This article was originally written by Allyson Souza. It has since been updated by an additional contributor.
The cold is finally coming to New Jersey. The holidays are around the corner, and for all you parents and guardians with young kids, it’s time to get your game face on. There are presents to be bought, milk and cookies to be devoured and, perhaps the trickiest part of it all, Santa photos to be taken. What’s a New Jersey native to do amid this potentially disastrous scenario?
Will your little one scream in terror (it can be overwhelming to meet your hero)? Will you get the mask of confusion and fear that Santa so often brings out in the young and unprepared? Or maybe — just maybe — this is your year. Your kid could be the one to pull it together in the nick of time, completely composed by the time the camera flash goes off. There’s only one way to find out, and the list below is your guide to Christmas greatness. Here is our list of the best Santas in New Jersey.
Location: 2 Bridge Avenue, Red Bank
Hours: Every Saturday and Sunday from Noon to 4:00 pm, beginning November 25 and running through December 24.
Details: The Galleria, a turn-of-the-century factory turned upscale shopping center, is a beautiful place to walk around and grab a bite to eat (maybe at Siam Garden or Urban Coalhouse?) before taking your child to get their picture snapped.
More info: Visit www.redbank.org or call 732-530-7300.
Liberty Village Santa
Location: 1 Church Street, Flemington
Hours: Saturdays, November 25, December 9, 16 and 23 from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm.
Details: Liberty Village boasts more than 30 stores — from Coach to Carter’s — so you can tackle your Christmas shopping list as well as get that coveted Santa pic, all in the same day. Parents, bring your own cameras to capture your kid’s big moment free of charge as they greet Santa at Greensleeves Village Bake Shop in Suite 31.
More info: Visit www.premiumoutlets.com or call 908-782-6587.
Shoreline Harley Davidson
Location: 671 Broadway, Long Branch
Hours: Sunday, December 16 starting at Noon
Details: Santa Claus is coming to town… on a chopper! This is your chance to set your Christmas photo apart from everyone else. Dress your tyke in his or her most rock ‘n’ roll ensemble, grab your camera and head to Shoreline Harley Davidson to take photos of the whole family with Santa — and his beautiful motorcycle, of course.
More info: Visit www.shorelinehd.com or call 732-229-8518.
The Mall at Short Hills
Location: 1200 Morris Turnpike, Short Hills
Hours: Santa is available during mall hours through December 24. Photo hours on Christmas Eve, December 24, are 8:00 am to 6:00 pm
Details: Photo packages range from $26 to $52, with digital download options starting at $10. Don’t forget to browse the local stores like Cartier and Hugo Boss, so you know what to ask Santa for in your stocking this year!
More info: Visit www.shopshorthills.com or call 973-376-7350.
Johnson’s Corner Farm
Location: 133 Church Road, Medford
Hours: Vary depending on the day. See website for details.
Details: You’ll feel like you stepped into the North Pole thanks to Johnson’s robust calendar of festive activities. Along with the must-do photo of Santa, you can decorate Christmas cookies and gingerbread men, go on a horse-drawn hayride and, if the kids haven’t passed out from all the holiday excitement yet, stay for a light show on the lake. A full list of activities can be seen on their website.
More info: Visit johnsonsfarm.com or call 609-654-8643.
Location: 1051 County Route 523, Flemington
Hours: Santa will be at the farm Sunday, December 10 and December 17 from 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm for photos. Be sure to bring your own camera!
Details: In addition to visits and photos with Santa, Schaefer Farms also offers the opportunity to pick up your Christmas tree, wreathes and holiday decorations. It’s a one-stop holiday shop.
More info: Visit www.schaeferfarms.com or call 908-782-2705.
Location: 4403 Black Horse Pike, Mays Landing
Hours: Now through December 24; Monday – Saturday from 10:00 am to 9:00 pm and Sunday from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm.
Details: Santa isn’t the only holiday attraction at Hamilton Mall, although he is the favorite! On Mondays, you can even bring your favorite furry friend for their chance to sit down with the big guy himself.
More info: Visit www.shophamilton.com or call 609-646-8326.
Dambly’s Garden Center Santa
Location: 51 West Factory Road, Berlin
Hours: From now through Christmas, Santa will be at Dambly’s on Fridays from 4:00 pm to 8:00 pm, Saturdays from 11:00 am to 7:00 pm and Sundays from Noon to 5:00 pm.
Details: Dambly’s Santa is beloved; he doesn’t rush kids off his lap, and is renowned for his genial disposition. For $10 per family, kids can visit with Dambly’s Santa while you take as many photos as you’d like. Be sure to bring your own camera for this one!
More info: Visit damblys.com or call 856-767-6883.
Location: 1400 Willowbrook Mall, Wayne
Hours: Monday through Saturday from 10:30 am to 8:00 pm and Sunday from Noon to 6:00 pm; From December 15 through December 23, extended hours are from 9:00 am to 9:00 pm; Santa will also be there on December 24 from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm.
Details: Although reservations are not a must and photo purchases are not required to visit Santa, the easiest and quickest way to greet the jolly fella is to reserve a spot.
More info: Visit www.willowbrook-mall.com or call 973-785-1655.
Westfield Garden State Plaza
Location: 1 Garden State Plaza Boulevard, Paramus
Hours: Daily from 10:00 am to 9:00 pm through December 23.
Details: Westfield’s Santa holds court near the carousel, giving kids a fun post-Kris Kringle activity. Pro tip: Take advantage of the Fast Pass to pre-order your photo package, make a reservation and skip the line.
More info: Visit www.westfield.com or call 201-843-0687.
Location: 1750 Deptford Center Road, Deptford Township
Hours: Hours vary. See website for specifics.
Details: In addition to photos and visits with Santa, Deptford Mall’s Santa HQ (sponsored by HGTV) features the Elf-Ray Vision app for your mobile phone, which connects you to Santa’s Headquarters, as well as the Naughty-or-Nice O’Meter. You can skip the wait and reserve your spot online by pre-purchasing a photo package.
More info: Visit www.deptfordmall.com or call 856-848-8100.
Shale Hills Farm
Location: 98 Pond School Road, Sussex
Hours: This one is a little tricky as Santa isn’t on a set schedule here; but his unique, vintage outfit makes him worth the trip. We recommend calling ahead or checking the Shale Hills Farm Facebook page for updates as to when Santa will be coming.
Details: Shale Hills Farm offers visitors the chance to take photos with Santa in traditional, old-world garb while he walks around the Christmas Tree Farm (where you can also cut down your own Christmas tree) greeting families. For those who are looking for a classic Santa photo, he will also be spending time in his Throne Room, where children can sit for photos with him. Be sure to bring your own camera to take advantage of these wonderful photo ops!
More info: www.shalehillsfarm.com or call 973-875-4231.
Abma’s Farm Santa
Location: 700 Lawlins Road, Wyckoff
Hours: December 2, 9 and 16 from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm
Details: Children get to hang out with Santa and Mrs. Claus in the farm’s greenhouse. Bring your own camera and snap away as your kids play.
More info: Visit www.abmasfarm.com or call 201-891-0278.
Heaven Hill Farm & Garden Center
Location: 451 State Route 94, Vernon
Hours: December 4 and 11 from Noon to 4:00 pm
Details: Not only do you have the chance to visit and take photos with Santa, but Heaven Hill also has holiday train rides through a well-decorated route. For parents and guardians, you can also pick up your Christmas tree, wreaths and other holiday décor at the shop; or grab a bottle of local Balic wine for some adult holiday cheer.
More info: Visit www.heavenhillfarm.com or call 973-764-5144.