Skylands Stadium Christmas Light Show Dazzles With Mile-Long Display
Trying to find fun things to do with kids during the pandemic is tricky, especially as the seasons change, but Christmas lights shows are coming to the rescue. There are tons of drive-thru options ranging from elaborate home displays to large-scale professional extravaganzas nearby. While some of these light shows are newcomers, the Skylands Stadium Christmas Light Show in Augusta, New Jersey, is a long-running drive-thru display that's already deep into its 2020 run. Boasting more than 2 million sparkling lights and some interactive outdoor elements, we had to check it out for ourselves.
Read on for our full review of the Skylands Stadium Christmas Light Show, and find more safe, seasonal fun in our Holiday Guide for New Jersey Families.
Editor's note: While we are trying to promote safer activities that occur outdoors or with social distancing guidelines in place, please keep your family and others safe by always wearing a mask and practicing social distancing. If you arrive at an event that appears too crowded, try using the “nearby” search feature on our Event Calendar to find something else to do.
Visitors to the Skylands Stadium Christmas Light Show receive a warm, brightly lit welcome upon arrival.
This year, the Skylands Stadium Christmas Light Show consists of three segments: A holiday lights drive-thru, an Outdoor Village, and a Winter Carnival, though the main attraction is the drive-thru, mile-long road ensconced in lighted Christmas imagery that curves and winds past—and under and through—countless lights, even taking viewers onto the stadium’s field for a leg of the drive.
The light show displays are mostly simple, 2D-style holiday-themed characters. Expect to see many Santas, elves, reindeer, candy canes, snowmen, and more. Some are animated, allowing visitors to witness the elves helping Santa in his workshop or watch reindeer launching into the air.
Grab the kids, load up the car, and let the magic of the holidays fill your night!
In at least three places, the twinkling, blinking lights create tunnels for cars to drive through, which, along with the many trains, were the most exciting aspects of the drive for my toddler, who enjoyed watching them shimmy and dance through the sunroof.
You might want to slow down when you pass the North Pole Police Department cruiser!
The display gives a nod to other seasonal cultural holiday celebrations, with a large “Feliz Navidad” sign (it was fun to explain to my son what it meant), and a Star of David and a menorah for Hanukkah. Don’t expect to see the variety of decor and creativity, per se, of the decorated house light shows, but what this show lacks in variety, it makes up for in the sheer number of lights, with its tantalizing light tunnels and vast, sprawling layout.
A trio of singing snowmen with animated faces serenade visitors in the Outdoor Village at the Skylands Stadium Christmas Light Show. Photo by the author
Once you've covered the drive-thru course, you can park your car and visit the Outdoor Village. Entry is included in your ticket price. Here, you'll find an open-air gallery with food stalls, photos with Santa and seasonal backdrops, plus stocking decorating, and even an area to do some mining—a nod to the Sussex County Miners, the professional baseball team who calls Skylands Stadium home. The singing snowmen with faces projected onto them were a unique and amusing sight. There was plenty of space to social distance, and the entire village takes place outdoors except for restrooms and food stalls.
Finally, a Winter Carnival is located at the edge of the village. It offers fairground-style rides such as kiddie cars, a carousel, a Ferris wheel, and irresistible deep-fried Oreos, among other treats. Again, there was plenty of room to stretch out as the entire carnival spun and twirled outside. Beware: Tickets are $1.50 each, and each ride requires 4 tickets per person.
Enjoy a spin on the kiddie rides at the Winter Carnival following your light show drive-thru, but be warned: Carnival fun costs extra. Photo by the author
While the drive-thru portion of the event felt completely safe during the pandemic, the Outdoor Village and Winter Carnival come with a bit of caution. On the night we visited, it was rainy and early evening, yet, there were dozens of families present at the Outdoor Village, and I could see from the line of cars snaking through the light show that there were about to be many more. Some attendees wore masks, but many others chose not to despite CDC recommendations and a New Jersey state mandate requiring masks in outdoor public spaces where social distancing cannot be maintained. I did see some low-key signage encouraging their use, but no one enforcing it. The takeaway message is, while the drive-thru feels safe, the Outdoor Village and Winter Carnival could pose an exposure risk, though both are open-air events. We recommend using face masks, maintaining social distance, packing plenty of hand sanitizer, and using the bathroom at home before the show.
A last word of caution: Dress for the weather. The Skylands Stadium Christmas Light Show is a rain-or-shine event.
The Skylands Stadium Christmas Light Show is presented nightly through Sunday, January 3, 2021, though it's closed on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Eve, and New Year's Day. Timed-entry tickets are $29 and can be booked online. Skylands Stadium is located in Sussex County in northwestern New Jersey. If you're traveling from the city, it's about an hour and 20 minute drive from Midtown Manhattan.
A previous version of this story was published in 2016. It has been updated for 2020. Unless noted, all photos courtesy of Skylands