Expert picks for seasonal fun in the Jersey Shore region.
Two unique holiday dining experiences are coming to this historic resort. In the heated Igloos arranged on the lawn overlooking the ocean, you can enjoy a Scandinavian-inspired meal that includes caviar deviled eggs, marinated cucumber salad, Swedish meatballs, smoked fish pie, pork-and-fennel sausage, and more. At the nearby village, fire pits and twinkling lights illuminate the 16 private cabanas arranged around the swimming pool. The menu there features grilled offerings like whole salmon, tomahawk steak and winter vegetables, with Yule logs and mini cakes for dessert.
Now in its 10th year at the Emlen Physick Estate’s Carroll Gallery, An Old-Fashioned Christmas Exhibit: Holiday Traditions Through the Years features a giant indoor tree display, an elaborate Department 56 Dickens Village, model trains, nostalgic photos, toys and more. The free exhibit is open daily from Nov. 20 through the New Year (closed Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day).
A welcome bright light in an otherwise dim performing arts season, Surflight is one of only a handful of theaters in the nation that forged ahead this summer and fall with full-scale musicals. Elf Jr., a one-hour musical version of the big-screen story of Buddy the Elf, runs Nov. 27-29, followed by We Need a Little Christmas— A Surflight Holiday Musical Dec. 11-20.
Warm up by the open hearth, make Christmas treats, create winter crafts and listen to carolers and musicians at a historic iron-working village set in Allaire State Park on Dec. 6, 13 and 20. Each building is decorated in the Old World tradition, including Allaire Mansion. A general store and bakery are open for holiday shopping.
Set in the woods a few miles from Sunset Beach and Cape May Lighthouse, this 62-acre working farm features fruits, vegetables, chickens, eggs and hogs. Fridays and Saturdays Nov. 28-Dec. 19, the pine garland and string lights at the Hoop House hang above candle-lit tables in a large open space. The special holiday dinner series is a delight for all senses.
Starting mid-November, Storybook Land is open weekends and some weekdays. Houses are decorated for the season and the park covered with over a million lights. This year, Santa is available for socially distanced visits.
On Saturday, Nov. 21, Santa Claus flips the switch to illuminate thousands of lights on the huge evergreen Christmas tree on the grounds of the historic Emlen Physick Estate, kicking off the holiday season in Victorian Cape May. Ongoing events include the Physick Family Christmas House Tour, holiday walking tours
and Christmas-themed trolley tours.
More than 60 restaurants and shops surround Smithville’s lake. The holiday train leaves the station for the first time on Thanksgiving Day, and families can enjoy an evening holiday light show on the lake. Weekends in December feature special events like the Dickens Fest, the Magic Talking Tree and Girls Night Out.
On Saturday, Dec. 5, this 30-acre living history museum offers hot beverages, holiday treats and crafts. Meet Father Christmas in the country store, which will be stocked with traditionally processed wool, artisan crafts for the home, books, jewelry, toys, and old-fashioned candy. Book ahead for timed admission.
From mid November to New Year’s Day, Great Adventure gets a holiday makeover celebrating traditions from around the world. Kids can visit Santa in his workshop, and be sure to stay after sunset for the snowy finale.
R.C. Staab is the author of 100 Things to Do at the Jersey Shore Before You Die (Reedy Press, 285 pages). Visit 100thingsjerseyshore.com.