Weekend Family Fun: Gingerbread, a Castle, Dickens Village, Ice Skating and More

Are you ready for another weekend? We sure are! If you’re looking for some family-friendly fun, you’re in the right place! We’ve rounded up plenty of things to do in and around town.

If you’re up for viewing some holiday lights, there are plenty to see in the area. Check out our roundup here! We’ve also gathered information on a number of holiday shows. You can check those out here.

Throughout the weekend, Turtle Back Zoo (560 Northfield Avenue, West Orange) will host Holiday Storytimes. Enjoy a holiday-themed story read by one of TBZ’s resident elves and meet an animal friend. Light refreshments included with ticket. Recommended for children ages 8 and younger; children must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. All attendees must have a ticket; children under 2 are free. Event lasts approximately 45 minutes. Space is limited; tickets can be purchased in advance.  Does not include admission into the zoo before 4pm.  Admission into the zoo after 5pm is free. Tickets for Storytime are $10 per person and children under 2 are free. Select times and buy tickets online.

Bergen County Winter Wonderland 2021 continues through January 2 at Van Saun County Park (216 Forest Avenue, Paramus). Bergen County’s Winter Wonderland at Van Saun Park is northern New Jersey’s premier winter event featuring open air ice skating, a kid’s zone ice rink, hospitality tent, children’s games and activities, carousel rides, food trucks an indoor/outdoor beer garden and the Bergen County Express Train Ride! All activities (including skate rentals) are included with admission. Tickets are $15 and children 3 and under are free. Visit the website for a full schedule of activities.

Cora Hartshorn Arboretum (324 Forest Drive South, Short Hills) will host Hot Chocolate Hikes on Saturday at 11:00 AM, 1:00 PM, and 3:00 PM, and Sunday at 3:00 PM (other timeslots are already sold out). Join an educator for a guided hike through our woodlands and explore the arboretum in winter. After the hike a enjoy a cup of hot chocolate. The entire event will take place outside. Masks and pre-registration required. Cost is $8 per person for members and $10 per person for non-members.

The Frelinghuysen Arboretum (353 East Hanover Avenue, Morris Twp) continues to host the Family Photo Scavenger Hunt. Held daily from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM, bring your camera or phone for this month’s hunt. There’s a new theme every month and the current theme is “Let It Snow.” Trees are shedding their leaves, but are they shedding their secrets? Explore the arboretum to find the big, the historic, and the most remarkable trees in this fun, family, non-contact photo scavenger hunt. The cost is $10 per family or group of 6 or less. Preregistration is required.

Liberty Hall Museum (1003 Morris Avenue, Union) will host two Gingerbread House Workshops on Saturday at 10:00 AM and 1:00 PM. Candy canes, gumdrops and peppermint sticks, oh my! Children get to decorate a unique gingerbread house, a perfect treat for the start of the holiday season. We provide all the materials including lots of candy and icing, and you go home with a great gingerbread house creation to enjoy throughout the season! Reservations are required. Tickets are $5-$25.

On Saturday at 10:15 AM, The Newark Museum of Art (49 Washington Street, Newark) will host Creative Play: Mini Zoo Edition. Join in for a fun time with friends from Turtle Back Zoo. Enjoy story time and a presentation of live animals. There are new animals every week. This program is specifically designed for children ages 3-5 and their caregivers. Register online.

On Saturday from 12:00 PM to 4:00 PM, Kip’s Castle (22 Crestmont Road, Montclair) will be open for self-guided tours. View the first floor and experience the holidays circa the 1920s. Admission is free.

Turtle Back Zoo (560 Northfield Avenue, West Orange) will host the final session for the month of Wonders of the Wild! On Saturday from 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM. This program offers students ages 6-12 an opportunity to participate in supplementary science and nature-themed programs and projects that facilitate scientific literacy and life-long environmental stewardship. This week’s session is Wildlife Conservation. Cost is $30 for this in-person, drop off program.

On Saturday from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM, Maplewood’s Dickens Village (Ricalton Square, Maplewood) will be open for viewing. Dickens Village brings to life various scenes from Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol in miniature houses. Peek inside and you will see fireplaces, stockings, and antique toys. Each little house reveals something unique and different. Santa will be visiting for socially distant visits. Visitors can also enjoy a DJ, horse and wagon rides, and a petting farm.

Saturday evening, Clifton Recreation Department (900 Clifton Avenue, Clifton) will host Candyland from 5:00 PM to 8:00 PM. Just in time for the holidays, the Clifton Recreation Department will present a wonderful family adventure at the Clifton Candyland event. Put on your hat, mittens and scarf and enjoy the continuous activities running throughout the evening.  Have the time of your life as you take a ride on the Santa Express Train, fly and bounce at the Reindeer Flight School, use your night vision to find candy canes at the Flashlight Candy Cane Hunt, play interactive games in the Candy Cane Play Station, DIY holiday crafts, enjoy a hot chocolate and cookies at the Santa Snack Shack (other food items will be available for purchase), write a letter to Santa, and of course enjoy a visit with Santa Claus in person (don’t forget your camera to take Santa photos). Tickets are $11 per person.


On Sunday at 10:00 AM, Cedar Bean’s Coffee Joint (575 Pompton Avenue, Cedar Grove) will The Grinch Live! That nefarious Grinch, recently escaped from total incarceration at the Essex County Jail! Drop in, take some holiday pictures and we’ll all see if together, we can help grow his small heart 3 times that day!

On Sunday at 12:30 PM, The Clairidge will show the holiday classic It’s A Wonderful Life. An angel is sent from Heaven to help a desperately frustrated businessman by showing him what life would have been like if he had never existed. Frank Capra’s holiday classic It’s A Wonderful Life returns to the big screen in Montclair! Tickets are $5 for members and $10 for non-members.

Montclair Art Museum (3 South Mountain Avenue, Montclair) will host Sunday Studio on Sunday from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM.  This week’s session is entitled Octahedrons: The Magic of Spheres with Mansa Mussa. Inspired by the exhibition Transformed, this week families will learn new paper folding and collage techniques to upcycle colorful marketing materials into eight-sided soft paper sculptures. These delightful octahedrons make great gifts or decorative holiday ornaments! This program is geared toward families with children ages 5–12, but all are welcome. This event is free with MAM admission. Registration is required.

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