The holiday season is upon us and even though we feel pulled in every possible direction, it’s important to make time for our other halves. It may seem impossible with all the parties, school programs and work events, but scheduling a date is not only great for your relationship but a perfect way to celebrate the beauty of the winter holidays.

And when it comes to a beautiful December, nobody does it like New Jersey. Our state offers so many activities that reflect the spirit of the season, making for a most memorable time out.

Happy HoliDATES!

Sign Up for Passaic Valley Newsletter
Our newsletter delivers the local news that you can trust.

Some Like it Hot … Outdoors

You might think December isn’t the month to take a hike, but you’ve got your love and hot chocolate to keep you warm when you check out the Annual Hot Chocolate Hike Weekend at the Cora Hartshorn Arboretum Dec. 14 and 15  In Short Hills, you and your date will experience a guided hike of the arboretum’s grounds. You might even meet some new woodland animal friends as you make your way to the historic Stone House. For more information and to reserve your space, visit

A great place to warm up after your hike is The Retreat. This rooftop bar at the Short Hills Hilton comes complete with fireside seating and a menu sure to quench your hike-induced appetite. You may want to share the falafel sliders, or the grilled miso clams with cilantro sauce. In honor of your hiking boots, check out the piled high shoestrings — super-thin French fries served with your choice of sauces including the house classic, sambal spiked ranch, melted IPA cheddar, jalapeño lime mayo and and smoked paprika aioli.

For more information about The Retreat, click here.

All Aboard!

Nothing says Christmas quite like a model train display, and the exhibit at the Barron Arts Center in Rahway is second to none.  You and your date will be amazed at the set-up and design by model train master Mike Gelesky.  From the Jersey Shore to Bamberger’s Department Store, you’ll see that no detail was spared.  The display, in its 29th year, runs through December 30th.  For more information, click here.

Continue your locomotive theme at the Clinton Station Diner, where they serve some of the freshest of New Jersey diner food inside a 1927 Blue Comet Train Car. From their homemade soups like chili con carne served over rice and baked with cheddar cheese or their Burgers of the Gods. If you and your date can somehow finish the “Zeus” (seven pounds of beef, 15 pounds in total) in 45 minutes, the burger is on the house plus you win $500. 

For more information about the Clinton Station Diner, visit

Seeing the Lights

Many will agree that proper lighting plays a big part on a first date, and if you’re looking for over two million lights you’ll find the Christmas Light Show and Village at the Skylands Stadium is just the ticket.  Located in Augusta, your mile-long drive through the light show will leave you breathless with their new light displays, features and more than two million lights! Bundle up and take a walk through their Holiday Village where you’ll enjoy carnival rides, ice skating, petting zoo and even a peek into Santa’s Workshop. For more information on The Christmas Light Show and Village, visit

Coming in from the cold calls for a delicious warm meal, and Cafe Pierrot in Sparta is a fantastic choice.  Check out their daily dinner specials for a tasty treat, or perhaps you’ll be tempted by one of their classic dishes like sautéed chicken in a champagne cream sauce over penne or Beef Bourguignon. Save room for some of their famous macarons — with many flavors for choosing you might just want to take a big bag to go!

For more information about the Cafe Pierrot, visit

Good Enough to Eat

The Gingerbread Wonderland at the Frelinghuysen Arboretum will give you and your date a better understanding of Hansel and Gretel’s desire to eat the witch’s house. From houses to trains to animals to landmarks, you’ll discover and appreciate the artistry when you see so many gingerbread creations by New Jersey bakers of all ages. During its 28th year at the arboretum in Morris Township, you even have a chance to vote for your favorite! For more information on the Gingerbread Wonderland, click here.

Instead of getting into trouble like Hansel and Gretel, a better idea to answer that craving for cookies is to visit The Swiss Chalet in Morristown. From gingerbread to chocolate chip, you can’t go wrong with anything in their bakery.  In addition to classic cookies, you love their assortment of baked goods including danishes, muffins, eclairs and strudels. If you want something for lunch, their cafe menu offers a lot if choices, such as salads, wraps and pizza from their brick oven.

For more information on The Swiss Chalet, visit

The Best Gift of All

Not only does the holiday season bring about crazy schedules filled with fun commitments, it also fosters the desire to empty your bank account for gifts. When it comes to our significant others, buying them something special is always nice, but there’s a gift we often overlook — one that can’t be found online or at the mall.

The present of presence is one that always fits and is never returned. Be it as an enthusiastic ear or a supportive conversationalist, the gift of being 100% present is the fuel needed for your relationship fires to burn as brightly as the lights on the tree and the flames of the menorah. Making a committed effort to be there is a gift you give, and what you receive back from it will make it feel like Christmas every day. 

Craig Rogers is the guy who gets relationships write. Author of The 49th Challenge, Craig has written countless articles on dating, relationships and breakup recovery. To learn more about Craig, visit

What’s your idea for a great New Jersey Date?  Tell Craig all about it at



More Date Night Ideas:

Our Favorite Pizza Places

Get Lost in the Game at These Sports Bars

Delightful Delis

To sign up to have NJ Flavor and other great sections sent straight to your inbox, click here. Follow NJ Flavor on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Got a story you'd like to see on NJ Flavor? Email Jackie Lieberman at