Five Family-Friendly Ways to Celebrate the Holidays in N.J. for less than $20

By Leah Scalzadonna

New Jersey families and visitors alike can celebrate the holidays for less than $20 throughout December, despite the costly expectations surrounding Christmas.

According to a survey by the American Research Group, Inc., American shoppers expect to spend an average of $929 for gifts this holiday season. For those with a stricter budget, limiting funds while experiencing Christmas cheer may seem daunting. However, there are affordable ways to celebrate the season.

Keith and Marina, a married couple in Cranbury, N.J., host an extreme holiday light show in their own front yard at 128 N. Main St. The over-the-top spectacle features a 36-foot Christmas tree laden with more than 40,000 lights, according to the homeowner’s website, http://www.cranburychristmaslights.com

“We believe it is so important to give back to our community,” the married couple said on their website. “We also feel it is very important to instill in our two boys the values of helping others who may need it. And we love to see the joy this display brings to all who come.”

According to the website, the show runs for an hour on designated nights in December. Although it is free to watch the show, the family encourages donations. If someone donates $20 or more, Keith and Marina will allow the donor to park in their driveway or back yard.

Another free, yet quaint event takes place in Red Bank, N.J. According to the town’s tourism website, www.visit.redbank.com, the town is offering free horse and carriage rides through the Red Bank Business District on Saturdays in December from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

During the horse and wagon rides, passengers can take in the sights and sounds of the season. As the website states, more than 40 businesses in Red Bank have holiday song-inspired window decorations. The town will also hold its annual Menorah lighting ceremony on December 27 at 6:30 p.m., according to the website.

In Wall, N.J., the New Jersey Museum of Transportation offers Christmas Express train rides on certain dates in December, according to www.njmt.org. Once aboard the Christmas Express, passengers will embark on a 30-minute train ride, during which Santa will speak to every child on the train, as promised on the website. Admission is $6 per passenger and can be purchased by calling the museum, according to the website.

A more kid-friendly spot, Jenkinson’s Aquarium, located on Jenkinson’s Boardwalk in Point Pleasant, N.J., will hold a Sea of Lights Holiday Spectacular, according to http://www.jenkinsons.com. The light show runs on specific dates in December that can be found on the website, which promises gifts, crafts, treats and more. Admission is $7 and can be paid upon arrival.

For a more traditional experience, the Stickley Museum at Craftsman Farms in Morris Plains, N.J. celebrates the season with special tours and gift shops, according to www.stickleymuseum.org. The website claims that the Stickley Museum, a log house built and resided in by designer Gustav Stickley in 1911, offers holiday décor, a holiday craftsman gift shop on weekends and candlelight tours on the evenings of December 9 and 10.

“The Log House will be festooned for the holidays in period style with a focus on Gustav Stickley’s own ideas about the season,” the website reads. “Using holiday greens, pinecones, and the home’s forest palette, the decorations bring nature indoors and spotlight the Arts and Crafts movement’s emphasis on finding beauty in simplicity and natural materials.”

Admission to the museum is $10 for adults and $4 for children, according to the website. Reservations are required for the candlelight tours, which cost $12 and can be made online.

As shown by these events, celebrating the holidays doesn’t have to break the bank. New Jersey natives can find holiday cheer without stressing their wallets.

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