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Oct 23 2013

32 Ways To Celebrate The Holidays In Philadelphia

New This Year: A Light Show Spectacular, A Pop-Up Shop & Restaurant & The Nutcracker Market

Philadelphia boasts many holiday traditions that locals and visitors delight in year after year (Macy’s Christmas Light Show, Pennsylvania Ballet’s The Nutcracker and the New Year’s Day Mummers Parade), but this year revelers can partake in new activities that are sure to become beloved traditions. There’s the all-new Franklin Square’s Electrical Spectacle: A Holiday Light Show, a sparkling holiday tribute to Ben Franklin; the addition of a pop-up restaurant and shop at the Blue Cross River Rink; and the Nutcracker Market, featuring hand-made arts and crafts from American artisans.

Here are 32 ways to celebrate the holidays in Philadelphia:

New This Year:

  1. The holiday magic at Ben Franklin’s namesake park begins with the new Franklin Square’s Electrical Spectacle: A Holiday Light Show, featuring a 10-foot-tall kite made of lights that sparkle and spread the glow to lights throughout the square. The show runs every 30 minutes between 4:30 and 8:00 p.m., weather permitting. Other festivities include visits from Santa, Ben Franklin and other special guests, rides on the Franklin Square holiday train and the Philadelphia Park Liberty Carousel, seasonal treats at SquareBurger and even mini-golf with warming stations to keep even the littlest players cozy. Activities and special events celebrate everything from Hannukah to Christmas to Kwanzaa. November 14-December 31, with the exception of Thanksgiving and Christmas. 6th & Race Streets, (215) 629-4026,
  2. The Blue Cross RiverRink at Penn’s Landing opens its 20th season with a whole new look that comes in the form of a pop-up holiday winter garden and village called Waterfront Winterfest, featuring shops, music and food. Also new this year: a holiday-themed light show that runs on the hour from 5:00 to 11:00 p.m. And under a massive 400-person warming tent created from recycled shipping containers, folks enjoy comfort food, holiday cocktails and local beers. November 29-January 5. Columbus Boulevard & Market Street, (215) 925-RINK,
  3. Shoppers stock up on one-of-a-kind, artisan-made gifts at the Pennsylvania Ballet’s first-ever Nutcracker Market at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. Fifty selected artists and craftsmen offer hand-made American crafts and gifts. December 7-8. Broad & Spruce Streets, (855) 406-2743,

A Historic Twist:

  1. Visitors to historic Pennypacker Mills enjoy guided tours of the richly decorated mansion, including the newly restored servant’s quarters. And on select Saturdays, they can learn how to make Christmas wreaths and see how to make Victorian candy, among other activities. November 26-January 5. 5 Haldeman Road, Schwenksville, (610) 287-9349,
  2. At Pottsgrove Manor, guided Twelfth Night Tours invite visitors to experience the historic mansion when it’s dressed in its traditional English holiday best. During a special one-night event, taking place on December 8, guests tour the manor by candlelight while costumed 18th-century residents celebrate the Twelfth Night with music and dancing in the parlor.
    November 29-January 12. 100 W. King Street, Pottstown, (610) 326-4014,
  3. A Brandywine Christmas takes over the Brandywine River Museum with a display of trees featuring “critter” ornaments (for sale December 7-8), a Victorian dollhouse, rare antique dolls and one of the largest O-gauge model railroad displays in the country. November 29-January 5. U.S. Route 1, Chadds Ford, (610) 388-2700,
  4. The long-anticipated restorations of the elegant Strawberry Mansion and Cedar Grove are complete, and visitors can see the results during the annual Fairmount Park Holiday Tours. From December 4-15, visitors can embark on tours of Cedar Grove, Mount Pleasant, Laurel Hill, Lemon Hill, Strawberry Mansion and Woodford Mansion. Visitors who prefer a self-guided or a trolley tour can do just that from December 5-8 and December 12-15. The trolley tours show off three houses in the morning and three different houses in the afternoon. (215) 763-8100,;
  5. History buffs get into the spirit of the season when they witness Washington Crossing the Delaware River, a free, annual reenactment staged at 1:00 p.m. on Christmas Day at Washington Crossing Historic Park. A day of family-friendly activities accompanies the full dress rehearsal a few weeks prior to the real thing. Rehearsal, December 8; crossing, December 25. Routes 32 & 532, Washington Crossing, (215) 493-4076,

Lovely Lights & High-Tech Shows:

  1. 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 different rail lines; cable cars, bridges and model trains that cruise past scaled replicas of historic monuments; and Philadelphia-area landmarks adorned with thousands of twinkling lights for the holidays. New this year: Friday Night Lights, providing evening viewings on select nights. November 22-January 5 (closed December 24-25, January 1). 100 E. Northwestern Avenue, (215) 247-5777,
  2. It’s year six for Philadelphia’s high-tech holiday show, The Comcast Holiday Spectacular, shown on The Comcast Experience video wall, one of the world’s highest resolution LED displays, in the lobby of the 58-story Comcast Center. Set to the music of a 64-piece orchestra, this year’s show includes new scenes featuring Olympic-caliber ice skaters and performers from the Walnut Street Theatre. The free 15-minute show occurs at the top of the hour, 10:00 a.m.-8:00 p.m. (except 5:00 p.m. on weekdays). November 28-January 1. 17th Street & John F. Kennedy Boulevard,
  3. 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, with almost 100,000 LED lights and finishes with sounds from the Wanamaker Organ. Performances take place at the top of the hour, November 29-December 31. 1300 Market Street, (215) 241-9000,
  4. The holidays go red, white and green at Longwood Gardens during A Longwood Gardens Christmas, featuring 500,000 glowing lights, thousands of poinsettias, vibrantly decorated trees and dancing fountains throughout the vast grounds and conservatory. November 28-January 12. 1001 Longwood Road, Kennett Square, (610) 388-1000,
  5. Linvilla Orchards looks more like the North Pole during the holiday season. The decorated farm features a Christmasland display and petting zoo, while the market section is stocked with all-things holiday and crafts for younger guests. Santa makes an appearance every Saturday and Sunday in December, and on select afternoons, visitors can sing along during Caroling Hayrides that include marshmallow roasting and apple cider. December 1-24. 137 W. Knowlton Road, Media, (610) 876-7116,
  6. The Independence Seaport Museum hosts the fourth-annual Parade of Lights. Indoors, participants visit with Santa and join in candy-making demos before moving outdoors to watch lighted and decorated tugboats and other vessels float along the Delaware River.
    December 14. 211 S. Columbus Boulevard, (215) 413-8655,

It Takes A Village:

  1. 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). Shoppers stopping by the weekend of November 9 are in for a treat—live animals and a nativity scene. November 2-December 31. 4355 County Line Road, Chalfont, (215) 822-6700,
  2. Please Touch Museum® presents the Enchanted Colonial Village Supported by The Philadelphia Foundation, with intricately restored Colonial scenes depicting the Bakery, Blacksmith Shop, Toymaker, Tailor Shop, Watchmaker and others. The village first made its home at the Lit Brothers department store from 1962 until 1975. November 16-January 2.
    4231 Avenue of the Republic, (215) 581-3181,
  3. While holiday shopping at Peddler’s Village, visitors can check out the Annual Gingerbread House Competition and Display. Participants compete in a variety of categories, including traditional, authentic reproduction of a significant building and unusual 3-D creations. During the season, visitors can also enjoy one million jewel-colored holiday lights, weekend visits with Santa at Giggleberry Fair and other special events. November 22-January 4. Route 263 & Street Road, Lahaska, (215) 794-4018,
  4. With its medieval-village type setting, the German-style Christmas Village has become a favorite tradition for holiday shoppers who can peruse more than 50 decorated booths selling international seasonal gifts, traditional German Christmas ornaments, jewelry and high-quality arts and crafts. Hot mulled wine, gingerbread and bratwursts are also among the offerings. This year, for the first time, visitors have even more time to shop and enjoy the entertainment as the village extends its season. November 28-January 1. 16th Street & John F. Kennedy Boulevard, (215) 207-1246,

’Tis The Season For Shows:

  1. The hit Hollywood holiday film Elf hits the stage of the Walnut Street Theatre, the oldest theater in the country, in a magical family-friendly holiday musical. November 5-January 5. 825 Walnut Street, (215) 574-3550,
  2. The Keswick Theatre keeps the holiday season humming all month long. The lineup includes: A Holiday Celebration of Rock, Rhythm and Soul, with Freda Payne, Gene Chandler, The Coasters, The Classics and others, December 6; This Christmas: An Evening of Holiday Hits with Michael McDonald, December 7; Vienna Boys Choir, December 14. 291 N. Keswick Avenue, Glenside, (215) 572-7650,
  3. The furry denizens of Sesame Place spread holiday cheer with three live shows to delight the youngsters. Elmo’s World Live! Happy Holidays Show, A Sesame Street Christmas Show and Elmo’s Christmas Wish Show are offered at various times throughout the holidays. Also on tap: twinkling lights, holiday tunes, a Christmas-themed parade and more. November 23-December 31. 100 Sesame Road, Langhorne, (866) GO-4-ELMO,
  4. The holiday calendar at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, the Merriam Theater and the Academy of Music is a stocking full of old-fashioned favorites. On the calendar: Holiday POPS! with the Philly Pops, December 6-21; The Rock School’s Nutcracker 1776, December 7; Jersey Boys, December 11-30; the Philadelphia Orchestra’s Glorious Sounds of Christmas, December 21 and Messiah, December 22; I Love Lucy® Live on Stage, December 26-29. Kimmel, Broad & Spruce Streets; Academy, Broad & Locust Streets; Merriam, 250 S. Broad Street, (215) 790-5800,
  5. A beloved holiday tradition, Pennsylvania Ballet presents George Balanchine’s The Nutcrackerat the Academy of Music. Audiences can follow Marie and her prince through a glistening snowy forest into the kingdom of the Sugarplum Fairy, while enjoying the sounds of The Philadelphia Boys Choir. December 7-29. Broad & Locust Streets, (215) 893-1999,

Other Seasonal Celebrations:

  1. During the Penn Museum’s Peace Around the World: Passport to Cultures, visitors receive an itinerary that leads them through galleries to listen to speakers share holiday traditions of their home countries. The event also features international music and dancing, children’s choirs, exotic face painting, balloon art and free treats for children. December 1. 3260 South Street, (215) 898-4000,
  2. The holiday spirit goes beyond Christmas at the National Museum of American Jewish History, which presents Being [ ] at Christmas. The event invites families from every background to join in its annual day of family fun with music, games, children’s activities and more. December 25. 101 S. Independence Mall East, (215) 923-3811,
  3. The African American Museum in Philadelphia hosts a Kwanzaa Celebration for the whole family with jam-packed afternoons of celebratory activities. Patrons are encouraged to bring a canned good donation to benefit Philabundance. December 28-29. 701 Arch Street,
    (215) 574-0380,

Ring In The New Year:

  1. Holiday visitors to the National Constitution Center can play a part in the New Year’s Show, where they’ll discover the origins of New Year’s Eve and explore traditions from around the world. Seasonal Karaoke adds to the holiday fun as visitors belt out favorites like “Winter Wonderland” and “Let it Snow.” December 25-31. 525 Arch Street, (215) 409-6600,
  2. Please Touch Museum® celebrates 2013 early with Countdown 2 Noon. The museum opens at 9:00 a.m. and holds “Noon Year” party activities with music and confetti. Countdowns take place at 12:00 noon and 1:00 p.m. December 31. 4231 Avenue of the Republic, (215) 581-3181,
  3. Those with early bedtimes can still enjoy an evening New Year’s Eve party at Franklin Square’s Kids’ New Year’s Eve Countdown, featuring a 6:00 p.m. “square” drop and a kids’ dance party in the pavilion and topped off with a great view of the early fireworks show at Penn’s Landing. While there, partygoers can also catch the all-new Franklin-inspired Electrical Spectacle light show that lights up the whole square. (See listing in first section.). December 31. 6th & Race Streets, (215) 629-4026,
  4. Maritime merriment abounds on New Year’s Eve when the Independence Seaport Museum stays open late for the Annual Family Fireworks Viewing Party (4:00-6:30 p.m.) on the museum’s second-floor balcony, complete with a sparkling cider toast and panoramic views of fireworks. December 31. 211 S. Columbus Boulevard, (215) 413-8655,
  5. Penn’s Landing is the place to ring in the New Year with two displays of SugarHouse Casino’s New Year’s Eve Fireworks on the Waterfront, running at 6:00 p.m. and again at midnight. And folks looking for a family-friendly celebration can lace up their ice skates for the Holiday Party on Ice at the Blue Cross RiverRink, featuring entertainment, party favors and great views of the fireworks shows. December 31. Market Street & Columbus Boulevard, (215) 925-RINK,
  6. The Mummers Parade is a Philadelphia New Year’s Day experience that’s as traditional as cheesesteaks. Dating back to 1901, the only-in-Philly celebration is a lively and colorful parade of costumed men, women and children who practice all year to strut, dance and play music up Broad Street. The parade begins at 10:00 a.m. at the intersection of Broad Street and Oregon Avenue for the string bands and Broad Street and Washington Avenue for the comics, wench brigades and fancies, and everyone proceeds to City Hall. Arrive early for the best views along the parade route, but to catch the action from the judge’s stand, it’s best to purchase tickets ahead of time. Spectators can get even more Mummers glitz at the Fancy Brigades competition at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, 12th & Arch Streets, where clubs perform their Broadway music-and-dance style routines for prizes and bragging rights. Drag queens entertain the crowds between performances. Tickets for parade bleacher seating outside City Hall and for the Fancy Brigades are both 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,

The Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation (GPTMC) makes Philadelphia and The Countryside® a premier destination through marketing and image building that increases business and promotes the region’s vitality.

For more information about travel to Philadelphia, visit or, where you can build itineraries; search event calendars; see photos and videos; view interactive maps; sign up for newsletters; listen to HearPhilly, an online radio station about what to see and do in the region; book hotel reservations and more. Or, call the Independence Visitor Center, located in Historic Philadelphia, at (800) 537-7676.

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