New Year's in Philadelphia is huge this year, with an entire action-packed week starting December 24, 2012 through January 1, 2013. (Photo credits, clockwise from top left: G. Widman for GPTMC, R. Kennedy for GPTMC, G. Widman for GPTMC, B. Krist for GPTMC)
From Christmas until New Year’s Day, school vacation and a typically slow work week give you the perfect inspiration to get out in Philadelphia for an action-packed week of holiday events.
One of the most anticipated happenings of New Year’s Week, the conclusion of a jam-packed holiday season, is the annual and iconic Mummers Parade, a day-long extravaganza that sends thousands of men, women and children strutting, dancing and playing music up Broad Street.
But there will be tons of other fun festivities to consider before that, including A Longwood Gardens Christmas, Scuba Santa, Macy’s Christmas Light Show, Comcast Holiday Spectacular and more, all leading up to the two spectacular New Year’s Eve fireworks shows on the Delaware River Waterfront presented by Sugarhouse Casino.
Here’s your guide to all of the festivals, theaters, exhibits, lights and New Year’s events to plan your week around. And be sure to follow us on Twitter for more.
Light It Up
• Macy’s Christmas Light Show in Center City: An annual Philadelphia tradition since 1956, the Macy’s Christmas Light Show bedazzles visitors daily, on the hour every hour, until New Year’s Eve Day. With more than 100,000 LED lights and the sounds of the legendary Wanamaker organ, the Grand Court atrium becomes adorned with floating snowflakes and flying reindeer. Don’t forget to check out the Dickens Village on the third floor.
• Comcast Holiday Light Spectacular: Through January 1, experience high-definition visions of sugarplums during the fifth year of the Comcast Holiday Spectacular. Shown on the world’s largest 4-mm LED Comcast Experience Video Wall at the Comcast Center, the Holiday Spectacular features scenes from George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker performed by the Pennsylvania Ballet, a magical sleigh ride through the snow-covered Pennsylvania countryside into Center City Philadelphia and performances by some of Broadway’s best-known dancers. Shows are 15 minutes long and run every hour on the hour from 10 a.m.–8 p.m. (no shows at 5 p.m. during the week).
• Longwood Gardens Christmas: No holiday is complete without a visit to Longwood Gardens, where more than 400,000 twinkling lights and spectacular fountain shows compose a brilliant wonderland your family is sure to love. Starting at 3:30 p.m. every day through January 6, gaze upon the large, starry snowflakes and icicles that sparkle throughout the gardens before warming up in heated conservatory with twenty “rooms” featuring festive displays of floral garlands, sparkling trees like the City Hall tree at Love Park and more. Timed advance tickets are required and sell out quickly, so get yours here ASAP.
Much more New Year’s Week fun, below.
• Please Touch Museum’s Enchanted Colonial Village: With support from The Philadelphia Foundation, intricately restored Colonial scenes will be on display through January 2 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.
• Adventure Aquarium’s Christmas Celebration: Scuba Santa adds a holiday twist to the year-round underwater creatures during Adventure Aquarium’s Christmas Celebration. After watching in awe as the big guy dives into the 760,000-gallon tank, kids can write him personalized letters and snap a photo with him on dry land. From now until January 1, the aquarium transforms into an underwater winter wonderland with decorations, twinkling lights, glowing trees, holiday characters and even snow — plus 8,500 animals.
• A Brandywine Christmas at the Brandywine River Museum: From now through January 6, A Brandywine Christmas takes over the Brandywine River Museum, home to a large collection of Wyeth family paintings. On view: a display of trees featuring “critters” and all things natural, a Victorian dollhouse, the Christmas Village, a model railroad with more than 2,000 feet of track and exquisitely crafted jewelry inspired by Andrew Wyeth’s paintings.
• Morris Arboretum’s Holiday Garden Railway: The Holiday Garden Railway at Morris Arboretum resembles a miniature winter wonderland amid the evergreens. The exhibit features a quarter-mile of model-train track with twinkling lights, seven loops and tunnels with 15 different rail lines, cable cars, bridges and trains that cruise past scaled replicas of historic monuments and Philadelphia-area landmarks made from all-natural materials. Visit the rails now through December 31.
• The African American Museum Kwanzaa Celebration: From December 29-30, The African American Museum in Philadelphia will host a Kwanzaa Celebration for the whole family with jam-packed afternoons of celebratory activities. There’s free admission for those who bring a canned-good donation for Philabundance.
• National Constitution Center New Year’s Week: The National Constitution Center celebrates the end of 2012 and beginning of 2013 all week long, December 26-31, with free festivities and programming for all ages. Children are invited to create crafts, including holiday confetti crackers and New Year’s noise makers and hats; join in interactive shows; and sing holiday favorites such as “Let it Snow” and “Winter Wonderland” during a special karaoke sing-along. Be sure to check the entire schedule of awesome New Year’s events here including special exhibits like the last day of On My Honor: 100 Years of Girl Scouting and more.
• New Year’s Week at the Academy of Natural Sciences: You can find a whole week of exciting events for New Year’s Week just at the Academy of Natural Sciences alone. Th fun begins on December 27 with Dinosaur Day, then continues the next day as live animals roam the museum with Academy naturalists on the December 28. Check out some creepy-crawly specimens on Bug Day, December 29, and allow them to spark your creepy curiosities at Weird-Thing-In-A-Jar Day on December 30 where you will see the baffling bottled specimens they’ve been collecting for the past 200 years.
• The Nutcracker at the Kimmel Center: A Philadelphia tradition perfect for holiday lovers of all ages, the Pennsylvania Ballet dazzles at the Academy of Music during George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker. Performed for the first time in 1987, the whimsical and enchanting fairy tale is a timeless tradition that’s embraced by the region each year. This December, the PA Ballet’s classic production of The Nutcracker also welcomes the Philadelphia Boys choir as well as dozens of local dance students to join in on the festive celebration. Through December 30.
• Plaid Tidings at the Walnut Street Theatre: Plaid Tidings, playing through December 30 at the Walnut Street Theatre, drums up the holiday spirit with festive favorites performed by the boy group Forever Plaid.
• Cinderella at the Arden Theatre: The Arden Theatre Company invites people to an imaginative retelling of the classic glass-slipper story, Cinderella, set to the music of Mozart and filled with surprises for the whole family, now through January 27.
• Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Art After 5 New Year’s Eve Pre-Party: From 5-8:45 p.m. on Friday, December 28, Art After 5 will include performances from special guests Matthew Piazzi and the Debonairs’ classic holiday doo-wop, rock ‘n’ roll and soul.
• Walking Fish Theatre’s The Young Adventures of Santa, A Yuletide Burlesque: Walking Fish Theatre in Fishtown will be hosting this “adult holiday show” from December 19-31. Written and directed by Stan Heleva, it’s by no means your typical holiday performance — this Santa was abandoned as an infant and raised by a lioness and a bunch of nymphs. You can imagine what might be seen with this interesting cast of characters.
• Cirque Éloize | iD at the Kimmel Center: Broadway comes to Philadelphia just in time to celebrate the coming of the New Year with this captivating theatrical circus perfect for the entire family. Think acrobats, break dancers, contortionists and beyond. The mind-blowing kaleidoscope colors you’ll see at Cirque Eloize is sure to be a holiday hit. Shows are on stage December 26-30; get tickets here.
• Jekyll and Hyde at the Forrest Theatre: The hit musical Jekyll and Hyde will help you wrap up the year 2012 in thrilling fashion when it plays at the Forrest Theatre, December 26-30. Inspired by Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic gothic novella The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the show tells the intriguing tale of a man who embodies the extremes of both good and evil in 19th century London, England.
• American Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition at the National Constitution Center: Celebrating spirits of a different kind, the National Constitution Center takes a look at Prohibition in American Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition. Visitors can explore a re-created speakeasy, learn how to dance the Charleston, take a quiz to find out if they would have been a “wet” or a “dry” and trace how the temperance movement resulted in the 18th Amendment with the carnival-inspired Wayne Wheeler’s Amazing Amendment Machine.
• Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition at the Franklin Institute: At The Franklin Institute, Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition unveils a startling collection of 212 artifacts—china, candlesticks, tiepins, silver dollars and more—recovered from the wreck site that tell stories of drama and tragedy, humanity and heroism. The display documents the ship’s construction and launch, life on board the doomed vessel, the tale of the sinking and dramatic rescue of some 700 people, the discovery of the buried ship 73 years after it was lost and the conservation efforts in recent years.
• Maya 2012: Lords of Time at the Penn Museum: If we make it, the Penn Museum features Maya 2012: Lords of Time through January 13. The exhibition guides visitors on a journey through the time-ordered universe of the ancient Mayan civilization with interactive experiences, full-sized replicas of major monuments and more than 100 remarkable objects and artifacts.
• Building a Masterpiece: Frank Furness’ Factory for Art at PAFA: For the first time ever, the complete collection of original drawings created in the design of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) will be on display at PAFA itself. Building a Masterpiece: Frank Furness’ Factory for Art shows original designs by Furness and his partner George Hewitt and traces how they changed and adapted the design throughout the project. Through December 30.
• Dancing Around the Bride at the Philadelphia Museum of Art: The Philadelphia Museum of Art presents the first exhibition to explore the interwoven lives and works of these influential Americans: artist Marcel Duchamp, composer John Cage, choreographer Merce Cunningham and visual artists Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg. With more than 80 objects, stage sets, musical compositions, videos of dance and live performances, visitors explore and interact with the artists’ creative spirit. Bonus: On Friday night, December 28, the museum’s weekly Art After 5 gets festive, with cocktails, upbeat music and plenty of art, of course.
• Gotham Classic — Temple Men’s Basketball vs. Detroit: With the installation of a state-of-the-art video board, Temple Basketball games at the Liacouras Center are even more exciting than ever before. Don’t miss the Gotham Classic on December 28, when the Owls will take on the Detroit Titans at 3 p.m. sharp.
• Drexel vs. St. Joe’s Basketball: An exciting New Year’s Eve face-off will take place when Philly rivals The Drexel Dragons host the Hawks of St. Joe’s, 4 p.m. at The DAC, 33rd and Market Street. Pack the dac!
• Eagles vs. Giants: The Birds are away for this December 30 match-up, but it’s a huge game and there are plenty of places to watch it here in Philadelphia. A few our favorites: Piazza jumbotron, Chickie’s & Pete’s, City Tap House, McGillin’s Old Ale House and Brauhaus Schmitz. Also check out Drink Philly’s Philadelphia Football Gameday Drink Specials roundup.
New Year’s Eve
Here’s just a sampling of some of the official New Year’s Eve events this year. For all our New Year’s Eve coverage, follow along here.
• SugarHouse New Year’s Eve Fireworks on the Waterfront: New Year’s Eve partiers along Penn’s Landing ring in 2013 two times, with the return of SugarHouse New Year’s Eve Fireworks on the Waterfront at Columbus Boulevard, illuminating the night sky at 6 p.m. and midnight.
• Please Touch Museum’s Countdown to Noon: The Please Touch Museum celebrates 2013 early with Countdown to Noon on December 31. The museum opens at 9 a.m. and holds “Noon Year” party activities with music and confetti. Countdowns take place two times this year at noon and 1 p.m.
• Kids’ New Year’s Eve Countdown at Franklin Square: 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 p.m. “square” drop and a great view of the fireworks show at Penn’s Landing.
• National Constitution Center New Year’s Show: 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.” Guests can also send season’s greetings to the men and women serving overseas in the Armed Forces at special Soldier Mail Call stations. Be sure to check the entire schedule of awesome New Year’s Eve events here including special exhibits like the last day of On My Honor: 100 Years of Girl Scouting and more.
• Independence Seaport Museum Annual Family Fireworks Viewing Party: Maritime merriment abounds on New Year’s Eve when the Independence Seaport Museum stays open late for the Annual Family Fireworks Viewing Party (4-6:30 p.m.) on the museum’s second-floor balcony, complete with a sparkling cider toast and panoramic views of the sparkling sky.
• Blue Cross RiverRink’s New Year’s Eve Party on Ice: Winter sports enthusiasts celebrate at the Blue Cross RiverRink’s New Year’s Eve Party on Ice, a family-friendly affair that boasts one of the best views of the city’s breathtaking fireworks displays over the Delaware River at 6 p.m. and midnight. Skaters can catch both of the sparkling shows during the early (5-7 p.m.) and late (11 p.m.-1 a.m.) parties.
• Spirit of Philadelphia’s New Year’s Eve Dinner Cruise on the Delaware River: 2012 comes to a close with a splash aboard the Spirit of Philadelphia’s New Year’s Eve dinner cruise on the Delaware River. This New Year’s bash includes dinner, premium open bar, live DJs, a champagne toast at midnight and a terrific view of the fireworks. Families can opt for the 4 p.m. early-bird cruise with prime views of the 6 p.m. fireworks.
• Philadelphia Orchestra’s New Year’s Eve Concert: Culture lovers can conclude 2012 and ring in 2013 with the time-honored tradition of the Philadelphia Orchestra’s New Year’s Eve Concert, this year conducted by new Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin. Highlights of the Kimmel Center show include Haydn’s light-hearted Farewell symphony, Bernstein’s Mambo and Falla’s Ritual Fire Dance. Onstage dancers amp up the festive atmosphere.
New Year’s Day
• Mummers New Years Day Parade: For a Philadelphia experience that’s as traditional as cheesesteaks, a pilgrimage to the Mummers Parade on New Year’s Day is a must. 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 a.m. at the intersection of Broad Street and Snyder Avenue and proceeds to City Hall, followed by a ticketed competition at the Pennsylvania Convention Center (back this year after a brief hiatus). Spectators should purchase tickets ahead of time to sit in the judging stand or get there early to find a spot along the parade route. Stay tuned for more details.