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Aug 27 2014

Holidays In Philadelphia: New Celebrations & Can't-Miss Classics

Winterfest Returns For The Whole Season And The Famous Mummers Take A New Route

It’s the most wonderful time of the year—especially in Philly, where iconic traditions and new festivities add sparkle to the season. Highlights: Last year’s blockbuster attraction, Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest, returns to Penn’s Landing for an extended run; a new alfresco ice skating rink enters the scene at Dilworth Park; and the famous Mummers Parade tries out a new, spectator-friendly route. Of course, the calendar is packed with favorites such as Macy’s Christmas Light Show and New Year’s Eve Fireworks on the Waterfront.

Find top holiday events, a holiday lights roundup, New Year’s Eve and Day guides and more at visitphilly.com/holidays.

Lovely Lights, Jaw-Dropping Displays & High-Tech Shows:

  • The holiday magic at Ben Franklin’s namesake park puts on Franklin Square Holiday Festival featuring the Electrical Spectacle, featuring a 10-foot-tall lighted kite and lights throughout the park. The show runs every 30 minutes between 4:30 and 8:00 p.m., weather permitting. Other festivities include visits from Santa and Ben Franklin, rides on the holiday train and carousel, seasonal treats at SquareBurger and even mini-golf with warming stations. Activities and special events celebrate Hanukah, Christmas and Kwanzaa. November 14-December 31 (except Thanksgiving and Christmas). 6th & Race Streets, (215) 629-4026, historicphiladelphia.org
  • Right in front of Philadelphia’s City Hall, people can don their skates and hit the ice at Dilworth Park’s Rothman Ice Rink. A warming tent, seasonal programming and a cafe keep the spectators as entertained as the triple-axle pros. November 14-Febraury 22. 15th & Market Streets, dilworthpark.org
  • The Comcast Holiday Spectacular is shown on The Comcast Experience video wall, one of the world’s highest resolution LED displays located 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 Philadelphia’s 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 27-January 1. 17th Street & John F. Kennedy Boulevard, visitphilly.com
  • 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 27-January 11. 1001 Longwood Road, Kennett Square, (610) 388-1000, longwoodgardens.org
  • With Penn’s Landing’s Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest, the outdoors is a hotspot this winter. The pop-up winter garden that was such a hit during its short appearance last year, Waterfront Winterfest returns for an extended run—that means more time for cozy fire pits, fresh-air eats and drinks and live entertainment under the 400-person warming tent fashioned from recycled shipping containers. A 3-D light show around the alfresco rink wows skaters and spectators on the hour from 5:00-11:00 p.m. Plus, special events and activities are on tap at the Blue Cross RiverRink throughout the season. November 28-March 5. Columbus Boulevard at Market Street, (215) 925-RINK, riverrink.com, waterfrontwinterfest.com
  • 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 rail lines; and model trains that cruise past scaled replicas of historic monuments and Philadelphia-area landmarks adorned with thousands of twinkling lights. New this year: Friday Night Lights, providing evening viewings on select nights. November 28-January 4 (closed December 24-25, January 1). 100 E. Northwestern Avenue, (215) 247-5777, morrisarboretum.org
  • 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. People of all ages delight in the 100,000 LED lights, narration by Julie Andrews and sounds from the Wanamaker Organ. Performances take place at the top of the hour, November 28-December 31. 1300 Market Street, (215) 241-9000, wanamakerorgan.com
  • The Independence Seaport Museum hosts the fifth annual Parade of Lights. Indoors, participants visit with Santa, enjoy Victorian carolers and join in candy-making demos and crafts before moving outside to watch lighted and decorated tugboats and other vessels float along the Delaware River. December 13. 211 S. Columbus Boulevard, (215) 413-8655, phillyseaport.org

Fun Fests:

  • 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 and authentic reproduction of a significant building. Also during the season, people also enjoy one million jewel-colored holiday lights, weekend visits with Santa at Giggleberry Fair and other special events. November 21-January 3, 2015. Route 263 & Street Road, Lahaska, (215) 794-4018, peddlersvillage.com
  • What’s the season like for animals in the rainforest, in the outback and on the farm? For three weekends, the Philadelphia Zoo hosts Zoo Noel, showcasing life-size renditions of Mr. Claus as he explores his role in animal habitats around the globe. Guests warm up at the holiday hot chocolate bar, brwose the Little Elves’ Gift Shop, meet Santa in the Treehouse and watch as the big man feeds some favorite zoo animals. December 6-7; December 13-14; December 20-21. 3400 W. Girard Avenue, (215) 243-1100, philadelphiazoo.org
  • Linvilla Orchards looks more like the North Pole in December. 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, 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, linvilla.com
  • Lighting up a winter night, the Firebird Festival in Phoenixville celebrates the phoenix. After a full day of music, dancing, storytelling, crafting, parades and other arts-related activities, the festival culminates in the lighting of an enormous wooden phoenix, turning it into a real firebird bonfire. December 6. firebirdfestival.com
  • Frostfest at Sister Cities Park delights families on three Saturdays in December. On the schedule: free carriage rides, seasonal science demonstrations from The Franklin Institute, Christmas karaoke, caroling, crafts and visits with Santa. December 6, 13 and 20. 18th Street & Benjamin Franklin Parkway, sistercitiespark.org

A Historic Twist:

  • Visitors to historic Pennypacker Mills enjoy guided tours of the richly decorated mansion. On select Saturdays, they can learn how to make Christmas wreaths and watch as Victorian candy is made, among other activities. November 25-January 4. 5 Haldeman Road, Schwenksville, (610) 287-9349, montcopa.org/pennypackermills
  • At Pottsgrove Manor, visitors join guided Twelfth Night Tours to experience the historic mansion when it’s dressed in its traditional English holiday best. During a special one-night event on December 14, guests tour the manor by candlelight while 18th-century residents mark the Twelfth Night with music and dancing in the parlor. November 28-January 11. 100 W. King Street, Pottstown, (610) 326-4014, montcopa.org/pottsgrovemanor
  • A Brandywine Christmas takes over the Brandywine River Museum of Art with a display of trees, a Victorian dollhouse, rare antique dolls and one of the largest O-gauge model railroad displays in the country. November 28-January 4. U.S. Route 1, Chadds Ford, (610) 388-2700, brandywinemuseum.org
  • The Fairmount Park Holiday Tours offer a glimpse into the elegant holiday celebrations of 18th-century Philadelphia society. From December 3-30, visitors can embark on their town for tours of Cedar Grove, Mount Pleasant, Laurel Hill, Lemon Hill, Strawberry Mansion and Woodford Mansion. On December 12 and 14, people can tour via trolley or board a bus hosted by the Past, Present and Future characters from Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. (215) 235-7469, parkcharms.com; philamuseum.org/parkhouses
  • History buffs get into the spirit of the season when they witness Washington Crossing the Delaware River, a free, annual re-enactment staged on Christmas 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 7; crossing, December 25. Routes 32 & 532, Washington Crossing, (215) 493-4076, ushistory.org/washingtoncrossing

Holiday Markets:

  • The German Christmas Market at Byers’ Choice boasts plenty of gifts for holiday shoppers (think gingerbread houses, advent calendars, handcrafted caroler figurines and toys). November 2-December 31. 4355 County Line Road, Chalfont, (215) 822-6700, byerschoice.com
  • People can stock up on artisan-made gifts at the Pennsylvania Ballet’s Nutcracker Market, located at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. Dozens of artists and crafters are on hand to help with that hard-to-buy-for person on the list. December 10-14. Broad & Spruce Streets, (855) 406-2743, paballet.org/nutmarket
  • With its medieval-village type setting, the German-style Christmas Village has become a favorite tradition. Visitors peruse more than 50 decorated booths filled with international seasonal gifts, traditional German Christmas ornaments, jewelry and arts and crafts. Hot mulled wine, gingerbread and bratwursts keep shoppers warm and satisfied. November 27-December 28. 1500 Arch Street, (215) 207-1246, philachristmas.com

Season Of Shows:

  • It’s a jolly holiday with Mary—Mary Poppins, that is. The Tony Award-winning Broadway musical about the practically perfect nanny hits the stage at Walnut Street Theatre, the oldest theater in the country. November 4-January 4. 825 Walnut Street, (215) 574-3550, walnutstreettheatre.org
  • Count on a Very Furry Christmas when the furry denizens of Sesame Place spread holiday cheer with three live holiday shows. Also this season at Sesame: twinkling lights, holiday tunes and the Neighborhood Street Party Christmas Parade and more. November 22-December 31. 100 Sesame Road, Langhorne, (866) GO-4-ELMO, sesameplace.com
  • The 120-voice Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus puts an Old West spin on the season in their Down Home Holiday concert. A cappella numbers mixed with some musical accompaniment make for a lively evening of music. December 4-6. Lutheran Church of the Holy Communion, 2110 Chestnut Street, (215) 731-9230, pgmc.org
  • The Merriam Theater and the Kimmel Center are full of old-fashioned favorites. On the calendar: The Christmas Spectacular (December 5-20) with the Philly Pops features Broadway’s current Phantom of the Opera, Hugh Panaro, and The Rock School’s Nutcracker 1776 (December 19-20) puts a Colonial spin on the holiday tale. Kimmel Center, Broad & Spruce Streets; Merriam, 250 S. Broad Street, (215) 893-1999, kimmelcenter.org, phillypops.com
  • A beloved tradition, the Pennsylvania Ballet presents George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker at the Academy of Music. Audiences follow Marie and her prince through a glistening snowy forest into the land of the Sugarplum Fairy, all while enjoying the sounds of The Philadelphia Boys Choir. December 6-31. Broad & Locust Streets, (215) 893-1999, paballet.org
  • The Philadelphia Orchestra hits the right note for the holidays with a jam-packed calendar of special performances at the Kimmel Center. Guests sing along to seasonal favorites during the Christmas Kids Spectacular Family Concert (December 13), with appearances by actors, dancers and Santa Claus. The Glorious Sounds of Christmas (December 18-20) and Messiah (December 21) are longstanding holiday traditions for music lovers. Another favorite: ringing in January 1 during the New Year’s Eve Concert. In early 2015, when the holiday spirit is still going, dazzling acrobats, aerialists and jugglers accompany the world-famous orchestra for Cirque de la Symphonie (January 3-4). Broad & Spruce Streets; (215) 790-5800, kimmelcenter.org; (215) 893-1999, philorch.org

Other Seasonal Celebrations:

  • During the Penn Museum’s Peace Around the World: Passport to Cultures, visitors follow an itinerary that leads them through the galleries as speakers share holiday traditions of their home countries. The day includes international music and dancing, children’s choirs, exotic face painting, balloon art and treats. December 6. 3260 South Street, (215) 898-4000, penn.museum
  • 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 a day of music, games, dancing, children’s activities and crafts with The Clay Studio. December 25. 101 S. Independence Mall East, (215) 923-3811, nmajh.org
  • The African American Museum in Philadelphia hosts a family-friendly Kwanzaa Celebration, with a candle-lighting ceremony, storytelling, music, crafts and other activities. People are encouraged to bring a canned good donation to benefit Philabundance. December 27-28. 701 Arch Street, (215) 574-0380, aampmuseum.org

Ring In The New Year:

  • Holiday visitors to the National Constitution Center can play a part in the New Year’s Show, where they 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 26-31. 525 Arch Street, (215) 409-6600, constitutioncenter.org
  • Please Touch Museum® celebrates 2015 early with Countdown 2 Noon. The museum opens at 9:00 a.m. and holds “Noon Year” party activities, complete with with music and confetti. Countdowns take place at noon and 1:00 p.m. December 31. 4231 Avenue of the Republic, (215) 581-3181, pleasetouchmuseum.org
  • Revelers with early bedtimes can party at Franklin Square’s Kids’ New Year’s Eve Countdown, featuring a 6:00 p.m. “square” drop, a kids’ dance party in the pavilion and a great view of the early fireworks show at Penn’s Landing. While there, partygoers can catch the Franklin-inspired Electrical Spectacle light show (see above description). December 31. 6th & Race Streets, (215) 629-4026, historicphiladelphia.org
  • 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. Sparkling cider toast and panoramic views of fireworks make it a festive, family-friendly affair. December 31. 211 S. Columbus Boulevard, (215) 413-8655, phillyseaport.org
  • Penn’s Landing is the place to ring in the New Year. SugarHouse Casino’s New Year’s Eve Fireworks on the Waterfront explode over the Delaware River two times—at 6:00 p.m. and again at midnight. Folks can lace up their ice skates for the Holiday Party on Ice at the Blue Cross RiverRink, featuring entertainment, party favors and great views. And the festivities inside the Waterfront Winterfest tent add a cozy touch to the start of the New Year. December 31. Columbus Boulevard at Market Street, (215) 925-RINK, delawareriverevents.com
  • The Mummers Parade, the only-in-Philly tradition that dates back to 1901, is taking a new route to ring in the New Year. All the feathers, sequins, music and merriment that mark the festivities will still be on display, but now fans have more opportunities to view the Comics, Wenches, Fancies, Fancy Brigades and the String Bands perform their routines. The String Bands will line up on Benjamin Franklin Parkway between 16th and 18th Streets; the other divisions will line up on John F. Kennedy Boulevard between 16th and 22nd Streets. After the judging at City Hall, the groups will leave their props behind and get down to some serious performing for the crowds as they head to Broad Street and march south to Washington Avenue. Revelers should 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 Brigade Finale competition at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, where clubs perform their Broadway-style music-and-dance routines for prizes and bragging rights. Tickets for parade bleacher seating at City Hall and for the Fancy Brigades are both available at the Independence Visitor Center, 6th & Market Streets, (215) 965-7676, phlvisitorcenter.com; tickets for the competition at the Convention Center are also available at (800) 298-4200, comcasttix.com

VISIT PHILADELPHIA, formerly known as Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation, makes Philadelphia and The Countryside® a premier destination through marketing and image building that increases the number of visitors, the number of nights they stay and the number of things they do in the five-county area.

Greater Philadelphia’s official visitor website and blog, visitphilly.com and uwishunu.com make up the most-visited website network out of the 10 biggest U.S. cities. Visitors can explore things to do, upcoming events, themed itineraries and hotel packages. Compelling photography and videos, interactive maps and detailed visitor information make the sites effective trip-planning tools. Along with Visit Philly social media channels, the online platforms communicate directly with consumers. Travelers can also call and stop into the Independence Visitor Center for additional information and tickets.

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