It’s lovely to walk down Main Street and see holiday lights and decorations on light posts and storefronts. When it comes to delivering charm, beauty and holiday events, some NJ Christmas towns do it better than the rest.
What makes a great NJ Christmas town? The best New Jersey towns to explore during the holiday season have 4 things in common:
- A bright, beautiful Christmas display in town
- Festive street decorations and streetscapes
- Wonderful stores for Christmas shopping
- Gorgeous local scenery and architecture
We’re all partial to our one favorite “Christmas destination” in the Garden State — you’re probably thinking of yours right now! But how do you decide which Jersey towns celebrate the holidays best? And where can you discover a new Christmas tradition to visit with your friends and family?
Jersey Digs did the homework for you, they took their own experiences and then asked some of NJ’s most knowledgeable experts about their favorite holiday hotspots.
How We Picked NJ’s Best Christmas Towns
After taking our own New Jersey Christmas experiences into account, we looked at over a dozen sources to create our list of NJ’s 10 best Christmas towns. It was important to work with local experts and travel guides to get a sense of what their home towns had to offer during the holidays.
Several New Jersey towns and cities made national lists of the best Christmas destinations in America as well!
We took the top 10 most frequently named towns from all these lists and rankings, and added some underrated hidden gems that ourselves and other New Jersey residents love to visit during Christmas.
The result is our ultimate top 10 list of the best NJ towns to visit during Christmas. We hope you enjoy it!
Top 10 Most Popular NJ Christmas Towns to Visit
#1. Cape May, NJ
Cape May is the clear #1 on our list of popular NJ Christmas towns, appearing in over 70% of all the lists we researched. Travel and Leisure named Cape May #21 on its list of the best Christmas towns in America.
Cape May’s quaint Victorian architecture takes on a new life during the holiday season. The houses, shops and hotels transform into a vintage Christmas postcard, with decorations and opulent lighting everywhere you look.
Popular Christmas events in Cape May:
Start with a ride on Cape May’s Holiday Trolley — and choose your own adventure! Santa’s Trolley Ride is a great experience for young children. Adults enjoy the Holiday Lights Trolley Ride to soak in the sights, sounds and lights of Cape May at Christmas time.
The town inspires its residents and business owners to Light Up Cape May, an initiative that awards prizes to the best lighting displays on homes, shops and windows.
#2. Clinton, NJ (Red Mill)
Clinton is one of NJ’s most historic towns, with the Red Mill at the core of its old-world charm. This rustic Hunterdon County locale is rated as one of New Jersey’s best places to live each year. One look at the scenery, and it’s easy to see why.
The Winter Village at Clinton’s Red Mill Museum Village is the best holiday shopping attraction in New Jersey. This outdoor market is open two weekends per year and features dozens of craftsmen, artisans, and food and drink vendors.
Popular Christmas events in Clinton:
The annual Clinton Christmas Parade is one of the state’s best. It features everything you love in a classic holiday parade — from floats and costumes to Santa Claus himself.
The Red Mill Museum Village hosts much more than just the Winter Village. Decorate with your friends and family at the annual Festival of Trees, or schedule a photo op with Santa Claus in front of a storybook backdrop.
#3. Historic Smithville, NJ
Nothing tops Historic Smithville for the sheer authenticity of its old world Christmas experience. One step onto the cobblestone streets and you’ll be transported into one of New Jersey’s most charming, best-kept secrets.
Historic Smithville began as one stagecoach and a vision. It’s blossomed into a true destination for South Jersey residents and tourists to experience small-town hospitality from a bygone era.
Popular Christmas events in Smithville:
You must experience the Smithville holiday light show that takes place on the lake. The Light Show on the Lake runs every night from Thanksgiving through January 6th from 5:30 pm to 8:30 pm.
Historic Smithville has great holiday attractions for kids, like the Magic Talking Christmas Tree and holiday train rides. Adults enjoy holiday events like Girls’ Night Out and S’mores on the Green. Check out the Smithville blog for more details about these events.
#4. Princeton, NJ
Princeton ranks high on our list of great New Jersey holiday towns for its diversity of choice. Whether you like indoor activities, outdoor events, or high-end boutique shopping, Princeton packs it all into your Christmas day trip.
Focus your journey around Palmer Square, the heart of Princeton. Located across from the Princeton University main entrance off Nassau Street, Palmer Square boasts incredible shopping and dining, as well as the renowned Nassau Inn.
Popular Christmas events in Princeton:
Lace up your ice skates for Skating on the Square, located next to the Nassau Inn on Hulfish Street. Open Skate takes place from November 18, 2023 to February 25, 2024, and costs $10 cash or $12 with credit card.
Visit the Palmer Square events page for their Holiday Happenings schedule. Have a Sunday breakfast with Santa at the Yankee Doodle Tap Room, or enjoy strolling music and carols every weekend from 12 pm – 2 pm through Christmas Eve.
#5. Maplewood, NJ
Maplewood is a beautiful suburban community in Essex County that lights up during the Christmas season. It’s best known for the annual Dickens Village that takes place in Ricalton Square.
Dickens Village transports visitors to Victorian times, with miniature display houses and authentic horse and carriage rides. Dickens Village is open the first 3 Saturdays of December from 1 pm to 4 pm and features live music and a visit from Santa.
Popular Christmas events in Maplewood:
Check out the Springfield Avenue events list for updated holiday festivities. The 2023 Maplewood Menorah lighting is December 11th, and the tree lighting is December 17th.
Shoppers love the annual WINTR Holiday Market at the Springfield Avenue Gazebo in Maplewood. It features a rotating list of dozens of vendors, as well as food and drink trucks and entertainment from singers, dance studios and bands.
#6. Collingswood, NJ
Collingswood has a lovely downtown area that centers on Haddon Street. Its shopping district features a solid variety of home furnishings, fine art and restaurants to enjoy.
The residents of Collingswood make Christmas special each year, with live music and carolers downtown every Friday and Saturday in December. The town makes holiday visitors feel welcome with extended shopping hours and free parking for the entire month of December.
Popular Christmas events in Collingswood:
Collingswood has a lovely annual Menorah lighting tradition. This year’s Menorah lighting event is on December 13th, 2023 at 6 p.m. in the Lumberyard Garden. Guests can enjoy latkes, donuts, chocolate gelt and live music.
The Tricia Sloan Dance Center presents The Nutcracker at the Scottish Rite Theater in Collingswood. The dancers will perform the ballet 4 times from December 15 – 17.
#7. Millburn, NJ
Millburn (and neighboring Short Hills) are two of the most charming towns in northern New Jersey. It’s highly regarded for its upscale shopping and theater experiences — the renowned Paper Mill Playhouse is located here.
Millburn and Short Hills are a center of affluence, ranked the 6th richest locality in America. Its residents do a wonderful job of keeping their streets decked out for the Christmas season, and it’s not uncommon to see carolers in the evening.
Popular Christmas events in Millburn:
It all happens at Taylor Park, the epicenter of holiday festivities in Millburn. Make sure to stop under the light tunnel on the Taylor Park bridge for a beautiful photo opportunity — then stay to enjoy nightly music throughout the season.
#8. Haddonfield, NJ
Downtown Haddonfield is one of the best shopping areas in South Jersey. It features over 200 stores, restaurants and taverns, plus a wonderful array of Victorian architecture.
Philly visitors like Haddonfield for its location, just 10 minutes from both the Walt Whitman Bridge and Ben Franklin Bridge. Enjoy a glass of wine at Heritage Winery, then head out on the town for some fabulous holiday shopping.
Popular Christmas events in Haddonfield:
Shoppers love Haddonfield’s Candlelight Shopping events, from November 24 through December 22, 2023. Carolers and musicians stroll the downtown streets, while Mrs. Claus visits the shops to “shop for the elves”. 18 local businesses are open 9 pm or later on Fridays, while dozens more extend their shopping hours to 8 pm.
Parking is free downtown from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Eve.
#9. Red Bank, NJ
Red Bank is establishing itself as a new contender in the “Best NJ Christmas towns” category with some great initiatives and holiday events. Head downtown and enjoy free parking from December 11th through Christmas Day.
Visit the Red Bank Armory Ice Complex for public ice skating to get your holidays started. Public skating is available Fridays from 8:15 pm – 9:45 pm, and Sunday afternoons from 1:15 pm – 2:45 pm. Admission is $10 per person, and skate rentals are $5.
Popular Christmas events in Red Bank:
Have some fun with the kids at the Red Bank Elf Scavenger Hunt. From November 24 through December 22, spot the Red Bank Elf in as many participating shops as you can to win prizes! Visit the Elf Scavenger Hunt website for a list of participating businesses.
The town supports Holiday Express each year in its mission to provide music, gifts, food, financial support and friendship through the holiday season. Red Bank hosts a Holiday Express concert each year in conjunction with its Town Lighting event.
#10. Morristown, NJ
Morristown has experienced a renaissance over the last decade, becoming a vibrant downtown area for young professionals who covet fine dining, great bars and entertainment. As Morristown’s downtown area grows, so does its holiday events calendar.
Start at the Morristown Green for shopping and dining. Try out igloo dining at the Fig & Lily Garden, then head down the street for name-brand holiday shopping. Cap off your evening with a show or concert at the Mayo Performing Arts Center on South Street.
Popular Christmas events in Morristown:
The Christmas Festival at the Morristown Green transforms the town center into a winter wonderland. Enjoy holiday music and crafts, a Santa house, ice sculptures, a vintage rocking horse, and electric train rides around the green for kids.
Stick around past Christmas for First Night Morris, the premier New Year’s Eve celebration in Morris County. Tickets start at $30 and include access to 20 venues, 70 performances, 50+ on-demand films, shuttle access and free parking.
It was impossible to only list 10 New Jersey towns to visit during the holidays! We had to show a bit of extra love to some more places that make Christmas beautiful in the Garden State.
The following 5 NJ towns receive honorable mentions as wonderful Christmas destinations:
- Medford, NJ
- Mount Holly, NJ
- Montclair, NJ
- New Brunswick, NJ
- Ridgewood, NJ
What’s The Best Christmas Town in New Jersey?
Did your favorite New Jersey Christmas town make the list this year? Do you agree with our rankings? Share this article with your friends on social media — argue about the rankings, then make a date to visit all the towns on this list!
The holiday season is a great time to get out and support the downtown shops in your favorite New Jersey towns. Take in a Christmas parade, do some holiday shopping, and buy a nice cup of hot cocoa as the sun sets and the lights flicker on at night.
Here’s wishing you and your New Jersey neighbors a safe, happy holiday season!