Yes, it’s going to be different this year. Your office holiday party might not happen, your Christmas dinner table may feature a few less table settings, and your usual tradition of packing in shoulder-to-shoulder in big-box stores with throngs of other shoppers battling for that last game console or flat-screen TV is (thankfully) on hold for the time being.
As with everything in 2020, Christmas traditions might have to change a bit. Some might even go away for this year. But that doesn’t mean you have to sit sulking your way through the holiday season. This year plenty of holiday fun can be had safely, you just need to know where to look. That’s where we come in. Here is a list of where to load up on Christmas cheer this year in South Jersey.
Motown hits and edible art at Hard Rock for the holidays
A live indoor stage show is a rarity these days, but just in time for the holidays, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City offers guests an exciting evening of festive fun with Motor City Live’s “A Motown Christmas.” The show runs select dates now through Wednesday, Dec. 30, and is produced by legendary A.C. producer Allen Valentine and features costumed singers and dancers, as well as a live band performing hits and classic holiday tunes from acts like The Supremes, The Jackson 5 and The Temptations, among others. The shows will take place in Sound Waves, which will be kept to 10 percent capacity. Guests will be socially distanced and required to wear masks. Seats can be purchased as tables of two or four. For more info or to purchase tickets, go to HardRockHotelAtlanticCity.com
“Guests should expect an upbeat, energetic, fun show,” promises Hard Rock President Joe Lupo.
Wanna make your holiday just a bit sweeter? How ’bout A LOT sweeter? This season, Hard Rock is showcasing their edible art display, “A Rock Solid Christmas.” Created by former White House Pastry Chef Thaddeus R. DuBois and his culinary team, the elaborate edible art features Christmas trees, ornaments and Christmas drums, as well a 7-foot replica of the Gibson Les Paul guitar that stands in the front of Hard Rock. The piece was created using more than 2,000 pounds of white and dark chocolate for a dramatic and festive display that is sure to make your mouth water. Hard Rock is located at 1000 Boardwalk in Atlantic City.
Walking tours and Father Christmas at Cold Spring Village
Looking for a fun reason to get outside for a bit? Guests can enjoy beautiful winter weather as they take a guided walk through a portion of Historic Cold Spring Village and experience the mystique of days gone by. Folks will learn the history of several of the Village buildings and the lifestyles of those who worked and lived within their walls. The tour is offered 11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 19. Cost is $12 for adults or $10 for children ages 3-12. Tours begin at the Seashore Road/Route 626 Gate House.
While you are at Cold Spring, visit the Country Store from noon to 4 p.m., where you can purchase souvenirs of the village. Father and Mother Christmas will also be on hand to meet guests at Cold Spring Brewery from 3 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 19. Guests are encouraged to bring kids and pets along to take pics. To purchase tickets in advance, go to HCSV.org. Cold Spring Brewery is located at 733 Seashore Road in Cape May.
A socially distanced bar crawl
Atlantic City’s 4th Annual Ugly Sweater Crawl has been modified for 2020. This year the event continues for the second week on Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 19 and 20, but will no longer offer jitney service to take guests from bar to bar. Instead, folks are encouraged to head out on their own, stopping in at each place on the list for some great drinks, discounts, and giveaways.
The event is organized by Little Water Distillery.
“The goal this year is to encourage very responsible visitation to the businesses that have been participating in this tradition over the last three years. Be festive, be safe and be responsible,” says Mark Ganter, Owner of Little Water Distillery.
Other participating locations on the crawl include Pic-A-Lilli Pub, Tennessee Avenue Beer Hall, Bourre, The Irish Pub, AC Axe & Pub and Rhythm & Spirits. Hours vary, so be sure to call ahead. Each spot will have bingo cards to be stamped as you visit – fill your card and be sure to dress your worst. For more info check the Facebook page of Little Water Distillery. Little Water Distillery is located at 807 Baltic Ave. in Atlantic City. Go to LittleWaterDistillery.com.
Christmas cruisin’ at DiDonato’s
DiDonato Family Fun Center in Hammonton had been running its Magical Holiday Express train this year until new COVID restrictions made it no longer possible to operate. But never fear – as they have transformed the experience into a drive-through experience called DiDonato’s Magical Drive.
“Mid-season we had to make the switch to a Magical Drive. We now welcome our guests to experience our lights and displays and more from the comfort of their own car. We still want families and guests to make special holiday memories this season,” says Christina DiDonato Dillon, president of business development and marketing for DiDonato’s.
Guests will be able to enjoy a magical drive-through their Christmas village with more than 5 million lights. Santa and Mrs. Claus will be there to stop and take a few in-car photos, and the elves will have a special gift for the children. Guests can also enjoy the dancing snowman and holiday music in your car through FM transmitter. Word has it that some other magical surprises are planned for this year’s experience, as well.
DiDonato’s Magical drive runs daily starting at 5 p.m. through Dec. 23. Tickets are available for $12.95 per person at DidonatoFunCenter.com. DiDonato Family Fun Center is located at 1151 S. White Horse Pike in Hammonton.
The Landis hosts a “Van Holiday”
One holiday concert … comin’ uuuuup!
At 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 18, the Landis Theater in Vineland will play host to a fun, festive and unique holiday concert experience. Kaycee Ray’s Tribute Concert Series will bring Romeo Delight – one of the region’s top Van Halen tribute acts — to the Landis Theater for “A Very Van Halen Christmas.” Fans can expect to hear holiday favorites done in rockin’ style as well as a tribute to the late guitar virtuoso, Eddie Van Halen. The theater will follow all COVID guidelines, patrons will be socially distanced from others and required to wear masks. Tickets are $25. The Landis Theater is located at 830 E. Landis Ave. in Vineland. Go to TheLandisTheater.com.
Get your jingle on at the Holly Shores drive-thru
Holly Shores Camping Resort in Erma is planning a drive-thru Christmas celebration fundraiser. The camping resort is supported by the Cape May County of Commerce and The New Jersey Campground Association for this inaugural event to support Cape Regional Hospital.
For a $10 donation, cars can enter Holly Shores Campground from dusk to 9 p.m. for a drive-thru holiday light experience Fridays through Sundays from now through New Year’s Day. The twinkling lights and festive atmosphere are sure to fill all attendees with the holiday spirit.
Holly Shores Camping Resort is located at 491 Route 9 in Erma, Lower Township. Go to HollyShores.com.
Walking in a Vintner Wonderland at Renault Winery
Renault Winery in Egg Harbor City is a gorgeous location to visit no matter what time of year you go, but this winter they are offering a one-of-a kind winter experience that is sure to dazzle just about everyone. It’s called Vintner Wonderland, and it features everything from a giant skating rink — complete with a DJ playing holiday favorites — to local vendors and artists selling holiday ornaments, toys, scarves, glassware, figurines, artwork, apparel and various crafts.
Guests can stroll through the grounds taking in the gorgeous lights and displays and later gather around one of the firepits to warm up while sipping a glass of wine or hot cocktail. Food trucks will be onsite, but folks also have the option to make a reservation at the outdoor Champagne Patio Garden, which also features live bands. The event runs through Feb 28. Hours vary, so we recommend calling or checking the website before you go. Renault Winery is located at 72 N. Bremen Ave. in Egg Harbor City. Go to RenaultWinery.com.
Rides on the boards in O.C.
One way to put an extra dose of cheer in your little one’s holiday season is with a few classic boardwalk rides. And this year, Gillian’s in Ocean City will offer just that as they host their Winter Wonderland from noon to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through Dec. 27. Indoor rides will be open, as well as classics like the Wacky Worm and the Giant Wheel.
“We’re trying to find things to do outdoors,” says Joanna Lopez, a mother of three from Egg Harbor City. “We took the kids to see some lights and decorations around Cape May last week and I think we are headed to the Boardwalk in Ocean City to go on some rides soon, too. We usually have a big Christmas party with all my cousins, but that won’t be happening this year. We’ll miss it for sure, but we are making the best of this crazy time!”
Ride wristbands are $15, masks must be worn at all times for anyone over the age of 2. Gillian’s is located at 6th Avenue and Boardwalk in Ocean City. Go to Gillians.com
Rustic holiday charm awaits at Smithville Village
As per tradition, Historic Smithville is decked out for the holidays and bustling with activities for the whole family. Their holiday light show will once again illuminate Lake Meone as the village’s 50 quaint specialty shops offer everything from dog treats to gourmet cheeses and gift baskets to breads, pastries, pies and other sweet treats. In addition, the Historic Smithville Inn and other eateries within the village are open and aglow with holiday decorations for all to enjoy. Guests can wander throughout the charming rustic village while easily remaining socially distanced and taking in the magic of the holiday season.