Weekend Family Fun: Improv, Madeline, Kwanzaa, Theater, Art, Music and More

Happy weekend! Got plans? We’ve rounded up some fun and family-friendly activities happening in and around the area. Check ’em out!

This weekend, Garden State Model Railway Club (575 High Mountain Road, North Haledon) will continue their 62nd Annual Model Railroad Show. See prototypical trains such as modern intermodal trains, coal drags, general freights and passenger equipment as well as the famous Santa Claus Express with various Disney and other pop culture characters for the children. Show hours are Saturday and Sunday from 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM. Tickets are $6 for adults and free for children under 12 when with an adult.

Van Saun County Park (216 Forest Avenue, Paramus) will continue to host the Bergen County Winter Wonderland this weekend. Hours are Friday 4:00 PM to 9:00 PM, Saturday 11:00 AM to 9:00 PM and Sunday 11:00 AM to 7:00 PM. Visitors can enjoy open air ice skating, kids’ beginner synthetic rink, Santa’s North Pole Dome and Workshop, a heated hospitality pavilion, kids’ activities and games, unlimited Bergen Express train rides and carousel rides, zoo entry and programing, indoor/outdoor beer garden, and food trucks. Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for senior citizens and active military or veterans, and free for children age 3 and under. This weekend there will be Santa visits, a balloon artist, and face painting. Check the website for a schedule.

Turtle Back Zoo’s Holiday Lights (560 Northfield Avenue, West Orange) continues nightly through December 31. Holiday lights will be open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 5:00 PM to 9:00 PM. Enjoy a walk around the zoo, featuring thousands of holiday lights. Special events will be held on various nights. This weekend is “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas Weekend.” Meet an Elf, a Gingerbread Man, and a Toy Soldier! Check the website for details. Admission is free, though some events require a fee. Donations of non-perishable foods are requested.

Also at the Zoo this weekend, enjoy Storytime With Mrs. Claus. Choose from Friday at 5:30 PM and 6:30 PM, Saturday at 3:30 PM, 5:00 PM, and 6:00 PM, and Sunday at 3:30, 5:00 PM, and 6:00 PM. Hear a holiday story read by Mrs. Claus and meet one of her animal friends. Light refreshments and a holiday cookie are included with a ticket. This activity is recommended for children ages 12 and younger. Children under 2 are free. All others are $10. Register online.

The Polar Express Train Ride (1 Railroad Plaza, Whippany) will run on select dates through December 30th. Set to the sounds of the motion picture soundtrack, passengers will relive the magic of the classic story as they are whisked away on The Polar Express for a magical one-hour trip to the North Pole. Once on board, your car hosts will work their way through the coach and punch your golden ticket before hot chocolate and a delicious cookie are served by dancing chefs. Passengers then read along with the classic children’s book, The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg. Passengers will take part in caroling and onboard entertainment and receive a keepsake sleigh bell to take home. Coach Class tickets start at $46 for adults and $41 for children. First Class tickets start at $70 for adults and $65 for children. Visit the website for ride schedules.

Skylands Stadium (94 Championship Place, Augusta) will host their annual Christmas Light Show and Village through December 30. With more than two million dazzling lights on a mile-long drive-through course plus a new outdoor village, it’s a must-see holiday attraction for the whole family. The Light Show cost is $20 per carload. The Outdoor Christmas Village includes Walk-Thru Lights, Santa’s Workshop, a Skating Rink, 8’ Polar Bear Statue, Yuengling’s Ice Cream Shop and Hot Chocolate Bar, S’mores Station, Carnival Games, Concessions, and Vendors. Admission and parking for the Village is free, though some attractions have an additional cost. The light show and village are open this weekend on Friday from 5:00 PM to 11:00 PM, Saturday from 4:30 PM to 11:00 PM, and Sunday from 4:30 PM to 9:00 PM.

Paper Mill Playhouse (22 Brookside Drive, Millburn) will host Dragons Love Tacos on Saturday at 11:00 AM for children ages 5 and up. Enjoy a collection of stories based on popular books including “Dragons Love Tacos,” “Interrupting Chicken,” “The Dot,” “Mercy Watson Goes for a Ride,” and “Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa School Day.” Tickets are $15.

Nutley Public Library (93 Booth Drive, Nutley) will host a Star Wars Party on Saturday from 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM in the Children’s Room. Party like a Jedi! Celebrate the Force with crafts, games and more! No registration required.

The Newark Museum of Art (49 Washington Street, Newark), formerly Newark Museum, will host Creative Play on Saturday beginning at 11:00 AM. Three- to five-year-olds and their caregivers enjoy a special time before the Museum opens to the public. Explore the Museum’s art and science collections through storytelling, song, playful activities and an art-making project. December’s theme is Shapes – Circles, Squares and Triangles, Oh My! Have fun connecting simple shapes to great works of art in the Museum’s collection – from the Seeing America galleries to the simple and complex shapes in the Asian galleries. From 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM, enjoy Maker Space Drop-Ins for children ages 5-12. Full STEAM Ahead! Children will be introduced to the different elements of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics through activities that push their creativity and critical thinking.

The Newark Museum of Art will also host several activities weekly on Saturday and Sundays, from 12:00 PM to 4:00 PM:

  • Family Drop-Ins – December’s theme is Connections: Here, There and Everywhere! Connect sequences of ideas, history, relationships and material. Associations link worldly and local community happenings. Everything and everyone is connected.
  • Imagination Station – Spark your creativity while thinking outside the box. Have fun while achieving the challenge.
  • Family Back Pack – A fun self-guided tour for the entire family! Utilize a spy glass, a timer and more, as well as prompts as your family interacts with great works of art to explore Community / Animals / People / Places!

You can find information about all of the programs at The Newark Museum of Art on their website.

Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center (247 Southern Blvd, Chatham Twp) will host Weekend Family Walk for all ages with an adult on Saturday from 10:00 AM to 11:00 AM. Take to the trails with a guide to discover the unique animals and plants found at the Great Swamp. Learn new nature facts. Cost is $2 per person ages 3 and up. Preregistration is required by calling 973-635-6629. Cost is $10 per child.

Just Kidding at Symphony Space (2537 Broadway at 95th Street, NYC) will present Falu’s Bazaar on Saturday at 11:00 AM. Falu’s Bazaar is a musical journey through South Asian culture, and around the globe. Falu’s shows celebrate the instruments, languages, sights, and humanity of our diverse world. With songs about animals, counting, spices, South Asian cooking, and the wide diversity of cultures in our world, kids will learn new words in Hindi and how to have fun as part of a human train. Cost is $14 for members and $17 for non-members.

Liberty Hall Museum (1003 Morris Avenue, Union) will host Gingerbread House Workshop on Saturday at 10:00 AM. Candy canes, gumdrops, and peppermint, oh my! Children get to decorate a unique gingerbread house, a perfect treat for the start of the holiday season. All materials are provided, and participants can go home with a marvelous gingerbread creation to enjoy throughout the season. Tickets are $25 per child/adult pair. Additional adults are $5.

On Saturday from 12:00 PM to 3:00 PM, Bloomfield Civic Center (84 Broad Street, Bloomfield) will host Holiday Celebration! This free event includes refreshments, arts & crafts, face painting, movies, story time presented by the Children’s Library at 1:00 PM (with a special visit from Brady the Therapy Dog), and pictures with Santa. Please bring your own camera for pictures. Pre-registration is not required.

Montclair Film will host Family Improv on Saturday at 4:00 PM. Montclair Film hosts Montclair Improv Comedy’s 1st show for families!!!!  Geared for children 3-10 years old, this high-energy performance, featuring professional improvisers and will be 100% Family-Friendly (G-Rating) and absolutely hilarious!  So, bring the kids to an improv show and let’s laugh together! Cost is $5 for members and $7 for non-members.

Studio Playhouse (14 Alvin Place, Upper Montclair) will present Madeline’s Christmas on Saturday and Sunday at 1:30 PM and 3:30 PM. In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines lived 12 little girls in two straight lines.” So begins this delightful story of Madeline’s Christmas! The day begins like any other day. Miss Clavel takes the 12 little girls on their morning walk. They go to the zoo and then back to school for their French history lesson. Suddenly disaster strikes when everyone gets the flu! Everyone that is, except for the ever-resilient Madeline. Saddened that they may not be able to go home for Christmas, the girls and Miss Clavel take to their beds. But on Christmas Eve, the adventure begins when there is a knock at the front door. Tickets are $12.

The Frelinghuysen Arboretum (353 East Hanover Avenue, Morris Twp) will host Gingerbread Wonderland from 10:00 AM to 4:30 PM on Saturday and Sunday. Thousands of families make it a tradition to attend this holiday festival. Marvel at the creativity and skill that characterizes this charming exhibit of hundreds of edible structures. Past exhibits included models of Harry Potter scenes, Notre Dame Cathedral, Santa’s Workshop, European castles, and much more. Cost is $2 per person.

Dimenna Children’s History Museum (170 Central Park West at 77th Street, NYC) will host Celebrating Richard Scarry and Busytown on Saturday and Sunday from 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM. All aboard! Holiday Express returns this year with a special new addition— scenes from Richard Scarry’s Busytown! Create a train-inspired craft; listen to Busytown tales; have fun with Conductor Abe, New-York Historical’s resident train master; and meet Huck Scarry, son of Richard Scarry, who’ll be at the Museum to meet fans, draw beloved Busytown characters, and talk about his dad. This activity is for ages 7 and under with their adults and is free with Museum Admission.

Each weekend, Dimenna Children’s History Museum (170 Central Park West at 77th Street, NYC) makes available a History Detective Briefcase. Calling all history detectives! Check out a free (with museum admission) History Detective Briefcase from the Membership Desk and use it to explore the Luce Center on the 4th floor, with its fascinating array of historical artifacts. Each briefcase provides fun, interactive, family-centered challenges—like games, sketching, and other activities—that help you discover even more about the past. At the end of your visit, simply return it to Membership! The Museum is open on Saturday from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM and Sunday from 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Admission is $22 for adults, $17 for Seniors/Educators/Active Military, $13 for students, $6 for kids age 5-13 years old, and free for kids 4 and under.

On Sunday from 11:00 AM to 12:00 PM, Cedar Bean’s Coffee Joint (575 Pompton Avenue, Cedar Grove) will host 2nd Annual Storytime with Santa! The Spectacular Santa Claus will be visiting Ol’ Cedar Bean. He’ll hang with the kiddies, read “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” and get everyone into the Holiday Spirit for Christmas Day. Arrive early! This event is free, but it is requested for attendees to share the joy and bring a nonperishable food item for the Human Needs Food Pantry.

Barnes & Noble Clifton Commons (395 Route 3 East, Clifton) will host Baby & Me Storytime Featuring Pop-up Peekaboo: Colors on Sunday at 11:00 AM. This activity is for caregivers and children 0-24 months old. Read a book and participate in activities featuring sensory growth for your little ones. Plus, get a coupon for a free tall, hot or iced Starbucks coffee.

Montclair Public Library (50 S. Fullerton Avenue, Montclair) will host Kwanzaa: 53rd Annual Harvest Festival of African Culture from 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM on Sunday. The Library is excited to welcome back Mama Yaa, of the Pyramyd Dance Company, who will kick off the event with the traditional Kwanzaa libation ceremony at the Ancestral Table, the lighting of the Mishumaa Saba (Seven Candles), and the reading of the Nguzo Saba (Seven Principles). Children and their adults will also enjoy face-painting and crafts. All are invited to enjoy the Karamu (Feast) of traditional African American and African dishes (we are unable to accommodate for food allergies). No registration is required.

Montclair Art Museum (3 South Mountain Avenue, Montclair) will also host their Drop-In Studio on Sunday from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM. Drop by MAM’s Helen & Bill Geyer Art Studio to explore a range of art materials and processes based on artwork on view in the galleries. Each week features a new art-making activity and gallery talk inspired by current exhibitions. Reservations are not required, and visitors of all ages are welcome! This program is free for members and included with Museum admission for non-Members. This Sunday, we’ll be making gift boxes inspired by Larry Kagan’s current exhibition, Impossible Shadows: The Art of Larry Kagan.

On Sunday at 3:00 PM, The Children’s Philharmonic will present W.A. Mozart’s The Magic Flute at The First Presbyterian Church of Verona (10 Fairview Avenue, Verona). This English-language version of Mozart’s quirky masterpiece will highlight several of The Children’s Philharmonic’s Season Artists, as well as members of The Children’s Philharmonic “Young Artist” collective, made up of students aged 6-12 with a passion for classical music. Mozart’s The Magic Flute explores how love can surpass even the most treacherous obstacles. A pair of star-crossed lovers, Tamino and Pamina, find themselves battling the mysterious Queen of the Night as they attempt to make a life for themselves, accompanied by Papageno, a mischievous Bird-Man and guided by three mystical Ladies. Admission is free, with a $15 suggested donation at the door. RSVP online.

On Sunday, On Stage at Kingsborough will present Hanukkah on the Roof at 3:00 PM. Join MusicTalks host Elad Kabilio, 12th Night Klezmer, and Yiddish theatre star Daniella Rabbani for a joyous evening of the beautiful music, great passion, and unique humor that makes the Shtetl such a unique place for a big celebration. Special guest vocalist Michael Einav (Original Cast, Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish) will bring the celebration into the world of Fiddler on the Roof for the ultimate Shtetl experience in Yiddish, English, and Russian. Tickets are $32-$34.

If you’re looking for holiday shows, check out our round up here.

For more upcoming events, check out Baristanet Calendar.

Click here to sign up for Baristanet's free daily emails and news alerts.