed December 25)
The Barron Arts Center's annual holiday tradition features a festive display of model trains, including local landmarks. FREE

Johnson's Corner Farm – Medford
Through December 30 (closed December 25)
Keep the holiday fun going with a hayride through the farm's musical holiday light show, then roast marshmallows, decorate holiday cookies, and visit farm animals. 

Skylands Stadium Christmas Light Show – Augusta
Through December 30
The annual drive-through light show features more than two million lights arrayed in breathtaking displays set to joyful holiday music. 

Holiday Lights Trolley Ride – Cape May
Through December 31 (except December 24 & 25) 
Ride through Cape May's historic district to see festively decorated inns and homes as tour guides discuss Victorian Christmas traditions and lead sing-alongs of favorite holiday tunes. 

Annie – Millburn
Through December 31 
The sun will come out when this beloved Tony-winning musical takes the stage at Paper Mill Playhouse. Enjoy the adventures of a spunky orphan in 1930s New York City, along with the renowned musical score. 

New Year's at Noon – Cherry Hill
December 31
Why stay up until midnight when early birds can celebrate the New Year at noon or 3pm at the Garden State Discovery Museum? The festivities will include music and mummers, noisemakers and leis, bubbles, and a small-scale version of the ball dropping. 

New Year's Eve Splash – Camden
December 31
Celebrate the New Year with your favorite sea creatures, collect a free giveaway, and enjoy a fireworks display over the Delaware River. Since the festivities end at 6pm, you'll be home in time to watch the ball drop in Times Square. 

First Night Ocean County – Seaside Heights
December 31
Spend a fun-filled New Year's Eve day on the boardwalk with arcade games, face painters, magic, jugglers, and more. Top off the day with fireworks at 5pm. 

Kids Daytime NYE Party – Westville
December 31
Glide into the New Year at Deptford Skating Center's annual skate party. There are two afternoon sessions that include skating, skate rentals, inflatables, party favors, and a countdown. Parents get free admission. Also check out DSC's winter break skating specials from December 26–29.

Holiday Lights Spectacular – West Orange
Through January 1 (except December 24 & 25)
Children will adore the animal- and holiday-themed figures lit up along the walkways of Turtle Back Zoo. Costumed characters will greet children, and some zoo animals may be playing under the stars. Donations of canned goods accepted. FREE

RELATED: Make a Day of It with These Winter Day Trips for NJ Families

The Light Show on the Lake will keep twinkling over the holiday break. Courtesy of Historic Smithville

Historic Smithville Holiday Lights – Galloway Township
Through January 7 (Thursdays–Sundays)
Stroll through the historic village along Lake Meone, and gaze at more than 120 lit Christmas trees twinkling in time to holiday music. FREE

A holiday extravaganza awaits you at the Bergen County Winter Wonderland. Photos by Derek Sands/Bergen County Executive's Office

Bergen County Winter Wonderland – Paramus
Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays through January 1
Visit Van Saun Park's second annual winter extravaganza, featuring outdoor ice skating, Santa's workshop, food trucks, a holiday train, and carousel rides.  

Dine-In Movies – Edison, Bridgewater, Dunellen, West Orange, Fort Lee
Try combining dinner and a movie for the whole family at one of New Jersey's several dine-in movie theaters. Sink in to a comfy lounger and order tasty apps and meals while you check out the adventures of lovable bull Ferdinand or Star Wars: Episode VIII The Last Jedi.

Outdoor Ice Skating – Various locations
Skating times vary 
For guaranteed rosy cheeks and frosty noses, head out to one of New Jersey's open-air ice rinks for traditional winter skating fun. 

Indoor skating – Various locations
Skating times vary
If the winter chill is too much for your family, lace up your skates at one of New Jersey's many state-of-the art indoor skating centers. Most feature skate rentals, snack bars, and warming rooms. Skating lessons make a great gift!

Drop-In Play Spaces – Various locations
Keep the little ones busy and warm at budget-friendly place indoor play spaces throughout the state. And if you plan to hit the mall for returns, stop by the new Garden State Plaza PlaySpace

Top photo: Cape May Holiday Lights Trolley Ride. Unless otherwise noted, all photos courtesy of the events/venues.

Camden Aquarium
1 Riverside Drive
08103 Camden , NJ 39° 56' 38.724" N, 75° 7' 50.3616" W
New Jersey
Jenkinson's Aquarium
300 Ocean Drive
08742 Point Pleasant , NJ 40° 5' 41.2044" N, 74° 2' 11.4936" W
New Jersey
Skylands Stadium
94 Championship Place
07822 Augusta , NJ
New Jersey
Barron Arts Center
582 Rahway Avenue
07095 Woodbridge , NJ 40° 33' 40.8492" N, 74° 16' 26.5944" W
New Jersey
Morris Museum
6 Normandy Heights Road
07960 Morristown , NJ 40° 47' 45.1104" N, 74° 26' 55.3668" W
New Jersey
Johnson's Corner Farm
133 Church Road
08055 Medford , NJ 39° 55' 12.36" N, 74° 51' 2.88" W
New Jersey
Van Saun Park
216 Forest Avenue
07652 Paramus , NJ 40° 55' 51.9204" N, 74° 3' 4.6656" W
New Jersey
Emlen Physick Estate
1048 Washington Street
08204 Cape May , NJ 38° 56' 25.0764" N, 74° 54' 55.5084" W
New Jersey
Garden State Discovery Museum
2040 Springdale Road Suite 100
08003 Cherry Hill , NJ 39° 54' 42.8652" N, 74° 57' 59.6628" W
New Jersey
Princeton Airport
41 Airpark Road
08540 Princeton , NJ 40° 23' 50.5716" N, 74° 39' 37.6092" W
New Jersey
Whippany Railway Museum
1 Railroad Plaza
07981 Whippany , NJ 40° 49' 21.9" N, 74° 24' 43.164" W
New Jersey
Cranbury Christmas Lights
128 North Main Street
08512 Cranbury , NJ 40° 19' 9.9552" N, 74° 30' 46.4436" W
New Jersey
Turtle Back Zoo
560 Northfield Road
07052 West Orange , NJ 40° 46' 9.5196" N, 74° 16' 51.4632" W
New Jersey
Smithville Village
615 East Moss Road
08205 Smithville , NJ
New Jersey
New Jersey State Museum
205 West State Street
08608 Trenton , NJ 40° 13' 15.6036" N, 74° 46' 23.3904" W
New Jersey