I’m a sucker for Christmas charm and shopping, so when I heard about the quaint holiday celebration at Historic Smithville, my interest was piqued. So much so that I was willing to bundle up my kid on a very chilly day and make the long journey from North Jersey to South Jersey. Here’s what you should know before you go.

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1. Check the website before you go. That’s the best way to find out about all of the events and times. When you get there, there are maps but not a list of events, so knowing before you go is ideal.

2. If you get lost, visit The Colonial Inn. The front desk staff is knowledgeable and ready to give out information and advice.

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3. Mrs. Claus is adorable. She’s sits in a tiny, tucked-away cottage (next to the cheese shop) and reads stories to the kids. Her space is small, so you may have to wait outside if there’s a crowd.

4. There are Santa breakfasts and Santa pet photos throughout the season, but your best bet is to wait until Santa is off photo duty and hanging out around the lake doling out candy canes.

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5. There’s a Christmas train ride, which is the standard Historic Smithville train with wooden holiday cutouts placed all around. It’s super cute and for $2 a person, it was definitely fun to see the village from the rails.

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6. There’s a tiny adorable carousel in the center of town (also $2 per ride) that, along with two arcades (one filled with modern games, and one filled with working antique games), really add to the old-meets-new feel of Historic Smithville.

7. There’s a lot of shopping here, and you could easily cross a bunch of people off your list with everything from clothes and soap to wine, crafts and pottery. My personal favorite was the entire store devoted to peanut butter.

8. Be prepared to eat. In addition to the regular restaurants and taverns around town, on December weekends there are free samples everywhere.

9. If it’s too far to drive there and back in one day, sleep in a room that overlooks Lake Meone.

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10. Don’t miss the Magical Talking Tree—your kids will be talking about it for days. It looks like a standard decorated tree, but stand in front of it and the tree starts talking. Kids can interact and ask just about anything from how old it is, if it ever gets cold or if she’s friends with Santa. It commented on what the kids were wearing and made them laugh…a lot. If it’s not too cold, we recommend hanging out and listening in to see what the kids ask her. It’s a riot. We suspect that there’s a cleverly placed camera and microphone at work, but we’d like to chalk it up to Christmas magic.

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11. The floating trees are a reason to visit on their own. The trees (which are really just strings of lights in tree shapes) hang out on floating platforms, but once it gets dark, they come to life. Not only do they look beautiful reflecting off the water, but they’re all synced to music, so they change colors and dance around as traditional holiday tunes play. They cycle continuously through a series of songs, and there were great vantage points from every angle so you don’t have to worry about not being close up.

12. Many of the stores close early, so if you head down after dark to see the lights, you might miss out on many of the other holiday activities, so head down in the afternoon and make the trees your last stop before dinner.

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