BY LAURA D.C. KOLNOSKI • PHOTOS BY ROBERT NUZZIE, ALSTEDE FARMS, AND JOAN CASE PHOTOGRAPHY

Actually two communities Chester Township and Chester Borough this Morris County enclave is steeped in history and nostalgic country charm; known today as an antiques mecca that retains its small town rural character. Over 80 shops offer one of a kind gifts, handcrafted food items, and artisan merchandise amidst the heritage and period architecture. Chester is also considered one of New Jersey’s best places to enjoy a country Christmas, and the simple pleasures of bygone days; along with a great meal (or several).

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Things to do LET’S GO

ALSTEDE FARMS
Fresh discoveries await all year at this destination family farm, but it really hits the high notes during the holiday season. There’s a farm store and bakery, food festivals, children’s activities, farm animals, live entertainment, tours, seasonal décor, live Christmas trees, and a “Country Christmas with Santa” event. 1 Alstede Farms Lane, 908.879.7189, alstedefarms.com

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ANNUAL TREE LIGHTING & VISIT WITH SANTA
Festivities, including music and Santa arriving via fire truck, begin at 5:00 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 2 at the Main Street gazebo. ilovechester.com

COOPER GRIST MILL
A circa 1760s restored water powered grist mill on the Black River with a Visitors Center and exhibits, operated by the Morris County Park System. 66 Rt. 24, morrisparks.net/index.php/ parks/cooper gristmill

HACKLEBARNEY FARM CIDER MILL, BAKERY, & FARM STORE
For seven generations, the same family thrills visitors with wood pressed apple cider, homemade pies, cider donuts, breads, and specialty food items and gifts. One half mile from Hackle barney State Park. 104 State Park Rd., 908.879.6593, hacklebarneyfarm.com

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HOLIDAY MUSIC & OUTDOOR DJ ENTERTAINMENT
Performing noon to 4:00 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 9 downtown. chesternj.org

STONY HILL FARM MARKET
Fresh produce, plants, décor, gifts, baked goods, and fresh cut Christmas trees, wreaths, roping, and decorations. Family owned. 15 North Rd., 908.879.2908, stonyhillfarms.com

STROLLING DICKENS CAROLERS
Enjoy Victorian costumed singers strolling the downtown from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m., on Saturdays Dec. 1 and 15. Ilovechester.com

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Shop ‘TIL YOU DROP

BLACK RIVER CANDY SHOPPE
Delicious fun by the barrel in a charming location adorned with a vast collection of Pez dispensers. 44 Main St., 908.879.1233, blackrivercandyshoppe.com

CHESTER COUNTRY FURNISHINGS
Cool and fun decorative items both new and nostalgic. Furniture, lighting, upholstery, and more on two floors. 60 Main St., 908.879.4288, Facebook

CHESTER CRAFTS, COLLECTIBLES & ANTIQUES
Extraordinary collection of fine quality handcrafted jewelry, gifts, home décor, and seasonal items by over 50 artists in a large period building. 28 Main St., 908.879.2900, Facebook CHESTER FLORAL & DESIGN Nature based gifts and floral arrangements for special occasions and holidays. 260 Main St., 908.879.0202, chesterflorals.com

J. EMANUEL CHOCOLATIER
With a killer recipe for almond butter crunch, a mother and son opened this business in 1997 carrying on a family legacy and delighting customers with high quality, delicious artisan confections. Classes offered. 461B Main St., 908.955.7591, jemanuel.com

LYNN’S HOME DÉCOR & GIFTS
Elegant and special gifts and accessories that leave a lasting impression. 76 Main St., 908.879.5513, lynnsofchester.com

 

MIDNIGHT OWL
“Live your own myth” at this eclectic shop featuring figurines, gift items, home décor, holiday, and inspirational, unusual finds. 75 Main St., 908.879.1717, midnightowlofchester.com

PERFECT TREASURE
Gifts for all ages and persuasions. Byers Choice Carolers, American Girl clothing and accessories, heritage lace, candles, and more. 35 Main St., 908.879.9622, Facebook

RANDOM ACTS OF FRESCO
A hand crafted artisan boutique with décor, jewelry, textiles, embroidered goods, and surprises from Mexico, Central America, and Columbia, by the owners of Fresco Mexican restaurant at the same location. 137 E. Main St., 908.888.2325, randomfresco.com

ROWS OF PURL
A quaint boutique specializing in handmade crafts, supplies, and classes. 44 Main St., 908.879.0403, rowsofpurl.com

 

STAIN GLASS BOUTIQUE
Handmade stained glass, blown glass, kaleidoscopes, jewelry, chimes, pottery, fountains, and more for over 30 years. 76 Main St., 908.879.7351, Facebook

THE ANT AND THE GRASSHOPPER
Inventory from 50 local artists, classes, private parties, and camps. 87 Main St., 908.888.2633, ant and grasshopper.com

THE DAINTY DANDELION
Furniture, home décor, rustic/ industrial/architectural offerings, food items, vintage finds, and gift items made in America. Custom painting available. 58 Main St., 908.888.2501, daintydandelion.com

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THE MAPLE SHOP
A maple sugaring equipment and country store carrying its own Vermont syrup, military veteran owned companies, and local crafters. 105 Main St., 908.955.7043, Facebook

THE STREETS OF CHESTER
A modern shopping center offering 20 upscale chain stores and food options. 270 Rt. 202, 973.559.0050, streetsofchester.com

WINKY’S PET BOUTIQUE
The best store for your best friend with toys, treats, coats, and sweaters for the furry set. 15 Perry St., 908.955.4211, Facebook

YOU’RE NOT IN KANSAS ANYMORE
Upscale women’s boutique with an edgy vibe “where fashionistas flock.” 35 Perry St., 908.879.8007, Facebook

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Dining DIG IN!

FRESCO MEXICAN
The Mexican chef/co owner here honed his skills at the Black Horse Pub in Mendham and the Short Hills Club before opening his own place with a Key West native with Cuban roots. Located in a lovely house. 137 E. Main St., 908.955.7222, frescomexican.com

REDWOOD’S GRILL & BAR
A wood burning grill, creative chefs, an indoor catering space, raw bar, a tasty Happy Hour, and outdoor dining in season make Redwood’s an area favorite. 459 Main St., 908.879.7909, redwoodgrillandbar.com

SALLY LUNN’S TEA ROOM & RESTAURANT
Homemade pies, sweet and savory pastries, and desserts, including scones made from a secret recipe served in Victorian parlor, along with over 50 flavors of loose teas. Salads and sandwiches, too. China and linen rentals available. 15 Perry St., 908.879.7731, sallylunns.com

TAYLOR’S ICE CREAM PARLOR
Open year ‘round with 46 flavors of homemade hard ice cream, soft serve, yogurt, shakes, malts, custom cakes, and novelties. 18 Main St., 908.879.5363, Facebook THE OLD MILL TAVERN A local tradition for over 50 years featuring 24 beers on tap and American pub style eats and pizza. 55 Rt. 24, 908.879.9815, Facebook

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Lights OUT

NEIGHBOUR HOUSE BED & BREAKFAST
A stately 1830 Greek Revival farmhouse on a sloped lawn overlooking a branch of the Raritan River, featuring original heart pine floors, pocket doors, folding shutters, and eight fireplaces next to a horse farm best enjoyed from the veranda. Four spacious bedrooms are tastefully decorated. 143 W. Mill Rd., Long Valley, 908.876.3519, neighbourhouse.com

THE BERNARDS INN
Gracious, award winning accommodations and dining in a 1907 elegant boutique hotel nearby in the Somerset Hills. Its progressive American cuisine has been praised by Zagat as “One of New Jersey’s Best.” Live piano entertainment in the Library Bar. 27 Mine Brook Rd., Bernardsville, 908.766.0002, bernardsinn.com

THE OLDE MILL INN
Three star cozy comfort in an Old World setting distinguishes this classic family owned hotel and social event/corporate meeting spaces between Chester and the bustling excitement, history, and culture of Morristown. Upgraded amenities, and American Dining in the Grain House Restaurant and Coppertop Pub.225 Rt. 202, Basking Ridge, 908.221.1100, oldemillinn.com

 

THE PUBLICK HOUSE TAVERN & INN
This 1810 brick former stage coach stop in the heart of Chester is fully restored to its original grandeur, and ideal for holidays, winter, and romance. Ten suites exude period charm. The tavern has a varied, extensive menu and homemade sauces available for sale; great for gift giving! 111 Main St., Chester, 908.879.6878, chesterpublickhouse.com