Ultimate Guide to Holiday and Christmas Events for NJ Families


Sure, we could do the old “where has the year gone?” routine, but let’s not waste time with small talk when the holidays are fast approaching and we have a lot to get done. One item on the list? Treat the kids to some holiday fun with our Ultimate Guide to Holiday and Christmas Events for Bergen County Families. Whether it’s a winter festival, breakfast with Santa, or holiday train ride to the North Pole here’s a solid roster of events to choose from before things get too hectic. Wait, it’s too late for that, but still ...

Santa Sightings

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, amidst brand new sparkly decor, Monday through Saturday, 10am – 9pm. Reserve ahead online and skip the wait. Dasher, Dancer and the gang get fed twice a day, from 1pm – 2pm and from 5pm – 6pm. (Please check the website for details and more specific hours)

Paramus Park Mall

Ditch the adorable matching outfits in favor of the less traditional Ugly Sweater or PJs for your photos with the big guy when you visit this Santa on certain days. Otherwise pop in on a Monday- Weds and save $5  (Reservations can be made ahead here)

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 24th. 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. Stop by now through December 24th and check out their special days for pets and special needs kids. See website for times and details

Abma’s Farm

Frosty can’t make it in the greenhouse, but Santa can! Visit Santa in Abma’s greenhouses on November 23rd-24th and December 1st and 8th, 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 and munch on house-made s'mores and hot chocolate. 

Fresh & Fancy Farm

One of our favorite area farms will be hosting Breakfast with Santa the weekend of December 1st and 2nd and serving up pancakes and sausage so the fam can enjoy the housemade eats while meeting Santa. Tickets are selling quickly for this popular event so snag yours soon.

 

Breakfast with Santa at Rockefeller Center

For the full-on experience, book a table at Sea Grill, where, in addition to an elevated breakfast featuring charcuterie, a bagel-and-lox station, chocolate fountain, and Bloody Marys and Mimosas, you’ll find roaming carolers and a table-visiting Santa who comes to you for the photos. For about half the price, you can hit up Rock Center Cafe with slightly less over-the-top breakfast offerings. Here, kids can assemble souvenir bags filled with candy treats to take home before heading into the Throne Room for photos on Santa’s lap. Both experiences let you bypass the line and head straight to the skating rink, FYI. Select dates between November 23 and December 24

Breakfast with Santa at Stella Trattoria

Make it your own Miracle on 34th Street at this modern Italian trattoria on the 6th floor of Macy’s in Midtown. In addition to lots of good eats with views of the Empire State Building as a backdrop, adults will get to indulge in Prosecco Bellinis and everyone gets take-home treats. Then it’s time for a meeting with Santa, which also includes a keepsake photo with St. Nick and his elves. Select dates between November 23 and December 24.

Santaland at Herald Square

If you needed one more piece of evidence that your kids area growing up in a very different era than you did, here it is: You now must reserve a time to sit on Santa’s lap at Macy’s. So, you know, you’re going to have to suck it up and do it. They’ll start taking reservations – and announce the rest of the Santaland holiday event lineup – on November 18. 

Lunch With Santa Cruise

What’s better than Santa on land? Santa at sea, of course! This two-hour cruise from Chelsea Piers comes complete with a lunch buffet (full of kid-friendly options), a DJ and dancing, and, of course a special appearance by the big man himself. December 8

Breakfast With Santa at the Ritz-Carlton Westchester

Sunday, December 9th will be an action-packed morning at this hotel decked out in holiday decor with a big old breakfast buffet, face painting, balloon artists, cookie decorating, a holiday movie, and (obvs) visits with Santa. Guests can also bring new unwrapped toys to be donated to Toys for Tots and, afterwards, the kids can write letters to Santa, because we’re sure they forgot to mention something or other.

Tea With Santa at the Plaza

After pink hot chocolate, tons of tea sandwiches, mini s’mores, holiday cookies and festive cupcakes everyone makes a trip to the “North Pole” to meet Santa where we’ll feel about as portly as he does thanks to all those desserts. Tea is served November 23 through December 22. 

Yuletide Family Weekends at North Pole, NY 

This upstate New York fantasy village is chock full of kitschy holiday fun with its parades, Santa’s workshop, and adorable village that’s home to a toy-making outpost, a candy shop, and reindeer barn. It’s extra fun to head to the park during Yuletide Family. Activities over the two nights include a Trim the Tree Party, ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas dinner and entertainment, surprise visits from Santa, welcome gifts, and photos. Weekends from November 16 to December 16.

 

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, November 30th. 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 movie for the kids at the Bow Tie Cinemas. Visit the Chamber website for more information and additional times to visit with Santa.

Winter Wonderland, Paramus

Starting November 23rd 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. 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.

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 on Saturday December 1st at 6:00 pm on Westwood Avenue and ends at Veteran’s Memorial Park.

Menorah Lightings

The Festival of Lights starts at sundown on Sunday, December 2nd. Kick off the celebration with a menorah lighting, some latkes and a jelly doughnut or two.

Ridgewood  

Gather for the 6th Annual Ridgewood Menorah Lighting, to take place at 5:30 pm on Sunday, December 2nd in Memorial Park at Van Neste Square. Then stick around to celebrate the season with music and refreshments. 

Let There Be Light - A Family Chanukah Celebration

There will be fun for the whole family at Kaplen JCC on the Palisades on Saturday, December 8th.  This night full of Chanukah traditions features a laser light show, holiday treats and a special candle lighting experience. 

Fair Lawn

Join the honorable mayor and council members in lighting the menorah in front of Fair Lawn's Municipal Building on Sunday, December 2nd from 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm. Fresh donuts, treats, music and Chanukah gelt for all! 8-01 Fair Lawn Ave. Fair Lawn, NJ.

Glen Rock

The 2nd Annual Spread The Light Hanukkah Menorah Lighting, hosted by Jewish Families of Glen Rock, is scheduled for Thursday, December 6th at 6:00 pm at Kilroy's Wonder Market. All are welcome to enjoy music, food and fun! 288 Rock Road, Glen Rock. 

Rivervale

Light Up Rivervale at the Rivervale Community Center with a free menorah lighting that includes donuts, latkes, a firetruck gelt drop and entertainment. Light Up Rivervale will be held on Wednesday, December 5th at 6:00 pm. River Vale Community Center, 628 Rivervale Road.

Oradell

December 6th at 6:30 on the front lawn of Borough Hall.  355 Kinderkamack Road, Oradell

 

Special Events

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

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 Nunnbetter Dance Theatre Company will be performing in their 20th anniversary production of this timeless classic the weekend of December 7th – 9th at Bergen County Academies in Hackensack.

Skylands Stadium Christmas Light Show

 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 walk-through lights, photos with Santa, a skating rink, hot chocolate bar, s'mores, carnival games, concessions and vendors. Light show runs November 16th - December 30th. Village opens November 23rd and runs through December 30th. 

Polar Express Train Ride

For a super special outing, hop on board the Morristown & Erie Railway in Whippany, NJ for a magical ride that includes entertainment, hot chocolate and cookies, and a keepsack sleigh bell. Children (and adults if you’re up for it!) are encouraged to don pajamas. The train runs November 17th - December 30th. All Aboard!

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 9th. Nightly December 10th – December 30th. Closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Gingerbread Lane, 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 21st 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 21st to receive a piece of the gingerbread village. Distribution is first-come, first-served, one piece per family. See website for more information.

Cocoa with Santa, Garden State Plaza

On Saturday, December 1st at 9:00 am, get up close and personal with the big man as you share cookies and cocoa and make a craft. $10 per child includes cookies and cocoa, make and take craft and one child's admission to the AMC Theater. 

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.

Holiday Doll Hair Salon Spectacular and Holiday Cookie Decorating at American Girl 

This year, the Manhattan outpost of this designer doll store will have two back-back holiday happenings the weekend of November 17-18. On the November 17th, Doll Hair Salon stylists will give your girls a hands-on lesson on the skill you never realized they needed: how to create a candy cane twist hairstyle on their dolls, followed by snack time including a real candy cane and some hot chocolate. On the 18th, kids can get creative by decorating three holiday cookies with festive frosting and sprinkles. Eat ‘em up while you’re there or take them home in a customized-with-stickers “to go” box. We know which route we’ll end up taking ... 

Winter’s Eve at Lincoln Square 

Billed as New York's largest holiday festival, this big event is in its19th year and stretches from Columbus Circle to 70th Street in and around Broadway. The fun kicks off on November 26th with the Upper West Side’s tree lighting ceremony at Dante Park and includes entertainment and music at 20 different venues, food tastings more than 30 area eateries, arts and crafts, strolling street performers, face painting and plenty of shopping. 

The Radio City Rockettes Christmas Spectacular VIP Elite Spectacular 

You only live once, so don’t just see this iconic show at Radio City, see it in style.VIP tix are available on December 1, 8, 15 and 22 and include a premium seating ticket to the show, a pre-show reception with open bar (hello, holidays!), a private entrance to the venue and a personal Christmas concierge to escort your group, along with a photo op with Santa and two real-deal Rockettes. 

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