As temperatures drop in the history-rich, tradition-steeped city of Philadelphia, a festive holiday spirit spills from shops, theaters, restaurants, parks and stadiums.
This year promises the return of the city’s very own Christmas Village to LOVE Park. Every must-do holiday list includes visits to Macy’s Christmas Light Show, a spin around the skating rink and festive goings-on at Philadelphia City Hall, a seat at The Nutcracker and a spot on the sidewalk to watch the Mummers Parade.
See why the holidays are a great time to visit Philadelphia with our must-see holiday attractions, below.
The nation’s oldest parade kicks off the holidays each Thanksgiving Day. The annual event features collegiate marching bands, performances by Walt Disney World characters, giant balloons, floats and, at the end of it all, the Clauses accompanied by postal workers collecting letters to Santa.
Where: Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade, 20th and Market streets
The heart of Center City is packed with holiday pop ups, including the brand-new, nightly KLIP Collective creation, Deck the Hall Light Show at Dilworth Park. The outdoor Rothman Institute Ice Rink & Rothman Institute Cabin offer ice skating, skate rentals, twinkling lights and indoor space to warm up and fill up on snacks, cocktails, beer and hot drinks, while America’s Garden Capital Maze is a living labyrinth of seasonal plants and lights. Philly’s official tree overlooks North Broad Street, as does Craft Hall, an indoor beer garden, bakery and barbecue featuring Lost Breads and smoked meats. Within the open-air courtyard, the carousel returns, along with the Hernhut stars-topped stalls of the Made In Philadelphia Holiday Market of independent local vendors.
Where: Dilworth Park Wintergarden and the Holidays at City Hall, Broad and Market streets
November 23 – December 24, 2017
The German-style Christmas Village returns to a restored JFK Plaza, also known as LOVE Park. For the 10th year, 80 wooden booths of local and international merchants display and sell Käthe Wohlfahrt trimmings, wintry apparel, handmade toys and all manner of edible and drinkable treats, while entertainment keeps things festive. The LOVE sculpture makes its triumphant return in February 2018.
Where: Christmas Village in LOVE Park, N. 15th and Arch streets
The popular Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest returns for year five with fire pits; a Kids Lodge arcade; a cozy, chalet-style Lodge Restaurant and Bar; 12 nights of Christmas movies; sweets from Franklin Fountain Confectionery Cabin; and hearty fare from Garces Group and Chickie’s & Pete’s — all centered around a regulation skating rink with a spectacular view of the Ben Franklin Bridge.
Where: Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest, 101 S. Christopher Columbus Boulevard
The Grand Court in the National Historic Landmark Wanamaker Building has hosted a Christmas Light Show since 1956. The department store revives the tradition of sugarplum fairies, dancing snowmen and more with a 100,000-light show narrated by Julie Andrews and accompanied by the famed Wanamaker Organ. Free performances take place every two hours during store hours. Between shows, visitors often tour the second floor’s vintage Dickens Village, setup of animated dolls retelling A Christmas Carol; each free walkthrough ends in a chance to meet and get photos with the real Santa.
Where: Christmas Light Show at Macy's, 1300 Market Street
November 23, 2017 – January 1, 2018
A massive, street-level, high-resolution LED display shows The Comcast Holiday Spectacular, 15-minute features of dancers from the Pennsylvania Ballet and a magical sleigh soaring through Philadelphia’s skyscape.
Where: The Comcast Holiday Spectacular, 1701 John F. Kennedy Boulevard
The Electrical Spectacle Holiday Light Show makes this historic square twinkle, with free shows 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 Saturdays with Santa; rides on the holiday train and carousel; comfort foods, local beer and hot beverages; and mini-golf.
Where: Franklin Square Holiday Festival & Electrical Spectacle Holiday Light Show, 6th and Race streets
The SugarHouse Casino New Year’s Eve Fireworks 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: SugarHouse New Year's Eve Fireworks on the Waterfront, 101 S. Columbus Boulevard
November 23, 2017 – January 7, 2018
Thousands of topiaries, wreaths, mirrors and floating cranberries, apples and gilded walnuts transform Longwood Gardens’ heated, four-acre, Versailles-inspired Conservatory, site of free and ticketed holiday performances, during A Longwood Christmas. Outside, 500,000 lights glitter in the trees, and gloriously renovated fountains dance to seasonal music. Fridays through Sundays, Terrace hosts by-reservation breakfasts with Santa.
Where: A Longwood Christmas, 1001 Longwood Road, Kennett Square
A testament to South Philly’s neighborhood spirit, this one-block stretch of lighted row houses — affectionately known as Miracle on 13th Street — has become a national sensation. Each home features different decorations; lights and signs span the street.
Where: Neighborhood Lights in South Philadelphia, 1600 S. 13th Street
December 8-31, 2017 (select dates)
The Pennsylvania Ballet returns to the grand Academy of Music for an elegant (yet kid-friendly) Philadelphia dance tradition. Tchaikovsky’s iconic score pairs with lavish sets, lavish costumes and enchanting performances — by the dancers, members of the Pennsylvania Ballet Orchestra and Philadelphia Boys Choir. This year’s sensory-friendly performance takes place December 27.
Where: 240 S. Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
November 10, 2017 – January 6, 2018
Bucks County‘s holiday hub kicks off the moment the Clauses switch on one million lights in the Grand Illumination Celebration (November 17), an event replete with carolers, warm apple cider and roasted marshmallows. Simultaneously, the Village Gazebo hosts a few dozen creations in the annual Gingerbread Competition & Display (November 17 to January 6). The Village Christmas Festival fills a weekend with a pair of Santa parades and Victorian decoration (December 2 to 3).
Where: Christmas in Peddler's Village, Routes 202 & 263, Lahaska
November 30 – December 31, 2017 (select dates)
Five decked-out 18th- and 19th-century park mansions — Historic Strawberry Mansion, Cedar Grove, Laurel Hill, Lemon Hill and Woodford — open their doors for holiday treats and performances during A Very Philly Christmas, a cooperative program of Fairmount Park Conservancy and Philadelphia Parks & Recreation. Throughout the month-long open house, themed events include “Sounds of the Season,” including a premiere by Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra at Woodford Mansion (December 2), Family Day (December 3), Neighbor’s Day (December 9) and Flavors of the Season (December 10).
Where: Christmas in Fairmount Park, Various locations including Lemon Hill Drive
November 22, 2017 – January 1, 2018 (select dates)
All throughout the season, the Philadelphia Museum of Art hosts events and activities in celebration of the holidays. From a tree lighting celebration on the East Terrace to a DIY card-making night to festive Friday night performances complete with spiked hot cocoa and other seasonal treats, a wealth of festivities invite you to make the museum part of your holiday traditions. Click the button below to check out all of the scheduled events.
Where: Holidays at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway
November 24, 2017 – December 24, 2017
Every holiday season, Reading Terminal Market, Philadelphia’s indoor haven for all things food, sets up an impressive holiday railroad display. This year’s all-new display features five magical interactive model train vignettes celebrating the history of the Reading Terminal Market, the Reading Railroad and the joys of the holiday season.
Where: Reading Terminal Holiday Railroad at Reading Terminal Market, 12th and Arch Streets
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A post shared by Michael Gatti (@megatti) on Nov 11, 2017 at 3:47pm PST
A Very Philadelphia Holiday transforms the 360-degree platform at the top of the skyscraper to honor three great local traditions. The Mummers, the Pennsylvania Ballet and the Miracle on 13th Street each display costumes and decorations in a quadrant of the attraction—and combine their festive forces near the giant replica of Benjamin Franklin’s head.
Where: A Very Philadelphia Holiday at One Liberty Observation Deck, 1650 Market Street, 57th Floor
December 1-30, 2017
Marvel at the world’s tallest underwater Christmas tree, which makes its debut at Adventure Aquarium this year. The 18-foot-tall tree, part of the attraction’s Shark Realm, will be illuminated for the first time on Friday, December 1 and will be on display through December 30. Alongside thousands of twinkling lights and colorful shells and coral, visitors will get the chance to see Scuba Santa and his “elfish” helpers swimming beneath the surface and celebrating the season.
Where: Adventure Aquarium's Christmas Celebration, 1 Riverside Drive, Camden, NJ
November 24 – December 31, 2017
Amid the evergreens at Morris Arboretum, the 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. Friday Night Lights provide evening viewings on select nights; advanced tickets required.
Where: Holiday Garden Railway at Morris Arboretum, 100 E. Northwestern Avenue
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A post shared by @aanjelicaa on Dec 23, 2016 at 5:41pm PST
November 18, 2017 – January 7, 2018
More than three million lights comprise this big, bright Bucks County spectacle that is Shady Brook’s annual Holiday Light Show. Visitors can drive or, if weather permits, ride in wagons through illuminated tunnels and past celebratory nighttime displays. Afterwards, there are visits with Santa, cocoa by the bonfire and holiday shopping.
Where: Holiday Light Show at Shady Brook Farm, 931 Stony Hill Road, Morrisville
This only-in-Philadelphia New Year’s Day tradition dates back to 1901 and today includes thousands of men, women and children wearing feathers and sequins while dancing to music and parading along Broad Street from Philadelphia City Hall, site of competition among the Comic, Comic Wench and String Band divisions, to Washington Avenue. The indoor Fancy Brigade Finale competition at the Pennsylvania Convention Center consists of Broadway-inspired music-and-dance routines for prizes and bragging rights. phillymummers.com. Tickets for bleacher seating at City Hall and for the Fancy Brigades are available at the Independence Visitor Center.
Where: SugarHouse Casino Mummers Parade, S. Penn Square and S. Broad Street
Book the Visit Philly Overnight Hotel Package for stays through November 30, 2018 and get FREE hotel parking as well as free tickets to the iconic Philadelphia Museum of Art, a $25 gift card to the must-visit Reading Terminal Market, free Philly-themed mini-golf at Franklin Square and a $10 Lyft credit.
Light shows, theatrical productions, ice skating and more