Philadelphia may not be as well known for its holiday festivities as its neighbor to the north, but this only makes celebrating Christmas in Philadelphia a bit of a hidden gem. There are Christmas markets, skating rinks, and holiday lights galore — without the throngs of people and exorbitant hotel rates.
It seems like Philly gets overlooked when it comes to the holidays, but that is a shame (or a great hidden secret, depending on how you look at it). There is so much to do at Christmas in Philly, for locals and tourists alike, plus you have great historical sights, museums, and terrific restaurants.
The holiday season kicks off early with the 6abc Dunkin’ Thanksgiving Day Parade (the longest running Thanksgiving Parade in the country) and goes straight through New Year’s Eve fireworks on the Waterfront and the famous Mummers Parade on New Years Day.
12 Ways to Celebrate Christmas in Philadelphia
Here is a sampling of how you can enjoy Philadelphia around the holidays.
1. Christmas Village at LOVE Park
From before Thanksgiving through Christmas Eve, LOVE Park transforms into a German-style Christmas Village. (Check current dates and hours. ) The outdoor market features food stalls with waffles, gingerbread, spaetzle, candies, and more, as well as shops with 80 vendors from around the world.
Get into the holiday spirit while sipping mulled wine from local wineries in souvenir mugs and snack on mouth-watering raclette (melted cheese spread onto bread), Bratwurst grilled over hot coals and local craft beers.
You can shop for gifts like Christmas ornaments from Germany and other handcrafts, and watch performances from local bands and dance groups. Plus, you can take a picture with the iconic LOVE sculpture! Christmas Village offers a double-decker carousel in the middle of the City Hall courtyard and since 2019, visitors can also ride a 65′ high Ferris Wheel in the North Broad Section of the Village. There is even a kiddie choo choo train. You may even have a chance to meet the Village mascot, Phil the Reindeer.
After visiting the Christkindlmarkt in Chicago, I fully expected the village to be jam-packed with crowds on a Friday night, but I was pleasantly surprised. The park is large enough to allow for space between the aisles for people to easily pass. The booths weren’t blocked by lines of people waiting for food. And there was a nice picnic seating area to enjoy all the delicious treats.
While the vendors weren’t all traditional German handicrafts, and not all were Christmas-related (like the guy selling truffle oil), I still rate this as one of my favorite markets because of the food and the space to move around. For me, overwhelming crowds can really detract from my enjoyment of an experience or destination.
Dates and Hours:
Nov 19th – Dec 24th, 2022
11am – 7pm daily
Christmas Village is located at LOVE Park in the heart of Center City at 1500 Arch Street, Philadelphia PA 19102
2. Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest
Located not far from the Old City near Penn’s Landing, the Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest has been ringing in the holidays for nearly 30 years. Winterfest offers visitors and locals everything they need to enjoy some winter outdoor fun with a great view of the Ben Franklin Bridge.
There is a regulation-size ice rink, outdoor fire pits, cozy warming cabins, boardwalk rides and games, comfy couches, delicious food and hot beverages, and the signature holiday tree. Winterfest is free to enter and open to the public, but amenities such as ice skating and cabin and firepit experiences should be booked in advance.
Dates and Hours:
November 25, 2022 to March 5, 2023
Monday – Thursday: 1 pm – 11 pm, Friday: 1 pm – 1 am, Saturday: 11 am – 1 am, Sunday: 11 am – 11 pm
December 24 and December 25: 1 pm – 8:30 pm, December 26 through December 30: 11 am – 1 am, December 31: 10 am – 2pm, January 1: 11 am – 1am, January 2: 11 am – 11 pm
101 South Columbus Boulevard, Philadelphia, PA 19106
3. Winter in Dilworth Park
Dilworth Park beside City Hall transforms into winter wonderland packed with fun attractions.
Ice Skating at Rothman Orthopaedics ice Rink
You can skate outdoors just beside City Hall at Rothman Rink in Dilworth Park. The rink offers timed tickets, good for 90-minute skating sessions. Book skating sessions online to ensure availability.
Rothman Orthopaedics Cabin
After skating, relax over food and drink in a ski-chalet-type setting or outdoors around fire pits at the Rothman Orthopaedics Cabin. This is acozy après-skate spot for snacks, cocktails, beer and hot drinks. There is also a front-row view of the skaters.
The Ice Rink and Cabin are open from November 4, 2022 through February 26, 2023.
Wintergarden on the Greenfield Lawn
The Wintergarden on the Greenfield Lawn is an outdoor sanctuary in the middle of Center City. Children and adults will enjoy the rustic décor, reindeer topiaries and twinkling lights, while adults can also purchase warm mulled wine at the Chaddsford Winery kiosk.
Wintergarden is open from November 1, 2022-March 26, 2023.
Made in Philadelphia Holiday Market
Purchase locally-made gifts from 40 vendors spread throughout the park offering handmade crafts, jewelry, clothing, home décor and treats. The Holiday Market is open November 19, 2022 to January 1, 2023.
Deck the Hall Holiday Light Show
The Deck the Hall Light Show is one of Philadelphia’s most unique holiday attractions. From November 21, 2022 to January 1, 2023, holiday lights are projected onto the west facade of the Historic City Hall and synchronized with sound effects at the top of the hour nightly from 5:00 to 9:00 pm, daily.
1 S 15th St (West Side of City Hall), Philadelphia, PA 19102
Holiday Tree at City Hall
The annual holiday tree arrives on the north side of City Hall on November 9, 2022 and the official ceremonial tree lighting will take place on December 1, 2022.
4. Franklin Square Holiday Festival
Close to Old City’s Independence Hall, Franklin Square hosts a Holiday Festival from November 16, 2022 through February 26, 2023. The centerpiece of the festival is the free Ben Franklin-inspired Electrical Spectacle Holiday Light show featuring over 200,000 lights that are coordinated to holiday music from Mariah Carey.
The light show takes place daily every 30 minutes between 5:00 pm and closing when Franklin Square is open. Franklin Square also hosts special events including: Santa’s Arrival, Jingle and Mingle with Santa, Hannukah Celebration with Old City Jewish Arts Center, Kwanzaa Celebration with the African American Museum, and a Kids’ New Year’s Eve Countdown.
Families will enjoy this because there is also a carousel and the city’s only Philadelphia-themed mini golf course. In addition to treats such as some delicious churros and burgers at SquareBurger in Franklin Square, there is also a Ben’s Sweets & Treats Tent featuring make-your-own-s’mores, local brews, cocktails, and hot beverages. You can enjoy these treats while sitting around one of the many fire pits and watching the light show.
Dates and Hours:
November 16, 2022 – January 8, 2023, 10 am – 9 pm (weather permitting) and January 12, 2022 – February 26, 2023 from Thursday through Sunday, 10 am – 7 pm
Franklin Square, 200 N. 6th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103
5. Macy’s Holiday Light Show & Dickens’ Village
Macy’s continues the Wanamaker tradition of a holiday light show, which has been running since 1956. The famed Wanamaker Organ accompanies more than 100,000 lights that create holiday images like snowflakes, ballerinas, and reindeer in the center city store’s Grand Court atrium.
In addition to the interior holiday light show, the store’s elaborate window displays rival its sister store in NYC. They have also transformed the third floor into a Dickens Village for the holiday season with a 6,000 square-foot village and more than 100 animated figures from A Christmas Carol. You walk through various scenes from the story, including visits from the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future.
Advance tickets are required to visit Dickens Village. Starting on November 20, 2022, you can make a reservation online five days in advance of your visit.
Just be prepared to get there early to catch one of the light shows at 10 am, 12 pm, 2 pm, etc. And there will be a long line to visit Dickens Village if you head to the third floor directly after one of the light shows.
Therefore, you may want to leave a little time in between so you can enjoy the displays without the press of the crowd. It helps to understand the story of A Christmas Carol in advance, but kids can always enjoy a visit with Santa at the end. And, of course, you will exit into an area selling toys.
Dates and Hours:
November 25 – December 31, 2022
- Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays: 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.
- Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays: 10 a.m., noon, 2 p.m., 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.
- Christmas Eve: 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m.
Macy’s, 1300 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA
6. Miracle on South 13th Street
Each year, a neighborhood on South 13th Street in South Philly takes it upon itself to decorate for the holidays in a manner worth a visit. This one-block stretch of row houses goes all out with lights, signs, music, and other decorations both outside and in their windows.
It is worth finding a spot to park and walking up and down the block to see the details these residents have incorporated, from writing a letter to Santa to inflatables ready for Instagram poses. You can find this phenomenon on South 13th Street between Tasker and Morris Streets.
7. Christmas in Longwood Gardens
One of my favorite things to do near Philadelphia at Christmas is visit Longwood Gardens for A Longwood Christmas. Longwood’s amazing gardens and outdoor holiday light display will get you in the festive spirit.
Each year is different so even if you have already been, it is worth a return trip. You will need a timed-entry ticket and it is recommended that you visit mid-week if you can, or at least early in the season. I can say that visiting in early December versus right after Christmas made a HUGE difference in the crowd levels (for the better), plus it was much warmer and more enjoyable to spend a longer time outside.
Longwood Gardens covers 402 acres in Brandywine Valley and was once the home of business and philanthropist Pierre S. du Ponte. A Longwood Christmas includes exhibits in the four-acre Conservatory and 500,000 lights outside. There are fountains that dance to seasonal music, organ music, holiday caroling, and even special events like breakfast with Santa.
I think it is best to book a mid-to-late afternoon ticket. That way you can arrive and tour the inside conservatories while it is still light (these usually take at least an hour.) This way you can still see the grounds in the dark and enjoy all the outdoor holiday lights before the night gets too cold.
What I learned on my recent visit is that it is a good idea to make a reservation at 1906, the fine dining restaurant on the property. I was blown away by the quality of the food, presentation, and service. Certainly not what I would have expected from a restaurant inside a botanical garden. If the fine dining option is not in your budget, you can also eat at the quick service cafe.
Keep in mind that nearby Kennett Square is the capital for mushroom growing so be sure to try the mushroom soup and anything else mushroom on the menu. Even the bread is served in individual flower pots and look like big mushrooms.
1001 Longwood Road, Kennett Square, PA
8. Comcast Holiday Spectacular
The Comcast Center’s annual super high-res LED holiday show us back in the lobby of the city’s second-tallest building on one of the world’s largest LED continuous video walls. This 15-minute family-friendly show featuring classic holiday songs and performances by the Pennsylvania Ballet.
Dates and Hours:
The show runs from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day and shows run daily at the top of every hour from 10 am to 8 pm (except for 5 pm). *Sensory-friendly shows every Thursday and Friday at 2:30 p.m. and upon request.
1701 JFK Blvd Philadelphia, PA 19103, Comcast Center Lobby
9. HOliday Light Show at Shady Brook Farm
There are many other holiday celebrations in the greater Philadelphia area, including the Holiday Light Show at Shady Brook Farm in Yardley, Pennsylvania in Bucks County. They use more than three million lights to create a holiday spectacle that you can drive through, or ride through in wagons.
There are illuminated tunnels and celebratory nighttime displays. You can also visit Santa and enjoy hot chocolate by the bonfire. Tune your radio to 90.7 FM to listen to holiday faves as you drive through.
Tickets can be purchased online in advance of your visit. Included with admission is a walk-through the Candy Cane Lane light show.
Dates and Hours:
The Holiday Light Show runs from November 19, 2022 through January 8, 2023.
Sun to Thurs – 5 to 10pm and Fri & Sat – 5 to 11pm
931 Stony Hill Rd. Yardley, PA 19067
10. Adventure Aquarium in Camden
Just across the river in Camden, NJ, Adventure Aquarium offers a way to get out of the cold and entertain the kids for a while. In addition to seeing hippos and touching stingrays, if you visit at Christmas you may get to see Rudolph and the Abominable Snowman as we did on our visit year.
1 Riverside Dr, Camden, NJ 08103
11. LumiNature at the Philadelphia Zoo
The Philadelphia Zoo comes alight for the holidays with more than a million twinkling lights across 14 illuminated zones. New displays include a 15-foot tall glowing blue gorilla and an under-the-sea-inspired holiday tree.
Guests will also travel through a 100-foot-long aquarium tunnel (complete with enormous jellyfish) and past a 21-foot-tall brilliantly bright snake. Warm up with seasonal fare, hot chocolate and adult beverages while enjoying live performers.
Reserve your tickets online in advance.
Dates and Hours:
November 17, 2022 – January 7, 2023
Operating days are Wednesday through Sunday (closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day), with reservations available from 5:00 p.m. through 8:00 p.m. LumiNature will close at 10:00 p.m. each night.
3400 West Girard Avenue, Philadelphia, PA
12. Holiday Garden Railway at the Morris Arboretum
Train enthusiasts will enjoy the annual Holiday Garden Railway at the historic Morris Arboretum. A model trains chug along a quarter-mile track through a mini-winter wonderland along loops, through tunnels and over bridges, past perfect little replicas of beloved Philadelphia landmarks.
On select Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings throughout the season, visitors enjoy the railway amid thousands of twinkling lights as part of the after-hours Holiday Garden Railway: Nighttime Express programming. Lighted trees and other colored lights make the garden even more magical. Advance tickets are required and can be purchased online.
Dates and Hours:
The Holiday Garden Railway runs from November 25 through December 30, 10:00 am – 4:00 pm. The Arboretum is closed December 24 & 25 or for inclement weather.
100 E. Northwestern Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19118
BONUS: Mummers Parade
Of course, if you are sticking around for New Year’s Day, the Mummers Parade is a Philadelphia tradition that is not to be missed. It dates back to 1901 and can only be found in Philadelphia. The parade involves thousands of adults and kids wearing feathers and sequins while dancing to music and parading along Broad Street from City Hall to Washington Avenue.
The night before features fireworks over the Delaware River and before the parade, MummersFest gives visitors a behind-the-scenes look at set-building, rehearsals, and opportunities to dress up.
Looking for Christmas Travel Ideas?
You may also want to check out:
- Places to go for Christmas on the East Coast
- Best Christmas Hotels in the USA
- Longwood Gardens at Christmas
- Tips for Visiting Historical Philadelphia
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