MAKE THIS SEASON MEMORABLE, MERRY, AND BRIGHT BY TAKING TIME TO EXPERIENCE A FUN EVENT, SPECIAL PERFORMANCE, OR NEW TRADITION TO TREASURE

BY LAURA D.C. KOLNOSKI

ALL ABOARD! HOLIDAY TRAIN RIDES
All times and dates in this guide are subject to change. Please refer to websites for the latest information.

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THE NORTH POLE EXPRESS ON THE BLACK RIVER & WESTERN RAILROAD
Various times through December 23. Fees start at $28. Caboose rentals available. Flemington Station, 80 Stangl Rd., Flemington, 908 782 6622, blackriverrailroad.com

THE CHRISTMAS EXPRESS ON PINE CREEK RAILROAD
A 35 year tradition by the New Jersey Museum of Transportation at Allaire State Park. Day and evening trips through December 16. Fare: $6. 4265 Atlantic Ave., Wall Township, 732 938 5524, njmt.org

THE POLAR EXPRESS TRAIN RIDE, WHIPPANY
Day and evening rides scheduled through December 30. Fees begin at $40. 1 Railroad Plaza, Whippany, 973 419 6255, whippanythepolarexpressride.com

THE POLAR EXPRESS, PHILLIPSBURG
A Delaware River Railroad Excursion running through Dec. 16. Fees start at $32. Babies under two can lap sit for $5.99 Elizabeth St., Phillipsburg, 877 872 4674, 877trainride.com

Avora Spread

THE SANTA EXPRESS ON THE CAPE MAY SEASHORE LINE, CAPE MAY
There’s no place like Cape May to enjoy a Victorian Christmas in a walkable wonderland. Ride a real Pennsylvania Reading train between Tuckahoe and Richland through Christmas. Four versions of the trip are available starting at $25. capemayseashorelines.org

CAPE MAY HOLIDAY TROLLEY RIDES
Three different trips are offered through Dec. 31: Ghosts of Christmas Past, Holiday Lights, and Santa’s Trolley Ride, originating at either the Washington Street Mall Information Booth, or the Physick Estate. Fees start at $8. 609.884.5404, capemaymac.org

WHERE TO ENJOY HOLIDAY FAVORITES

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BERGEN PERFORMING ARTS CENTER bergenpac.org
Holiday Doo Wop Extravaganza with the Duprees, Chantels, Tokens, and more, 7:00 p.m., Sat., Dec. 8 Vienna Boys Choir 8:00 p.m., Thurs., Dec. 13 A Christmas Carol, 3:00 & 8:00 p.m., Sat., Dec. 15; 1:00 & 4:30 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 16.

COUNT BASIE CENTER FOR THE ARTS, thebasie.org
The Nutcracker, 1:00 & 5:00 p.m., Sat., Dec. 8 & Sun., Dec. 9 Mannheim Steamroller, 8:00 p.m., Mon. Dec. 10 A Christmas Carol, 7:30 p.m., Tues., Dec. 11 Vienna Boys Choir, 7:30 p.m., Wed., Dec. 12
MAYO CENTER, mayoarts.org

The Nutcracker, New Jersey Ballet with NJ Symphony Orchestra, various days and times Dec. 14 27
NJPAC, NEWARK, njpac.org

Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas in Concert, Live to Film, 2:00 & 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 15 The Nutcracker, National Ballet Theatre of Odessa, 2:00 & 7:00 p.m., Sun., Dec. 16

Cirque Dreams Holidaze, 7:00 p.m., Wed., Dec. 26 & Thursday, Dec. 27 PRUDENTIAL CENTER, NEWARK, prucenter.com Trans Siberian Orchestra, The Ghosts of Christmas Eve Tour, 3:00 & 8:00 p.m., Sat., Dec. 22.

STATE THEATER, NEW BRUNSWICK, stnj.org
Mannheim Steamroller, 8:00 p.m., Thurs., Dec. 6 The Nutcracker, American Repertory Ballet, 7:30 p.m., Fri., Dec. 21; 2:00 & 7:00 p.m., Sat., Dec. 22; & 1:00 p.m. & 5:00 p.m., Sun., Dec. 23

TOP STATEWIDE FESTIVITIES

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NORTH

AUGUSTA
The “Christmas Village and Light Show” occurs various days and times through December 30. Drive through a one mile display with over two million lights ($20 per car). Admission to the walk though outdoor Christmas Village is free. Skating rink, vendors, photos with Santa, games, concessions. Skylands Stadium, 94 Championship Place, 973.383.7644, skylandstadium.com

FAIRFIELD
“Christmas Ice Caverns” at Jody’s Florist is a 44 year tradition. The animated walk though family friendly display features storybook and Disney characters, a life sized Nativity, Santa’s Reindeer Feeding Barn, Santa’s Candy Factory, and more delights of the season. 437 Rt. 46 W., 973.808.5639, jodyssilkflorist.com

MILLBURN
Following its Broadway run, the tuneful classic “Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn,” based on the beloved Bing Crosby/Fred Astaire film, lights up the Paper Mill Playhouse stage through Dec. 30. 22 Brookside Dr., 973.376.4343, papermill.org

NEWARK MUSEUM
“Feasting with Family and Friends/ Christmas at the Ballantine House,” depicts holiday celebrations of late Victorian Newark. English, German, and Dutch traditions in the former home of the legendary brewery family. Through January 7. Additional family holiday events are scheduled throughout December. 49 Washington Street, 973.596.6544. newarkmuseum.org

NEWARK
“The Hip Hop Nutcracker” is a contemporary urban dance retelling of the fairytale featuring Kurtis Blow as MC, a DJ, violinist, and digital scenery. 8:00 p.m., Friday, December 14, NJPAC, 1 Center St., 888.GO NJPAC, njpac.org

WEST ORANGE
The free “Annual Holiday Lights Spectacular” at the Turtle Back Zoo illuminates the attraction with over 50 winter and animal characters. Guests should bring donations of toys, coats, and non perishable foods. Weekend Santa visits, train, carousel, aquarium, pony rides. Open 5:00 to 9:00 p.m. through January 1. 560 Northfield Avenue, 973 731 5800. turtlebackzoo.com

CENTRAL FREEHOLD
“Breakfast with Santa” at iPlay America includes a full buffet, dance and sing alongs, and swag bags in New Jersey’s massive indoor arcade and boardwalk recreation center. It’s a Winter Fun derland! 10:00 a.m., Sunday, December 9. Advance ticket purchases recommended. 110 Schanck Rd., 732.577.8200, iplayamerica.com

NORTHLANDZ/FLEMINGTON
This fun, educational attraction of expertly hand constructed model railroad layouts (100 trains!) is ideal for holiday visits. Visit the Doll Museum, Art Gallery, and refreshment area. 495 Rt. 202, 908.782.4022, northlandz.com

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PRINCETON
Trolley & Santa Tours by the Princeton Tour Company through the historic town’s quaint, festive streets past homes of famous denizens like Albert Einstein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, three former presidents, and Nancy Drew. Dec. 2, 9, 16, 23, & 30. 116 Nassau St., 855.743.1415, princetontourcompany.com RED BANK Holiday Horse & Carriage Rides through the business district, strolling musicians, pictures with Santa, and more are on the schedule in Red Bank this season. For the full roster, visit the Red Bank River Center and Visitors Center website: redbank.org.

SIX FLAGS/JACKSON
The annual “Holiday in the Park” extravaganza runs through Jan. 1. Millions of lights, decorated trees, entertainment, seasonal edibles, Santa’s Village, and rides. 1 Six Flags Blvd. 732.928.2000, sixflags.com

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TINTON FALLS
“Ice King’s Holiday on Ice.” This new, unique presentation is an instant hit! The family owned commercial ice house creates the Twelve Days of Christmas as a walk through exhibit of intricate ice sculptures. Bring cameras and bundle up for the 15 degree adventure featuring vendors and a Santa ice sculpture. Weekends through Dec. 30. 4045 Rt. 33, 732.297.3593. icekingandcoldstorage.com

SOUTH

ASBURY PARK
European Holiday Market, open weekends through Dec. 24, turns the Festhalle Biergarten rooftop into a Weihnachtsmarkt, an authentic shopping experience with vendors, specialty foods, and more. A Children’s Choir performs on Dec. 10. Bring new toys to donate. Holiday activities will be ongoing at Convention Hall on the Boardwalk and townwide. 527 Lake Ave., 732.997.8767, asburyparkchamber.com/holidays

EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP
Since 1955, the 20 acre Storybook Land enchants year ‘round. At the holidays, it’s off the charts. Arrive by 5:00 p.m. through Dec. 23 when Santa appears in his chimney, waves a magic wand, and lights up the park with over one million lights. The display continues through Dec. 30. Rides and snack bar open. A must see. Winner of a Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence. 6415 E. Black Horse Pike, 609.646.0103, storybookland.com

GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP/ SMITHVILLE
The year ’round historic village destination for shopping, strolling, and dining sparkles at holiday time. At dusk, enjoy seasonal music synchronized with over 120 floating Christmas trees in a light show on Meone Lake. The 1787 Smithville Inn is the spot for a warm grog or gracious meal. Train rides, Story Time with Mrs. Claus, and more. Route 9, 609.748.8999. historicsmithvillenj.com

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WALL TOWNSHIP
Stroll back in time and learn about Christmas in the 1800s with a guided Lantern Tour at historic Allaire Village in Allaire State Park (the village was once an iron producing, factory town known as the Howell Iron Works, Co.). Purchase $20 tickets in advance for the 90 minute outdoor tour with stops in historic structures along the way. 5:00 to 7:30, Saturday, December 15. 4263 Atlantic Ave., 732.919.3500, state.nj.us/allaire