A quintessential holiday destination, Blue Cross RiverRink, celebrates its 20th anniversary with tons of exciting new additions and of course, lots of ice skating. (Photo by G. Widman for Visit Philadelphia)
[This holiday season, let Uwishunu be your merry guide. From brilliant lights and must-see attractions to festive events and jolly good times, check out our daily updates on holiday happenings in Philadelphia right here.]
The City of Brotherly Love embraces the most wonderful time of the year, hosting a festive array of iconic holiday attractions.
Whether you’re looking to skate the brand-new ice rink at The Piazza at Schmidt’s, shop the popular German-style Christmas Market at Love Park, or check out Reading Terminal Market’s well-loved holiday railroad this season, Philadelphia is the place to be.
Below, we’ve compiled a list of the city’s marquee holiday attractions that are well worth the trip to each neighborhood or countryside town.
Read on for our must-see holiday attractions this season.
• Thanksgiving Day Parade: November 28, Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Philadelphia’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is the city’s unofficial kick-off for the holiday season and is the oldest Thanksgiving Day parade in the country. Pretty impressive. Celebrate the age-old event as it brings festive floats, giant balloons and local performers from local choirs, dance groups and marching bands beginning at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, November 28. The parade kicks off at 20th Street and JFK Boulevard, from there it makes its way to Benjamin Franklin Parkway and Logan Circle.
• Comcast Holiday Spectacular: November 28-January 1, 1701 JFK Boulevard. Prepare to be impressed by the Comcast Holiday Spectacular, a festive film experience on one of the largest four-millimeter LED screens in the world featuring enchanting holiday scenes and computer generated animations. Located in the lobby of the Comcast Center in Center City, the shows run every hour on the hour from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. (no shows at 5 p.m. during the week). Note, the Comcast Holiday Spectacular opens on Thanksgiving Day at 10 a.m.
• Waterfront Winterfest: November 29-January 5, Columbus Boulevard and Market Street. 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 to 11 p.m. Plus, under a massive 400-person warming tent folks enjoy comfort food, holiday cocktails and local beer.
• Macy’s Christmas Light Show: November 29–December 31, 1300 Market Street. 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 that dance to the sounds of the Wanamaker Organ. Performances take place at the top of the hour, every two hours, from 10 a.m to 8 p.m.
Every holiday season, The Pennsylvania Ballet performs the classic Christmas show, George Balanchine's The Nutcracker, to celebrate the season with theater-goers of all ages. (Photo by B. Krist for Visit Philadelphia)
• Skate at The Piazza: November 30-February 23, 1001 N. 2nd Street. For the first time ever, The Piazza at Schmidt’s welcomes a 5,000-square-foot pop-up ice-skating rink to its Northern Liberties grounds for winter revelers. Every day from November 30 through February 23, bring your own ice skates (or rent a pair for $1) and show off your finest twirl at the pop-up ice rink. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for children.
• Electrical Spectacle: A Holiday Light Show at Franklin Square: Through December 31, 6th and Race streets. This year, Ben Franklin’s namesake park unveiled a brand-new holiday light show, Electrical Spectacle: A Holiday Light Show. The show features a 10-foot-tall kite made of lights that sparkle and spread the glow to lights throughout the square and tunes recorded by the Philly Pops, and runs every 30 minutes between 4:30 and 8 p.m., weather permitting. Other festivities include visits from Santa, rides on the holiday train and 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. Take note, Franklin Square is closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas.
• Blue Cross RiverRink: November 29-March 2, 2014, Columbus Boulevard at Market Street. Ice skating is synonymous with the winter holiday season. Join the Blue Cross RiverRink during its 20th season. Located right on the Delaware River, the rink affords beautiful views to skate into the holiday season. Plus, this year it ushers in a restaurant, fire pits, beer garden and more for the brand-new Waterfront Winterfest.
• Reading Terminal Market Holiday Railroad: November 29-December 31, 51 N. 12th Street. Reading Terminal Market, Philadelphia’s indoor haven for all things food, sets up a super impressive 500-square-foot holiday railroad in its main court beginning on Friday, November 29. Every holiday season, guests ooh and aah over the 12 working train lines and miniature scenery of Center City and the countryside.
• Rittenhouse Square Christmas Tree: Rittenhouse Square, 18th and Walnut streets. On Tuesday, December 3 at 5 p.m. head over to Rittenhouse Square for the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony. Watch the 35-foot tree light up for the season, after which it will be standing all holiday season to greet shoppers as they walk through the square. After the lighting, stick around the neighborhood for happy hour, dinner and some holiday shopping.
Philadelphia is home to the country's oldest Thanksgiving Day Parade. It's the unofficial kick-off to the holiday season in Philadelphia and fun for the entire family. (Photo by M. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia)
• A Brandywine Christmas: November 29-January 5, 1 Hoffman’s Mill Road, Chadds Ford. A Brandywine Christmas takes over the Brandywine River Museum with a display of trees featuring critter ornaments, a Victorian dollhouse, rare antique dolls and one of the largest O-gauge model railroad displays in the country. Be sure to make a special trip for the annual critter ornament sale on December 7 and 8.
More must-see holiday attractions, below.
• Christmas Village at Love Park: November 28-January 1, 1599 JFK Boulevard. Opening on Thanksgiving Day, 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, visitors have even more time to shop and enjoy the entertainment as the village extends its season for the first time ever.
• Fairmount Park Holiday Mansions: December 4-15, Various locations throughout Fairmount Park. 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. For much of the month of December, visitors can embark on tours of Cedar Grove, Mount Pleasant, Laurel Hill, Lemon Hill, Strawberry Mansion and Woodford Mansion. Those who prefer a self-guided or a trolley tour can do just that from December 5 through 8 and December 12 through 15. The trolley tours show off three houses in the morning and three different houses in the afternoon.
• The Pennsylvania Ballet Presents George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker: December 7-29, Broad and Locust streets. A beloved holiday tradition, the Pennsylvania Ballet presents George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker at 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.
Franklin Square transforms into a true winter wonderland every holiday season, ut this year flips the switch on a brand-new holiday light show. (Photo by G. Widman for Visit Philadelphia)
• Morris Arboretum’s Holiday Garden Railway: November 22-January 5, 100 E. Northwestern Avenue. 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.
• Longwood Gardens Christmas: November 28-January 12, 1001 Longwood Road, Kennett Square. 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.
• Franklin Flea: Saturdays through December 21 and Friday, December 20, 801 Market Street. Holiday shopping has never been so easy. The Franklin Flea indoor market opened its doors for its first season in 2013. The weekly market promises treasure-seekers a wide variety of unique items from a number of vendors. Look forward to vintage clothing, furniture, collectibles, jewelry and more at the carefully curated shopping destination. Pair your shopping with drinks and bites from some of the city’s fantastic food vendors, too.
• Neighborhood Christmas Lights & Displays in South Philadelphia: Locals have long known that the place to go for a boost of holiday spirit is South Philadelphia, a traditionally Italian enclave where the combination of civic pride and neighborhood camaraderie come together to create eye-popping homegrown lighting displays. Colorado and Smedley Streets are particular favorites for an instant jolt of seasonal spirit.
• Sister Cities Park Winterfest: Saturdays, December 7, 14, 21, 11 a.m.-2 p.m., 18th Street and Logan Square. On Saturday December 7, 14 and 21, Sister Cities Park transforms into a family-friendly winter wonderland for its Winterfest event. Every Saturday afternoon brings varied events to the Logan Square park. Look forward to arts and crafts, hot chocolate, holiday shopping, time with Santa, visitors from The Franklin Institute, Academy of Natural Sciences and much more. The events run from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. each week.
Every year, Longwood Gardens sets up a different arrangement of 500,000 twinkling LED lights, holiday decorations, plants, Christmas trees and more for its Christmas celebration both inside and outside at the historic grounds, including within the glistening conservatory. (Photo courtesy Longwood Gardens)
• Christmasland at Linvilla Orchards: December 1-24, 137 W. Knowlton Road, Media. 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.
• The Enchanted Colonial Village at the Please Touch Museum: Through January 2, 4231 Avenue of the Republic. The 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.
• Byers’ Choice Traditional Christmas Market: Through December 31, 4355 County Line Road, Chalfont. 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) in addition to spirited events throughout the season. Note that the holiday market is closed on major holidays.
The Great Stair Hall of the Philadelphia Museum of Art is decorated beautifully for the holiday season. (Photo courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art)
• Annual Gingerbread House Competition and Display at Peddler’s Village: November 22-January 4, Routes 202 & 263, Lahaska. 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.
• New Year’s Eve Fireworks on the Waterfront: December 31, 6 p.m. & midnight. 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.
• The Mummer’s Parade: January 1, Throughout Philadelphia. The Mummer’s 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 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.
The Philadelphia region illuminates the holiday skies with light displays from the city to countryside including South Philadelphia where neighbors pool resources to create amazing displays that attract folks from all corners of town. (Photo by J. Fusco for Visit Philadelphia)