There are so many places to visit this month that are filled with holiday spirit. German markets, pop-up bars and ice skating will fill your weekends (and some weeknights) with joy and cheer. Take a day trip to our favorite spots in Jersey, or plan a weekend getaway to the most charming locales in NY or PA. No matter where you choose to go, your family will be singing carols and lighting up the night!
‘Tis the season to sparkle! Atlantic City will be buzzing this holiday season with pop-up holiday themed experiences, live music and entertainment, spectacular tree displays and festive decorations for you and the kids as part of the Atlantic City Tinseltown Holiday Experience.
Find a spot for everyone along Atlantic Avenue for the Winter Wonderland Parade on Dec. 10, then go to Center City Park for an appearance by Santa Claus and a drill team performance battle. On Dec. 11, join the Santa Hustle 5K wearing your best Santa suit!
During the day, do your gift shopping at the Tanger Outlets off the boardwalk. The kids can pick up a copy of the “Elf on the Shelf” scavenger hunt which will keep them busy while you’re shopping. Or take them to see the Atlantic City Ballet’s version of “The Nutcracker.” If they love Christmas trees, walk down to Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall for a huge festival of trees – listen to the historic pipe organs while you’re there.
If your crew is older, Bally’s Atlantic City will debut The Yard, its first-ever outdoor Winter Wonderland. This holiday spectacular will feature beautiful holiday decor, holiday cocktails, special food menus with beer pairings, fire pits, cornhole and more. You can stop by Jerry Longo’s Meatballs & Martinis for dinner and after leaving the kids with a babysitter, get drinks at New Jersey’s first rotating bar, The Carousel Bar.
Ocean Casino Resort boasts The Jingle Bell Bar, a holiday pop-up located at 1927 Lounge. On Dec. 11, Cirque Dreams Holidaze will transform Ovation Hall for a Broadway-style musical infused with contemporary circus artistry.
Borgata has a holiday display with 150,000 lights, holiday décor and luminous trees. For those 21+, The 12 Days of Holiday Cocktails including a Pumpkin Spiced Espresso Martini at Izakaya by Michael Schulson, a S’mores Old Fashioned at American Bar & Grille and a Caramel Brûlée Cocktail at B-Prime.
Resorts Casino Hotel’s Candy Cane Lounge Pop-Up offers candy cane-inspired drinks, live music, and on Sundays Bar Bingo with a Musical Twist. The annual Swing Into Christmas musical comedy show is set for Dec. 9 featuring TV host and singer Michele Dawn Mooney.
Santa’s Christmas Wonderland at Harrah’s Resort is a Christmas journey featuring the highest kicking chorus dancers this side of the North Pole.
Wear your ugliest sweater and be crowned “Best of the Worst” at Ryfe Bar and Restaurant on Dec. 11. Registration includes a complimentary holiday drink, exclusive access to food and drink specials, VIP access to bar seating, participation in giveaways and raffles and the Holiday Carol Karaoke.
Cape May’s Victorian architecture is symbolic of Christmas year-round, but adding trolley rides, holiday lights, home tours, decorated B&Bs and visits with Santa make the area even more special this time of year. Cape May MAC (Museums+Arts+Culture) celebrates the season through Jan. 1 by organizing a calendar full of holiday events. We already know it’s a Top Winter Getaway!
New this year is the All That Glitters New Century Trolley Tour: you’ll take a step back in time and learn about the area’s social history. Or opt for Santa’s Trolley Ride where Mrs. Claus tells stories and sings holiday songs. You can even channel your inner Scrooge on the Ghosts of Christmas Past Trolley Ride and listen to dramatic tales of the historic yet haunted streets of Cape May.
If you prefer walking tours, the Christmas Candlelight House Tour has been a tradition for nearly half a century. Walk along the gas-lit streets and visit homes, inns, churches and hotels. Make sure the Emlen Physick Estate, Cape May’s only Victorian house museum, is on your route. There is also the Lamplighter tour of B&Bs and private homes, or an Old-Fashioned Christmas Exhibit marking traditions over the years.
The historic Congress Hall resort is always decked out for the holidays.
You can’t complete your visit with some holiday shopping. Cape May MAC has three museum shops: the Carriage House Museum Shop at the Emlen Physick Estate, that offers a variety of gifts and holiday ornaments; the World War II Lookout Tower, which has military and maritime history gifts; and the Cape May Lighthouse Museum Shop, Cape May Lighthouse, offering maritime gifts, clothing, toys and more.
When it’s time to eat, try Vintage Restaurant on the grounds of the Physick Estate; it’s dog-friendly, has outdoor seating options and take out is available. Plan Breakfast with Santa at Bella Vida Garden Café or Ocean 7. If you’d enjoy Lunch & Learn, attend A History of Christmas Carols at the Cape May Lutheran Church on Dec. 21 (you can also register for a Zoom session).
Historic Smithville literally looks like it is frozen in time. What started as a simple, one-room stagecoach stop has now become a village of 60 shoppes along cobblestone walkways and over foot bridges.
December in Smithville is a winter wonderland. The Light Show on the Lake is probably the biggest draw: starting at 5:30 pm each night it looks as if 50,000 lights are dancing on the water.
Although Dickens Fest took place Thanksgiving weekend, you can still enjoy The Magic Talking Christmas Tree that will help you locate Mrs. Claus, a ride aboard The Smithville Train or s’mores on the green.
Stone Harbor is one of NJ’s beautiful beach towns that may be even nicer to visit in the colder months.
Start your visit with a trip to Paisley Christmas Shoppe or Murdough’s Christmas Shop (on the Jersey side, not PA) to do some holiday shopping. The Reeds is offering holiday branch with Santa on Dec. 11 or try a different type of party at Holiday Bash by the Bay where you can sample cocktails during this mixer on Dec. 9. Check out the gingerbread scale model of The Reeds at Shelter Haven made from confections by Philadelphia’s Bredenbeck Bakery.
If you’d like to stay for the weekend, The Reeds at Shelter Haven’s Gingerbread Getaway package complete with gingerbread making kit, two festive gingerbread cocktails (or alternative from the seasonal holiday menu) and a $100 dining credit to any hotel restaurant.
The towns of the Wildwoods are known for their beautiful beaches during the summer, but there are five weekends of festivities planned so you have plenty of opportunities to create family memories during the winter, too.
Bundle up and take the kids to a Family Holiday Beach Bonfire. Sit on the sand, listen to music and take free photos with Santa. The Holiday Light Show at Wildwood’s Winter Wonderland at Holly Beach Park is another can’t-miss activity for the fam.
While visiting, check out some of the popular restaurants in the area. Warm up with New England clam chowder at The Beach Creek Oyster Bar & Grille, try some Greek cuisine at George’s Place, treat yourself to blueberry balsamic glazed salmon at The Boathouse or get the kids some chicken tenders or mac & cheese at The Swine Bar.
If you decide to stay over, there are special room rates available. Many hotels and motels in the area are open year-round, like the Skylark Resort Motel or the Enchantras Bed & Breakfast or Champagne Island Resort.
New York City
NYC and the holidays are synonymous. The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree (on Dec. 11 there will be hundreds of tuba players harmonizing holiday music) and ice skating rink, the Radio City Rockettes, the store windows at Macy’s Herald Square (pop inside to meet Santa or shop at Toys ‘R’ Us) and along Fifth Avenue, a horse and carriage ride in Central Park, “The Nutcracker” at Lincoln Center, cocktails at a pop-up Christmas or Hanukkah bar (The Plaza is a fave this time of year because of “Home Alone”), shopping at the Bryant Park Winter Village – there’s so much to choose from!
If you’re looking for the most amazing gift for your children, book an overnight stay at the Omni Berkshire Place where you can play all night with toys from F.A.O Schwarz.
If you prefer water adventures, Circle Line announced all its Holiday Harbor Lights Cruise, which is a winter wonderland aboard the seas. The deck will be outfitted with Christmas trees, garland and holiday decorations, which only pale in comparison to sights of the NY skyline at night.
Westchester County is a short drive from NJ, making it a great spot for northern Jerseyites to spend the holidays. Westchester’s Winter Wonderland at the Kensico Dam Plaza in Valhalla is a 1.2-mile drive-thru experience filled with thousands of lights. Kids love seeing the glittering angels of peace, a 50-foot dove, dancing trees, glowing snowballs, candy cane lane, a 100-foot light tunnel and an impressive 40-foot Christmas tree.
Untermyer Gardens Conservancy has its own Grand Holiday Illumination in Yonkers with more than 100,000 lights on display. The free nighttime light show celebrates many secular celebrations so it’s great for everyone!
Harvest Moon Farm & Orchard’s LUMAGICA in North Salem places more than 750,000 lights throughout the orchards in endless light displays of whimsical animals and Christmas trees. The half-mile trail goes through six decorated spaces that include a 20-foot-tall reindeer, a soaring parrot, light tunnels and a dynamic light show set to music.
Sleepy Hollow is commonly known for its Halloween tales, but it’s an exciting place to be during winter, too. The Sleepy Hollow Tarrytown Chamber will host its second annual Winter Stroll, filled with performances from local groups, schools and churches. Along the way, strollers will watch the tree lighting ceremonies for both Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown and enjoy holiday specials, drinks and treats from local community members.
Celebrate the holiday season with a Victorian Christmas Historic House Tour at Armour-Stiner’s Octagon House in Irvington. The restored national landmark will be filled with elaborate holiday décor featuring wreaths, garlands and ornaments on a grand Christmas tree inside the salon that harken back to Christmas in the 19th century.
Christmas is not complete without a rendition of Charles Dickens’s classic, so visit Lyndhurst Mansion in Tarrytown for “Mr. Dickens Tells a Christmas Carol” a one-hour play that recreates the famous 1867 performance tour by the author.
The Great Holiday Train Show in Chappaqua fills the Horace Greeley House Museum with numerous vintage train sets, some over 100 years old, that travel through festively decorated rooms with backdrops such as the Bavarian countryside, the “Rip Roaring ‘20s” and more.
Grab a bite to eat at Jewel of Himalaya in Scarsdale, one of the region’s only Nepali and Tibetan restaurants. Warm up with a cup of hot cocoa or coffee at Peekskill Coffee (plus order a crepe or waffle) or Mimi’s Coffee House in Mount Kisco, which serves vegan options. Katonah Reading Room is a bookstore that also features a coffee shop with a gourmet take out menu, ice cream, candy, books, gifts and more. Bread & Brine in Hastings-on-Hudson offers ramen on Tuesdays.
If you are turning a day trip into a weekend, The Opus Westchester is a contemporary lifestyle hotel in the heart of White Plains. Peekskill’s The Abbey Inn & Spa is offering a Winter Comfort Getaway package including a welcome wine and cheese plate, plus hot cocoa and cookies to enjoy by the fire pits. SpringHill Suites Tuckahoe offers a Discover Westchester County package that includes breakfast, a 20% coupon for The Market, late check-out and more.
Christmas markets are a huge draw this time of year, and Christkindlmarkt Bethlehem is one of the best holiday markets in the world according to Travel + Leisure. More than 60 artisans and craftspeople sell handmade gifts and food, plus you can skate next door at the Ice Rink at SteelStacks. The Easton Winter Village also offers tons of shopping and also includes an ice-skating rink.
If you enjoy being outside, Koziar’s Christmas Village is a fairyland in the middle of the countryside. Take a Christmas City Stroll to learn the meaning behind a candle-in-every-window, the Bethlehem Star and the history behind the Victorian and colonial buildings. Then take a horse-drawn carriage ride to rest your fee and take in all the beauty of Bethlehem’s national historic landmark district.
The mile-long Lights in the Parkway holiday light display in Allentown features drive-through animated displays, lighted trees and iconic characters, all of which can be enjoyed from the comfort of your own car. More inside entertainment includes “At the Stroke of Midnight” which is a musical based on “A Christmas Carol,” or “Christmas City Follies” is a fun variety show for the whole family.
The entire New Hope area could double for a Hallmark Channel movie set!
Take a ride on Santa’s North Pole Express Train on the New Hope Railroad. Check out Peddler’s Village Holidays in the Village featuring 1 million+ twinkling lights, holiday shopping, a gingerbread house competition, visits from Santa and more.
Sip a Christmas cocktail by the huge wood burning fireplace at Odette’s Overlook or relax in the cozy fireplace room at River House at Odette’s. At River House, Santa hosts brunch on Dec. 11, or attend a holiday book reading, signing and meet-and-greet with NYT bestselling author Lynn Steger Strong for her book “Flight.”
Get tickets to the theater for Million Dollar Quartet: Christmas at Bucks County Playhouse.
The Greater Philadelphia region has become known as one of the top holiday destinations in the world for the holidays, and it’s no wonder why, with more than 75 events and activities including markets, skating villages, tree lightings, holiday lights displays, igloos, Christmas-themed bars and restaurants, Santa sightings, shows and concerts, gingerbread cookie classes, festive cocktail tastings and the Festival of Trees.
The Christmas Village by LOVE Park and City Hall is a huge draw all month, designed as a traditional open-air German market. Take a ride on the Christmas Village Carousel, giant Ferris Wheel or Kids’ Train. Purchase handmade glass ornaments, music boxes, nutcrackers, Schwibbogen and incense smokers. Don’t leave without getting a sweet treat from Helmut’s Strudel. The Made in Philadelphia Holiday Market returns to Dilworth Park in conjunction with Rothman Ice Rink, the Rothman Cabin, the “Deck the Hall” light show and the Winter Garden.
Flight on Ice entertains the whole family with ice skating sessions, a fire lounge area, the Visit Delco beer garden, heated party tents, DJs and food and beverages. There are locations at Energy Transfer Veterans Memorial Park in Newtown Square, or Neshaminy Mall Rink in Bensalem.
Every kid loves the zoo, so after checking out all the wild and interesting animals, stick around for LumiNature at the Philadelphia Zoo. With more than a million twinkling lights across 14 artistically illuminated zones, highlights include a brand-new Penguin Prismatic show featuring a 40-foot tall penguin, a new coral and under the sea holiday tree, a new 15-foot tall glowing blue gorilla, 100-foot-long aquarium tunnel, enormous jellyfish, a 21-foot tall brilliant colored snake, hundreds of illuminated penguins, giant cat eyes glowing in the dark of night, a 22-foot-tall Butterfly Tree, a Wilderness Express Train and a 25-foot tree made entirely of lit flamingo lawn ornaments.
For a more distinguished experience, enjoy afternoon tea and Art de Noel at Sofitel Philadelphia at Rittenhouse Square. On Fridays and Saturdays, the menu includes seasonal scones, tea sandwiches and pastries, and obviously a selection of teas to choose from.
At Figo Ristorante on N. 2nd Street has igloos so you can dine under the stars. They are heated, sit up to six people and include full table service.
For a funny yet imaginative telling of the Nativity story, head to the Uptown! Knauer Performing Arts Center in West Chester for “The Butterfingers Angel, Mary & Joseph, Herod The Nut & The Slaughter Of 12 Hit Carols In A Pear Tree.” The action follows a free-spirited Mary who had decided that men and marriage were not for her, a suddenly cautious Joseph who contends that he is too old for his intended, and a flustered boy-angel who directs each scene from a prompt book and can only manage to get the most strangled, bleating sounds from his trumpet.
There are lots more must-see holiday attractions close to home!