50+ Essential Holiday Events in Philadelphia for 2016
The best seasonal celebrations throughout the region
It’s the most wonderful time of the year — especially in Philly, where iconic traditions and new festivities add an extra special sparkle to the season.
This year, the city's hosts a number of beloved holiday traditions (Macy's Christmas Light Show, the Comcast Holiday Spectacular) as well as several newer attractions in which to partake (America's Garden Capital Maze, the carousel at Christmas Village, the Philly Holiday Festival).
With pop-up shops, annual celebrations and more holidays lights than you can count, the Philadelphia region is bursting with things to do this holiday season. Browse our guide to the top holiday events below to learn about all of the grand seasonal celebrations you can enjoy this year!
Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade
Philadelphia has the oldest Thanksgiving Day parade in the country. (M. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia)
November 24, 2016
The 1.4-mile 6ABC Dunkin’ Donuts Thanksgiving Day Parade is the oldest in the country and a true Philadelphia tradition. The city streets make way for massive floats and giant balloons, plus local performers from choirs, dance groups, marching bands and more. Special characters geared toward kids make appearances, including Santa who arrives in grand fashion to usher Philadelphia into the holiday season.
PHLASH Downtown Loop's Holiday Service
November 25 – December 31, 2016
Beginning the day after Thanksgiving, the PHLASH Downtown Loop will begin daily service to popular Philadelphia spots through the holiday season. Service will be available every 15 minutes from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., allowing passengers to experience festive holiday attractions throughout the city.
The Macy’s Christmas Light Show at Macy’s Center City
November 25 - December 31, 2016
A Philadelphia tradition since 1956, the Christmas Light Show at Macy’s in Center City illuminates a large wall inside the Wanamaker building, a National Historic Landmark. People of all ages delight in the 100,000 LED lights and sounds from the Wanamaker Organ. Head to the third floor of Macy’s to experience the 6,000-square-foot “Dickens Village,” which brings Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol to life with more than 100 fully animated figures reenacting many of the story’s most memorable moments.
The Comcast Holiday Spectacular
(M. Fischetti for Visit Philadelphia)
November 24 - January 1, 2017
Visitors gather in front of the Comcast Experience video wall, one of the world’s highest resolution LED displays, to catch the magic of The Comcast Holiday Spectacular. Throughout the free 15-minute show, dancers from the Pennsylvania Ballet move to music from The Nutcracker, a magical sleigh floats over the Philadelphia countryside and a seasonal soundtrack fills the room. Shows run at the top of the hour from 10 a.m. – 8 p.m. (excluding 5 p.m. on weekdays).
Franklin Square Holiday Festival & Electrical Spectacle Holiday Light Show
Don't miss this giant display of lights and music at Benjamin Franklin's namesake park this season. (J. Fusco for Visit Philadelphia)
November 10 - December 31, 2016 (except Thanksgiving and Christmas)
Festive lights, winter treats and holiday cheer fill historic Franklin Square all season long for its all-ages (and completely free!) holiday festival and light show. With the spectacular Electrical Spectacle light show as its main feature — the show employs more than 50,000 (!) twinkling lights and dynamic holiday soundtrack — the seasonal outdoor attraction rounds out the ongoing festivities with a winter beer garden, themed events and more.
Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest
Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest transforms Penn's Landing into a winterized version of Spruce Street Harbor Park. (Photo courtesy M. Stanley for DRWC)
November 25, 2016 - March 5, 2017
Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest transforms Penn’s Landing into a winterized riverfront park. Winterfest houses the only Olympic-size skating rink in the city, which overlooks the Delaware River and sits aside a ski chalet-style lodge, a winter garden with holiday trees, a heated area with arcade games, fire pits and plenty of cozy seating. Come out for a skate and stay for a warming cup of hot cocoa and a post-skate bite to eat.
The Rothman Ice Rink at Dilworth Park
November 11, 2016 - February 27, 2017
Those looking to ice skate in the heart of Philadelphia can pack up their cold-weather gear and head to the Rothman Ice Rink at Dilworth Park. The rink, which offers excellent skyline views, is open to skaters of all levels and all ages. After skating, warm up in the Rothman Cabin, a heated tent serving up food and drinks such as toasty hot chocolate, coffee, burgers, fries and more.
The Christmas Village in Philadelphia
Get into the holiday spirit with a little shopping at the Christmas Village in the heart of Philadelphia. (J. Fusco for Visit Philadelphia)
November 24 - December 24, 2016
Philadelphia will once again transform for the annual Christmas Village, this year making a move to City Hall while LOVE Park undergoes renovations. Modeled after traditional European, open-air Christmas markets, Christmas Village in Philadelphia is a daily outdoor holiday market selling all sorts of gift-able items right in the heart of Center City. Find more than 80 vendors set up in wooden booths, creating a festive setting often filled with live entertainment and holiday sounds.
Made In Philadelphia Holiday Market at Dilworth Park
November 19 - December 24, 2016
The Made in Philadelphia Holiday Market features a festively lit setting to soak in the holiday spirit and shop local for those you love. A series of tents topped with original Herrnhut Stars line the the north and east perimeter of City Hall and the City Hall courtyard, housing local-only artisans, designers, crafters and confectionaries offering one-of-a-kind seasonal treats and gift ideas.
Tree Lighting at the Philadelphia Museum of Art
November 23, 2016
You won't find many better photo ops this holiday season than the public tree lighting at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The evening begins at 4 p.m. with seasonal treats and live holiday music before the countdown to the tree lighting at 5:30 p.m. Afterward, head inside the museum, which has pay-what-you-wish admission every Wednesday evening.
Reading Terminal Market Holiday Railroad
November 25 - December 31, 2016
Every holiday season, Reading Terminal Market, Philadelphia’s indoor haven for all things food, sets up a super impressive 500-square-foot holiday railroad in its piano court. Guests ooh and aah over the 17 working train lines and miniature scenery of Center City and the countryside, all set up around almost one-third of a mile of track.
Adventure Aquarium's Christmas Celebration
December 3-30, 2016
Adventure Aquarium is transformed into a winter wonderland under the sea as it welcomes back Scuba Santa® Bumble the Abominable Snow Monster and Rudolph during its annual Christmas Celebration. Also featured are larger-than-life decorations, twinkling lights, glowing trees and gently falling snow — not to mention 8,500 super cool animals and two million gallons of fun.
More Holiday Traditions in Philadelphia
From classic light shows to timeless theatrical productions, holiday traditions abound in Philadelphia year after year. See all of Philadelphia's annual holiday traditions by clicking the button below.
Holiday Shows and Performances
Pennsylvania Ballet Presents George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker
A true holiday tradition, the Pennsylvania Ballet's performance of George Balanchine's The Nutcracker has delighted audiences for nearly five decades. (Photo courtesy Paul Kolnik for the Pennsylvania Ballet)
December 9-31, 2016
Celebrate one of Philadelphia’s greatest family traditions with the Pennsylvania Ballet's performance of George Balanchine's The Nutcracker at the Academy of Music, now in its 48th year. The unforgettable classic will once again transport audiences as Marie and her Prince battle the evil Mouse King and travel to the Land of the Sweets where the Sugarplum Fairy reigns. Set to Peter Ilych Tchaikovsky’s magnificent score, the production attracts more than 50,000 people each year.
Christmas Spectacular by the Philly POPS!
Verizon Hall in the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts will be filled with the gorgeous sounds of the Philly Pops Christmas Spectacular. (Photo courtesy Philly Pops)
December 2-18, 2016
Performing both delightful seasonal classics and glorious gospel music, the Philly Pops Christmas Spectacular is a marvelous way for the whole family to enjoy the holidays together. Once again, Verizon Hall in the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts will be filled with the gorgeous sounds of the season. A cheerful performance for the entire family, the Philly Pops Christmas Spectacular features a special mix of joyous choirs, merry sing-a-longs and a special visitor from the North Pole.
More Holiday Shows and Performances in Philadelphia
From grand performances by the Philadelphia Orchestra to new twists on old classics on smaller stages throughout the city, Philadelphia’s venues as the city usher in the holiday season with a host of great shows. Click the button below for our full guide to holiday shows and performances in Philadelphia.
Franklin Flea Holiday Market
November 26, December 3 and December 17, 2016
The Philadelphia-centric Franklin Flea Holiday Market returns for three Saturday shopping days in November and December at the former home of Strawbridge & Clothier. At the wintertime market, shoppers can expect a finely tuned selection of dozens of vendors set up amid the antique chandeliers and marble columns of the historic space, selling everything from fine antiques and vintage clothing to handmade decorative arts and gourmet street food.
The German Christmas Market at Byers’ Choice
November 1 - December 31, 2016
The traditional German Christmas Market at Byers' Choice boasts plenty of gifts for holiday shoppers (think gingerbread houses, advent calendars, handcrafted caroler figurines and toys) in addition to spirited events throughout the season. While you're there, explore the indoor snowstorm, mingle with singing reindeer and check out more than 250 nativities from around the world on display, all while enjoying mulled cider and holiday cookies.
More Holiday Shopping in Philadelphia
Find something for everyone on your holiday shopping list — and treat yourself as well — at Philadelphia's awesome retail destinations, creative craft bazaars, holiday pop-up shops, independent boutiques, charming main streets and top-rated shopping malls;. Click the button below for our guide to holiday shopping in the Philadelphia region.
Christmas Tree Lighting in Rittenhouse Square
Over 5,000 holiday lights and a Christmas tree turn Rittenhouse Square into one of Center City's most festive public spaces for the holidays. (M. Fischetti for Visit Philadelphia)
Thursday, December 1, 2016
During the holidays, Rittenhouse Square boasts one of the largest Christmas trees in the city. Every year, locals and visitors pack the popular park for the ceremonial lighting of the Rittenhouse Square Christmas Tree, which is typically more than 30 feet tall. Throughout the season, Rittenhouse Square is aglow with thousands of colorful globes making a cheerful sight for holiday shoppers amongst the popular stores along Rittenhouse Row.
Philly Holiday Tree Lighting Celebration
The Christmas tree at City Hall is bigger and better than ever in 2016. (J. Fusco for Visit Philadelphia)
Saturday, November 26, 2016
Join Mayor Jim Kenney and the Office of the City Representative for the free Philly Holiday Tree Lighting Celebration, which officially unwraps the holiday season in the city with the flick of a switch. Gather at the 38-foot-tall Philly Holiday Tree at its new home in Dilworth Park and enjoy a festive, family-filled evening with holiday cheer, live entertainment, free hot chocolate and a few surprises. The Philly Holiday Tree Lighting Celebration, which kicks off at 4 p.m. with a 5:30 p.m. tree lighting, is free and open to the public.
More Tree Lightings in Philadelphia
From bustling City Hall in Philadelphia to charming small towns in the Philadelphia countryside, the area's towns get into the holiday spirit wth tree lighting celebrations all season long. Click the button below to read out complete guide to the most delightful tree lighting celebrations this season.
Holidays at Philly Museums and Attractions
Deck The Alley
Elfreth's Alley gets in on the holiday spirit with its annual Deck The Alley event. (R. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia)
December 3, 2016
Elfreth's Alley — America's oldest street — will once again Deck the Alley for the holiday season. Residents of the historic street will open their homes to the public on December 3 as carolers and colonial re-enactors create a festive mood for the holiday celebration. Families can enjoy holiday decorations and refreshments, too, as well as visits from Benjamin Franklin and colonial Pennsylvania’s cranky Santa “Belsnickel.”
Christmas in Fairmount Park
December 1-31, 2016
For Christmas in Fairmount Park, six decked-out 18th- and 19th-century park mansions — Strawberry Mansion, Cedar Grove, Mount Pleasant, Laurel Hill, Lemon Hill and Woodford Mansion — open their doors for holiday treats and tours. During “A Very Philly Christmas,” (December 3-4, 10-11), each day boasts a different theme: music, food, family and neighbors.
Festival of Lights at the Philadelphia Museum of Art
December 23, 2016
The museum’s weekly Art After 5 soiree celebrates Hanukkah with Klezmer music from the West Philadelphia Orchestra. Join in the celebration beginning at 5 p.m. and stay to wander around the festively decorated museum.
Chanukah Menorah Lighting at Rittenhouse Square
December 27, 2016
The annual lighting of the menorah in Rittenhouse Square is set for December 23 at 5:30 p.m. As dusk settles over the park, prayers will be sung and the first candle will be lit on one of the city’s largest menorahs.
Zoo Noel at the Philadelphia Zoo
December 3, 4, 10 and 11, 2016
What’s the holiday season like for animals who live in the rainforest, in the outback and on the farm? For two weekends in December, the Philadelphia Zoo hosts Zoo Noel, showcasing life-size renditions of Mr. Claus as he explores his role in animal habitats around the globe. Guests will also have the chance to warm up at the holiday hot chocolate bar, browse the Little Elves’ Gift Shop and meet and take a picture with Santa in the Treehouse.
Parade of Lights
December 10, 2016
Head to the Delaware River waterfront for the seventh annual Parade of Lights, a lighting celebration unlike any other in the city. This boat parade features both pleasure boats and working vessels decked out in fabulous decorations and lights. Before the parade, head to the Independence Seaport Museum, the host of the parade, for holiday activities and festivities. (Tip: The best view for the parade is from the second floor balcony of the museum.)
The Holidays at the Philadelphia Museum of Art
The Philadelphia Museum of Art has plenty of holiday programming for the entire family. (Photo courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art)
December 1, 2016 - January 1, 2017 (Select dates)
This holiday season, the Philadelphia Museum of Art welcomes the holidays with an ugly sweater party, caroling through the galleries, a festival of the lights and more. And don't forget: Every Wednesday evening after 5 p.m., the Philadelphia Museum of Art offers pay-what-you-wish admission. Head down the parkway in December or early January to catch one of the museum's holiday events and take in the elaborate decorations before browsing its priceless art collection.
One Liberty Observation Deck's Spot Your Spot With Santa
November 25 - December 31, 2016 (select dates)
Let the kids share their holiday dreams and desires with Santa while treating yourself to the gift of awesome skyline views from 57 floors up at One Liberty Observation Deck. On weekends from November 25 through December 31, Santa will be on site to mingle with visitors and pose for photos, and kids can use interactive technology and the incredible 360-degree views to show Santa where exactly to deliver their presents. Another gift for families: Each youth admission is FREE with one paid adult admission.
Tippler’s Tour Yuletide Cheers and Beers
Learn about history and raise a pint with historical figures along Tippler's Yuletide Cheers and Beers pub crawl. (J. Fusco for Historic Philadelphia)
Thursdays, November 17 - December 29, 2016
A little history, a little beer and a lot of fun are served up when a Redcoat soldier recalls life in British-occupied Philadelphia in 1777 while guiding the over-21 crowd through four cozy pubs during the Tippler’s Tour Cheers & Beers, a holiday-themed event where winter brews, festive libations and delicious snacks are included in the ticket price.
Being [ ] at Christmas
December 25, 2016
On Christmas Day, the National Museum of American Jewish History invites families to fill in the blank during Being [ ] at Christmas. The event invites families from every background to join in the annual day of family fun with music, games, clay crafting, children’s activities and more.
Holiday Caroling & Food Basket Give-a-Way at the Johnson House
December 8, 2016
Join a cheery band of carolers who will make their way down the 6300 block of Germantown Avenue singing seasonal tunes as they go. Afterward, the 6300 Germantown Business Alliance will distribute food baskets to area families in need and hot apple cider and cookies will be served at the Johnson House.
Holidays in the Countryside
8th Annual Moo Shu Jew Show at Ocean Harbor Restaurant
December 24, 2016
While celebrants across the country gather on December 24 to deck the halls, going out to the movies and a Chinese meal has become a veritable Christmas tradition for Jewish revelers. Building off of that idea, comedian Cory Kahaney created The Moo Shu Jew Show, giving audiences a live alternative to Hollywood blockbusters and long waits for dim sum. This year's comedic lineup includes guests from The Late Show, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and more.
A Longwood Christmas
Head to Kennett Square to get a glimpse of Longwood Gardens' extensive holiday decorations. (Photo courtesy Longwood Gardens)
November 24, 2016 - January 8, 2017
The holidays go red, white and green at Longwood Gardens during A Longwood Gardens Christmas, featuring 500,000 twinkling lights, colorful fountains and beautifully adorned trees.
Christmas In Peddler’s Village
Enjoy a full month of holiday cheer at Peddler's Village. (Photo courtesy Peddler's Village)
November 18, 2016 - January 2, 2017
With more than 60 specialty shops and six restaurants, Peddler’s Village in beautiful Bucks County is perfect for holiday shopping. The village throws the switch on the holidays as tens of thousands of lights glimmer during the Grand Illumination Celebration on November 18, and throughout the holiday shopping season, visitors can check out the annual Gingerbread Competition & Display. On the weekends, Peddler’s hosts visits with Santa at Giggleberry Fair and other special events.
A Very Furry Christmas
November 19, 2016 - January 1, 2017
A Very Furry Christmas at Sesame Place is a festive celebration for the whole family with everyone’s favorite Sesame Street friends. The park gets transformed into a one-of-a-kind Christmas wonderland with millions of twinkling lights and festive decorations all around. The whole family can soar, swing and fly on exciting rides including five different options at Cookie’s Monster Land, a three-story net climb and a soft toddler play area.
North Pole Express at New Hope & Ivyland Railroad
November 19 - December 31, 2016
All aboard the New Hope & Ivyland Railroad for a holiday train ride with Santa and Mrs. Claus. Lasting for one hour, the holiday excursion invites you to sip hot chocolate and enjoy festive cookies as Santa and Mrs. Claus deliver a special gift to each child on board. Christmas carol sing-alongs will sweeten the ride as the train transports you to the "North Pole."
Historic Holiday Nights in Old City
Thursdays through December 22, 2016
Past and present are wrapped up in a bow for Historic Holiday Nights in Old City. Carolers and historical re-enactors signal the start of extended shopping hours on Thursday nights. Boutiques and restaurants treat visitors to special sales and menu items.
A Brandywine Christmas at the Brandywine River Museum
November 25, 2016 - January 8, 2017
A Brandywine Christmas takes over the Brandywine River Museum with a display of trees featuring critter ornaments, a rare antique doll collection and one of the largest O-gauge model railroad displays in the country with nearly 2,000 feet of track. Be sure to make a special trip for the annual critter sale featuring ornaments made from all-natural materials on December 1, 2 and 4.
Morris Arboretum Holiday Garden Railway
Morris Arboretum's annual holiday railway includes 15 rail lines, replicas of Philadelphia landmarks and more. (R. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia)
November 25 - December 31, 2016
Set amid the evergreens, Morris Arboretum’s Holiday Garden Railway showcases a miniature winter wonderland complete with a quarter-mile of model-train track, seven loops and tunnels, 15 rail lines and model trains that cruise past scaled replicas of historic monuments and Philadelphia landmarks adorned with thousands of twinkling lights. On select Fridays, catch special nighttime viewings when white lights bedeck the rails and miniature greens adorn the buildings. (Note that advanced tickets are required.)
Christmasland at Linvilla Orchards
December 1-24, 2016
For the holidays, Linvilla Orchards transforms into the North Pole — farm style. Get into the holiday spirit by cutting your own Christmas tree and doing a little shopping at the market that’s stocked with tasty holiday treats like hot mulled cider. Santa makes a guest appearance every Saturday and Sunday in December, and on Sunday evenings, visitors can sing along on Caroling Hayrides, complete with live music and apple cider.
Santa’s Express at West Chester Railroad
November 19 - December 18, 2016 (select dates)
Take a scenic, 90-minute holiday train ride through the Chester Creek Valley during Santa's Express on the West Chester Railroad. Families can celebrate with Santa himself, pose for pictures, enjoy live music and more.
Holiday Light Show at Shady Brook Farm
November 19, 2016 - January 8, 2017
Millions of lights sparkle at Shady Brook Farm during the incredible Holiday Light Show. Experience the magical drive in your own car or hop on an open-air wagon ride. Beforehand, consider picking out out a holiday tree and be sure to get your picture taken with Santa at Santa’s Village before you leave!
Holidays in Manayunk
Select days in November and December 2016
The lighting of the tree on Canal View Park leads off Holidays in Manayunk (November 26), with sing-alongs, Santa and more. During the Santa Paws and Holiday Tree Promenade, pets can pose for photos with Santa while local merchants vie for bragging rights for the decorated trees adorning their sidewalks and shop windows (December 3). And runners can work off holiday-induced calories during the Rudolph Run 5K, where costumes are encouraged (December 10).
Stag & Doe Nights in Chestnut Hill
Begins November 30, 2016
On the Wednesdays leading up to Christmas, Germantown Avenue in Chestnut Hill transforms into a winter wonderland for the annual Stag & Doe shopping nights. From 6 to 9 p.m., Chestnut Hill shops will be full of holiday spirit. Find an experience full of festive decorations, twinkling tree lights, wine and cheese, cocoa and cookies, roasted chestnuts, carolers and general holiday merriment.
Christmas at Pennypacker Mills
November 22, 2016 - January 8, 2017
Embark on a visit to Pennypack Mills, the home of Pennsylvania’s late Governor Samuel Pennypacker, during the holiday season and find a mansion full of festive fun. Listen to tunes from the bell choir performing classic holiday music on the mansion porch, visit with the Victorian Santa Claus welcoming you to pose for a photo, interact with living historians who bring the mansion to life and catch Clear Toy Candy demonstrations in the kitchen.
Annual March of the Continental Army Commemoration at Valley Forge
December 19, 2016
Celebrate the anniversary of December 19, 1777, when General George Washington and his Continental Army set up their winter quarters at Valley Forge and began their difficult six-month encampment. The evening event features a recreation of the camp, 18th-century music and refreshments — as well as a visit from George Washington himself.
Washington Crossing Reenactment
Hundreds pack the banks of the Delaware River for a special Christmas Day reenactment of George Washington's famous crossing. (R. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia)
December 25, 2016
Join hundreds of re-enactors and thousands of attendees on the banks of the Delaware River for the annual reenactment of George Washington's infamous Christmas Day crossing, considered a turning point in the American Revolution, at the Washington Crossing Historic Park. General Washington will deliver an inspiring speech before leading his troops across the river in replica Durham boats.
New Year's Eve
SugarHouse Casino New Year’s Eve on the Waterfront
December 31, 2016
Penn’s Landing is the place to ring in the New Year with SugarHouse Casino’s New Year’s Eve Fireworks on the Waterfront featuring two spectacular shows at 6 p.m. and at midnight. Philadelphia’s main, midnight attraction on New Year’s Eve draws thousands of people to the Delaware River Waterfront each year. Conveniently located within a short walk of Old City, Society Hill and South Street, Penn’s Landing becomes a festive party with revelers of all ages delighting in a breathtaking fireworks display.
SugarHouse Casino Mummers Parade
An unforgettably wild ritual, the parade and subsequent performances bring fun for everyone. (R. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia)
January 1, 2017
During the Mummers Parade, the only-in-Philadelphia New Year’s Day tradition that dates back to 1901, thousands of men, women and children delight and dazzle crowds with feathers, sequins, music and merriment during a day-long romp along Broad Street from City Hall, site of competition among the Comic, Comic Wench and String Band divisions, to Washington Avenue. In the Fancy Brigade Finale competition at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, clubs perform their Broadway-style music-and-dance routines for prizes and bragging rights. Tickets for bleacher seating at City Hall and for the Fancy Brigades are available at the Independence Visitor Center.
Fancy Brigade Finale and MummersFest
January 1, 2017
A spectacular Philadelphia’s New Year’s Day tradition heads indoors during the Mummers Fancy Brigade Finale at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. Celebrate the New Year all week-long during MummersFest, featuring a behind-the-scenes look as the Mummers put the finishing touches on their costumes and routines.
More on New Year's Celebrations in Philadelphia
There are plenty of places to celebrate the New Year in Philadelphia this year, including out on the ice at Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest. (J. Fusco for Visit Philadelphia)
From dancing the night away at FringeArts to taking in an ice rink-side view of the fireworks at the Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest to watching the Square Drop during the family-centric celebration at Franklin Square, there are plenty of ways to ring in the New Year in Philadelphia this year. Click the button below to learn about all of the ways to celebrate!