Find Christmas magic at Woodland Lights!

Woodland Lights returns for its 25th season at the Washington Township Recreation Center and it’s easy to see why it has been a family favorite for more than two dozen years. My husband and I recently took our daughters, ages 4 and 3, and our 1-year-old son to see the display, and it was like stepping into Christmas fantasyland.

My kids are at that age where their whole day is made just by seeing a blow-up Santa on the way home from preschool, so you can imagine the sparkles in their eyes when they saw what was waiting for them in the woods. The half-mile paved path around the pond and through the woods is lighted by luminaries and very easy to traverse, even with little ones and strollers.

It starts with a tunnel of lights – the perfect spot to pose for a picture. Beyond that, the displays just keep coming. We saw Santa piloting a plane and a helicopter. A green turtle, doves hanging in the trees, hot air balloons, penguins, bears, snowmen, another tunnel, a candy cane forest and countless other displays all made with Christmas lights. Some were animated; others set to flash with the music.

The large pond in the center of the grounds beautifully reflects all the lights for a really cool effect. And the outdoor instruments that are always at the rec center are still accessible to play. You’ll find campfires every now and then along the path to warm up for a minute or two.

The lights are obviously a big part of the attraction, but we were surprised that Woodland Lights has so much more to offer. We quickly found carnival rides for kids and adults. And amazingly they didn’t require tickets. Grinch World is set up by the playground with small rides for the little ones. A few game booths are set up too.

We met live reindeer that you can feed, and some foxes are staying warm in huts with big windows so you can peer in. We even met Olaf and Mickey Mouse, but that’s not all. Santa has his very own (and extremely well-decorated) cabin in the woods. We were greeted by an elf named Twinkle while we waited in line. I told her it was my daughter’s birthday, and she serenaded her with a silly song. A friendly Santa was inside asking all the kids what they want for Christmas and passing out candy canes.

Woodland Lights is a great holiday activity, and I think we might make it a new tradition in our family. It is open nightly Dec. 8-30, except for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Admission is $8, and free for ages 2 and younger.

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