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20 Must-See Holiday Attractions in Philadelphia for 2017

What not to miss during the most wonderful time of the year

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Franklin Square Holiday Festival Photo by J. Fusco for Historic Philadelphia, Inc.
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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.

01

Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade

The oldest Thanksgiving Day parade in the country

— Photo by J. Fusco for Visit Philadelphia

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

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02

Dilworth Park Wintergarden and the Holidays at City Hall

The largest municipal building in the country and the finest example of the Second Empire style

— Photo by Peter Tobia/Center City District

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

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03

Christmas Village in LOVE Park

Get into the holiday spirit in the heart of Philadelphia

— Photo by J. Fusco for Visit Philadelphia

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

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04

Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest

Seasonal wintertime park on the Delaware River Waterfront

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

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

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05

Christmas Light Show at Macy's Center City

A Philadelphia holiday tradition since 1956

— Photo by J. Fusco for Visit Philadelphia

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

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06

The Comcast Holiday Spectacular

A must-see holiday tradition in the lobby of the Comcast Center

Comcast Holiday Spectacular performance Comcast Holiday Spectacular performance
— Photo by J. Fusco for Visit Philadelphia

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

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07

Franklin Square Holiday Festival & Electrical Spectacle Holiday Light Show

Brilliant bright display inspired by the imagination of Benjamin Franklin

— Photo by J. Fusco for Visit Philadelphia

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

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08

SugarHouse New Year's Eve Fireworks on the Waterfront

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

— Photo courtesy Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest

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

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09

A Longwood Christmas

Dazzling lights highlight this incredible holiday celebration

— Photo courtesy Longwood Gardens

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

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10

Neighborhood Lights in South Philadelphia

— Photo by J. Fusco for Visit Philadelphia

Ongoing

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

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Pennsylvania Ballet Presents George Balanchine's The Nutcracker

— Photo courtesy Pennsylvania Ballet

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

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Christmas in Peddler's Village

Celebrate the holiday season at Peddler’s Village

— Photo courtesy Peddler's Village

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

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13

Christmas in Fairmount Park

— Photo courtesy Fairmount Park Conservancy

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

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14

Holidays at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

One of the largest art museums in the country and a must-see attraction

— Photo by J. Fusco for Visit Philadelphia

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

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15

Reading Terminal Holiday Railroad at Reading Terminal Market

America’s oldest farmers’ market

— Photo courtesy Reading Terminal Market

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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16

A Very Philadelphia Holiday at One Liberty Observation Deck

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

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17

Adventure Aquarium's Christmas Celebration

— Photo by G. Mattie for Adventure Aquarium

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

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18

Holiday Garden Railway at Morris Arboretum

A romantic Victorian landscape garden

— Photo by R. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia

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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19

Holiday Light Show at Shady Brook Farm

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

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20

SugarHouse Casino Mummers Parade

Mummers strut down Broad Street, leaving behind a trail of glitter, feathers and fun

— Photo by M. Edlow for Visit Philadelphia

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

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Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade
Dilworth Park Wintergarden and the Holidays at City Hall
Christmas Village in LOVE Park
Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest
Christmas Light Show at Macy's Center City
The Comcast Holiday Spectacular
Franklin Square Holiday Festival & Electrical Spectacle Holiday Light Show
SugarHouse New Year's Eve Fireworks on the Waterfront
A Longwood Christmas
Neighborhood Lights in South Philadelphia
Pennsylvania Ballet Presents George Balanchine's The Nutcracker
Christmas in Peddler's Village
Christmas in Fairmount Park
Holidays at the Philadelphia Museum of Art
Reading Terminal Holiday Railroad at Reading Terminal Market
A Very Philadelphia Holiday at One Liberty Observation Deck
Adventure Aquarium's Christmas Celebration
Holiday Garden Railway at Morris Arboretum
Holiday Light Show at Shady Brook Farm
SugarHouse Casino Mummers Parade
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