17 Fun Ways to Experience Christmas in Philadelphia

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Christmas is one of the most festive times in Philadelphia. From the Christmas village to the Macy’s light show, Center City and beyond are filled with seasonal attractions and events that make the holidays feel even more special. There are ice skating rinks, music performances, and lots of lights to see. Christmas in Philly is not to be missed.

Read on to see some of the top things to do in greater Philadelphia during the Christmas season.

After a challenging time, many things are beginning to return to normal in Philly this season. However, some events are still scaled back or may require reservations or proof of vaccination to participate. Please check for any current restrictions before heading out.

Shop and ice skate at Dilworth Park

Drawings on display at a Christmas market
City-themed artwork for sale at the Made in Philadelphia Holiday Market

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 are 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 Jalen Hurts, 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 November 20, 2021 through January 1, 2022, and the other activities are on through February 27.

Location: Dilworth Park at City Hall

See the Macy’s Christmas Light Show

Christmas tree made of blue lights hanging on a wall

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 2021, the spectacular show is taking place virtually and has returned to the store.

Location: Macy’s Philadelphia, 13th & Market

Visit the Dickens Village

Two animatronic characters in a snowy scene
Scrooge in a scene of A Christmas Carol

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, too.

Location: Macy’s Philadelphia, 13th & Market (3rd floor)

Browse and eat at the Christmas Village

Wooden vendor huts decorated with lights
The festive Christmas Village stalls in traditional German style

It’s not Christmas in Philadelphia without a visit to the Christmas Village at LOVE Park.

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. Weeknights tend to be less busy than weekends for those wanting an extra layer of caution. The market is on November 25 through December 24, 2021.

Location: LOVE Park

Check out the Christmas pop-up bars

Buildings covered in Christmas lights at night
Taqueria Amor lit up for its Grinch-themed pop up last year

The holiday season is always full of fun pop-ups to keep things merry.

Tinsel returns in Midtown Village with lots of lights, cocktails served in ornaments and snow globes, and Christmas cookies.

Taqueria Amor in Manayunk always has something fun up its sleeve for the holidays, too. Last year, it was all about The Grinch with Seuss-themed cocktails and even special visits from the green man himself. We’re looking forward to seeing what’s in store for 2021.

Locations: Tinsel, 112 S. 12th St.; Taqueria Amor, 4410 Main St., Manayunk

Try a treat at Shane Confectionery

Two counters full of candy and chocolate running along opposite walls

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

Skate at Blue Cross RiverRink

Skaters on an ice rink surrounded by colorful lights
Skaters at Winterfest

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.

Location: 101 S. Christopher Columbus Blvd.

See the lights at Franklin Square

Strings of lights across a city square at night
The nightly light show at Franklin Square

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, 2022 (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, 2021.

Location: Franklin Square

Enjoy the Holiday Garden Railway at Morris Arboretum

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 from November 27, 2021 through January 2, 2022.

Location: 100 E. Northwestern Ave.

Stroll through Miracle on South 13th Street

Illuminated sign: The Miracle on South 13th St, Merry Christmas
This sign welcomes visitors to the light display 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

Catch a holiday performance

Favorite Christmas performances are returning this season.

George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker has been a fixture of the holidays in Philadelphia for years. The story of Marie’s fantastic adventures with Sugar Plum Fairies and more told through ballet runs December 10-31. Tickets for opening night are just $10.

The Philly POPS also has a full season of music to enjoy with shows from December 4-18 at the Kimmel Cultural Campus. Traditional carols and holiday favorites will be performed by The Philly POPS Festival Chorus, The African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas Gospel Choir, and The Philadelphia Boys Choir.

Locations: The Nutcracker at the Academy of Music, 240 S. Broad St.; Philly POPS at the Kimmel Center, 300 S. Broad St.

See the City Hall Light Show

Light show projected onto the exterior of a building
The light show at City Hall is a holiday tradition

The western side of City Hall provides one of the great free attractions of the holidays. From November 22 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

Go to Stag & Doe

Storefront decorated with holly, ribbons, and lights
Germantown Avenue lit up for the season

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 more 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 15th and the evening of December 22nd. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for Santa who will be strolling Germantown Avenue the evenings of the 1st and 15th and the early afternoons of the 8th and 22nd.

Location: Germantown Avenue in Chestnut Hill

Enjoy the season at Peddler’s Village

Christmas tree and building decorated with lights
Some of the festive lights at Peddler’s Village

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 November 19, 2021 through January 8, 2022, 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 movie sets 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.

Location: Routes 202 & 263 in Lahaska

See the lights at Shady Brook Farm

Overhead view of a Christmas light trail lit up at night
Some of Shady Brook’s 3 million lights

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 take a 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 November 20, 2021 through January 9, 2022.

Location: 931 Stony Hill Road, Yardley

Explore the grounds of Longwood Gardens

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 from November 19 through January 9, 2022.

Location: 1001 Longwood Road, Kennett Square

Experience holiday magic at Brandywine Museum of Art

Miniature train circling a carnival scene
The miniature Brandywine Railroad

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 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.

The Brandywine River Museum of Art was damaged in the floods of September 2021 and repairs are underway. Dates for the Brandywine Railroad remain TBD at this time.

Location: 1 Hoffmans Mill Road, Chadds Ford

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