Holiday and Christmas Events in NJ: The Ultimate Guide

We don’t want to cause undue stress or anxiety, but we believe we would be remiss if we didn’t remind you that this Friday, yes THIS FRIDAY, is December 1st. So if you’re feeling the need to make your list, check it twice, and organize your calendar so you don’t miss any Holiday or Christmas Events in NJ that put you in the holiday spirit, read on. We’ve got your Santa sightings, tree and menorah lightings and more.


Santa Sightings

He’s here! He’s here! Santa is here! Get your threats and bribes ready – it’s time to dress up the kids, then beg them to stay clean, smile pretty and use their manners as they share their heart’s desire with The Jolly One. Here’s where to go to get the job done:

Westfield Garden State Plaza

You’ll find Santa in Macy’s Court, Level 2, Monday through Saturday, 10am – 9pm. Reserve your FastPass online and skip the wait. Dasher, Dancer and the gang get fed twice a day, from 1pm – 2pm and from 5pm – 6pm. Special hours apply on December 6th, 9th, 13th, 16th and 23rd. Please check the website for details.

Paramus Park Mall

Save $5 on photos now through December 9th if you book your reservation to visit Santa on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday. Or, forget the adorable matching outfits in favor of the less traditional Ugly Sweater (Friday, December 1st, 5pm – 8pm) or pajamas (Friday, December 8th, 5pm – 8pm).

The Shops at Riverside

Santa’s waiting on the second floor near Banana Republic. Reserve your magical moment with Santa online. Though the plus side of standing in line is that you can do a little window shopping while you wait! Santa will be in residence through December 23rd. See website for times and to book your photos.


Bergen Town Center

Santa Claus is back in town! Join him for photos in Center Court, located by Whole Foods Market! Reserve your FastPass or stop by. Now through December 18, 10am – 9pm (with breaks for eggnog and cookies from 1pm – 2pm and 5pm – 6pm) and December 19 – December 23, 9am – 11pm (breaks from 1pm – 2pm and 5:30pm – 6:30pm).


Frosty can’t make it in the greenhouse, but Santa can! Visit Santa in Abma’s greenhouses on December 2nd, 9th and 16th from 11am – 3pm. Bring a camera to snag the perfect shot, stop by to say “hi” to the animals in the yard, spend time browsing in the farm market for fresh produce in season, yummy baked goods, gifts and prepared foods. Visit on December 9th and stick around for gingerbread cookie decorating. Drop in to the Education Station any time between 10am and 1pm. Cost is $5 per cookie. Please register in advance to ensure enough freshly made cookies. No deposit required.

1 Gym 4 All

1 Gym 4 All provides the community in and around Waldwick with a sensory gym, giving children with all abilities an opportunity to play while accommodating their sensory needs in a fun and safe environment. 1 Gym 4 All is committed to providing a comfortable environment for all kids and peace of mind for their parents. 1 Gym 4 All is hosting visits with Sensory Santa on December 3rd from 2pm – 5pm. Spend time with Santa without the busy mall crowds. Price for 1 child is $15, 2 children is $25 and a family is $35. Limited spots are available, call 201.857.0922 to reserve your time today.


Tree Lightings

Nothing gets you in the spirit quite like standing shoulder to shoulder with your neighbors and counting down as the wind nips your nose, carols fill your ears and a tree springs to life with multi-colored lights. Plan your festive outing to one of these local tree lightings:

Downtown for the Holidays, Ridgewood

Ridgewood ushers in the holiday season in style, kicking off the Chamber’s four-week event, “Downtown for the Holidays” with its annual tree lighting on Friday, December 1st. E. Ridgewood Avenue will be closed starting at 5:30pm to make way for performances by the RHS Marching Band and other local musical groups and the beloved trackless train. Then head to the main stage at the train station for more music and performances and then the main event, the tree lighting at 7:30pm. Stick around until 9:00 to visit with Santa in Van Neste Square and do a little shopping or dining. Then, on Saturday, visit with Santa at Columbia Bank (10am – 1pm) or in Memorial Park at Van Neste Square (2pm- 4pm). And don’t forget to make time for a free showing of Elf at the Bow Tie Cinemas. Visit the Chamber website for more information and additional times to visit with Santa.



Rockefeller Center, New York City

The iconic Rockefeller Center tree lighting will be taking place on Wednesday, November 29th this year, with the festivities kicking off at 7pm. This event is free and open to the public on a first come, first served basis. Avoid the traffic and parking hassle by taking advantage of the NY Waterway’s Kids Ride Free for the Holidays promotion.

Winter Wonderland, Emerson

Clear your calendar – Emerson is hosting its first ever Winter Wonderland to benefit Project Graduation 2018 and the tree lighting at 6pm on Wednesday, December 6th is just the beginning. After the tree is lit, head to Benkovic and Hillman fields to buy your Christmas tree, go ice skating, shop at the Christmas market and get your photos taken with Santa. But pace yourself. The festival goes for four days. Wednesday, December 6th – Friday, December 8th, 6pm – 10pm, Saturday, December 9th, 10am – 8pm.

Home for the Holidays Parade, Westwood

Kick off the season in style with Santa Claus, a tree and candle lighting ceremony, marching bands, hot chocolate, an igloo photo booth and more. Parade begins at 6:00 pm on Westwood Avenue and ends at Veteran’s Memorial Park. This year’s theme is Holiday Fairytales.


Shops at Nanuet, Nanuet

Join the fun on Friday, December 1 from 6-8pm for a holiday season kick off that includes the lighting of the Shops at Nanuet holiday Tree in the Plaza, hosting by WPLJ's Monk from Todd & Jayde, musical and dance performances, costume characters, and of course a surprise appearance from the Big Jolly Elf himself.

Menorah Lightings

The Festival of Lights starts at sundown on Tuesday, December 12th. Kick off the celebration with a menorah lighting, some latkes and a jelly doughnut or two.


Celebrate the first day of Hanukkah with a sundown lighting in Memorial Park at Van Neste Square. Gather at 5:30 on Tuesday, December 12th to sing songs while the first candle is lit.


Fair Lawn

On Monday, December 18 at 7:00PM, join in lighting the menorah in front of Fair Lawn's Municipal Building, with the honorable Mayor John Cosgrove and Council members. Fresh donuts, treats, music and Chanukah gelt for all! 8-01 Fair Lawn Ave. Fair Lawn, NJ.


Join a festive Chanukah family celebration including a unique retelling of the Chanukah story with sand art, latkes, jelly doughnuts, a “build your own city” family project, and of course, candle lighting. Sunday, December 17th, 4pm- 7pm. Spots are limited, so please purchase your tickets in advance. $10/person advance purchase (children under 2 free) $15/at the door. This program is organized by COJECO NJ and is supported by Jewish Federation of NNJ.


Head to the River Vale Community Center for a free menorah lighting and celebration from 6pm – 7pm on December 12th. River Vale Community Center, 628 Rivervale Road.


December 18th from 5:30pm – 6:30pm at the Mahwah Municipal Building/Senior Center, 475 Corporate Drive.


The menorah lighting will take place on Tuesday, December 12th from 6pm – 9pm at Englewood City Hall, 2-10 North Van Brunt Street.

Special Events

Looking for something to make your holiday season special? Try one of these unique family events and start making memories.

Bergen County Winter Wonderland

Van Saun Park is transformed into a winter wonderland complete with skating rink, synthetic rink for kids, Bergen Express train rides, Santa’s North Pole Dome and Workshop, Carousel rides, zoo entry, beer garden and food trucks. New this year are carnival style, winter-themed games for the kiddos. And don’t forget to wander through the trees decorated to express the unique personalities of the 70 Bergen County towns. Check the website for additional special activities and to purchase tickets.

Nunnbetter Dance Theatre Nutcracker

Few things will put you in the holiday mood like an afternoon spent watching Clara defeat the Mouse King then get whisked away by her nutcracker prince to be delighted by the inhabitants of the land ruled by the Princess of Sweets. Dancers from the Nunbetter Dance Theatre Company will be performing this timeless classic the weekend of December 8th – 10th at Bergen County Academies in Hackensack.

Skylands Stadium Christmas Light Show

Holiday time = twinkling lights (and cocoa of course). Pack up the kids, load up the car and hit Skylands Stadium Christmas Light Show which includes more than 2 million lights (talk about "wow" factor) displayed on a 1 mile drive through course plus a Christmas village with live entertainment, Santa visits and vendors.

Polar Express Train Ride, New Hope, PA

All Aboard! For a magical ride on the historic #40 steam engine through the Bucks County, PA countryside. You and your little ones will be visited by Santa and Mrs. Claus on this hour-long excursion complete with roaming musicians, hot cocoa and freshly baked cookies. Each child will receive their own sleigh bell as a gift and pajama wearing is encouraged (bonus!). First class and coach class tickets available now through Dececmber 31st. Visit website to purchase.


Kaplen JCC on the Palisades Cookie Swap, Chanukah Science Circus, and more

Calling all winter bakers! Children in grades 2-6 are invited to a Cookie Swap on Saturday, December 9th from 7:30pm – 9:30pm. Kids will be broken into groups, each group will complete a different cookie recipe, then the groups will swap their cookies so each child can head home with a variety of cookies and the recipes too! Dinner included. Then, celebrate the holiday of miracles with mind-blowing science experiments performed by Liberty Science Center’s scientists. The show includes over a dozen miraculous experiments and as always, lots of volunteer opportunities! Or, visit on December 25th for a playful reading of Maddie the Mitzvah Clown.


Holiday Light Spectacular, Turtle Back Zoo, West Orange

Stroll through the Turtle Back Zoo under the sparkling lights of over 50 winter and animal characters. Donations of non-perishable food items, new toys and gently used coats will be collected. Each weekend in December, different themed activities will make your visit extra festive. Plus, save time for face painting, a visit with Santa, ice carving and a special sea lion demonstration. Friday, Saturday and Sunday through December 10th. Nightly December 11th – January 1st. Closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Gingerbread Houses, New York Hall of Science

Want to see the village created this year by Jon Lovitch, Guinness World Record holder for largest gingerbread village for the past three years? Visit the New York Hall of Science now through January 15th to marvel, then stay for one of the gingerbread workshops where you and your little culinary engineers can create a form of transportation out of gingerbread. Participants will receive a kit with all the tools they need. Workshops will be held weekends through December. Then head back on January 15th to receive a piece of the gingerbread village. Distribution is first-come, first-served, one piece per family. See website for more information.


Mad Science Holiday Show, Westfield Garden State Plaza, Paramus

 Back by popular demand, Mad Science of Northeast NJ will host four high energy HOLIDAY demonstrations of fun, education and spectacular science experiments.  This exclusive Mad Science show will create Holiday Spirit with the help of the audience and Santa himself. 

Show dates:  Wednesday, December 6th and 13th from 5pm-6pm and Saturday, December 9th and 16th from 10 am – 11am. Admission is free for children of all ages. Following each performance, children who have purchased the VIP package will make a craft themed around the show. VIP packages are available for $10 and include: Make and Take Craft supervised by Santa, LED fidget Spinner, Complimentary Kids Meal at Chick-Fil-A, Complimentary AMC Theatres children ticket.. 100% of the VIP package proceeds go to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.


Gingerbread Wonderland 2017, Frelinghuysen Arboretum, Morris Township

The Frelinghuysen Arboretum comes alive with over 200 displays of gingerbread houses, landmarks, trains, planes, and animals and includes every theme from favorite show tunes to commercials, from family vacations to superheroes. Vote for your favorite – awards will be given to winners in the categories of: Adult, Family, Children, School, Scouts and Special Needs. Visit Friday, December 1st – Sunday, December 10th, 10am – 4:30pm, open Fridays until 7:30pm.


Nutcracker and Maccabeats, BergenPAC, Englewood

More of a ballet person? The New Jersey Ballet will be performing their beloved version of The Nutcracker the weekend of December 2nd – 3rd. Then, the premier all-male a cappella group the Maccabeats take the stage for one show only, December 6th at 7:30pm. Visit the website for more information and to purchase tickets to both of these festive events.


Garden state Model Railway Club, North Haledon

Featuring a 1200 square foot HO layout, steam and diesel locomotives, freight and passenger trains, rural and urban scenes, and working signals, The Model Railroad Show runs the weekends of December 2-3, 9-10 and January 6-7 from 1pm – 5pm. Fun for all ages! 575 High Mountain Road, North Haledon.


Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Old Dutch Church, Sleepy Hollow

Experience the tale of Ebenezer Scrooge like you never have before! Master storyteller Jonathan Kruk will regale you with his adaptation of this holiday classic, complete with musical accompaniment. Performances last about an hour.


Candy Lane Holiday Game, Oasis Family Farm, Robbinsville

Help! A clumsy elf has locked away all of Santa’s magical ornaments and forgotten the code to get them back. Santa and his elves need your help to save the holiday! Head to Oasis Family Farm December 9th and 10th from 5pm – 8pm to follow the Candy Lane path, answer questions, solve riddles and crack the code. Holiday helpers along your way will provide you with clues and holiday treats. At the end, whisper the code in Santa’s ear and receive a special holiday gift. All you and your best helpers need is a flashlight and a cell phone (though lists are available if you don’t have a phone). Then stick around for holiday refreshments and a trip to the farm store. You’ll need it after the excitement of helping save Christmas!


A Day in New York City

Window Shopping

And by window shopping, we mean window gawking, gazing at the amazing creations the holiday window designers have come up with at the flagship stores across the city.

American Girl Place

Then, stop by the amazing new American Girl Place where your very own American girl is sure to find some things for her holiday wish list.

Tiffany & Co. Blue Box Café

And just as you’re feeling faint from hunger, head over to the new Tiffany & Co. Blue Box Café for a lunch or tea that will put you firmly in the holiday spirit (betcha Mom can find a few things for her holiday gift list at this stop).


Once you’re refreshed and ready to go again, visit the holiday markets in Union Square, Bryant Park, Grand Central Terminal, or Columbus Circle for one-of-a-kind gifts that will make short work of your long list.

























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