Philadelphia’s Original City – Old City, Society Hill and the Delaware River waterfront – join forces for an epic celebration of the season featuring more than 15 different events.
The merrymaking goes down at museums, restaurants and shops between the Delaware River and 7th Street and Vine and Lombard streets. Look forward to festivities ranging from massive light shows to yuletide bar crawls to skating sessions with Santa Clause to Kwanzaa celebrations to fireworks over the Delaware River and more.
- Historic District HoliDays & Nights runs from November 30 to December 31.
- The celebrations include more than 15 events and attractions
- Admission prices vary, though many events and attractions are free.
- A Snowflake Shuttle will offer free rides throughout the District, Thursday to Saturday (6 to 9 p.m.).
More merry news: the Snowflake Shuttle powered by PHLASH will offer free rides throughout the Historic District every Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 6 to 9 p.m.
Read on to learn about all of the things to do during this year’s Historic District HoliDays & Nights.
New This Year
One of the 2017 additions is the Old City District Design Tree, kicking off the entire Historic District HoliDays & Nights celebration with an official lighting ceremony on November 30. Housed in the Betsy Ross Courtyard, the lighting will commence at 5 p.m. and will include an evening of caroling and other entertainment.
The tree is designed to celebrate the neighborhood’s strong history of art and design with an artistic lighting installation by local creative firm FK Productions.
Another new pop up to look out for is Illuminating Liberty, a historically inspired window display at the Museum of the American Revolution. Best viewed at night, the display features colorful illuminations based off of work by eminent Revolutionary-era Philadelphia artist Charles Willson Peale.
The display opens on November 30, when the museum will also start offering seasonal treats, such as Shane’s Hot Cocoa and hot cocktails, inside the Cross Keys Café and open its gift store for visitors to try on Revolutionary-inspired clothing and design their own decorative window illuminations. Illuminating Liberty will be available for viewing through December 31 with no museum admission necessary.
Be sure to also take advantage of the new Snowflake Shuttle powered by PHLASH, offering free rides throughout the Historic District every Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 6 to 9 p.m. Celebrating the city’s history and holidays has never been so easy!
Historic Holiday Nights
Old City stays up late for some festive fun during five Thursday evenings throughout the season. On November 30 and December 7, 14, 21 and 28, Historic Holiday Nights unfold from 5 to 8 p.m., creating extended hours for shoppers at area boutiques, holiday specials at neighborhood restaurants and special programming at the Betsy Ross House.
More than 50 shops, art galleries, museums, restaurants and cafes around the neighborhood are participating. Look forward to special discounts and promotions at area attractions and shops, welcoming visitors inside through 8 p.m.
Each week, the Betsy Ross House will host a different jazz artist in its courtyard, filling the area with festive tunes. Visitors can also enjoy $1 off admission to the Betsy Ross House.
Meanwhile, Elfreth’s Alley hosts a pop-up exhibition, Making Christmas: How German Immigrants Shaped an American Holiday, which explores how Santa Claus, the Christmas tree, Christmas cookies and more became tradition. The Fireman’s Hall Museum will offer meet-and-greet photo sessions with Santa each Thursday from 7 to 8 p.m.
Specials at area restaurants include $5 house wine at 2nd Story Brewing Company, $5 Southern Poutine at The Little Lion, half-priced oysters at The Olde Bar and more.
To check out all of the Historic Holiday Nights deals and events, click here.
Returning Attractions and Events
Awesome holiday attractions lay on seemingly every block in the Historic District.
The annual Franklin Square Holiday Festival featuring the Electrical Spectacle returns to Franklin Square, lighting up the park with a gigantic illuminated kite and 50,000 bulbs set to music.
Over on the Delaware River waterfront, Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest is back for another year of ice skating (on an Olympic-sized rink!), s’more making, lodge chilling, arcade game playing and crab fry eating (thanks Chickie’s and Pete’s!).
The residents of Old City’s historic Elfreth’s Alley, America’s oldest continuously occupied residential street, will once again open their doors for the annual Deck the Alley open house on Saturday, December 2. Visitors can expect seasonal refreshments, colonial carolers and an appearance from jolly old Santa Claus.
Also returning this year is Being __________ at Christmas, an annual celebration at the National Museum of American Jewish History featuring a day of games, dancing, crafts, storytelling and live music.
The African American Museum in Philadelphia brings back its yearly Kwanzaa Celebration, too, which includes four days of celebrating the First Fruits of the Harvest. Workshops, discussions, film screenings and performances demonstrate the Nguzo Saba, the seven principles of Kwanzaa.
For the over-21 crowd, look forward to the holiday edition of Tippler’s Tour, entitled Yuletide Cheers & Beers, where a little history, a little beer and a lot of fun are served up across four cozy pubs on the two-hour adventure.
The season comes to a close with a bang during the SugarHouse New Year’s Eve Fireworks on the Waterfront, featuring two (!) major pyrotechnics displays over the Delaware River — one at 6 p.m. and another at midnight. Fireworks-lovers can snag excellent views of the shows at Penn’s Landing, Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest, Franklin Square and more.
And the events don’t stop there! Click here to check out all of the options for celebrating the season in Philadelphia’s Historic District and get ready to pack your calendar with some historic holiday fun. We’ll see you in the district!