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)
[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.]
’Tis the season for all things merry and bright in Philadelphia. Though early sunsets make for dark winter evenings, the twinkle of holiday lights across the region illuminate attractions, neighborhoods and the city’s night skies.
Get in the holiday spirit with a drive, walk or visit to some of Philadelphia’s brightest spots for holiday lights this season.
Soak up the sparkle at premier destinations like the longstanding Macy’s Christmas Light Show — a tradition since 1956 — or discover a new holiday light display at Franklin Square as it presents its Electrical Spectacle: A Holiday Light Show, a daily light show to the tunes of the Philly Pops.
Our top picks for holiday lights in the Philadelphia region, below.
• Macy’s Christmas Light Show: An annual Philadelphia tradition since 1956, the Macy’s Christmas Light Show dazzles visitors daily, beginning on November 29 and running through December 31, on the hour every two hours from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. 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 Spectacular: From November 28 through January 1, experience high-definition visions of sugarplums during the sixth year of the Comcast Holiday Spectacular. Shown on the world’s highest-resolution 4-mm LED video wall, the Holiday Spectacular has been updated with new scenes and computer generated animations for the 2013 season. Shows are 15 minutes long and run every hour on the hour from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. (no shows at 5 p.m. during the week).
• Electrical Spectacle: A Holiday Light Show at Franklin Square: The holiday magic at Ben Franklin’s namesake park begins with the new Franklin Square’s Electrical Spectacle: A Holiday Light Show, featuring a 10-foot-tall kite made of lights that sparkle and spread the glow to lights throughout the square. The show runs every 30 minutes between 4:30 and 8 p.m., weather permitting. The shows run through December 31 with the exception of Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Boathouse Row welcomes the season with holiday-themed lights draped on the rowing club boathouses. (Photo by R. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia)
• Bright Lights, Big Santa at Blue Cross River Rink: All new for the Blue Cross RiverRink’s 20th-anniversary season at Penn’s Landing, Bright Lights, Big Santa introduces a festive mash-up of color, lights, hip-hop beats and dancing elves that all come together in 3D light show accompanied by holiday music. Part of the brand-new Waterfront Winterfest — complete with pine trees, fire pits, a heated pop-up restaurant, craft market and other activities — the light show runs every hour between 5 and 11 p.m.
• Rittenhouse Square Christmas Tree: Rittenhouse Square transforms into a holiday wonderland with the flip of a switch, as the park illuminates a 35-foot tall Christmas tree with 5,000 brilliant, multi-colored globes and lights. The ceremony is on Tuesday, December 3 at 5 p.m. After enjoying the glow of the park, sneak in some holiday shopping at the boutiques of Rittenhouse Row or a bite and a drink from one of the many acclaimed restaurants in the neighborhood.
• Christmas Village at Love Park: For its sixth year, the Christmas Village will once again be at Love Park complete with more than 60 decorated wooden booths packed with European food, sweets and drinks, international seasonal gifts, traditional German Christmas ornaments and high-quality arts and crafts. As you shop and explore, enjoy live musical performances, hot mulled wine, bratwursts and City Hall’s brightly lit holiday tree. It’s open through New Year’s Day, but take note, Christmas Village is closed on Christmas Day.
The annual Macy's Christmas Light Show dazzles visitors of all ages with more than 100,000 bright LED lights creating holiday images. (Photo by G. Widman for Visit Philadelphia)
Read on for more holiday lights in the Philadelphia region.
• Boathouse Row: One of Philadelphia’s most memorable nighttime vistas is that of Boathouse Row, made up of a dozen sculling clubs that line the Schuylkill River behind the Philadelphia Museum of Art. In 2009, new full-color, energy-efficient LED light nodes were hung to showcase the intricate architectural details of the clubs. Now a drive or stroll along the river results in an eye-popping lighting marvel that normally glows white but can change to celebrate a holiday or civic celebration, a charity appeal or a significant professional sporting win.
• Longwood Gardens Christmas: No holiday is complete without a visit to Longwood Gardens, where more than 500,000 twinkling lights and spectacular fountain shows compose a brilliant wonderland your family is sure to love. Starting at 3:30 p.m. every day from November 28 through January 12, 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 and more. No two years are alike, though, each year, Longwood Gardens presents different holiday lights, decorations and displays. Timed advance tickets are required and sell out quickly, so be sure to reserve your spot in advance.
The jewels of Jewelers Row aren't the only things that sparkle come Christmas, look to the sky for decorations and holiday messages. (Photo by J. Fusco for Visit Philadelphia)
• Christmas in Peddler’s Village: Each evening, beginning with the Grand Illumination on Friday, November 22, Peddler’s Village shimmers in the warm glow of one million jewel-colored twinkling lights and holiday greenery. From the treetops to the Colonial-style buildings to the quaint shops, the whole landscape sparkles and glows—making it the perfect setting for sipping cider, toasting marshmallows, holiday shopping, visiting Santa and more.
• Holiday Garden Railway at Morris Arboretum: Beginning on Friday, November 22, miniature winter wonderland amid the evergreens awaits visitors of Morris Arboretum. The Holiday Garden Railway display is a quarter mile of model train track featuring seven loops and tunnels with 15 different rail lines, two cable cars, nine bridges and trains that cruise past scaled replicas of historic monuments and Philadelphia-area landmarks made from all-natural materials.
• Parade of Lights at the Independence Seaport Museum: The Independence Seaport Museum parades boats doused in illuminated color just outside its doors on the Delaware River on Saturday, December 14 at 3 p.m. For the price of museum admission, guests will get a look at the magical holiday display and even get to hear some carolers sing, meet and greet with Santa and enjoy some light refreshments at this all-inclusive seaport spectacle.
• Miracle on South 13th Street in South Philly: In South Philly, just a few blocks off of bustling East Passyunk Avenue, the 1600 block of South 13th Street is known in Philadelphia as the Miracle on South 13th Street. The elaborate lights hung on neighborhood homes along this stretch, which has been a holiday-lights destination for more than a dozen years, is seriously a must-see.
• 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.
This year, Franklin Square welcomes a brand-new holiday light show set to Christmas carol recordings by the Philly Pops. (Photo by J. Fusco courtesy Historic Philadelphia)
• Holiday Light Show at Shady Brook Farm: Beginning on November 22 and running through January 5, millions of lights sparkle at Shady Brook Farm during the incredible Holiday Light Show. Experience the magical drive in your own car or hop on a moonlit hayride or horse and buggy. Monday through Thursday is when the real tractor hayrides will happen, but then Thursdays through Sundays, you’ll ride around the display in a horse-drawn carriage. Also, don’t forget to stop and get your picture taken with Santa at Santa’s Village. Reservations are recommended.
• Christmas Around the Farm at Linvilla Orchards: For the holidays, Linvilla Orchards transforms into the North Pole — farm style. Get into the holiday spirit by taking a look at the animals in their winter coats and doing a little shopping at the market that’s stocked with tasty holiday treats like hot mulled cider. Santa makes a guest appearance every Saturday and Sunday in December, and on select afternoons, visitors can sing along during Caroling Hayrides, complete with live music and apple cider. Plus, beginning on November 23, families are invited to embark on a hayride through the Christmas tree fields for the cut your own Christmas tree event.
• Herr’s Snack Factory Tour 12 Days of Christmas: Responsible for one of the region’s most celebrated snack foods, Herr’s Factory is fully decked out for the holidays. They’ll be hosting a manner of Christmas-themed events, from December 9 through 21 (with the exception of November 15), centered around the light display which is now in its 24th year. On December 12, bring out the family for hayrides through the Christmas lights and carols from a local church. The annual light display features more than 400,000 lights arranged throughout the complex.
As seen above from a previous year's show, Longwood Gardens transforms into a festive haven with more than 500,000 lights, Christmas trees and holiday decorations for its annual Christmas event, a celebration featuring varying themes every year. (Photo courtesy Longwood Gardens)