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An Ultimate Guide to Local Holiday Activities for NJ Families



The holiday season is right around the corner, and countless festive activities are perfect for a memorable day or night out with friends and family. From local lantern festivals to making a day trip to Manhattan to see the one-of-a-kind Rockefeller Tree itself, there is no shortage of wonderful activities for New Jersey families to choose from.

New Jersey Winter Fun:

  • Turtle Back Zoo: West Orange, NJ

This well-known staple in the state of New Jersey does not disappoint when it comes to the holiday season. From November 17th to December 31st, the zoo is almost completely covered in Christmas lights. More than fifty animal scenes are illuminated, and visitors can enjoy sweet treats and hot cocoa while taking an evening stroll through the spectacular shining lights. The event also features fun seasonal activities, such as a s’mores station, Grinch weekend, and, if you’re lucky, you might even see Santa stop by!

  • Holiday Drive-Thru Light Show: West Berlin, NJ

This experience is similar to walking through the Turtle Back Zoo Christmas lights, yet also somehow different. This completely Drive-Thru Light Show is a perfect option for those who prefer driving through the lights to stay cozy in their toasty cars. Located in West Berlin, New Jersey, the 1-mile drive-thru course is covered in hundreds of twinkling lights. Visitors can also enjoy tasty treats and play festive music in their cars to return to that holiday spirit.

  • Bergen County Zoo Let-It-Glow Holiday Lantern Spectacular: Paramus, NJ

The Bergen County Zoo illuminates each night with holiday cheer. Glowing, larger-than-life, animal-themed lanterns are installed throughout the zoo walkways, creating more than thirty shining winter scenes. Here, visitors can walk through the zoo and enjoy a train ride as well, all while enjoying delicious s’mores and other treats that can be purchased at the gift shop.

  • DiDonato’s Magical Holiday Express: Hammonton, NJ

Perfect for families with younger children, this experience offers a train ride through millions of Christmas lights, meeting Santa and Mrs. Claus, and so much more. Telling Santa your biggest wish, taking photos with him and his elves in his workshop, and listening to Mrs. Claus reading Christmas stories are just some of the many activities this train ride has to offer. Additionally, children receive a gift from Santa, enjoy one free game of bowling, and have the opportunity to walk through a beautiful Christmas-themed village!


  • Free Horse and Carriage Rides: Ocean City, NJ

Whether you’re looking for a romantic night out, or a fun, core memory with friends, these completely free horse and carriage rides make for an awesome experience. Ride on horses or in carriages through a scenic route through downtown Ocean City, New Jersey to kick off the holiday season.

  • Skylands Stadium Light Show and Christmas Festival: Augusta, NJ

Sussex County’s favorite stadium is home to a dazzling winter wonderland. Complete with a mile-long drive-thru course through over two million lights and a Christmas village filled to the brim with holiday activities, delicious food including s’mores roasted on a firepit, and photo-ops, it’s the perfect night full of holiday fun for the whole family!

  • Bergen County Winter Wonderland: Paramus, NJ

The Bergen County Winter Wonderland is another perfect winter carnival for the family, including open-air ice skating, carousel, train rides, kids’ activities, and countless food trucks. People of different religions can enjoy a Christmas tree, Menorah, and Kinara lighting. 

  • Six Flags Holiday in the Park: Jackson, NJ

Perhaps the most famous amusement park in the country, Six Flags Great Adventure transforms into a magical wonderland full of holiday cheer, featuring a huge variety of winter activities. All visitors can enjoy elaborate and whimsical light decorations, holiday firepits perfect for roasting marshmallows, and many other holiday-themed attractions. For example, in the Holiday Craze Mirror Maze, you wind your way through countless mirrors to help Santa’s elves prepare for the busiest day of the year. The theme park guarantees a night of endless holiday fun for all visitors.


One-Day Trips to New York City:

  • The Rockefeller Christmas Tree: New York City, NY

Although it’s not in New Jersey, this iconic Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center is a must-see for everyone. Although seeing the tree itself is free, a general admission ticket also guarantees you a spot on the ice-skating rink below the tree, and you can also go to the top of “The Rock,” to see the best NYC view from the 70-floor high observation deck. It truly is a magnificent sight, speaking from experience, and it’s worth the short, 45-minute car drive or train ride into the city to go visit it.


  • Radio City Christmas Spectacular: New York City, NY

Personally experienced NYC’s favorite holiday tradition of the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall. The 90-minute show features more than 140 performers, and an original music score, and combines singing, dancing, and humor with traditional scenes. The stars of the show are the women’s precision dance troupe, the Rockettes.


  • The Nutcracker Ballet at the Metropolitan: New York City, NY

The Nutcracker Ballet’s popularity is immense and provides an unforgettable spark to everyone’s holiday season. Children of all ages from NYC and around the world are captivated by the lure of the music, choreography, costumes, and magical sets. 

Both New Jersey and New York, as well as Pennsylvania and other bordering states offer so many other magical experiences throughout the holiday season, and I am looking forward to it! Ever since I was very young, my family always took me and my sister to all sorts of holiday events, which created long-lasting, wonderful memories that I will never forget. In a nutshell, the area we live in provides such a beautiful variety of seasonal activities to choose from, guaranteeing unforgettable holiday experiences.

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