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15+ Ways to Celebrate the Holidays in Philadelphia’s Historic District

Philly’s Original City gets into the spirit with HoliDays and Nights

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This December, Philadelphia’s Historic District transforms into holiday central.

The original city neighborhoods of Old City, Society Hill and the Delaware River Waterfront join forces for Philadelphia’s Historic District HoliDays & Nights, a celebration of the season.

The merrymaking spans museums, restaurants and shops between the Delaware River and 7th Street and Vine and Lombard streets.

As part of the festivities, the Snowflake Shuttle powered by PHLASH will offer free rides throughout the District Thursday through Saturday evenings, 6 to 9 p.m.

Here’s a look at what’s happening in the Historic District this holiday season.

01

Franklin Square Holiday Festival & Electrical Spectacle Holiday Light Show

Brilliant bright display inspired by the imagination of Benjamin Franklin

Electrical Spectacle:A Holiday Light Show at Franklin Square Electrical Spectacle:A Holiday Light Show at Franklin Square
Franklin Square hosts an array of events each holiday season, including the spectacular Electrical Spectacle Light Show. — J. Fusco for Historic Philadelphia

The annual Electrical Spectacle Holiday Light Show makes the park twinkle with free light shows atop its fountain every 30 minutes between 4 and 8 p.m. on weeknights and 4 and 9 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Among the 50,000 bulbs set to music is a giant, illuminated kite. Other festivities include #FranklinSquareFridays; Saturdays with Santa; Seasonal Sounds on Sundays; rides on the holiday train and carousel; comfort foods, local brews and hot beverages in a warm, tented beer garden; and mini-golf. The grand finale comes during the Kids’ New Year’s Eve Countdown and Dance Party, a family-friendly celebration at 6 p.m. — with a view of the 6 p.m. SugarHouse New Year’s Eve Fireworks on the Waterfront show.

Where: 6th and Race Streets Philadelphia, PA 19103

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02

Yuletide Cheers and Beers

Experience a taste of Colonial tavern life

Tippler's Tour group drinking Tippler's Tour group drinking
— Photo by J. Fusco for Historic Philadelphia

November 16 – December 28, 2017

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 in two hours. Winter brews, festive libations and delicious snacks are included in the holiday-time-only ticket.

Where: 1 N Independence Mall W. Philadelphia, PA 19106

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03

Illuminated Liberty at the Museum of the American Revolution

Museum of the American Revolution exterior Museum of the American Revolution exterior
— Photo by J. Fusco for the Museum of the American Revolution

November 30 – December 31, 2017

The District’s newest addition inaugurates its first holiday season with Illuminating Liberty. Colorful illuminations based on those by eminent Revolutionary-era Philadelphia artist Charles Willson Peale will fill the Museum’s sidewalk-level windows. On November 30, the Museum will officially kick off holiday season in the Museum’s Cross Keys Café by offering seasonal treats such as Shane’s Hot Cocoa and hot cocktails. In addition, the gift shop will remain open for holiday shopping, and visitors will be able to try on Revolutionary-inspired clothing and design their own decorative window illuminations.

Where: 101 S. THIRD STREET PHILADELPHIA, PA 19106

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04

Holidays at the Independence Visitor Center

November 24 – December 30, 2017 (select dates)

’Tis the season for the District’s information station to extend its hours until 7 p.m. and bring in colonial re-enactors to mingle with guests from November 24 to 25 and December 26 to 30. Also for a limited time: winter storytelling and colonial carolers (November 24 to 25, December 21 to 23 and 28 to 30).

Where: 599 Market St, Philadelphia, PA 19106

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05

Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest

Seasonal park on the Delaware River Waterfront

Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest
— Photo courtesy M. Stanley for DRWC

The Delaware River Waterfront’s popular, seven-day-a-week (holidays included) seasonal attraction returns for its 24th year. On tap: fire pits, a Kids Lodge arcade, a chalet-style Lodge Restaurant and Bar serving food from Garces Group and Chickie’s and Pete’s, story time every Saturday (beginning December 2), 12 days of Christmas movies (December 14-25) and a Franklin Fountain Confectionery Cabin (for hot chocolate, hot fudge sundaes, s’mores kits and more) — centered around a regulation-size skating rink with a spectacular view of the Ben Franklin Bridge.

Where: 101 S. Christopher Columbus Boulevard Philadelphia, PA 19106

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06

Making Christmas Pop-Up Exhibit at Elfreth's Alley

November 25 – December 21, 2017 (select dates)

The nation’s oldest continuously inhabited street tells the story of Christmas in America with Making Christmas, an exhibit retelling how 18th-century German immigrants brought over the folk traditions and customs (Santa Claus, toys, cookies and that tannebaum) that transformed December 25 into the holiday that it is today.

Where: 124-126 Elfreth's Alley, Philadelphia, PA 19106

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07

Old City District Tree Lighting

Betsy Ross House Betsy Ross House
— Photo by M. Fischetti at Visit Philadelphia

November 30, 2017

The Betsy Ross House courtyard hosts the Old City District Tree Lighting on Thursday, November 30, 2017, complete with carolers, a performance from the Philadelphia Youth Ballet, seasonal drinks and snacks from Fezziwig’s Sweet Shoppe and an appearance by Betsy Ross herself. Stick around for $1 off admission to the Betsy Ross House until 8 p.m.

Where: 239 Arch St, Philadelphia, PA 19106

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08

Historic Holiday Nights

Shop for everyone on your list in the heart of Historic Philadelphia. — G. Widman for Visit Philadelphia

November 30 & December 7, 14, 21 & 28, 2017

Five festive Thursday evenings become Historic Holiday Nights, when all of Old City will stay up late. Shops sell their wares until 8 p.m.; restaurants offer holiday specials, and the courtyard of the historic Betsy Ross House Courtyard will offer live entertainment, snacks and more (5 to 8 p.m.)

Where: 239 Arch St, Philadelphia, PA 19106

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09

Snowflake Shuttle Powered by PHLASH

— M. Edlow for IVCC

November 30 – December 30, 2017 (Thursdays through Saturdays)

Getting around the District is even easier Thursdays through Saturdays from 6 to 9 p.m., when a dedicated, decked-out Snowflake Shuttle powered by PHLASH loops the neighborhood, picking up and dropping off riders free of charge. The six-stop, 17-minute route includes Franklin Square, the Museum of the American Revolution, Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest, 3rd and Market streets, Elfreth’s Alley and the Betsy Ross House.

Where: Six stops in the Historic District including Franklin Square 200 N. 6th Street Philadelphia, PA 19106

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10

Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest Tree Lighting

The waterfront winter wonderland hosts a huge tree lighting celebration complete with performances, fireworks and more. — J. Fusco for Visit Philadelphia

December 1, 2017

The popular Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest on the Delaware River Waterfront goes all out in lighting its spectacular live tree on December 1, which includes a fireworks show at the end of the night.

Where: MARKET STREET AND COLUMBUS BOULEVARD PHILADELPHIA, PA 19106

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11

Deck The Alley at Elfreth's Alley

— R. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia

December 2, 2017

On December 2, Alley residents welcome the public to tour their 18th- and 19th-century homes during the popular ticketed event Deck the Alley. The festive afternoon includes carolers, refreshments, appearances by a 19th-century Santa Claus and Benjamin Franklin — not to mention rare access to most of the private homes.

Where: 124-126 Elfreth's Alley, Philadelphia, PA 19106

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12

Skate with Santa at Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest

December 2, 3, 9, 10, 16 & 17, 2017

On weekend afternoons in December, the Blue Cross RiverRink welcomes Saint Nick onto the ice for Skate With Santa.

Where: MARKET STREET AND COLUMBUS BOULEVARD PHILADELPHIA, PA 19106

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13

Parade of Lights at Independence Seaport Museum

A holiday lighting celebration unlike any other in town

Make a gingerbread boat then watch a parade of decorated vessels along the Delaware River during the annual Parade of Lights at the Independence Seaport Museum. — Photo Courtesy Independence Seaport Museum

December 9, 2017

Penn’s Landing’s maritime museum puts on a Saturday of nautical holiday fun — sailboat ornament-making, gingerbread boat-building, snow lessons and Santa — followed by the Parade of Lights, an early-evening parade of illuminated working vessels (tugboats included) along the Delaware River.

Where: 211 South Christopher Columbus Blvd. Philadelphia, PA 19106

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14

Being __________ at Christmas at the National Museum of American Jewish History

National Museum of American Jewish History exterior National Museum of American Jewish History exterior
— Photo by G. Widman for Visit Philadelphia

December 25, 2017

Each year on Christmas, the National Museum of American Jewish History opens its doors and galleries to families of all backgrounds for Being __________ at Christmas, a day of games, dancing, crafts, storytelling and live music with Emmy Award-winning Alex & the Kaleidoscope. Tickets required.

Where: 101 S. INDEPENDENCE MALL EAST PHILADELPHIA, PA 19106

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15

Free Museum Day at the National Museum of American Jewish History

Preserving and interpreting the American Jewish experience

National Museum of American Jewish History exterior National Museum of American Jewish History exterior
— Photo by G. Widman for Visit Philadelphia

December 1, 2017

As part of the Philly Holiday Festival, several museums are welcoming guests inside free of charge this holiday season. On December 1, the National Museum of American Jewish History participates in Free Museum Day, inviting those of all ages to explore exhibitions that detail a more than 360-year history of Jews in America.

Where: 101 S. Independence Mall East Philadelphia, PA 19106

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16

Free Museum Day at the National Liberty Museum

Honoring real-life heroes and our heritage of freedom

National Liberty Museum National Liberty Museum
— Photo by J. Fusco for Visit Philadelphia

December 9, 2017

On December 9, the Philly Holiday Festival‘s Free Museum Day program heads to the National Liberty Museum, where visitors can discover the story of real-life heroes, including Jackie Robinson, Nelson Mandela, Jim Henson and 2014 Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai through the museum’s interactive exhibitions and inspirational galleries, free of admission.

Where: 321 Chestnut Street Philadelphia, PA 19106

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17

Holidays at the National Constitution Center

— Photo courtesy National Constitution Center

December 26-30, 2017

Winter break means loads of student programming at the world’s only museum dedicated to U.S. Constitution. Visitors can enjoy special programs and activities, including arts and crafts, games and interactive shows. Featured activities include colonial dress-up and photo opportunities, military muster demonstrations and the Growing Up, American Style show.

Where: 525 ARCH STREET PHILADELPHIA, PA 19106

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18

Kwanzaa Celebration at the African American Museum in Philadelphia

— A. Ricketts for Visit Philadelphia

December 27-30, 2017

The museum’s Kwanzaa Celebration includes four days of celebrating the First Fruits of the Harvest. Workshops, discussions, film screenings and performances demonstrate the Nguzo Saba, the seven principles of Kwanzaa, and each day’s craft activity is dedicated to a single principle: self-determination (Day 1), working together (Day 2) and supporting each other (Day 3). On the final day, a candle-lighting ceremony demonstrates the principle of purpose — and acclaimed magician Ran’D Shine puts on a show.

Where: 701 ARCH STREET PHILADELPHIA, PA 19106

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19

SugarHouse New Year’s Eve Fireworks on the Waterfront

Ring in the New Year with two fireworks shows on the Delaware River waterfront

New Year's Eve Fireworks In Philadelphia New Year's Eve Fireworks In Philadelphia
— Photo by M. Stanley for DRWC

The SugarHouse New Year’s Eve Fireworks on the Waterfront features two major pyrotechnics displays over the Delaware River—one at 6 p.m. and another at midnight. The Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest gets in on the action too with entertainment, favors, outdoor seating and great views of the fireworks.

Where: 101 S. Columbus Boulevard Philadelphia, PA 19106

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Franklin Square Holiday Festival & Electrical Spectacle Holiday Light Show
Yuletide Cheers and Beers
Illuminated Liberty at the Museum of the American Revolution
Holidays at the Independence Visitor Center
Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest
Making Christmas Pop-Up Exhibit at Elfreth's Alley
Old City District Tree Lighting
Historic Holiday Nights
Snowflake Shuttle Powered by PHLASH
Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest Tree Lighting
Deck The Alley at Elfreth's Alley
Skate with Santa at Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest
Parade of Lights at Independence Seaport Museum
Being __________ at Christmas at the National Museum of American Jewish History
Free Museum Day at the National Museum of American Jewish History
Free Museum Day at the National Liberty Museum
Holidays at the National Constitution Center
Kwanzaa Celebration at the African American Museum in Philadelphia
SugarHouse New Year’s Eve Fireworks on the Waterfront
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