November 6, 2017

Tis The Season: So Many Holiday Happenings In Philadelphia

The Region Celebrates With Lights, Trees, Parades, Fireworks, More

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During the holidays, Rittenhouse Square lights up one of the city's largest Christmas trees, typically standing at more than 30-feet tall. Photo by M. Fischetti for VISIT PHILADELPHIA®
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Ice skating at City Hall's Dilworth Park takes a festive turn during the holidays. Photo by J. Fusco for VISIT PHILADELPHIA®
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Franklin Square’s Electrical Spectacle: A Holiday Light Show. Photo by J. Fusco for VISIT PHILADELPHIA®
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As temperatures drop in the history-rich, tradition-steeped city of Philadelphia, holiday spirit spills from shops, theaters, restaurants, parks and stadiums. Every must-do holiday list includes visits to Macy’s Christmas Light Show, a spin around the skating rink and more festive fun at Philadelphia City Hall, a seat at The Nutcracker, a nosh at Latkepalooza and a spot on the sidewalk for the Mummers Parade. These, and dozens more activations and traditions are supported by the Philly Holiday Festival, a creation of Welcome America, and Philadelphia’s Historic District HoliDays & Nights.

As always, the most wonderful way to enjoy the city over the winter holidays is the Visit Philly Overnight Hotel Package, offering overnight guests free hotel parking, tickets to Terracotta Warriors of the First Emperor and more perks. It’s bookable at

Here’s a look at the holiday fun in Philly this year:


  • 6ABC Dunkin’ Donuts Thanksgiving Day Parade – The nation’s oldest parade—now a spry 98—kicks off the holidays. 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. November 23. 20th Street & John F. Kennedy Boulevard to Eakins Oval on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway,

Major Hubs For Holiday Happenings:

  • City Hall – The heart of Center City surrounds itself with holiday popups, including the brand-new, nightly KLIP Collective creation, Deck the Hall Light Show at Dilworth Park (November 20-January 1). Also at the 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. At the south end of the park, America’s Garden Capital Maze, a partnership with Greater Philadelphia Gardens, is a living labyrinth of seasonal plants and lights (November 10-February 25). Philly’s official tree will overlook North Broad Street (lighting: November 24), as will 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 (November 18-December 24). 15th & Market Streets,
  • LOVE Park – The German-style Christmas Village returns to an under-renovation 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 (November 23-December 24; preview November 18-19). (The LOVE sculpture makes its triumphant return in February 14, 2018.) 15th Street & John F. Kennedy Boulevard, (215) 268-7606,
  • Chestnut Hill – This postcard-perfect Northwest enclave—cobblestone avenue and all—turns up the charm with Holidays on the Hill. Woodmere Art Museum’s Circle of Trees lighting ceremony features caroling, cocoa, cookies, Santa and toy and book donations (November 18). The decades-old Stag and Doe Nights return on December Wednesdays with evening shopping and snacking (December 6, 13 & 20). December Weekends with Santa bring the big guy to the Market at the Fareway (Saturdays) and Laurel Hill Gardens (Sundays). Woodmere hosts an evening of Motown for the Holidays (December 15), and Germantown Avenue hosts the adorable Chestnut Hill Holiday Parade (December 16). (215) 247-6696,
  • Delaware River Waterfront – The popular Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest (November 24-March 4; tree lighting December 1) 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. Columbus Boulevard at Market Street, (215) 925-7465,
  • South Philadelphia – 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. November 25-January 1. 1600 S. 13th Street,
  • Manayunk – This quaint, independent Main Street community kicks off the season with a sundown tree lighting at Canal View Park (November 25), a series of shopping events featuring sweets, spirits, Santa treats and an open-air market (November 30, December 7, 10, 14 & 21), the Promenade of Trees, wherein businesses debut 30 trees amid carols and prizes (December 2) and a Rudolph Run (December 9). (215) 482-9565,
  • Philadelphia’s Historic District – The original city gets together for Historic HoliDays & Nights. This collaboration includes Old City’s Historic Holiday Nights, with special programming in the Betsy Ross House Courtyard and shops, restaurants and museums that stay open until 8 p.m. on Thursdays. A free, PHLASH-powered Snowflake Shuttle runs through the District Thursday through Saturday evenings. The Museum of the American Revolution puts on an Illuminating Liberty display, and Elfreth’s Alley hosts the exhibit Making Christmas about the German roots of Christmas in America. November 30-December 30.
  • Peddler’s Village – 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-January 6). The Village Christmas Festival fills a weekend with a pair of Santa parades and Victorian decoration (December 2-3). Routes 202 & 263, Lahaska, (215) 794-4000,
  • Linvilla Orchards – Everyone’s favorite Delco farm gets into the spirit mightily. More than 40,000 trees are available to cut down and take home starting November 18; Christmasland opens December 1-23. Every December weekend, Santa pops in, and kids can take part in arts and crafts. On Saturday evenings, Wassailing Caroling Hayrides (December 9, 16, 23) gleefully tour the grounds. 137 W. Knowlton Road, Media, (610) 876-7116,
  • Tree & Menorah Lightings At-A-Glance:

Classic Lights & Sights:

  • Byers’ Choice – The Bucks County maker of those famous handcrafted Caroler® figurines keeps its Christmas Museum and Creche Collection open year-round. But only in the lead-up to the holidays does it host a Christmas Market, vending gingerbread houses, advent calendars, toys and, of course, those Carolers (November 1-December 31). Also of note: Gerald Dickens, great-great grandson of Charles, performs A Christmas Carol, solo (December 9-10). 4355 County Line Road, Chalfont, (215) 822-6700,
  • 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. November 6-January 1. 1650 Market Street, (215) 561-3325,
  • Franklin Square – The Electrical Spectacle Holiday Light Show makes this park 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 lights set to music are a giant, illuminated kite and key. Festivities include #FranklinSquareFridays; Saturdays with Santa; Seasonal Sounds on Sundays; rides on the holiday train and carousel; treats such as make-you-own s’mores, hot doughnuts, local beer and hot beverages—served in a warming tent or around fire pits in a beer garden; and mini-golf (November 9-December 31). Franklin Square, 6th & Race Streets, (215) 629-4026,
  • Independence Seaport Museum – The Parade of Lights along the Delaware River features illuminated working vessels, tugboats included, preceded by a day of visiting with Santa, building ornaments and gingerbread boats and learning how snow is made. December 9. 211 S. Columbus Boulevard, (215) 413-8655,
  • Shady Brook Farm – 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. (On the eve of the spectacle’s debut, visitors can also run through the display in “Dashin’ thru the Lights,” a by-reservation evening two-miler (November 17). Afterwards, there are visits with Santa, cocoa by the bonfire and holiday shopping. November 18-January 8. 931 Stony Hill Road, Yardley, (215) 968-1670,
  • Comcast Center – 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. Daily, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. (except 5 p.m. on weekdays). November 23-January 1. 17th Street & John F. Kennedy Boulevard,
  • Longwood Gardens – 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. November 23-January 7. 1001 Longwood Road, Kennett Square, (610) 388-1000,
  • Reading Terminal Market – Holiday provision buying—and eating—among the 80 vendors of this historic market is always an occasion. But when the Reading Terminal Market’s train display is buzzing with activity, now, that’s just some next-level food shopping. November 24-December 24. 12th & Arch Streets, (215) 922-2317,
  • Macy’s – 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. November 24-December 31. 1300 Market Street, (215) 241-9000,

Festive Events & Exhibits:

  • Sesame Place – Elmo, Abby, Oscar and friends—including, new this year, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Clarice and Bumble—are part of the ultimate little-kid theme park’s A Very Furry Christmas. Wee ones tour the Twiddlebugs’ Gingerbread Cookie Factory, meet Lightning, the reindeer from Elmo Saves Christmas, take in holiday productions such as the 1-2-3 Christmas Tree Show and snag spots for the Neighborhood Street Party Christmas Parade. November 18-December 31. 100 Sesame Road, Langhorne, (215)-752-ELMO,
  • Morris Arboretum – Amid the evergreens, 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. November 24-December 31. 100 E. Northwestern Avenue, (215) 247-5777,
  • Brandywine River Museum of Art – The old grist mill, filled with Wyeths, perched on the river and surrounded by countryside, transforms each winter, adding one of the country’s largest O-gauge model railroad displays, a Victorian dollhouse and thousands of Critter ornaments handmade from objects in nature. Annual kiddie activities include the Children’s Christmas Party and Breakfast with the Trains. November 30-January 8. 1 Hoffman’s Mill Road, Chadds Ford, (610) 388-2700,
  • Philadelphia Zoo – Santa, more than anyone, knows the value of the day’s first meal. For three weekends, he’ll enjoy breakfast amid friends and an ample buffet in the atrium of the Rare Animal Conservation Center of America’s first zoo, during Breakfast With Santa. December 2-3, 9-10 and 16-17. 3400 W. Girard Avenue, (215) 243-1100,
  • Phoenixville – Firebird Festival, a day-to-night tradition in Phoenixville, honors the town’s namesake. By day, food and craft vendors and dozens of performers take over stores and the street. Come nightfall, Friendship Field hosts the finale: the transformation of a community-made wooden phoenix into a grand bonfire. December 9. 203 Fillmore Street, Phoenixville,

Holiday Tours:

  • Tippler’s Tours: Yuletide Cheers & Beers – A little history, a little beer and a lot of fun are served up during Historic Philadelphia’s Tippler’s Tour, 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 tour. Thursdays, November 16-December 28. Independence Visitor Center, 6th & Market Streets, (215) 629-4026,
  • Center City Holiday Tour – Philly Urban Adventures gives visitors a taste of how Philadelphia does the holidays with a twice-daily three-hour sightseeing trip. The tour visits the Christmas Light Show featuring the Wanamaker Organ at Macy’s, the Comcast Center’s Christmas Spectacular and the holiday pop-ups at City Hall. Tours are by reservation. November 24-December 31. 15th & Market Streets, (215) 280-3746,

Historic Places & Happenings:

  • Pearl S. Buck House – The beautiful stone farmhouse that belonged to Pulitzer- and Nobel Prize-winning author Pearl S. Buck transforms each year into the Festival of Trees. Twenty-nine designers and artists from across the region add traditional and international touches through holiday decorations adorning the bathroom to the bedroom—all with an eye toward the writer’s work and social mission. November 14-December 30, with candlelight tours by reservation December 1, 8 and 15. 520 Dublin Road, Perkasie, (215) 249-0100,
  • Mercer Museum & Fonthill Castle – Charming Doylestown keeps Christmas festive at two famed sibling sites. The Mercer annually delivers Under the Tree: A Century of Holiday Trees and Toys, an exhibition of holiday memories from a child’s point of view, dating from the Victorian Era through the 1980s (November 18-December 31), along with Gingerbread in the Log House (November 24). At Fonthill Castle, Winter Wonderland: Holiday Decorations Tours means Victorian décor, elegant evergreens and, on select nights, candlelight among 15 rooms (December 2-31). Mercer Museum, 84 S. Pine Street, Doylestown, (215) 345-0210; Fonthill Castle, E. Court Street & Route 313, (215) 348-9461,
  • Pennypacker Mills – This Colonial Revival mansion, onetime home to a Pennsylvania governor, decks its halls in grand style, opens up free guided tours and offers classic treats such as Wilbur Buds and clear toy candies in its gift shop (November 21-January 8). At the annual Victorian Christmas Open House, Victorian Santa Claus visits too (December 9). 5 Haldeman Road, Schwenksville, (610) 287-9349,
  • Elfreth’s Alley – The nation’s oldest continuously inhabited street tells the story of Christmas in America with Making Christmas, an exhibit retelling how German immigrants brought over traditions that transformed into a national holiday (November 25-26, December 3, 9-10, 16-17, 23-24, 30; evenings: November 30 & December 7, 14, 21). On December 2, the Alley’s inhabitants welcome the public to tour their 18th-and 19th-century homes during Deck the Alley. This festive day includes carolers, refreshments and appearances by Ben Franklin and a 19th-century Santa Claus. Elfreth’s Alley, (215) 627-8680,
  • Fairmount Park – 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). November 30-December 3, December 7-10, 14-17, 26-31. (215) 685-0274,
  • Pennsbury Manor – The bucolic, riverside recreation of William Penn’s 17th-century domain welcomes guests to join craftspeople, carolers and re-enactors for Holly Nights. The yearly tradition features candlelit tours through the house, blacksmith shop and barn—and gathering around a Yule log for wassailing songs and hot mulled cider. December 7-8. 400 Pennsbury Memorial Road, Morrisville, (215) 946-0400,
  • Washington Crossing the Delaware River – General George Washington leads a surprise attack on the British during the 66th annual reenactment of the famous Christmas Day Revolutionary War event. More than 200 re-enactors don Colonial army uniforms to recreate the daring trek at Washington Crossing Historic Park. Families and history buffs can join in Colonial-era games, demonstrations and activities during the two crossing reenactments: The first is a ticketed full dress rehearsal, followed by activities in the village; the Christmas crossing is free. December 10 and 25. Routes 32 & 532, (215) 493-4076,
  • National Constitution Center – Winter break means loads of children’s programming at the world’s only museum dedicated to the U.S. Constitution. Visitors can enjoy a variety of special family-friendly 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. December 26-30. 525 Arch Street, (215) 409-6700,

Shows & Performances:

  • Annie – The Tony Award-winning musical about a brave little girl and the millionaire who’d become her dad is the heart-warmer of the season for those who believe love is the best gift of all. The Walnut Street Theatre tells the set-in-1930s tale and ends on a high note with “A New Deal for Christmas.” November 7-January 7. 825 Walnut Street, (215) 574-3550,
  • Nutcracker 1776 – The Rock School for Dance Education, one of the nation’s most renowned pre-professional ballet training programs, puts a Colonial spin on a holiday classic with its student-populated, undeniably professional-grade, 70-minute Nutcracker. November 24-25, Merriam Theater, 250 S. Broad Street, (215) 893-1999,; December 9-10, Centennial Hall, Haverford School, 450 E. Lancaster Avenue, (215) 551-7010,
  • A Christmas Carol – The historic Walnut Street Theatre invites children to an adaption of Charles Dickens’ famed tale of Ebenezer Scrooge, the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future and a few “Bah Humbugs” during this one-hour performance. November 25-December 23. 825 Walnut Street, (215) 574-3550,
  • Tinseltown Tidings – The 120-voice Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus performs Hollywood’s greatest holiday hits at the Prince Theater. Film score selections on the program hail from Babes in Toyland, Home Alone, Polar Express, White Christmas and more. November 30-December 2. 1412 Chestnut Street, (215) 422-4580,
  • A Philly POPS Christmas – At the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, maestro Michael Krajewski takes the baton to lead the Philly POPS in a newly re-imagined, always beloved concert featuring vocalist Justin Hopkins, the Philadelphia Boys Choir, the Philly POPS Festival Chorus and the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas Gospel Choir—and a musical performance of How The Grinch Stole Christmas. December 1-19. Broad & Spruce Streets, (215) 893-1999,
  • Philadelphia Orchestra – This “Big Five” orchestra offers spirited performances throughout December in the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts’ Verizon Hall. Broad & Spruce Streets, (215) 790-5800, Among them:
    • Christmas Kids’ Spectacular – This always-popular (and often sold-out) performance gives little ones a taste of the classics (Sleigh Ride, selections from The Nutcracker), encourages singing along and provokes gasps of joy when St. Nick arrives. December 2.
    • The Glorious Sound of Christmas – Bramwell Tovey conducts this tradition inspired by the 1962 album by legendary conductor Eugene Ormandy. December 14-17.
    • Messiah – The players play and the Philadelphia Symphonic Choir sings the Handel stunner. December 21-22.
  • George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker®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. December 8-31. Broad & Locust Streets, (215) 893-1999,
  • Great Russian Nutcracker – The Moscow Ballet adds a third perspective on Christmas’ best-known ballet during this 25th anniversary tour performance at the Annenberg Center. This Nutcracker comes with large nesting dolls and puppets and brilliant costumes. December 18-19. 3680 Walnut Street, (215) 898-3900,

More Seasonal Celebrations:

  • Please Touch Museum – The city’s only just-for-kids museum honors the season of giving by collecting new and gently used outerwear donations for people of all ages (November 16-December 12), followed by diverse programming. 4231 Avenue of the Arts, (215) 581-3181,
    • Share the Joy Christmas Party – Kids can make their own decorations and sing songs with Yosi & the Superdads. December 9
    • Chanukah Wonderland – Guests sing, dance and dine on donuts. December 13
    • Kwanzaa – Music, art and dance combine in this harvest celebration. December 26
  • Penn Museum – The Penn Museum’s international collection of art and artifacts is the backdrop for the annual Celebrations Around the World. Festivities feature holiday traditions from throughout the year and around the world; regional groups share their cultural heritage through international music and dance, crafts, storytelling and more. Bonus: The museum shop holds its annual sale. December 3. 3260 South Street, (215) 898-4000,
  • National Museum of American Jewish History (NMAJH) – Each year on Christmas, NMAJH opens its doors to families of all backgrounds for Being __________at Christmas, a day of live music, games, dancing, crafts and more activities. December 25. 101 S. Independence Mall East, (215) 923-3811,
  • African American Museum in Philadelphia – The Kwanzaa Celebration here features four family-friendly days that celebrate the First Fruits of the Harvest. In the first three days, crafting activities represent self-determination, working together and supporting each other; on the fourth day, a candle-lighting ceremony demonstrates purpose. December 27-30. 701 Arch Street, (215) 574-0380,

New Year’s Eve:

  • Please Touch Museum – The kid-centric museum throws Countdown 2 Noon, a popular party for the early-to-bed set, complete with live music and two ball drops, at noon and 1 p.m. 4231 Avenue of the Arts, (215) 581-3181,
  • Franklin Square – The home of the Electrical Spectacle hosts Kids’ New Year’s Eve Countdown and Dance Party, a family-friendly 6 p.m. celebration—with a “Square Drop” and a view of the first fireworks show (see below). 6th & Race Streets, (215) 629-4026,
  • Delaware River  – 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. Columbus Boulevard at Market Street, (215) 925-7465,
  • Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts – The Philadelphia Orchestra offers a spectacular New Year’s Eve Concert that finishes up well before midnight. Verizon Hall, Broad & Spruce Streets, (215) 790-5800,

New Year’s Day:

  • Mummers Parade – 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. Tickets for bleacher seating at City Hall and for the Fancy Brigades are available at the Independence Visitor Center, 6th & Market Streets, (215) 965-7676,; tickets for the competition at the Convention Center are also available at (800) 298-4200,

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