December GoList: 20+ Best Things To Do in NJ for the Holidays

The month of December is like one big jolly holiday. Santa's making his rounds via planes and trains, and even underwater. Local towns and New Jersey's favorite haunts are glowing with holiday lights. Plus, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and New Year's Eve round out the month-long festivities. 

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 New Jersey every day 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 seasonal show, and see at least one of the spectacular light displays around the state.

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 more than 20 of our favorites.

For even more ideas, check out our Holiday Guide and Event Calendar. And sign up for our FREE newsletters so you can have our picks delivered directly to your inbox! Happy Holidays!


Take a festive hayride around Johnson's Corner Farm through December 23. Photo courtesy of the farm

Holidays at Johnson's Corner Farm – Medford
Through December 23, 2019
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 hayride, see a musical light show, visit with farm animals, roast marshmallows, decorate cookies, and more.

Holiday Model Train Show – Woodbridge
Through December 30, 2019 
Head to the Baron Arts Center for the 29th 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 1 for the show's opening reception and town tree lighting, which includes a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus.

RELATED: 30+ Free Holiday and Christmas Events for NJ Kids


See a stunning display of more than two million lights—without getting out of your car. Photo courtesy of Skylands Stadium

Skylands Stadium Christmas Light Show – Augusta
​Through December 30, 2019
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 two million lights, and it's one of the most popular in the state. Admission to the indoor Christmas Village is included.

The Polar Express – Whippany
Through December 30, 2019
As of this writing, tickets for select dates are still available for this magical holiday train ride featuring hot cocoa and cookies served by dancing chefs, a reading of The Polar Express, and a special gift from Santa. See the website for availability. 

Christmas Underwater – Camden
Through December 30, 2019
Scuba Santa returns to Adventure Aquarium to swim with the sharks, sea turtles, and stingrays in the aquarium's 760,000-gallon Ocean Realm exhibit. Other attractions include the world's tallest underwater Christmas tree (plus eight miniature trees), a Snow Shower Dance Party, Milk & Cookies with Santa, and more festive fun.

Turtle Back Zoo Holiday Lights Spectacular – West Orange
Through December 31, 2019 
NJ families have another reason to love Turtle Back Zoo: a free evening holiday light show. More than 50 animal-shaped displays will illuminate the zoo, with several animal exhibits remaining open. Bring non-perishable foods, new/gently used winter coats, and unwrapped toys for donation. FREE

Six Flags Holiday in the Park – Jackson
Through December 31, 2019 
It's a grand holiday adventure at Great Adventure when the park gets gussied up for the holidays. Visit Santa, walk the Peppermint Path, get dazzled at Wonder: A Cirque Spectacular, and much more holiday fun.

PNC Bank Arts Center Magic of Lights – Holmdel
Through January 4, 2020
Stay toasty in your car while driving through this dazzling lights display with holiday scenes and characters. And if you feel like venturing out of your car, visit the all-new Holiday Village with Santa photos, cookies and more.

Bergen County Winter Wonderland – Paramus
Through January 5, 2020 
Spend a festive 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.

Smithville Holiday Light Show – Smithville
Through January 5, 2020
Every weekend, Historic Smithville Village treats families to holiday activities, many of which are free. Take a train ride around the beautifully decorated village, and after dark on Thursdays–Sundays, watch Christmas trees constructed from more than 50,000 lights float on Lake Meone as holiday music plays in the background. On select dates, catch Mrs. Claus in her Christmas Cottage for storytime. FREE

Downtown Newark Holiday Tree Lighting Celebration – Newark
December 3, 2019
Newark goes all-out for this tree lighting celebration, featuring Santa, plus a bounce house and live music. FREE

The Elf on a Shelf Christmas Musical – Red Bank
December 3-4, 2019
The Elf comes out of hiding and takes the stage at Count Basie in this brand new holiday musical, featuring original music and dazzling sets and costumes.

Gingerbread Wonderland – Morris Township
December 6-15, 2019
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. 

RELATED: Where To Have Breakfast with Santa in New Jersey


Peek in at scenes from A Christmas Carol in Maplewood's mini Dickens Village. Photo by Rose Gordon Sala

Dickens Village – Maplewood
December 7-21, 2019
Downtown Maplewood is dressed up for the holidays, and local businesses sponsor horse-drawn carriage rides, carolers, concerts, refreshments, and children's activities. The highlight is a mini "village" featuring 10 tiny houses decorated with scenes from A Christmas Carol. A menorah lighting will take place on Thursday, December 3. FREE

Angelina Ballerina: The Very Merry Holiday Musical– South Orange
December 8, 2019
SOPAC welcomes everyone's favorite dancing mouse as she sings and twirls in this lively holiday musical. Arrive early for a pre-show activity.

NJ Ballet in The Nutcracker – Morristown
December 13-27, 2019
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 month, with accompaniment by the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra. Read our roundup of Nutcrackers and holiday shows to find even more performances happening throughout the state. 

Sea of Lights – Point Pleasant Beach 
December 13–28, 2019
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. 

RELATED: 40+ Holiday Events for NJ Toddlers and Preschoolers


Decorate your own holiday treats at the Gingerbread Workshop. Photo courtesy of Liberty Hall Museum

Gingerbread House Workshop – Union 
December 14 and 21, 2019
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. Reservations required. 

Annual Hot Chocolate Hike Weekend – Short Hills
December 14-15, 2019
Bundle up for a guided hike on the Cora Hartshorn Arboretum, then warm up in the historic Stone House with hot chocolate by the fire. 

RELATED: Best Family-Friendly Nutcrackers and Holiday Shows for NJ Kids


Celebrate Kwanzaa with dancing and more at NJPAC's Kwanzaa Festival. Photo by Donnell Woodson for NJPAC

Kwanzaa Family Festival – Newark
December 21, 2019
Don't miss NJPAC's annual Kwanzaa Family Festival and Marketplace. Participants can make arts and crafts, sing, dance, and explore the rhythms of African tradition.

Car Menorah Parade – Cherry Hill
December 22, 2019
Hanukkah kicks off with this unique parade of cars decked-out with menorahs. Top off the celebration with a candle lighting and gelt drop. FREE

Santa Flies into Princeton Airport – Princeton
December 24, 2019
Santa makes his grand entrance into Princeton Airport via plane, bringing gifts to onlooking children. Cocoa and cookies will round out the fun.

New Year's Eve Splash – Camden
December 31, 2019
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 6pm, so you'll be home in time to have a New Year's Eve celebration of your own.