Fact: Winter is better with ice skates, twinkling lights, hot cocoa and fireside s’mores.
Good news, Philadelphia: all of those experiences and much more are at hand with the return of the awesome waterfront wonderland, Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest.
Opening to the public just after Thanksgiving Day on Friday, November 25, Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest transforms Penn’s Landing into a winterized riverfront park for a full season of skating on an Olympic-size ice rink, cozying up to festive fire pits, lounging in the warmth of a ski-chalet-style lodge and more.
- The Winterfest season runs November 25-March 5, 2017.
- Opening weekend kicks off on Black Friday at 11 a.m.; Look forward to special activities.
- Admission to Winterfest is free.
- Admission to the RiverRink is $3 and skate rental is $10.
Back for its 23rd year as an outdoor ice skating rink and fourth season as Winterfest, the Delaware River Waterfront area will be decked out with holiday lights, landscaped winter gardens and a heated tent, and outfitted with a rustic atmosphere that includes indoor fireplaces, comfy couches and arcade games.
And did we mention all of the tasty food and drink offerings?
Read on for a rundown of all of the fantastic festivities that Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest brings to Penn’s Landing this year.
To celebrate the official opening of Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest on Thanksgiving weekend, the park hosts free festivities all weekend long, fit for the whole family.
From Friday, November 25 through Sunday, November 27, Winterfest will be open up at 11 a.m. each day and stay open until 12:30 a.m. (10:30 p.m. on Sunday).
The fun starts on Friday with a special skating session with Anna, Elsa and Hans from Disney’s Frozen. Later in the day, look for free face painting, balloon art and a flower crown workshop, followed by a live, DJ-spun bash that will last until midnight.
Other special guests will make appearances throughout the weekend and plenty of entertainment, including magician performances and LEGO-building activities.
To check out the full, fun-filled opening weekend itinerary, click here.
The Blue Cross RiverRink Outdoor Ice Rink
The centerpiece of the waterfront experience remains the Blue Cross RiverRink, the only regulation-sized outdoor ice skating rink in Philadelphia. A holiday tradition for more than 20 years, the RiverRink brings skating to Penn’s Landing in view of the scenic Benjamin Franklin Bridge and Delaware River.
Open to the public through March 2017, the ice skating rink offers on-site skate rentals and special events throughout the season. It’s also a fantastic spot for holiday gatherings and birthday parties.
New Winterfest Holiday Tree
Surrounding the RiverRink, guests will find a winter forest full of trees and shrubs adorned with colorful lights. Its centerpiece, the holiday tree, is decked out with ornaments and more than 100,000 twinkling LED lights.
The lights are linked to a Bluetooth-programmable system that produces a spectacular sight full of rotating colors, special effects and visualized music. On Friday, December 2, Winterfest will host a special holiday tree lighting celebration – save the date now!
Fire Pits, Warming Cottages and Winter Garden
The winter garden also brings multiple wood-burning fire pit for you to warm up in between skating sessions or to simply cozy up to while enjoying tunes from a high-tech sound system. And don’t miss snapping a photo in the giant red #VISITPHILLY rocking chair!
To defrost indoors, winter warming cottages are situated near the outdoor fire pit area. These cozy shelters, outfitted with comfy seating options, infrared heating and electric fireplaces, make a perfect base camp for an all-day hangout at Winterfest.
Cabins can be reserved by clicking here.
The Lodge Restaurant and Bar + The Kids Lodge
It’s hard to beat a cup of hot cocoa after a skating session on the ice. When you’re ready to warm up, head to The Lodge Restaurant and Bar, where Winterfest treats abound from Garces Group and, new this year, Chickie’s and Pete’s.
This means, inside the super cozy, ski chalet-style tent, you can enjoy warming eats like tomato soup from the Rink Side Cafe by Garces alongside Chickie’s and Pete’s famous Crabfries with cheese sauce. Score!
The Lodge will also feature two different bar locations during peak times, serving up an array of local and regional craft beers and hot cocktails, such as a Jim Beam bourbon-spiked cider and a vanilla vodka splashed hot cocoa.
With clear views of the skating rink and a wrap-around porch furnished with rocking chairs, cozy blankets and heat lamps, it’s easy to lounge for hours.
Across from The Lodge, find a kid-styled version featuring a ton of interactive arcade games, small rides, air hockey and more. The flooring is made of rubber mats, allowing kids to walk directly from the rink to the Kids Lodge without having to take off their skates.
If this sounds like the perfect spot for hosting your kids’ next birthday party – and we agree – check out the Winterfest group skating rates and party packages here.
Franklin Fountain at Winterfest
The Franklin Fountain’s Confectionery Cabin brings a haven of sweet treats for visitors of Winterfest to enjoy this season.
Look forward to a menu of s’mores kits, ice cream waffle sandwiches and drinking chocolate from Shane Confectionery’s Chocolate Cafe. Warm drinks like hot apple cider, coffee and glogg will also be available, along with seasonal ice cream flavors such as peppermint stick (also available dairy-free), cinnamon, eggnog and hot chocolate.
Check out the full menu here. Franklin Fountain’s Confectionery Cabin is open Thursdays through Sundays each week.
Special Events at Winterfest
The Winterfest season kicks off Thanksgiving weekend, and continues for nearly four months with a calendar full of free entertainment and special events.
Save the date for three different free live concerts at The Lodge featuring popular local bands. Presented by Radio 104.5, the Fireside Sessions go down every first Thursday from December to February.
For one weekend in January, January 21-22, Winterfest will host its second Winterfest Brewfest, inviting the 21-and-over crowd to sample beers from all over the region, and of course look forward to a ton of fun surrounding the holidays.
On New Year’s Eve, the waterfront park puts on an epic celebration in conjunction with the firework shows via the SugarHouse New Year’s Eve Fireworks on the Waterfront, preceded by Santa Skate days, a tree lighting ceremony and more.
Throughout the season, look forward to weekly Wednesday Quizzo nights, Friday and Saturday DJ nights, movie nights from December 14-25 and more.
For a complete schedule of waterfront events, check here.
Getting There and Admission
General admission to the Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest is free and open to the public. Admission to ice skate on the Blue Cross RiverRink is $3 with skate rental available for $10. Convenient on-site parking is available, too.
Insider tip: Independence Blue Cross cardholders and employees get free skating admission.
Regular operating hours of Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest are Monday-Thursday, 1 p.m.-10:30 p.m.; Friday, 1 p.m.-12:30 a.m.; Saturday 11 a.m.-12:30 a.m.; and Sunday 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m.
The park will be open with extended and special hours around holidays, too. Check here for complete operating hour information.
Winterfest is located on the Delaware River Waterfront at Penn’s Landing at Market Street. For directions to Winterfest, click here. Planning to stay the night in Philadelphia while you’re here for a skate? Be sure to check out the Visit Philly Overnight Hotel Package for super deals on visitor stays – including two free ice skate rentals and admission tickets to the Blue Cross RiverRink!
We hope you’re ready to practice your double axel and sip craft brews beside the fire, Philadelphia. See you on the ice!