Step back from the world for a moment and imagine a Victorian village decorated with greenery for the holidays, carolers strolling past you on a brick sidewalk, and a horse-drawn carriage trotting past you along a quaint street lined with shops. A brisk winter wind carries the smells of cider, apple cobbler, and the call of the town crier in the air as your imagination takes you back in time.
Pine garlands and twinkling white lights provide a Victorian touch to tiny Medford in early December, when the whole township crowds Main Street for the annual Dickens celebration. A cool, northerly wind sends aloft the sweet aroma of steaming apple cider and cinnamon, as bundled-up revelers—carolers, characters from A Christmas Carol, and musicians alike greet familiar faces, of which there are many. For that’s the kind of place Medford is: a friendly, tight-knit community where everyone knows everyone.National Geographic Books, Guide to Small Town Escapes, April 2000
Since 1989, the independent store and small business owners along Medford’s Main Street have invited visitors young and old to celebrate the holidays in the traditions of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. The festival begins at 4:30 p.m. with the Santa Parade along South Main Street from its start at Mill Street to the Township Gazebo on North Main Street, followed by the Medford Township Tree Lighting with Councilwoman Donna Symons at Medford Village Park. Families can visit St. Nick at the Township Gazebo from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. before browsing the amazing shops, eateries, food trucks, and 100 local artisan booths set up along North and South Main Streets.
The festival encompasses all of Medford’s Main Street, from the Feed Mill on North Main Street to the Live Nativity at Tomlinson Park, located next to South Main Street and Allen Avenue. The Live Nativity, sponsored by Medford United Methodist Church, will be performed every half-hour between 5:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. Moving north along Main Street, you’ll find the south “court” of food trucks featuring Berry Bus, Cousins Maine Lobster, Empanada Guy, Hands Down BBQ, Karen & The Nut, Latin Bites, Not Your Mama’s Tacos, Nothing Bundt Cakes, Traveling Tomato, Star of the Sea Seafood, and Vagabond Kitchen.
As you continue to stroll north on Main Street, you’ll find the free Horse-Drawn Carriage Rides at the intersection of Main and South Streets, across from one of our favorite festival food stops, Boardwalk Specials. You’ll also find the first of our Tiny Tim Stages on the west side of the street.
The Dickens Festival Tiny Tim Stages are located in front of 42 South Main Street, 22 North Main Street, and 44 North Main Street and are set up to feature one of the four magicians that will be found throughout the event, along with The Grinch & A Who as well as the Costumed Carolers and Entertainers.
You won’t want to miss the first Selfie Station at The Center, Life in Balance & The Zen Den, “Hangin with My Gnomies.” A few doors up, you’ll be able to enjoy the first of our Main Street eateries, the legendary Braddock’s Tavern (reservations are recommended if you’re planning to dine inside). Across the street at 42 South Main Street, you’ll find the Papa Elf Stage, featuring an amazing group of local musicians, The Jugband.
On the west side of the street, after stopping by the Animal Welfare Association‘s tent, we’ll find the next Selfie Station, Santa’s Sleigh, at the corner of Friends Avenue and Main Street. Across the street, you’ll find the Yule Moon Selfie Station in front of the girls at Mystical Blossoms. As we cross Charles Street and possibly refuel at either The Pasta Truck or Cold Stone, we’ll have to do each side of Main Street separately to try to avoid missing anything that you’ll find at the 2023 Dickens Festival.
Continuing north on the east side of Main Street, we’ll pass Cabin Couture and Jackson Proper (great for picking up a gift or two) and find ourselves at the Woodford Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge animal meet and greet. Next door, the Medford Community Center will be hosting its annual Holiday Open House, showing off this historic structure and the warm, welcoming decor in each of the rooms.
Fezziwigs Stage at 11 South Main Street will be hopping throughout the evening with four different groups performing, with DJ Fezziwigs and holiday music rocking between acts. Starting at 5:15 p.m., the Broadway Bound Players will be caroling on stage. At 6 p.m., we’re joined by the Pirates of Fortunes Folley who will be reenacting “A Christmas Carol” for festivalgoers. They’ll return to the Fezziwigs Stage with additional “A Christmas Carol” performances at 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. At 6:30 p.m., author Scott Mehno will be reading from “The Shorte List,” a reinvention of the traditional Christmas novel. Additionally, the Mainstream Dance Academy will be performing at 7:30 p.m. to round out the Fezziwigs schedule.
After enjoying the performances, continuing north brings us to two of our favorite stores: Girlfriends on Main and Little Majesty Boutique. If you are looking for the perfect holiday present, you can’t go wrong in these Medford shops. On your right, you’ll find Antiques at 9 South Main and Grazing Affair, two more Medford village stops for finding something unique. Finally, you’ve reached the center of downtown Medford at the intersection of Main and Bank Streets and the giant movie screen, playing “A Muppet Christmas Carol” alongside goodies for sale from Boy Scout Troop 2026.
Returning one block south and across Main Street, we’ll start at Friends Avenue and the next Selfie Spot – Santa’s Sleigh. Walking north, we’ll pass the Marine Corps League and their Toys for Tots collection as well as Caroler Cut Out Selfie supporting the Heroin Kills non-profit organization. On your left, the former Medford Firehouse houses a trio of downtown favorites: Village Treasures, Pride Paws, and Wonder World Toys.
We’re only about halfway through the festival and it’s the perfect time to pick up a coffee from In Dietro Caffe, before making dinner plans at ITA 101 (reservations recommended). In between these two stops, La Faccia Bella and the Math Accelerator offer more options for the holiday shopper looking for different types of gifts.
Medford’s first craft brewery, Lower Forge Brewery, is next with a Selfie Spot right out front: the Giant Ornament. Lower Forge will be open throughout the entire festival with a Brass Band performing inside and locally brewed craft beers on tap including gluten-free hard seltzers that helped them win “Best of Burlington County” earlier this year.
As we walk towards Union Street, the South Jersey Pops greet us next with their ornament-making tent – be sure to stop in and learn about their upcoming holiday concert at the Lenape Performing Arts Center on Sunday, December 10th. Finally, as we arrive at the center of downtown, you’ll find the Grinch Mobile photo spot for a holiday pic that is one-of-a-kind. If you don’t mind a small walk on Bank Street, and you’ll be able to join the Festive Open House at the First Baptist Church during the festival.
The premier sponsor for 2023, SJS Title, will be set up at Main and Union Streets in the center of town – and we’d recommend stopping by and saying “thanks” for their support of this annual Medford tradition. Without the hard work of the Main Street Merchants and their volunteers, and the sponsorship commitment by local businesses like SJS Title – this event would not be possible.
Strolling onto North Main Street, on our right will be Stokelan Winery set up near another local shop – Mill Creek Apiary. As we continue through the artisan tents, we’ll see three Medford stores that are worth browsing for our gift lists: Ted’s Terrain, Carriage House Antiques, and Mainly Vintage. Next door, the non-profit Medford Arts Center will be open and in their garden, you’ll find the Libby’s Cow Selfie Station.
At Medford Village Park, inside the Gazebo at the heart of the Historic Downtown neighborhood, you’ll find the big man himself: Santa Claus. Families looking to visit Santa won’t have to pay an admission fee but may have to be patient during a long wait, as it is one of the most popular attractions at the festival. Across the street at the Father Christmas Stage in front of 11 North Main Street, you’ll find a full lineup of entertainment with DJ Father Christmas rocking some holiday music between acts. Starting at 5 p.m., the Fellowship Alliance Choir will be delighting visitors with their beautiful voices before turning over the stage at 6 p.m. to The Village Carolers. The FAC Choir returns to the Father Christmas Stage at 7:30 p.m. before author Scott Mehno reads from his novel “The Shorte List,” at 8:30 p.m.
Before we arrive at the north “court” of food trucks, you’ll find another Tiny Tim Rug Stage on your left and an ornament-making stop with the Calvary Lutheran Church on your right. Along both sides of North Main Street straddling the intersection of Main, Cedar, and Branch Streets – you’ll find the following food trucks: Bake’n Bacon, Boardwalk Specials, Cannoli World, Empanada Beast, Fit Chicks, Jays Crabshack, Jenni’s Goodies, Little Sicilian, Matty G Dogz, Not Your Mama’s Tacos, and Popcorn Eddie’s Kettle Corn.
Continuing our walk north, we’ll pass DJ Kris Kringle who will be sharing holiday music for everyone enjoying the food trucks before finding another Tiny Tim Rug Stage on our left. Remember, that the Tiny Tim Stages will include strolling entertainers, the Town Crier, and even the Grinch throughout the evening. Across North Main Street, you’ll find Medford’s newest Craft Brewery, Farm Truck Brewing, alongside the new home of Order of the Sacred Crow – Medford’s award-winning custom tattoo parlor. Many of the people on the Destination Medford Christmas list would not complain about gifts or gift cards from these two local stops.
Arriving at the conclusion of our walk, we find The Feed Mill on North Main Street with holiday fun planned throughout their outdoor areas as well as Pony Rides available (ticketed). A pair of food trucks on the street, Twisted Steaks and Lulu’s Empanadas, offer options for some festival treats – or you can visit our neighbors at Peewee’s Ice Cream for the perfect scoop (open year-round). Pine Cone Trading Company is open on the corner for even more holiday gift-giving ideas, alongside the Shoppes at the Mill showcasing their favorite artisans at the entrance to the mill parking lot.
Three local choices for refreshments await you in the Feed Mill: Harvest Coffee to recharge us from the cold walk, barbeque from Whole Hog Cafe to fuel us with their delicious menu, and Kings Road Brewing Company to provide a locally brewed craft beer to enjoy.
Our recommendation is to dress warmly and arrive early so you don’t miss Santa’s arrival in Medford. Parking fills quickly, so good walking shoes are a must, and families should be aware that there will be large crowds throughout the night. A free shuttle will be running during the entire evening between the intersection of Union and Cherry Streets (one block west of the center of the Dickens Festival), Freedom Park’s Parking Lot, and the Sharps Run Plaza Shopping Center on Route 70 with their parking lots.
If you are traveling to the Dickens Festival from outside of the region, the nearest airports are Philadelphia International Airport (PHL), Trenton-Mercer Airport (KTTN), and Atlantic City International Airport (ACY). Medford village is about 18 miles east of Philadelphia along New Jersey State Route 70, with the festival just south of the intersection between Route 70 and County Highway 541 (Main Street). There are no major hotels within Medford Township, but there are a number of choices in nearby Mount Laurel, New Jersey.
About the Main Street Merchants
The Main Street Merchants of Historic Medford Village is a partnership of small business owners with the shared goal of making Historic Medford Village thrive and shine. The Main Street Merchants also include like-minded residents who want to keep the Village a safe, friendly, and viable community for themselves and their neighbors. The group organizes events, large and small, ranging from monthly First Fridays to the Wellness Walk, Merry Main Street to the Ghost Walk, and of course the Dickens Festival – Medford’s largest event.