There are plenty of ways to make this winter one the kids will never forget. Here are our favorite ideas for holiday fun in NJ, plus some ideas for celebrating at home.

See Sparkling Holiday Lights

Skylands Stadium

Visit homes all decked out for the holidays, or head to a giant drive-through display for an overload of lights. After a hiatus, PNC Bank Arts Center’s Magic of Lights is back in Holmdel and filled with glittery LED displays and digital animations. See more than 50 animals and wintry characters light up the night at Turtle Back Zoo’s Holiday Light Spectacular in West Orange. Bring a donation, ride the carousel and more. There are plenty of other light displays in New Jersey, like Skylands Stadium’s Christmas Light Show & Village in Augusta and Holiday in the Park at Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson.

Hop on a Holiday Train

Matt Gillis

If watching The Polar Express is a family tradition, step into the movie on one of these rides. Many even encourage kids to ride in their PJs. Delaware River Railroad Excursions’ The Polar Express in Phillipsburg sells out fast, thanks to cookies with Santa, live songs and music. The Polar Express Train Ride in Whippany stars a reading of The Polar Express and the movie soundtrack. On Black River & Western Railroad’s North Pole Express in Flemington, meet Santa, sip cocoa and get a keepsake silver sleigh bell. At the New Jersey Museum of Transportation in Wall Twp., the big guy visits every child aboard The Christmas Express. In Cape May, there’s Santa’s Trolley Ride with storytime, songs and treats with Mr. and Mrs. Claus.

Hit a Winter Festival or Market

Angel Madison

As far as holiday fun in NJ goes, these fests and markets are all about holiday cheer. Bundle up for the Bergen County Winter Wonderland at Van Saun Park in Paramus. There’s ice skating, pics with Santa and Mrs. Claus and ice carving. Pop into the zoo to see the animals, too. South Jersey’s Diggerland, a construction-themed amusement park in West Berlin, launched its first Winterfest last year. The kids can test drive construction vehicles like tractors, snack on wintry bites, hop on a holiday hayride and more. If you’re looking for unique holiday finds, the Asbury Park Holiday Bazaar has that and so much more. The kids can meet Santa, take art classes and visit the giant tree while you take in live music, shop the vintage market and sip mulled wine or hot cider.

Cut Your Own Christmas Tree

Olivia Wyckoff

Choose the perfect tree by chopping down your own at a local farm. Wyckoff’s Christmas Tree Farm in Belvidere was the former Christmas tree supplier for the White House and has more than 5,000 trees to choose from. Cherryville Farms in Pittstown has five species of trees, and kids can also search for hidden elves around the farm to win candy canes. Stonerow Tree Farm in Branchville boasts a whopping 16 acres with 16,000 trees. Once the kids have their pick, scour the Merry Moose Gift Shop, roast marshmallows and meet Santa.

Home for the Holidays

Here are three fun ways to get into the spirit without leaving the house.

Throw a Tree Trimming Party

Invite friends and family over to deck out your tree. Have everyone pick partners for Secret Santa or bring gifts for Yankee Swap so you can trade once it’s finished.

Host a Cookie or Ornament Swap

Bake a batch yourself and invite friends and family to bring different kinds. Exchange cookies or donate them to a local charity.  If you’re a crafty bunch, paint ornaments with the kids and their friends instead.

Repurpose Old Holiday Cards

We’re in love with the idea of recycling last year’s greeting cards into this year’s holiday gift tags. Get the kids together and, using decorative-edged scissors, cut the cards into ovals, stars and other fun shapes. Leave enough space on the back to write a message, then use a hole punch and ribbon to attach to gifts.

What’s your favorite way to have holiday fun in NJ? Tell us in the comments.

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