For 2018’s last “By the Exits” installment we wrap up our Turnpike Tour in Burlington and Mercer Counties, looking for holiday happenings that bring a little something extra to the season and take you off the Garden State’s hectic main roads.
Exit 7, Burlington County
Eastampton. Not to be confused with Smithville in Atlantic County, Smithville Village in Eastampton Township throws a Victorian Holiday Celebration that is not to be missed. The December 2nd event at Smithville Park includes ice carving demonstrations, carolers, children’s activities and a one-of-a-kind holiday marketplace. Re-enactors take you back to the simpler, beautiful Victorian era, and the stunning Smithville Mansion (smithvillemansion.org) will be decked out in its holiday finest for its own weeklong schedule of tours, teas and more!
Exit 7A, Mercer County
Stockton. While it’s technically in Hunterdon County, Stockton is close enough to the border to merit a placement here. And the town’s Prallsville Mills on the bank of the Delaware River is worth the ride! Tucked away along the Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park Trail, the Mills starts the season with a November 25th holiday party and tree lighting, and keeps the festivities going on December 8th-9th with a holiday-themed fine arts and crafts show. It’s an out-of-the-way spot unknown to many of us north of the Raritan River, and that’s what makes it a special find this time of year.
Pennington. The tones of a holiday choir always lend a certain warmth to the chilly holiday season, and no one does it better than the Hopewell Valley Chorus. They will present their 59th annual winter concert on Friday night, December 14th, at St. James Church in Pennington.
Trenton. Not a “holiday” event, exactly, but on December 29th you can witness a reenactment of the Battle of Trenton – a key battle of the Revolutionary War. Visit the Old Barracks Museum and the Trenton Battle Monument on North Warren Street and watch as ‘soldiers’ retrace the trail of the American rebel forces.
Exit 8A, Mercer/Middlesex County
Princeton. Another spot that makes the list on a technicality, Princeton is better off reached by a straight shot down Route 1. But no matter – Princeton’s where you’ll find the famous Terhune Orchards and a festival of trees. It can’t be left off! Terhune’s bakery is open year-round so you can stock up on apple cider donuts, Christmas cookies, homemade fruitcakes and Gingerbread houses. And of course there’s never a bad time to visit their winery – especially when it’s time to start collecting holiday libations to loosen up your parties! Not far along Route 206 you’ll find the Morven Museum and their annual Festival of Trees, featuring a dozen galleries filled with conifers donated and decked by local businesses. Visit morven.org to check out more about this unique, enchanting little hideaway that features fine art, historic exhibits, and 18th century walk-through gardens.
Cranbury. Just over the county line in Middlesex is a central Jersey tradition. If you love being blown away by dazzling light-and-sound displays, and don’t want to make the drive all the way to Koziar’s Christmas Village in Pennsylvania, you need to make this Cranbury Main Street mainstay a stop on your road trips this winter! Located at 128 North Main Street – not far from the beautiful, cozy Cranbury Inn – is a wonderland whose centerpiece is a 36-foot tree covered in 50,000 dancing lights. It’s completely free to visit, so if you can, give generously to the charity collection at the heart of the display. Last year, more than $20,000 was raised for local food banks!