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'Tis The Season: Holiday Happenings In Philadelphia
The Region Celebrates With Lights, Trees, Parades, Fireworks, Shows & More
Twinkling lights, the echo of carols and a nip in the air all bring a sprinkle of seasonal magic to Philadelphia. This year the festivities get an extra touch of sparkle with the launch of the Philly Holiday Festival, the city’s colorful, seven-week holiday gift to locals and visitors, featuring a new spectacularly lit tree and America’s Garden Capital Maze in Dilworth Park, parades, light shows and two fireworks displays along the Delaware River. Beyond the festivals, revelers can enjoy all of their regional favorites, including the dazzling Longwood Gardens Christmas display and Washington’s annual Crossing of the Delaware River on Christmas Day.
Folks can take in all the seasonal revelry with the winter edition of the Visit Philly Overnight Hotel Package. The deal comes with unprecedented perks this season, including hotel parking, two untimed tickets for Jurassic World: The Exhibition at The Franklin Institute, admission and ice skate rentals for two at Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest, a $20 gift card for use at any of The Garces Group restaurants in Philadelphia, a code from Uber good for a $10 ride for new and existing customers. The package is available at 38 participating Center City hotels from November 25, 2016 through March 19, 2017 and bookable at visitphilly.com.
Here’s a look at the revelry taking place in Philadelphia this holiday season:
Philly Holiday Festival:
- The holiday magic at Ben Franklin’s namesake park comes in the form of the Franklin Square Holiday Festival featuring the Electrical Spectacle Holiday Light Show presented by PECO. The show runs every 30 minutes from 4 to 8 p.m. on weeknights and 4 to 9 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. It showcases a giant lighted kite and 50,000 lights choreographed to holiday music. Other festivities include visits from Santa; rides on the holiday train and carousel; the brand-new Ben’s Bites & Brews, where guests can create and taste a variety of tasty treats; and mini-golf. There’s also the family-friendly 6 p.m. Kids’ New Year’s Eve Countdown and Dance Party with a view of the fireworks. November 10-December 31. Franklin Square, 6th & Race Streets, (215) 629-4026, historicphiladelphia.org
- The holiday season kicks off early at Dilworth Park with the opening of the Rothman Institute Ice Rink & Rothman Institute Cabin and America’s Garden Capital Maze, where visitors can zigzag through an array of seasonal plantings. The cozy cabin provides a comfy refuge for skaters and non-skaters to relax over seasonal snacks, frosty beers and warm beverages. Themed events and holiday activities take place throughout the season. Opens November 11. 1 S. 15th Street, dilworthpark.org
- Holiday shoppers can stock up on handcrafted goods made by local artists, crafters and designers at the Made in Philadelphia Holiday Market in Dilworth Park. Also available: lots of yummy Philly foods that will satisfy shoppers’ cravings and/or make great gifts. November 19-December 24. 1 S. 15th Street, dilworthpark.org
- Santa gets a rousing welcome from thousands of spectators who cheer the dancers, marching bands, floats, costumed characters and others during the 6ABC Dunkin’ Donuts Thanksgiving Day Parade, the oldest in the nation. November 24. 20th Street & John F. Kennedy Boulevard to Eakins Oval on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, 6abc.com/parade
- With wooden houses, twinkling lights and live entertainment, Philadelphia’s German-style Christmas Village—this year, surrounding City Hall—has become a holiday favorite. Here shoppers find popular gifts from Germany and around the world, including glass ornaments, music boxes, nutcrackers and more, while vendors serve up hot mulled wine, gingerbread and bratwursts to keep shoppers warm and satisfied. November 24-December 24. City Hall Courtyard and Northern Apron (north side),1400 John F. Kennedy Boulevard, (215) 268-7606, philachristmas.com
- The Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest’s fire pits, cozy cabanas and a chalet-style lodge surround a winter wonderland and towering holiday tree overlooking the Olympic-size skating rink at Penn’s Landing. Opens November 25; tree lighting, December 2. On New Year’s Eve, the SugarHouse New Year’s Eve Fireworks on the Waterfront light up the sky over the Delaware River at 6 p.m. and again at midnight. Folks can lace up their ice skates for the family-friendly Holiday Parties on Ice, with entertainment, party favors, outdoor seating and great views. December 31. Columbus Boulevard at Market Street, (215) 925-7465, delawareriverwaterfront.com
- A Philadelphia tradition since 1956, the Christmas Light Show at Macy’s in Center City illuminates the Grand Court inside the Wanamaker building, a National Historic Landmark. People of all ages delight in the 100,000 LED lights, narration by Julie Andrews and holiday music from the Wanamaker Organ. Free performances take place every two hours during store hours. November 25-December 31. 1300 Market Street, (215) 241-9000, wanamakerorgan.com
- At the top of the hour, visitors gather in front of the Comcast Experience video wall, one of the world’s highest resolution LED displays, to catch the magic of The Comcast Holiday Spectacular. Throughout the free 15-minute show, dancers from the Pennsylvania Ballet move to music from The Nutcracker, a magical sleigh floats over the Philadelphia countryside and audience members partake in a festive sing-along. Daily, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. (except 5 p.m. on weekdays), November 24-January 1. 17th Street & John F. Kennedy Boulevard, visitphilly.com
- The free Philly Holiday Tree Lighting Celebration officially unwraps the holiday season in the city with the flick of a switch. The 38-foot Philly Holiday Tree will be set atop a multimedia base accented by iconic symbols, including Rocky, the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, the skyline and other representations of the city’s neighborhoods, and it will glow with thousands of lights. The event includes entertainment and holiday giveaways. November 26. 1 S. 15th Street, phila.gov
- The lighting of the tree on Canal View Park leads off Holidays in Manayunk (November 26), with sing-alongs, Santa and more. During the Santa Paws and Holiday Tree Promenade, pets can pose for photos with Santa while local merchants vie for bragging rights for the decorated trees adorning their sidewalks and shop windows (December 3). And runners can work off holiday-induced calories during the Rudolph Run 5K, where costumes are encouraged (December 10). (215) 482-9565, manayunk.com
- Past and present are wrapped up in a bow for Historic Holiday Nights in Old City. Carolers and historical re-enactors signal the start of extended shopping hours on Thursday nights. Boutiques and restaurants treat visitors to special sales and menu items. December 1, 8, 15, 22. (215) 592-7929, oldcitydistrict.org
- During the Mummers Parade, the only-in-Philadelphia New Year’s Day tradition that dates back to 1901, thousands of men, women and children delight and dazzle crowds with feathers, sequins, music and merriment during a day-long romp along Broad Street from City Hall, site of competition among the Comic, Comic Wench and String Band divisions, to Washington Avenue. In the Fancy Brigade Finale competition at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, clubs perform their Broadway-style 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, 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
Twinkling Lights & Outdoor Delights:
- Peddler’s Village throws the switch on the holidays as tens of thousands of lights glimmer during the Grand Illumination Celebration on November 18. Throughout the holiday shopping season, visitors can check out the annual Gingerbread Competition & Display. And on the weekends, Peddler’s hosts visits with Santa at Giggleberry Fair and other special events. November 18-January 1. Routes 202 & 263, Lahaska, (215) 794-4000, peddlersvillage.com
- Oohhs and aahhs, holiday sing-alongs and neighborhood parades mark tree-lighting festivities around the city: Chestnut Hill, November 19, chestnuthillpa.com; Manayunk, November 26, manayunk.com; Rittenhouse Square, November 29, rittenhouserow.org; and South Street, December 4, southstreet.com
- More than three million lights comprise Shady Brook Farm’s Holiday Light Show, a big, bright Bucks County spectacle. 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. November 19-January 8. 931 Stony Hill Road, Yardley, (215) 968-1670, shadybrookfarm.com
- During A Longwood Christmas, thousands of poinsettias, towering Christmas trees and fragrant flowers transform the heated four-acre Conservatory, site of free and ticketed holiday-inspired performances and daily holiday sing-alongs. Outside, 500,000 lights glitter in the trees, and fountains dance to seasonal music. November 24-January 8. 1001 Longwood Road, Kennett Square, (610) 388-1000, longwoodgardens.org
- 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 landmarks adorned with thousands of twinkling lights. Friday Night Lights provide evening viewings on select nights; advanced tickets required. November 25-December 31. 100 E. Northwestern Avenue, (215) 247-5777, morrisarboretum.org
- Philly Urban Adventures gives visitors a taste of how Philadelphia does the holidays with its Center City Holiday Tour. The twice-daily three-hour sightseeing trip visits the Christmas Light Show featuring the Wanamaker Organ at Macy’s, the Comcast Center’s Christmas Spectacular and the Christmas Village at City Hall. November 25-December 31. Tours begin at Philly Tour Hub, 229 Arch Street, (215) 280-3746, urbanadventures.com
- Come December, Linvilla Orchards’ Christmasland glimmers with seasonal delights. The farm displays animals, while the market section is stocked with holiday delights. Every weekend, Santa pops in, and there are arts and crafts activities for youngsters. December 1-24. On select afternoons, visitors can sing along during Wassailing Caroling Hayrides (December 3, 10, 17), roast marshmallows and sip apple cider. And all month long, do-it-yourselfers can cut down their own tree. 137 W. Knowlton Road, Media, (610) 876-7116, linvilla.com
- Phoenixville’s day-to-night Firebird Festival begins with food and craft vendors and more than 70 performers in stores and on the street. Come nightfall, the festival culminates at Friendship Field with the lighting of a wooden phoenix that turns it into a real firebird bonfire. December 3. 203 Fillmore Street, Phoenixville, firebirdfestival.com
- What’s the season like for animals in the rainforest, in the outback and on the farm? For two weekends, Philadelphia Zoo hosts Zoo Noël, showcasing life-size renditions of Mr. Claus in animal habitats around the globe. Guests warm up at the holiday hot chocolate bar, browse the Little Elves’ Gift Shop and meet Santa in the Treehouse. December 3-4, 10-11. 3400 W. Girard Avenue, (215) 243-1100, philadelphiazoo.org
- The Independence Seaport Museum’s Parade of Lights stars working vessels decked out in holiday style. Indoors, participants visit with Santa and join in holiday activities and programs before moving outside to watch lighted and decorated tugboats and other vessels float along the Delaware River. December 10. 211 S. Columbus Boulevard, (215) 413-8655, phillyseaport.org
- The beautiful stone farmhouse that belonged to author Pearl S. Buck transforms each year into Festival of Trees. Twenty-nine designers and artists from across Bucks County add traditional and international touches, from milk house to libraries, bath to bedroom—all with an eye toward the writer’s work and social mission. Candlelight tours are available by reservation. November 8-December 31. 520 Dublin Road, Perkasie, (215) 249-0100, pearlsbuck.org
- A little history, a little beer and a lot of fun are served up when a Redcoat soldier recalls life in British-occupied Philadelphia in 1777 while guiding the over-21 crowd through four cozy pubs during the Tippler’s Tour Cheers & Beers, a holiday-themed event where winter brews, festive libations and delicious snacks are included in the ticket price. Thursdays, November 17-December 29. Independence Visitor Center, 6th & Market Streets, (215) 629-4026, historicphiladelphia.org
- Charming Doylestown keeps Christmas well at two famous sibling sites. The Mercer Museum delivers Under the Tree: A Century of Holiday Trees and Toys, an exhibition of playtime holiday memories from a child’s point of view (November 19-January 2). Formal décor and elegant trees create Winter Wonderland: Holiday Decorations at Fontill Castle (December 2-January 2). Mercer Museum, 84 S. Pine Street, Doylestown, (215) 345-0210; Fontill Castle, E. Court Street and Route 313, (215) 348-9461, mercermuseum.org
- During regular hours, visitors to historic Pennypacker Mills enjoy free guided tours of the richly decorated mansion. November 22-January 8. The house celebrates its vintage roots during the Victorian Christmas Open House. December 10. 5 Haldeman Road, Schwenksville, (610) 287-9349, montcopa.org/pennypackermills
- A Brandywine Christmas takes over the Brandywine River Museum of Art with one of the largest O-gauge model railroad displays in the country, a Victorian dollhouse, rare antique dolls and thousands of Critter ornaments made from natural materials adorning trees. November 25-January 8. 1 Hoffman’s Mill Road, Chadds Ford, (610) 388-2700, brandywinemuseum.org
- Holly Nights light up Pennsbury Manor, the recreation of William Penn’s 17th-century domain. Craftspeople, carolers and re-enactors lead candlelit tours through the house, blacksmith shop, barn and other buildings. Visitors also enjoy Colonial craft demos and treats. December 1-2. 400 Pennsbury Memorial Road, Morrisville, (215) 946-0400, pennsburymanor.org
- For Christmas in Fairmount Park, six decked-out 18th- and 19th-century park mansions—Strawberry Mansion, Cedar Grove, Mount Pleasant, Laurel Hill, Lemon Hill and Woodford Mansion—open their doors for holiday treats and tours. During “A Very Philly Christmas,” (December 3-4, 10-11), each day boasts a different theme: music, food, family and neighbors. December 1-31. (215) 685-0274, holidaysinthepark.com
- During Elfreth’s Alley’s Deck the Alley, residents of the nation’s oldest continuously inhabited street welcome the public to tour their 17th- and 18th-century homes, all decked out in holiday style. Festivities include carolers, refreshments and appearances by Ben Franklin and Colonial Pennsylvania’s own cranky Santa “Belschnickel” himself. December 3. Elfreth’s Alley, (215) 627-8680, elfrethsalley.org
- General George Washington leads a surprise attack on the British during the 65th annual reenactment of Washington Crossing the Delaware River. More than 200 re-enactors don Colonial army uniforms to recreate the daring trek at Washington Crossing Historic Park (PA). Families and history buffs can join in Colonial-era games, demonstrations and activities during the two crossing reenactments. December 11 and 25. Routes 32 & 532, (215) 493-4076, washingtoncrossingpark.org
- At the National Constitution Center, visitors step back in time to explore holiday traditions and moments from American history. Guests learn about December 1776, a turning point of the American Revolution and enjoy Colonial dress-up, 18th-century games and the interactive program Growing Up, American Style. December 26-31. 525 Arch Street, (215) 409-6700, constitutioncenter.org
- 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 1-December 31. 4355 County Line Road, Chalfont, (215) 822-6700, byerschoice.com
- Shopping for holiday treats and snacks is a whole lot more fun at Reading Terminal Market, where the interactive Reading Terminal Holiday Railroad shows off 17 working train lines that travel over one-third mile of track set up on a 500-square-foot model railroad display. November 25-December 31. 12th & Arch Streets, (215) 922-2317, readingterminalmarket.org
Shows & Performances:
- At the Walnut Street Theatre, nostalgia plays a starring role in the stage adaptation of the Dylan Thomas classic A Child’s Christmas in Wales, made all the more delightful with a musical score of contemporary and traditional tunes. November 15-December 23. Youngsters will be spellbound by Scrooge and the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future during the one-hour, kid-friendly performance of A Christmas Carol. November 26-December 23. 825 Walnut Street, (215) 574-3550, walnutstreettheatre.org
- The lovable friends at Sesame Place spread holiday cheer during A Very Furry Christmas. With twinkling lights glittering throughout the park, families can catch the holiday spirit at Santa’s Furry Workshop, enjoy special holiday-themed shows and dance along with the Neighborhood Street Party Christmas Parade. November 19-January 1. 100 Sesame Road, Langhorne, (866) GO-4-ELMO, sesameplace.com
- The 120-voice Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus concert is All Wrapped Up in holiday style as they perform their 35th-anniversary season with popular seasonal hits, along with some musical surprises. December 1-3. Prince Theater, 1412 Chestnut Street, (215) 422-4580, pgmc.org
- Even Scrooge would succumb to the charms of A Philly POPS Christmas. Under the baton of Michael Krajewski, the Philly POPS offer up a concert of confections featuring vocalist Tony DeSare, organist Peter Richard Conte, the Philadelphia Boys Choir, the Philly POPS Festival Chorus and the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas Gospel Choir. December 2-18. Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, Broad & Spruce Streets, (215) 893-1999, phillypops.org
- A beloved tradition, Pennsylvania Ballet presents George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker® at the Academy of Music. Audiences get swept away to the magical “Land of the Sweets” as Tchaikovsky’s iconic score pairs with lavish sets, elegant costumes and the enchanting performances of the dancers. This classic tale touches the hearts of all with its endearing story of a girl, a gift and a wondrous dream. December 9-31. 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 (December 10), featuring an appearance by Santa. And The Glorious Sound of Christmas (December 15-17) and Messiah (December 18-22) are longstanding holiday traditions for music lovers. Another favorite: ringing in the New Year during the New Year’s Eve Concert. Broad & Spruce Streets, (215) 790-5800, kimmelcenter.org
- 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 production of Nutcracker 1776. December 16-17. Merriam Theater, 250 S. Broad Street, (215) 893-1999, kimmelcenter.org
Other Seasonal Celebrations:
- Please Touch Museum begins the season of giving by collecting new and gently used children’s outerwear donations November 21-December 13. December 11, a Christmas Celebration features Santa Claus and the Philly POPS Festival Brass. December 27, a Kwanzaa Celebration has mkeka weaving and the Universal African Dance & Drum Ensemble. December 29, a Hanukkah Celebration features dreidel making and klezmer playing by the West Philadelphia Orchestra. Celebrations at noon and 2 p.m. 4231 Avenue of the Arts, (215) 581-3181, pleasetouchmuseum.org
- Kris Kringle appears 57 floors up at One Liberty Observation Deck’s Spot Your Spot With Santa. Beginning November 25 and continuing weekends November 26-December 18, kids can ride the elevator to chill with Saint Nick—and use the 360º view and zoom-in screens to point out where he and his reindeer team needs to deliver the goods. As part of the holiday program, one child is admitted free with one paid adult, November 25 through December 31.1650 Market Street, (215) 561-DECK, phillyfromthetop.com
- During the Penn Museum’s free Celebrations Around the World festivities, groups from around the region share their cultural heritage with international music and dance performances, craft activities, storytelling and more. December 3. 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, crafts with The Clay Studio and other children’s activities. This year’s edition also features live music from Emmy Award-winning Alex & the Kaleidoscope and access to the special exhibition Bill Graham and the Rock & Roll Revolution. 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. December 30. 701 Arch Street, (215) 574-0380, aampmuseum.org
VISIT PHILADELPHIA® is our name and our mission. As the region’s official tourism marketing agency, we build Greater Philadelphia’s image, drive visitation and boost the economy.
On Greater Philadelphia’s official visitor website and blog, visitphilly.com and uwishunu.com, 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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