The 2020 holiday season won't be like any other, but some of the Jersey Shore's stalwart events are still on, at least as of now.
The state issued new guidelines around holiday celebrations on Monday, mandating outdoor events where possible, limits on crowds, social distancing, masking, and other precautions to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Some venues are already cancelling events, while others are trying to adapt to the current environment as best as they can, given the circumstances.
With the new rules in mind -- and with the possibility they could be tightened before they are loosened -- here's a list of holiday events planned at popular Jersey Shore locations as of Dec. 1, via Shore chronicler and author R.C. Staab.
Exhibits and Dining
An Old-Fashioned Christmas Exhibit, Emlen Physick Estate, Cape May -- Thousands of Christmas holiday visitors since 2011 have delighted in visiting “An Old-Fashioned Christmas Exhibit: Holiday Traditions through the Years,” in the Carriage House on the grounds of Physick Estate. The exhibit features a giant indoor Christmas tree display, an elaborate Dept. 56 Dickens Village, model trains, nostalgic photos, toys and much more. Open daily through the New Year (except Thanksgiving and Christmas).
Holiday Lights Trolley Rides, Ghosts of Christmas Past Trolley Rides, new Lamplighter Walking Tours, as well as Physick Family Christmas House Tours and the new “A Dickens of a Murder,” both in the Physick House Museum, began November 21. Admission is limited for all holiday tours. Advance purchase recommended.
Storybook Land’s Christmas Fantasy with Lights, Egg Harbor Township –Amidst the beautifully manicured walkways with larger-than-life figures such as Mother Goose and Humpty Dumpty, the holidays come alive. All storybook houses are decorated for the season as Santa waves his magic wand and lights the park with over 1 million lights. This year, Santa will be available for socially distanced visits. Open every day through December 23, but only tickets available are Dec. 15, 16, 21, 22 and 23. Advance tickets are $26.95 online.
19th Century Christmas, Historic Village at Allaire, Farmingdale -- Experience Christmas in the various traditions of the 19th century in this historic iron-working village set in Allaire State Park on December 6, 13 and 20. Warm up on the open hearth, make Christmas treats, create winter arts and crafts and listen to the Village carolers and musicians. Each building is decorated in an old-world Christmas tradition, including Allaire Mansion in the 19th century French tradition. The general store and bakery are open for holiday shopping.
Congress Hall’s Winter Wonderland - At the 12 heated, winter-white Winter Igloos arranged on the lawn overlooking the ocean, you'll find an elevated menu of cocktails and light fare. The Igloos can accommodate parties of up to eight, making them the perfect private and socially-distant outdoor dining option for groups looking to toast the season together. The Igloos are available seven nights a week starting at 5:30 p.m. You pay an Igloo fee of at least $50 on top of your food and beverage.
Also at Congress Hall you can dine at Veranda Bar, where guests can warm up at the Hot Cocoa Bar and enjoy the same menu available at The Igloos to pair with themed a la carte cocktails; no reservations required. Blue Pig Tavern’s a la carte menu is updated for the season, while additional seating is available on the outdoor patio in heated tents overlooking a roaring fireplace.
Beach Plum Farm, West Cape May – In the woods a few miles from Sunset Beach and the Cape May Lighthouse is Beach Plum Farm, a 62-acre working farm with a kitchen that features its fruits, vegetables, chickens, eggs and hogs. On Friday and Saturdays through Dec. 19, The Hoop House is decorated with pine garland and string lights hung above candelit tables in a large open space. The special holiday dinner series is a delight for all senses.
Holiday in The Park, Six Flags Great Adventure, Jackson – Lights, seasonal treats, Santa’s village and more than 30 thrilling rides are waiting for you this holiday season at Six Flags, from mid-November to New Year's Day. Each themed area has been given a holiday makeover celebrating traditions from around the world. Kids can visit Santa in his workshop. Stay until after sunset to see a snowy finale. Most weekends through Christmas.
After dark Mondays through Thursdays, drive through Holiday in the Park, distinctly different areas throughout the 140-acre theme park which will be filled with twinkling lights, live entertainment, and festive music. Guests will enjoy distanced greetings from beloved holiday characters decked out for the holidays, popular iconic holiday decorations, a drive-by featuring Santa and Mrs. Claus and their helpful elves, and much more.
Tuckerton Seaport Holiday Boat Rides -- Only remaining times are 4:30 pm, 5:30 pm and 6:30 on December 11. Learn about how holidays have been celebrated locally for over 100 years, including when a Tuckerton tree saved Christmas for Times Square.
Magic of Lights, PNC Banks Arts Center, Holmdel – Drive-through holiday lights experience on a 2.5-mile course with favorite holiday scenes and characters of the season. The popular Toyota Mega Tree Spectacular returns this season, featuring favorite holiday programming displayed across 240 feet of LED Christmas trees. Nightly until January 2 except December 30.
Surflight Theatre, Beach Haven, Long Beach Island – The theater’s holiday show says it all: We Need a Little Christmas – A Surflight Holiday Musical. A welcome bright light in the dim theater season is Surflight Theatre, which is one of only a handful of theaters in the nation that forged ahead this summer and fall with full-scale musicals. We Need a Little Christmas is their big holiday show, Dec. 11-20 with professional actors and young performers from the community.
Holiday Harmonies, Red Bank -- Every Saturday and Sunday through December 20. Traditional carolers, choirs, brass bands, handbells, rock, folk, and jazz as musicians fill the sidewalks of Red Bank.
Historic Smithville – December in Smithville is the perfect opportunity to enjoy the holidays and buy gifts for everyone on your list. With more than 60 restaurants and shoppes surrounding a lake, you’ll be able to avoid the hustle and bustle of the indoor mall scene. Starting on Thanksgiving, take a ride on the Holiday Train with your kids or enjoy the evening Holiday Light Show on the Lake. Weekends in December, there are special event such as Dickens Fest, the Magic Talking Tree and Girls Night Out.
Argos Farm -- Visit with Santa, Cookie Decorating, & S’Mores by the Fire! Friday - 12:00 - 6:00pm, Saturday - 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m., Sunday - 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m., through Dec. 13 Holiday market to browse seasonal rustic decor and gift baskets. Pony & Cow Train Rides & More, Saturdays and Sundays. Hot chocolate and s’mores around the fire pits from Noon to 4 p.m. on Fridays through Sundays. Cookie Decorating: Friday – Sunday, 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Winterwood Gifts – Two stores in Cape May and Rio Grande with thousands of ornaments and hundreds of gifts.
Disclaimer: R.C. Staab is married to the president of WNBC's parent company, the NBC Universal Owned Television Stations.