If there has ever been a year when people craved festivity, joy, and light, it’s this year. Luckily, Philly has come through with flying colors, finding ways to maintain traditions and pivot in new ways to help people have a safe, fun holiday season. Despite the challenges, there are still lots of fun ways to enjoy Christmas in Philadelphia. Here’s a look at 16 things to do and see across the region this winter.
In recent years, Dilworth Park alongside City Hall has become a hub of activity in the winter.
To complement the nearby Christmas Village, you’ll find the Made in Philadelphia Holiday Market. The vendors is from the metro area and often feature gifts and unique offerings with Philadelphia-area themes. From sea glass from the Jersey Shore to homages to Gritty and Carson Wentz, there are a lot of fun things to see here.
Beyond shopping, visitors love the ice-skating rink, which is offering 90-minute sessions with limited capacity this year. The nearby Wintergarden on the Greenfield Lawn has space to spread out and ample chances for photo opps with rustic topiary characters. If you need to warm up, head to the Rothman Orthopedics Cabin for seasonal cocktails and food items in an open-air set up.
The market runs through January 1, 2021, and the other activities are on through February 28, 2021.
Location: Dilworth Park at City Hall
Macy’s Light Show
The Macy’s Christmas Light Show has been a tradition in Center City since 1956. Spanning four stories, the massive display dominates the store’s Grand Court.
Nutcrackers, snowmen, and more holiday characters dance to the sounds of Deck the Halls and other favorite Christmas carols. With over 100,000 multicolored LED lights, the light show is something to behold. The Wanamaker organ—the largest pipe organ in the world—provides the soundtrack multiple times a day.
In 2020, the spectacular show is taking place virtually. Some lights are still on in person at Macy’s, but store capacity is limited.
Location: Online for 2020
There is a certain charm to the relatively low-tech version of A Christmas Carol at Dickens Village. Each year on the third floor of Macy’s, vintage animatronic characters enact the story of redemption and Christmas spirit. This year, it’s available virtually.
Location: Online for 2020
It’s not Christmas in Philadelphia without a visit to the Christmas Village at LOVE Park. This year brings about half the number of typical vendors to allow for social distancing, but there’s still plenty of festivity.
The traditional German Christmas market features nutcrackers, traditional ornaments, and other German-inspired elements and foods. Between the lights, music, and tastes of the market, it’s a great place to enjoy an afternoon or evening. The entire affair is distanced, but weeknights tend to be less busy than weekends for those wanting an extra layer of caution. The market is on through December 24, 2020.
Location: LOVE Park
Christmas Pop-Up Bars
Even though dining and particularly bars are limited this holiday season, there are still a few fun pop-ups to keep the season merry.
We love the Grinch-themed option taking place at Taqueria Amor in Manayunk. You can still get the delicious Mexican food the restaurant is known for, and you can try their Grinchy cocktails, too. If you play your cards right, you may run into the green man himself. Another seasonal favorite, Tinsel returns in Midtown Village with lots of lights, cocktails served in ornaments and snow globes, and Christmas cookies.
Locations: Taqueria Amor (formerly Taqueria Feliz), 4410 Main St., Manayunk; Tinsel, 112 S. 12th St.
America’s oldest candy shop is a great place to go at Christmas. Shane Confectionery’s drinking chocolates are a must try, and they have lots of seasonal treats.
A particular standout during the holidays reinforces Shane’s commitment to tradition in the form of a Pennsylvania Dutch Christmas gift known as Clear Toy Candy. The colorful sugar candies range from miniature to upwards of 6 inches in size. You’ll find everything from reindeer to Santas and wreaths. Stars of David are also available.
Location: 110 Market Street
Blue Cross RiverRink
There are a variety of wintery activities at Blue Cross RiverRink’s Winterfest. The ice-skating rink is a main draw. Skaters of all ages and abilities take to the rink overlooking the Delaware River for some outdoor fun in the cooler temperatures.
If you don’t feel like lacing up your skates, warm up by one of the fire pits instead or get cozy in one of the cabins strewn with lights. There are also carnival games, amusements, and a Ferris wheel to keep everyone entertained. In the open-air lodge, you’ll find plenty of snacks and warm drinks for purchase.
Winterfest is on now through March 7, 2021. Reservations are encouraged because capacity is limited.
Location: 101 S. Christopher Columbus Blvd.
Several different attractions bring visitors back to Franklin Square year after year.
The highlight of the season is the Electric Spectacle Holiday Light Show, which runs through New Year’s Eve. Multiple times each night, more than 100,000 lights dance across the square in time to the music of the Philly POPS. It’s one of the best free things to see in the city during the holidays. The show runs until February 28, 2021 (with reduced evening hours after January 10th).
Kids will love the carousel rides, and Chilly Philly Mini Golf is appropriate for all ages with a course that includes holiday music and reproductions of famous Philadelphia landmarks. Mini Golf runs through December 31, 2020.
Location: Franklin Square
Morris Arboretum is lovely in any season. But, during the holidays, it is even more enchanting thanks to the addition of its Holiday Garden Railway. For one-quarter mile, the train winds its way along a track through the winter garden passing through tunnels and over bridges. Along the way, it snakes by miniature buildings and town scenes lit with twinkling lights for Christmas.
The railway is on display during the day and select nights through January 10, 2021.
Location: 100 E. Northwestern Ave.
Miracle on South 13th Street
Miracle on South 13th Street is, hands down, one of my favorite things about Christmas in Philadelphia. For years, this group of neighbors has coordinated to bring the joy of Christmas to those who need it and the thousands of people who visit every season.
Most of the houses pour all their creativity into their decorations. The result is a little bit like Christmas threw up on the street—but only in the very best of ways. You just have to take a stroll or a drive through and see it for yourself.
Location: South 13th Street between Tasker and Morris
City Hall Light Show
The western side of City Hall provides one of the great free attractions of the holidays. From late November through New Year’s Day, the Deck the Hall Holiday Lights projection shines brightly across the building.
The lights move in time with sound effects in a show that plays continually every evening. It’s on 5:00-9:00pm Sunday through Thursday and 5:00-11:00pm on Friday and Saturday.
Location: Philadelphia City Hall
Stag & Doe
Stag & Doe in Chestnut Hill has expanded hours this year to allow people to enjoy the events all day.
Every Wednesday in December before Christmas, stores stay open late to allow for socially distanced shopping and there are special events throughout the neighborhood. Each Wednesday night, a brass quartet performs, and horse-drawn carriage rides are available the afternoon of December 16th and the evening of December 23rd. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for Santa who will be strolling Germantown Avenue the evenings of the 2nd and 16th and the early afternoons of the 9th and 23rd.
Location: Germantown Avenue in Chestnut Hill
Peddler’s Village is the perfect destination in Bucks County at Christmastime. It’s a given that the village is a great place for shopping with more than 60 stores and boutiques—many of which are specially decorated for the season. But what we love most are the features that can only be found at the holidays.
On display through January 9, 2021, visitors can see the entrants in this year’s gingerbread competition. These are no basic gingerbread houses. Instead, you’ll find boats, mansions, advent calendars, and even the set of Schitt’s Creek expertly produced in miniature, edible style.
Outside, 1 million lights illuminate the trees and buildings of Peddler’s Village. Across the shopping center, there are special displays for the season, including Christmas trees, a light tunnel, and more. On weekends, don’t miss the Elf on the Stealth, a family walking adventure with Mrs. Claus who leads visitors in a search for the Elf on the Shelf.
Location: Routes 202 & 263 in Lahaska
Shady Brook Farm
The 100-year-old Shady Brook Farm has, undoubtedly, one of the top Christmas light displays in the Philadelphia area. The 3 million lights in its drive-thru Holiday Light Show include everything from dancing reindeer and Santa’s workshop to the Grinch. Plan ahead and tune your radio to 90.7FM to enjoy carols and holiday standards along with the lights.
Visitors can drive their own vehicle or join a socially distanced wagon ride to see the light trail. Visits with Santa, s’mores kits, snacks, and warm drinks (both alcoholic and non) are also available, and you can pick up a Christmas tree while you’re there. The festivities run through January 10, 2021.
Location: 931 Stony Hill Road, Yardley
The holidays are one of the most popular times to visit Longwood Gardens. The grounds of this 1000 acre-garden come alive with displays, lights, and special offerings for Christmas.
Around the property, more than 500,000 lights illuminate the trees and plants alongside unique light sculptures. Inside the Conservatory, there are dozens of Christmas trees decked out for the season—many in unexpected ways.
Other highlights include fire pits, holiday treats, and a visit to the Peirce-du Pont house that dates from 1730. Don’t miss the fountain show where the water and lights move in time with Christmas music.
Timed tickets and limited capacity help ensure that there is plenty of room to spread out. See the displays through January 10, 2021.
Location: 1001 Longwood Road, Kennett Square
Holiday Magic at Brandywine Museum of Art
The Brandywine River Museum of Art features an attraction that has been a holiday staple since 1972—the Brandywine Railroad. Visitors can see the famous O-gauge model train wind its way through miniature scenes like a drive-in movie theater and a welcoming village. Interactive elements let you control a bit of the action. The train is on view through January 31, 2021.
The museum’s cute Critter ornaments, which are handmade by its volunteers, decorate the trees in the three-story atrium. Take one home during the annual Holiday Critter Sale or order select options online.
Location: 1 Hoffmans Mill Road, Chadds Ford