Our Guide To Waterfront Winterfest, Celebrating Blue Cross RiverRink With A Pop-Up Beer Garden, Craft Market, Fire Pits, A Light Show And More, November 29-January 5

Waterfront Winterfest transforms the annual Blue Cross RiverRink into a winter wonderland with ice skating, a holiday market, beer garden and more. (Photo at top by G. Widman for Visit Philadelphia, others by Matt Stanley for DRWC)

This winter, Philadelphians have little excuse to hide from the chilly season thanks to the outstanding outdoor fun in the works at Penn’s Landing — think ice skating, fire pits, hot food, warming libations, local shopping and live entertainment.

Penn’s Landing’s Blue Cross RiverRink celebrates 20 years of ice skating on the Delaware River in 2013 by transforming the annual waterfront rink into a veritable winter wonderland.

Opening right after Thanksgiving on Friday, November 29, Waterfront Winterfest takes the perennial good times of Blue Cross RiverRink to a whole new level, overhauling Penn’s Landing into a pop-up holiday village a for 37 days between Thanksgiving and New Year’s with a Four Corners Management-run bar and restaurant, pop-up garden-style landscaping, a light and video show, and a retail shopping experience.

Read on for a rundown of what’s popping up at Penn’s Landing, and get ready to practice your triple axel and sip craft brews beside the fire.


A wintertime tradition for 20 years, the Blue Cross RiverRink, an Olympic-size rink overlooking the Delaware River, remains the centerpiece of the souped-up waterfront winter village.

To extend the diversions beyond the skating rink, the Delaware River Waterfront tapped David Fierabend of Groundswell Design Group, the same architecture firm that created this past summer’s PHS Pop-Up Garden on Broad Street.

This year, the skating rink location will be transformed into a daily wintertime festival with shipping containers repurposed into a warming tent and pop-up shops, and food and drink served in a fabricated forest setting with pine trees, fire pits, rustic seating and signage.

Waterfront Winterfest opens on Friday, November 29 — Black Friday — and is currently slated to be open daily, 11 a.m. to 1 a.m., through January 5.

Ice Skating at the Blue Cross RiverRink

Blue Cross RiverRink offers skating session hours from November 29 through January 5, Monday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, hours are 1 to 8 p.m., and come New Year’s Eve, skating runs 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.

Of course, expect one heck of a bash for New Year’s Eve in conjunction with the 6 p.m. and midnight fireworks presented by SugarHouse Casino.

After the Winterfest wraps for the season, the RiverRink continues its run through March 2, 2014.

Admission to the Blue Cross RiverRink is $3, and skate rental is available for $10. Admission is free Monday through Thursday before 5 p.m. (December 2-19). Plus, convenient on-site parking is also available for $12.

For more information on skating sessions, including lessons, check here.

The Lodge Warming Tent & Beer Garden

The good people who operate Morgan’s Pier in the summertime — Four Corners Management — bring the team up the Delaware River shore to operate the Waterfront Winterfest’s temporary beer garden.

The pop-up will feature a 500-person warming tent and American-style beer garden dubbed The Lodge, which is the largest public plaza ever created exclusively from recycled shipping containers.

No matter the weather, The Lodge will feel welcoming since it’s covered, heated and equipped with feasting tables for up to 500.

Plus, talented chef George Sabatino is at the kitchen’s helm, serving a variety of seasonal fare. Look for such savory menus items as smoked turkey legs, sweet potato and kale pocket pies, and mashed potato fritters.

Those with a sweet tooth should save room for homemade fudge, chocolate covered popcorn, hand-dipped caramel apples and addictive-sounding caramelized pumpkin donuts.

As for the drinks, expect local craft beers on draft and seasonal sips like mulled apple cider,
spiked chai tea, and old-fashioned hot cocoa. All warm drinks will be available in non-alcoholic versions, too.

Art Star Holiday Market sets up shop for 19 days between November 29 and December 31, and each day will bring a new mix of artists. (Image courtesy Art Star)

Concessions will also be available at other points throughout the Winterfest grounds, including in a winter garden area with grab-and-go eats by Scott Schroeder of American Sardine Bar, as well as food carts featuring cookies from Cookie Confidential, hot dogs, housemade breakfast sausage patties and roasted peanuts.

The menu will be available on the official opening day of Waterfront Winterfest, Friday, November 29.

Ongoing, hot concessions from inside The Lodge will be available Monday through Friday 5 to 10 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday noon to 10 p.m.

The Art Star Holiday Market

As for holiday shopping, the crafty folks behind the Art Star Craft Bazaar are curating a winter-themed retail experience with vendors housed inside repurposed shipping containers.

The Art Star Holiday Market brings out handmade gifts by some of the best indie crafters from Philadelphia and beyond to the Delaware River waterfront.

A group of rotating vendors will peddle a range of goods — kids items, clothes, jewelry, posters, pottery and more.

Check here for a look at some of the vendors, including favorites like Black Heart Letterpress, Peg and Awl and Cutesy but not Cutesy.

The craft village will be open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays between November 29 and December 31, with additional holiday hours as Christmas nears on Thursdays, December 19, Monday, December 23.

Bright Lights, Big Santa Light Show

Illuminating the scene, Waterfront Winterfest will display an immersive 3-D light show designed and created by Ricardo Rivera of Klip Collective. Bright Lights, Big Santa will re-imagine old timey holiday light shows with Klip’s patented projection-mapping technology, synced music, festive color, lights, hip-hop beats and a jamming dancing Santa.

The light show is set to go off every evening on the hour, from 5 to 11 p.m.

For a look at what to expect at Winterfest, check out the photos below.

Count us in. See you on the ice!

Waterfront Winterfest
When: November 29-January 5, 11 a.m.-1 a.m.
Where: Penn’s Landing, 101 S. Columbus Boulevard
Cost: Pay as you go
More info: www.waterfrontwinterfest.com

The Blue Cross RiverRink at Penn's Landing offers even more to winter revelers this season thanks to the brand-new Waterfront Winterfest addition, a space that boasts a heated restaurant and beer garden, fire pits, holiday light show and more. (Photo by Mitchell Leff courtesy DRWC)
Waterfront Winterfest at the Blue Cross RiverRink invites guests to warm up next to a fire pit, with a s'more and beer in hand, after an evening of ice skating. (Photo by Matt Stanley courtesy DRWC)
Children and adults alike are invited to head to Waterfront Winterfest at the Blue Cross RiverRink to take in the sights and sounds of the season. (Photo by Matt Stanley courtesy DRWC)
Indulge in festive fare, local craft beers and seasonal sips from the folks who operate Morgan's Pier inside of the The Lodge at Waterfront Winterfest, a 500-person warming tent and American-style beer garden. (Photo by Matt Stanley courtesy DRWC)

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