FOR A COOL YULE, DIG INTO INDUSTRY’S SACK OF SEASONAL TREATS, FROM BUSTLING CHRISTMAS BAZAARS TO FESTIVE THEATER PRODUCTIONS, PLUS LIGHTS, LIVE MUSIC, AND LIBATIONS GALORE!

BY LAURA D.C. KOLNOSKI AND AMANDA McCOY

 

 

ALL ABOARD! HOLIDAY TRAIN RIDES

BLACK RIVER & WESTERN RAILROAD NORTH POLE EXPRESS/FLEMINGTON Mrs. and Mrs. Claus host an eventful journey with cookies, cocoa, and a photo booth. Through Dec. 24. blackriverrailroad.com

CAPE MAY SEASHORE LINES SANTA EXPRESS/TUCKAHOE Join Santa on a 30-minute ride through scenic south Jersey. Through Dec. 23. seashorelines.org

SANTA’S TROLLEY RIDES/ CAPE MAY Mrs. Claus tells stories and sings seasonal tunes as the famed trolley traverses the Victorian downtown. Through Dec. 18. capemaymac.org

THE POLAR EXPRESS/WHIPPANY Aboard the Morristown & Erie Railway, enjoy entertainment, hot chocolate, treats, and a keepsake sleigh bell. Through Dec. 30. whippanythepolarexpressride.com

THE POLAR EXPRESS/PHILIPSBURG Guests are invited to don their jammies for the Delaware River Railroad excursion. Through Dec. 18. 877trainride.com/polarexpress

 

 

 

THEATER PRODUCTIONS
Gift Tip: Theatergoers will treasure being treated to a live performance or meal in a nearby establishment. Theater gift shops, in person and online, are sources of meaningful purchases that support the arts.

ALGONQUIN 60 Abe Voorhees Drive Manasquan algonquinarts.org

A CHRISTMAS STORY, THE MUSICAL Celebrate the 1940s Indiana way with Ralphie, The Old Man, a Red Ryder air rifle, and a certain fra-gee-lay leg lamp. Dec. 3 through 18.
AXELROD PERFORMING ARTS CENTER 100 Grant Avenue Deal, axelrodartscenter.com

THE NUTCRACKER ROCKS Tchaikovsky’s score is reimagined by Alex Rosamilia and Alex Levine of The Gaslight Anthem, taking the original 1890s story to contemporary times. Dec. 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, & 11.

BERGEN PAC 30 North Van Brunt Street Englewood bergenpac.org
Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and Grammy Award-winner Darlene Love brings the Christmas spirit with classics including her #1 hit “Christmas Baby Please Come Home.” Dec. 9.

CARTERET PERFORMING ARTS & EVENTS CENTER 46 Washington Street Carteret carteretpac.com

BLUE SUEDE CHRISTMAS A rockin’ Elvis Presley tribute concert featuring impersonator Scot Bruce singing “Blue Christmas,” “Santa, Bring My Baby Back,” and more. Dec. 17.

COUNT BASIE CENTER FOR THE ARTS 90 Monmouth Street Red Bank, thebasie.org

THE NUTCRACKER, Dec. 9, 10, & 11; A Magical Cirque Christmas Dec. 13, Scott Bradlee’s PostModern Jukebox Christmas, Dec. 15; Celtic Woman: A Christmas Symphony Wed., Dec. 21; Darlene Love’s Love for the Holidays Dec. 22, and Baby Shark Live! The Christmas Show Dec. 28. The Center’s intimate Vogel Theater features the Count Basie Center Gospel Choir, Dec. 7, Soultown to Motown ft. The Sensational Soul Cruisers, Dec. 9, Chris Pinnella’s Christmas in Red Bank Dec. 18, and Jonathon Butler’s Oh Holy Night Christmas Ft. Grace Kelly Dec. 22.

GEORGE STREET PLAYHOUSE New Brunswick Performing Arts Center 11 Livingston Avenue New Brunswick georgestreetplayhouse.org

JOY, a musical about single mom turned mogul Joy Mangano makes its world premiere starring Ericka Henningsen of Broadway’s Mean Girls. Based on Mangano’s 2017 book, Inventing Joy: Dare to Build a Brave and Creative Life chronicling her invention of the Miracle Mop. Dec. 7 through 30.

MAYO PERFORMING ARTS CENTER 100 South Street Morristown mayoarts.org

MANNHEIM STEAMROLLER CHRISTMAS Join the Grammy Award-winners to celebrate 35 years of holiday entertainment amid multi-media special effects. Dec. 3.

MCCARTER THEATRE 91 University Place mccarter.org

DICKEN’S A CHRISTMAS CAROL returns to the storied stage on the grounds of Princeton University, one of the state’s best renditions of the holiday classic. Dec. 7-24.

PAPER MILL PLAYHOUSE 22 Brookside Drive Millburn, papermill.org

RODGERS AND HAMMERSTEIN’S THE SOUND OF MUSIC A fictionalized version of the Von Trapp family’s escape from Austria to freedom during World War II. Dec. 2 through Jan. 1.

STATE THEATER 15 Livingston Avenue New Brunswick stnj.org

Celebrate the Season with Patti LaBelle Dec. 1. Martina McBride The Joy of Christmas Tour, Dec. 4; The Irish Tenors We Three Kings Christmas Concert Dec. 8; Kenny G’s The Miracles Holiday & Hits TourDec. 11; American Repertory Ballet’s The Nutcracker Dec. 16; The Queen’s Cartoonists’ Holiday Hurrah (Yule Love It!) Dec. 23.

NJ PAC 1
Center Street Newark njpac.org

A JOYFUL NOISE! a Gospel inspired family concert by the New Jersey Symphony, Dec. 3; Lindsey Stirling: A Snow Waltz Tour with the award-winning pop violinist debuting her new Christmas Album Dec. 7; Light wire Theater Presents A Very Electric Christmas illuminating the North Pole with costumes, puppets, and stagecraft Dec. 13; The Hip Hop Nutcracker reinvigorates the holiday classic. Dec. 17; The State Ballet Theatre of Ukraine performs the traditional classic Nutcracker ballet Dec. 18.

STATEWIDE (AND BEYOND) SPARKLE
Gift Tip: For fresh ideas, turn to specialty items from New Jersey destinations. Locally produced coffees, honeys, preserves, peanuts, baked goods, branded wares, and artisan crafted goods bring glad tidings.

ASBURY PARK HOLIDAY BAZAAR
Begun in 2013, the holly jolly market in Convention Hall’s Grand Arcade showcases art, vintage and handmade local goods, food, warm seasonal libations, and live music around a majestic Christmas tree. asburyparkbazaar.com

CHANUKAH OUTDOOR MENORAH LIGHTINGS
From your town to out-of-town, Menorah Lightings can include events and parties. In historic Princeton, Palmer Square hosts live music and activities, while Cherry Hill, Long Branch, Morristown and Wayne hold car parades! chabadshore.com, palmersquare.com, bestofnj.com, jccnj.org

CHRISTMAS AT ALLAIRE/WALL TOWNSHIP
Observe craftspeople forge, cook, and carve in the restored historic village inside Allaire State Park. Take in Victorian celebrations and lantern tours, see the vintage model train, sample the bakery and food truck, visit Santa, and mail holiday cards at the Post Office Dec. 4, 11, & 18. eventbrite.com/Christmasat-allaire.

CHRISTMAS FESTIVAL/MORRISTOWN GREEN
The Colonial town honors local traditions over 100 years old. Activities, entertainment, Santa visits, ice sculpting demonstrations, crafts, mini train rides, gingerbread house making, carolers, and treats through Dec. 19. Morristown, nj.org/christmasfestival

DEMAREST FARMS ORCHARD OF LIGHTS/HILLSDALE
Drive through 32 acres of lighted holiday displays, visit the farm market, and take pictures with Santa. Through Jan. 9. demarestfarms.com

FLIGHT ON ICE/PIER VILLAGE, LONG BRANCH
Festival Plaza across from the boardwalk transforms into an ice-skating rink with food vendors, Menorah, and Christmas trees. Skates, season passes, and lessons available. Through February 27. flightonice.seetickets.com

HANDMADE HOLIDAY/MAPLEWOOD
The place for one-of-a-kind gifts of pottery, folk art, handcrafted jewelry, and wearable art. Free admission. Dec. 18, The Woodland Great Hall, 60 Woodland Road. maplewoodartsandculture.org

HOLIDAY FOOD & CRAFT FESTIVAL/MORRISTOWN
Experience a food truck festival indoors at the Morristown National Guard Armory. Pictures with Santa, 60+ craft and food vendors, live music, craft beer, wines, games, and fun for all ages. Dec. 17. morristowngreen.com

HOLIDAY HOUSE TOUR/LONG BEACH ISLAND
For the 55th year, the Garden Club of Long Beach Island decorates five palatial homes with festive finery. The $65 ticket price includes lunch at the Brant Beach Yacht Club. Dec. 8. thegardencluboflbi.com

LAMBERTVILLE & NEW HOPE
Big Band Holiday Concert An evening of song and dance combining quintessential holiday music in the style of Mariah Carey, Rosemary Clooney, Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, and more played by a 17-piece big band with theater singers. Music Mountain Theatre, 1483 Route 179. Dec. 16-18 musicmountaintheatre.org

HOLIDAY HOP WALK THROUGH
Lambertville and New Hope The scenic, historic burbs are spectacularly adorned during the holidays. This self-guided tour comes with a “Santa Stops” map. Costumes encouraged. Expect surprises and goodies along the way! Start at the D&R Canal Parking lot. Dec. 17 eventbright.com

MAGIC OF LIGHTS/PNC ARTS CENTER, HOLMDEL
Load up the car for a mile-long drive-through exhibit featuring a tunnel of lights and scenes from The 12 Days of Christmas and The Night Before Christmas through Dec. 30. magicoflights.com

 

 

 

PHILADELPHIA

A Philly Pops Christmas: Spectacular Sounds of the Season Hamilton’s Mandy Gonzalez returns with over 300 performers from the Philly POPS Festival Chorus, the Philadelphia Boys Choir, and the St. Thomas Gospel Choir. Verizon Hall, Kimmel Cultural Campus, 300 S. Broad St. Dec. 3 – 17. phillypops.org

Christmas Village. Celebrate a 15-year tradition as LOVE Park and the City Hall Courtyard are transformed into an authentic German Christmas Market with over 100 vendors featuring European gifts and specialties. Through Dec. 24. phillyfunguide.com

SIX FLAGS GREAT ADVENTURE/JACKSON HOLIDAY IN THE PARK
Bundle up and view millions of lights, festive foods, hot cocoa, and over 30 rides through January 1. Routes. 537 and 195. sixflags.com

SMITHVILLE/GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP
Charming accommodations are tucked amidst the shops and restaurants in the quaint enclave near Atlantic City. Sample the subterranean Bare more Tavern below the historic Smithville Inn before viewing the nightly Light Show on Lake Meone. Over 100 floating trees blink in sync to seasonal music. historicsmithville.com

SKYLANDS STADIUM/ AUGUSTA
More than two million lights illuminate a mile-long drive through Christmas Light Show. It’s free to enter the adjacent Outdoor Christmas Village with Santa’s Workshop, a skating rink, seasonal treats, carnival games, and local artisans. Through Jan. 2. 94 Championship Place, skylandstadium.com

STORYBOOK LAND/ EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP
The magic of Christmas is resplendent throughout the enchanted fairy tale theme park adorned with millions of lights. Mr. and Mrs. Claus visits through Dec. 23. Train rides, food, music, and decorations through Dec. 30. 6415 E. Black Horse Pike. storybookland.com

TREE FARMS
Indelible memories are made (and great pix taken), hunting through fragrant fir farms seeking the perfect specimen throughout the state. njchristmastrees.org

NORTHLANDZ/FLEMINGTON
In the Guinness Book of Records for jaw-dropping model railroad layouts – 100 trains running on eight miles of track and highly detailed buildings and scenery – the museum/tourist attraction also boasts an outdoor train ride, doll museum, New Jersey Tourist Information Center, and snack shop. 495 Rt. 202, northlandz.com

MONMOUTH MUSEUM/ LINCROFT
The annual Holiday Train Display combines whimsy, history, and running model railroad layouts in the Main Gallery. Through January 8. Brook dale Community College, Parking Lot #1, 765 Newman Springs Rd. (Rt. 520). monmouthmuseum.org

WEIHNACHTSMARKT GERMAN CHRISTMAS MARKET/ AUGUSTA
Vendors, food, entertainment, and family fun at an authentic European Christmas market with train exhibits and decorated trees. Benefits Sussex County charities. Dec. 2-4, Sussex County Fairgrounds. germanchristmasnj.com

WINERIES & BREWERIES
Experience how the Garden State got its name where centuries-old processes adhere to honored traditions. Themed events, music, special foods, fire pit gatherings, Christmas tree sales and state-centric gifts. visitnj.org/nj/amusements-activities/wineriesvineyards, newjerseywines.com, njcraftbeer.com

CHRISTMAS IN CAPE MAY
The epitome of Yuletide Victorian immersion in America’s oldest seaside resort defies superlatives. Decorated in period style and filled with gracious inns, delectable dining, boutique shopping, walking and trolley tours, and myriad entertaining activities, Cape May is the nation’s only National Historic Landmark City. Find specifics and purchase advance tickets on the Cape May MAC (Museum, Arts, Culture) website. The Washington Street Mall kiosk also has info and tix. capemaymac.org

CONGRESS HALL
Its size and history makes the 1816 landmark, voted a 10 Best Holiday Hotel, a must-see. The Winter Wonderland Spectacular includes Breakfast with Santa, train rides, a carousel, Enchanted Vendor Village, igloos, a seasonal bar on the grand veranda, multiple dining options, and Santa’s Workshop activities through Dec. 31. Off Beach Ave. at 200 Congress Place. capemayresorts.com

THE EMLEN PHYSICK ESTATE
Magnificent 1879 architecture and décor distinguish Cape May’s year ‘round living museum. Take the Physick Family Christmas House Tour with a docent portraying an original family member. An Upside-Down Christmas tree hangs over a Department 56 Dickens Village with running trains in the Carriage House, which also houses the complex’s gift shop. 1048 Washington Street. capemaymac.org

WASHINGTON STREET MALL
The pedestrian promenade decks the halls and hosts authentically costumed Victorian carolers. Distinctive wares in eclectic shops can complete your gift list. Restaurants and bars aplenty, candy shops, and the throw-back Della’s 5 & 10, complete with counter service. washingtonstreetmall.com

WEST END GARAGE
A former gas station turned “Best of the Shore” award-winner for its wide array of quality goods from over 50 vendors. Artisan and shore-themed creations, vintage and new clothing and accessories, antiques, locally made foodstuffs, and much more. A café/bakery is adjacent and other fab shops and restaurants are nearby. 484 W. Perry Street. capemay.com, exitzero.com

 

 

 

 

ATLANTIC CITY
Escape to New Jersey’s glittering city by the sea and feast on high-style selfie-worthy decorations, themed shows, pop-up bars, and New Year’s Eve revelry. (NOTE: Not all NYE events were available at press time, but every casino/hotel and many restaurants host parties. Visit websites for more.)
Gift Tip: Casino hotel gift cards can be used in restaurants, stores, salons, and spas; for accommodations and entertainment, and more. Ocean Resort is offering them for the first time this year!

BALLY’S
1900 Pacific Avenue casinos.ballys.com The Yard, Bally’s hot new dining, brew pub, and entertainment venue debuts its first outdoor Winter Wonderland. Holiday cocktails, specials, beer pairings, firepits, activities, and live weekend entertainment.

BORGATA
1 Borgata Way theborgata.com Jerry Seinfeld, winner of 10 Emmy Awards and three Golden Globes, returns to the Borgata Event Center Dec. 10 with new material drawing on his trademark take on life.

CAESAR’S
2100 Pacific Avenue caesars.com The Nutcracker The Circus Maximus Theater is the venue for this year’s production of the holiday classic by the Atlantic City Ballet. Dec. 17.

GOLDEN NUGGET
600 Huron Avenue Goldennugget.com
The Midtown Men: Holiday Hits Live Stars of Broadway’s Jersey Boys deliver an evening of songs, stories, and Yuletide classics along with rock hits of the 60s and their “All Alone on Christmas,” recorded with Little Stevie Van Zandt and members of The E Street Band. Dec. 3

HARD ROCK HOTEL & CASINO
1000 Boardwalk hardrockhotelatlanticcity.com Sun Records 70th Tribute Concert Musicians from the national tour of Million Dollar Quartet celebrate early Rock ‘n Roll and Sam Phillips’ Sun Records of Memphis. Relive the “Sun Sound” of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis. Dec. 17
Earth, Wind, & Fire ring in the New Year in the Etess Arena Dec. 30 & 31.

HARRAH’S 777
Harrah’s Boulevard caesars.com/harrahs Santa’s Christmas Wonderland Santa and his merry helpers guide guests on a family-friendly journey via scenery, songs, performers, and Rockette’sstyle kicking chorus dancers. Dec. 8 – 11

OCEAN CASINO RESORT 500
Boardwalk theoceanac.com Jingle Bell Bar It’s Year Two for this pop-up experience featuring festive cocktails, photogenic nostalgic décor, and themed entertainment including sing-alongs. Evenings in the 1927 Lounge through January 1. Cirque Dreams Holidaze. A Broadway-style musical infused with circus artistry, extravagant costumes, singers, original music, and seasonal favorites celebrating Hanukkah, Christmas and New Year’s. Dec. 11

RESORTS 1133 Boardwalk resortsac.com
Michael Martocci Presents Frank Sinatra’s Birthday Bash A multi-media musical tribute on the 40th anniversary of Old Blue Eyes’ last performance on the same Superstar Theater stage. Dec. 10.
An Evening with Deana Martin to benefit the preservation of the historic Lucy the Elephant attraction. Dec. 11
Candy Cane Lounge Bar One on the casino floor is decked out in red, pink, and white with a cocktail menu to match and music through Jan. 3.

TROPICANA
2831 Boardwalk Caesars.com/tropicana
Cirque Musica: Holiday Wonderland Acrobats, aerialists, hijinks, music, and holiday cheer make spirits bright in The Showroom Dec. 3.

 

 

 

 

NEW YORK CITY
The Big Apple shines even brighter this time of year with festive fanfare, champagne filled holiday galas, and larger-than-life light displays, all featuring that quintessential New York sparkle.

CHRISTMAS SPECTACULAR
Let the glitter, lights, and head-splitting dance moves commence! The Radio City Rockettes are back in high kicking action through January 2, with multi shows daily in December. Radio City Music Hall, 1260 6th Avenue, msg.com/radio-city-music-hall

LUMINOCITY
The fantasy light festival is back for its fourth year, captivating curious audiences with hundreds of illuminated art displays. The extravaganza is set on Long Island again this year, in Eisenhower Park in East Meadow, roughly 45 minutes but an entire fictitious universe away from Manhattan. Follow Lumi on a magical journey through a theme of “Pure Magic,” featuring state-of-the art production that blends art, light, and imagination for an unforgettable evening of enchantment. Eisenhower Park,East Meadow, luminocityfestival.com

DINNER GALA AT THE ROCKEFELLER CENTER TREE LIGHTING CEREMONY
The most glamorous way to glimpse the Rockefeller Tree sparkle for the fi rst time this season, the dinner gala at the Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting Ceremony is back on the terrace, featuring an uninterrupted view of America’s most famous Christmas tree, set away from the crowds. The dinner includes a gourmet multicourse buffet serving hors d’oeuvres, dinner, and dessert along with a premium open bar, professional photos, and a live DJ. November 30, 6-10 p.m. $1,000, Rockefeller Center, feverup.com

CLASSIC HARBOR LINE HOLIDAY CRUISES
Bundle up and set sail around the island of Manhattan to drink in the festive sights along with cold-weather cocktails and gourmet bites on a 1920s-style yacht dressed head-to-toe in holiday décor. There are several holiday-themed cruises to choose from, all setting sail throughout November and December. sail-nyc.com

HOLIDAYS AT THE EDGE
One of the city’s most dazzling views takes its sky-high seat seriously this time of year, dressing the Skyline Steps and sky deck overlook with more than 50,000 twinkling lights. Take in views of the city 1,131 feet above the street with a menu of seasonal treats, including an adult Edge-nog or Cocoa in the Clouds (virgin or spiked), and be on the lookout for surprise performances by New York Holiday Singers. 30 Hudson Yards, edgenyc.com

NYC PRIVATE LIMO DYKER HEIGHTS LIGHT TOUR
Each year, thousands trek far into Brooklyn to witness the magic that is Dyker Heights, a small enclave of holiday-loving residents that convert their houses and lawns into pages from a Christmas storybook, from full-sized Santa and reindeer displays to synchronized light shows. You can take the subway and embark on a self-guided walking tour, sure, or you can opt to make the trek via limo. Pickup from anywhere in Manhattan, three-hour experience. $849 for up to seven guests, nycprivatelimo.com

GALLOW GREEN
Every December, this secret garden bar atop the McKittrick Hotel (home to the experiential theater phenom Sleep No More) transforms into a cozy winter wonderland, laden with snow-covered pine and festive red berries. Sip hot toddies or other cold-weather drinks with exceptional views of the city’s lights. 542 W 27th St, mckittrickhotel.com

NYC CHRISTMAS LIGHTS CARRIAGE RIDE
Cuddle up on a garland-strung carriage for a romantic ride through the city’s numerous light shows. The experience begins in Central Park and glides past the ice skating rink, the Carousel, the Chess & Checkers House, the Dairy, the Mall, and the Zoo, then continues toward the famed Fifth Avenue window displays, the Plaza, and the Peninsula hotels’ holiday lights, and the Rockefeller Tree. $225 per group of four, centralparkcarriagetours.com

THE ILLUSIONISTS – MAGIC OF THE HOLIDAYS
Experience the magic of the season in spellbinding ways in this limited edition run at the Marquis Theater, dubbed the Cirque du Soleil of the magic realm. The Illusionists are a band of master magicians, presenting a display of mind bending illusions, stunning feats of close-up magic, and jaw-dropping escapes. November 23, Marquis Theater, 210 W 46th St, newyorkcitytheatre.com