12 great ways to celebrate holidays in Philadelphia

Emilee Geist

Watch: Christmas lights in South Jersey Some dazzling displays of Christmas lights throughout South Jersey. Adam Monacelli, Cherry Hill Courier-Post As you walk up to Dilworth Park this time of year, glimmering lights, the swishing sound of skates on ice, laughter and music welcome you to join in the holiday fun. A […]


As you walk up to Dilworth Park this time of year, glimmering lights, the swishing sound of skates on ice, laughter and music welcome you to join in the holiday fun.

A magical, festive set of activities sits in the heart of Center City.

There’s the Wintergarden in the Greenfield Lawn, offering a cozy stroll with topiaries and rustic décor lit brightly with string lights — and a wine cart. (Open to April 3).

Visitors of all ages can skate on the Rothman Orthopedics Ice Rink for 90-minute sessions with music playing and City Hall as a backdrop. (Open to Feb. 27).

Mirroring a ski chalet setup, the Rothman Cabin offers a toasty, comfortable spot to try seasonal cocktails and food. (Open to Feb. 27).

On the west side of City Hall, Made in Philadelphia Holiday Market features a variety of local artisans, designers, crafters and jewelers selling their holiday trinkets and treats. You may even find the perfect Christmas gift during your visit. (Open to Jan. 1). 

Take in technicolor projections synchronized to sound effects that are on a loop nonstop on the western face of City Hall for the free “Deck the Hall Light Show.” (Open to Jan. 1).

 Go: 1 S 15th St.; centercityphila.org/parks/dilworth-park/winter

Of course, Dilworth Park isn’t the only place to go this holiday season in Philadelphia.

The City of Brotherly Love loves the holiday season, and has plenty of festive activities and sights to see that’ll put a smile on even the grumpiest of Grinches.

Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest

Indulge in sparkling lights and views of the Delaware River at Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest.

From Nov. 26 to March 6, Ice skate on the NHL-sized rink, take a ride on the Ferris wheel, enjoy warming cabins and fire pit stations, play games or try food and drinks.

The 90-minute skating sessions open on Nov. 26. Admission is $5 and skate rental is $10. Reserve tickets for skating in advance online.

Boardwalk rides and games are $5 to $10; the Ferris wheel is $5 and pay-as-you-go for the arcade.

The Lodge offers comfort foods in a festively decorated atmosphere. Be sure to check out Black Iron BBQ by Craft Hall, a new food option that utilizes a 700-pound smoker. Chickie’s & Pete’s is also serving meals and the Winterfest bar has the winter cocktails and draft beer. Masks are required in the Lodge.

Rent a warming cabin to gather with friends or family away from the cold. Cabins are decorated with a festive theme and feature comfortable seating. Reserve online.

Firepits can be reserved in advance to ensure your warming area is secure. Reserve online.

Go: 101 South Columbus Blvd., 215-925-465; delawareriverwaterfront.com/places/blue-cross-riverrink-winterfest

Christmas Village

An open-air German Christmas market at LOVE Park and City Hall sounds like the perfect holiday outing for a date.

You and your special someone can pursue cute wooden booths of vendors selling a variety of international holiday gifts, ornaments, jewelry and more.

With lights strung up and the smell of waffles, gingerbread, bratwurst and mulled wine in the air, the Village is the spot for holiday romance.

After walking around, grab a hot cocoa and ride the carousel nearby in the middle of City Hall’s courtyard (which is open Nov. 20 to Jan. 1. and closed Nov. 22, 23, 24 and Dec. 25.), or ride the 65-foot-high Ferris Wheel at the North Broad section of the market (open Nov. 20 to Dec.24. and closed Nov. 22, 23 and 24.)

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Be sure to check the calendar for events and other activities like the German American Weekend, Storytime and Dog Adoption events, as well as the weekly wine and beer flight tasting events.

The Village will open for a preview weekend on Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 20 and 21. It officially opens on Nov. 25 and stays merry and bright until Christmas Eve.

Go: North 15th & Arch streets; philachristmas.com/index.html

Kimmel Cultural Campus

Looking for a holiday performance? Well, there are plenty to choose from this season.

Watch your favorite Peanuts characters on Saturday, Dec. 4, at “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”

Broadway star Scarlett Strallen and legend Hugh Panaro join the Philly POPS for an all-new program of holiday songs from Dec. 4 to 18 for “A Philly POPS Christmas.”

Are you a “Hamilton” fan? Grammy- and Tony Award-winner Leslie Odom Jr., returns to his hometown for the “Leslie Odom, Jr. The Christmas Tour” on Saturday, Dec. 18.

And there’s more — check out the full list and get tickets https://www.kimmelculturalcampus.org/events-and-tickets/#?more=trueonline.

Go: 250 S. Broad St., 215-893-1999; kimmelculturalcampus.org


This nighttime wonderland returns after last year’s hiatus.  

Philadelphia Zoo transforms into a dazzling holiday light display in 14 illuminated zones.

Stroll through a canopy of sparkling lights, installations, performance artists and seasonal treats like hot cocoa, s’mores and more.

Reserve tickets online. (Open to Jan. 9). 

Go: 3400 W Girard Ave., 215-243-1100; philadelphiazoo.org/luminature

Macy’s Christmas Light Show and Dickens Christmas Village

A Philadelphia tradition since 1956, the “Christmas Light Show” is back with lights, classic songs, stories narrated by Julie Andrews and the famous Wanamaker Organ.

This year, the show runs once a day at 10:30 a.m. from Dec. 1 to 24, then at 11:30 from Dec. 26 to 31. The light show remains fully lit most of the shopping day.

The Friends of the Wanamaker Organ’s annual “Christmas in the Grand Tradition Concert” will feature Peter Richard Conte on Friday, Dec. 12 at 6:45 p.m. Admission is free in the Grand Court.

On the third floor, visit the 6,000-square-foot holiday display of “A Christmas Carol” at the Dickens Christmas Village. The display is free to view and open on a continuous basis but reservations are required five days in advance. Book your spot online (https://www.macys.com/social/santa-land/#reservation) starting Nov. 21. (Open from Nov. 26 to Dec. 31).

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Kids can also meet Santa at the store or take part in an interactive online journey with Macy’s Santaland at Home, beginning Nov. 26.

Elaborately dressed holiday windows decorate the store on Market Street, creating a festive scene outside the store from Nov. 26 to Dec. 31.

Go: 1300 Market St.; macys.com/social/santa-land

Miracle on South 13th

Take a stroll through South Philadelphia’s brightest and most festive street where neighbors of the 1600 Block of South 13th Street come together to bring joy with lights. 

For the month of December from 5 to 11 p.m. daily,, guests can enjoy the street aglow with over-the-top decorations bringing the holiday spirit. 

Go: 1600 S 13th St.; facebook.com/themiracleonsouth13thstreet

Philadelphia Holiday Tree

Standing at 45 feet, the holiday tree arrived on Nov. 10 at the Wawa Holiday Plaza on the north side of City Hall.

The tree has a custom-made steel base with designs of signature Philadelphia landmarks, the city skyline and neighborhoods.

Celebrate the tree-lighting on Dec. 2 at 7 p.m. for a wholesome holiday experience. More than 4,000 lights will be lit and there will be entertainment and free giveaways.

Go: 1400 John F Kennedy Blvd.; visitphilly.com/things-to-do/attractions/holidays-city-hall-philadelphia/

PHestivaL of Trees at The Greater Philadelphia Expo Center

If holiday trees and gingerbread houses are your things, PHestival of Trees at The Greater Philadelphia Expo Center is the place for you.

From Nov. 12 to 14, support local animal shelters and rescues with this three-holiday event featuring uniquely decorated holiday trees and gingerbread houses.

There’s also live entertainment, holiday shopping, beer and wine garden, seasonal merchants and Santa.

Tickets required in advance’ proceeds benefit shelters.

Go: 100 Station Ave.; phestivaloftrees.com

Tinseltown Holiday Spectacular

The Greater Philadelphia Expo Center also invites guests to another light spectacle with light sculptures and displays like an illuminated Liberty Bell recreation.

From Nov. 26 to Jan. 2, over one million bulbs will be lit at this event.

There’s also ice skating, photos with Santa, shopping and lots to eat and drinks.

Tickets start at $13.99 for kids under 13 and $19.99 for adults. Children under 5 enjoy the fun for free. Purchase tickets online.

Go: 100 Station Ave.; tinseltownholiday.com

Visit Philadelphia Holiday Parade 

Come out to the city on Saturday, Dec. 4. for the Visit Philadelphia Holiday Parade.

Watch floats representing Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Chinese New Year and Christmas as well as performances by local marching bands and cold air balloons of your favorite holiday characters.

The parade kicks off on East Market Street at 5 p.m. and makes its way to City Hall. 

Relive the excitement on Dec. 5 at 2 p.m. on 6abc.

Go: phillyholidayexperience.com/visit-philly-holiday-parade

Winter in Franklin Square

Every 30 minutes from Nov. 18 to Feb 27 at 5 to 9 p.m., the historic square features light shows with 150,000 illuminated lights for the Electrical Spectacle Light Show.

Additional performances are on Fridays and Saturdays until 10 p.m.

Of course, there’s comfort food and beverages to keep you warm. Find foods, local beers and hot beverages at Franklin’s Winter View. Outdoor fire pits and an indoor heated tent are set up as well.

You also can play a few rounds of mini-golf on the Chilly Philly Mini Golf course or take a spin on the Parx Liberty Carousel to a holiday soundtrack.

Go: 200 N. 6th St., 215-629-4026; historicphiladelphia.org/franklin-square/winter-in-franklin-square

Hira Qureshi covers food and drink for the Courier Post, Burlington County Times, Daily Journal, Bucks County Courier Times and Doylestown Intelligencer. She can be reached at [email protected] or 856-287-8106. Help support local journalism with a digital subscription.

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