To help you, I’ve put together a list of my top 21 recommendations for places in Pennsylvania to get yourself in a festive spirit this holiday season. While I haven’t visited everywhere on this list myself, the ones I haven’t visited have come highly recommended to me, including by readers of this site.
So, before you finalize all your travel plans for the holiday season, check out our list of the top Christmas things to do in Pennsylvania:
(All dates updated in October 2020, for the 2020 holiday season. However, you may want to double-check your event is open prior to leaving home.)
Market Square and PPG Place in Pittsburgh
The heart of Christmas in Pittsburgh can be found at Market Square and PPG Place. The two squares, which are basically right next to each other, make for a great destination for anyone looking for holiday season attractions to do in Pittsburgh.
In Market Square, shop at the authentic German Christmas market from November 22 – December 23. Explore the many shops, taste some German snacks, and even visit Santa all in the confines of a quaint Christmas market.
Once you are done, walk the short distance to PPG Place to see Pittsburgh’s Christmas tree and show off your skills while skating around the rink that encircles it. The ice rink is open from November 20, 2020 through February 28, 2021, but enjoy early to see the giant Christmas tree centerpiece.
Holiday Lights on the Lake in Altoona
For more than 20 years, Holiday Lights on the Lake has been bringing Christmastime cheer to Altoona’s Lakemont Park.
Throughout the park’s 50-acre display, you’ll find more than a million twinkling Christmas lights in a variety of festive scenes. Those looking for some holiday cheer can enjoy this great display from the comfort of their vehicle as they drive through the display.
After enjoying the display, stop for a snack, a visit with Santa, and to check out the model train display.
Holiday Lights on the Lake is open from November 13, 2020, through January 3, 2021.
Christmas Village in Philly
Located in Philly’s Love Park, Christmas Village is an amazingly authentic German-style Christmas Market. Throughout the park, vendors selling everything from art to food offer the chance to do some holiday shopping within a festive environment.
There is also live entertainment throughout the event, a giant present that’s perfect for photos, visits with Santa, and much more.
Across the street, you can also explore the Made in Philadelphia Market, which features items from all local vendors. There is also an ice skating rink, a Ferris wheel, and a light show.
Both of these festive Christmas markets in Philadelphia are open for the 2020 holiday season. The Christmas Village Market is open from November 26, 2020 to December 24, 2020. The Made in Philadelphia Market is open from November 21, 2020 to January 1, 2021.
(Unfortunately, the Christkindlemarkt is postponed for 2020 and will return December 9-11, 2021.)
The Christmas Market in Mifflinburg is an amazing experience that any lover of the season should experience. While I’ve never been to Germany to see their Christmas markets, this is exactly what I’ve always imagined they are like.
Even better, the Christmas market in Mifflinburg claims to be the oldest, authentic German Christkindl Market in the country, and I have no reason not to believe them.
Unlike many of the Christmas markets in larger cities, the one in Mifflinburg is only open three days a year. Because of this, it can get a bit crowded, but it’s worth braving the crowds to experience this great tradition.
Dickens of a Christmas in Wellsboro
There are few more famous Christmas books than “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens, and, in early December, the community of Wellsboro in northern Pennsylvania typically turns back the clock to Christmas in the Victorian era of Dickens.
In 2020, things will look a bit different as there will be no street closures and large events to celebrate this annual festival. However, Wellsboro is still an incredibly beautiful town that will be decked out of the holiday season and has smaller events and sales going on throughout the season.
To find out more about the great things going on here during Christmas in Pennsylvania, check out the event’s website.
Hersheypark’s Christmas Candylane in Hershey
Whether you want to ride some of the park’s rides or simply gaze at the beautiful lights, there’s something for everyone to enjoy at the park.
I’m honestly not a huge fan of amusement parks, but I really enjoy visiting Hersheypark at Christmas time for the wonderful displays, sounds, and smells. Christmas Candylane is open November 13, 2020-January 3, 2021.
It’s a Wonderful Life Festival in Indiana
Of all the Christmas movies ever made, one of the most classic is “It’s a Wonderful Life” starting Indiana, Pennsylvania-native Jimmy Stewart.
Today, Stewart’s hometown is home to The Jimmy Stewart Museum. Located in the heart of downtown Indiana, the museum really ramps up at Christmas time as visitors come to learn about not just Stewart’s famous Christmas movie, but his entire life and career.
Since the museum is located in downtown Indiana, checking out the rest of the area is quite easy. Many of the shops downtown are decorated for the holidays, making Indiana a great Christmas destination.
Each weekend during the holiday season, there are events happening throughout the downtown area.
Christmas in Downtown Bethlehem
Bethlehem is one of the most heralded Christmas destinations in Pennsylvania and is known as “Christmas City USA.” However, when I first visited a few years ago, I was left quite underwhelmed with their well-known Christkindlmarkt.
Fortunately, after visiting the market, though, I headed into downtown Bethlehem, and I discovered a quaint small town that screamed “Christmas City USA.”
The shops in the downtown area feature a wide variety of items, making it a great place to do your Christmas shopping. Even better, there is a small, traditional Christkindlmarkt called “Christmas City Village” in the downtown area. The village is open from Thursdays-Sundays from November 5 through December 27, 2020.
There are also other events happening downtown throughout the season.
So, while you might want to skip the expensive and inauthentic Christkindlmarkt, check out our top picks for things to do in Bethlehem during the holiday season.
Kraynak’s Christmas Display in Hermitage
Every year since 1949, one of the most popular Christmas attractions in PA has been at Kraynak’s in Hermitage.
Kraynak’s is a home and garden store that goes all out for the holiday season. Each year, they set aside a portion of their store for a grand walk-through display that attracts people from all over the region.
Their Christmas display is located in a 300-foot walkway and features a variety of holiday scenes including a life-size nativity set, whimsical cartoonish displays, and Santa’s workshop.
Kraynak’s Christmas Display is open daily from early September through December.
Wanamaker Organ in Philadelphia
Located inside of the Macy’s Department Store across the street from Philadelphia’s City Hall, the Wanamaker Organ is the largest, functional pipe organ in the world. During the year, it puts on daily concerts which are simply beautiful.
However, during the Christmas season, they turn it up a notch with Christmas carols and a wonderful light show, all in the atrium of the department store. Make sure you visit for the noon show Monday-Saturday, as the Wanamaker Organ puts on a live performance after the completion of the light show.
When you visit, it’s also worth heading upstairs to the 3rd floor Dickens Village, where you can walk through some of the most memorable seasons from “A Christmas Carol.” I was really impressed with the effort put into recreating the details of this classic story.
Events in the store run from November 27 through the end of the year. (Note: At this time, it’s a bit unclear if there will be live shows in 2020, so double check before you head out.)
Christmas Magic in York
Held every year in York County’s Rocky Ridge Park, Christmas Magic is a holiday experience that shouldn’t be missed.
There is a half-mile walking trail around the park that takes visitors past nearly 600,000 Christmas lights showcasing a variety of scenes and themes. There are also visits with Santa, a model train, and a synchronized light show.
Christmas Magic is open November 27 through December 31, 2020.
Christmas at the Cathedral of Learning in Pittsburgh
Note: In 2020, the Cathedral of Learning is closed to all visitors. Keep this great holiday attraction in mind for 2021.
The Cathedral of Learning is located on the campus of the University of Pittsburgh. While this is a great year-round attraction, many of the building’s Nationality Rooms are decorated for the holiday season.
These rooms, which are set up throughout the year to highlight different cultures that have sent immigrants to Pittsburgh, are decorated with traditional holiday decorations for each of the countries. This is a great way to explore holiday traditions around the world without having to leave Pennsylvania.
Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square
Longwood Gardens is one of the most beautiful gardens in the entire country, and during the holiday season, it gets all dolled up for Christmas. Outside, 500,000 lights brighten up the gardens, while fountains dance to the sounds of Christmas music. Inside, rooms are set up with a variety of Christmas trees and other holiday displays.
While the crowds might be a bit crazy, a stroll through Longwood Gardens is sure to put you in the Christmas spirit.
“A Longwood Christmas”, as the show is called, runs from November 20, 2020, through January 10, 2021.
Koziar’s Christmas Village Near Reading
Started in 1948 for the enjoyment of the Koziar family, Koziar’s Christmas Village has grown into one of Pennsylvania’s best Christmas destinations.
The lights and displays at Koziar’s are quite intricate and feature everything from an outdoor model train to scenes from various Christmas stories. Tens of thousands of lights are strung up throughout the village, creating a scene that is simply magical.
This is a great Christmas in PA destination for kids because there is always something new and exciting around the next turn to keep them occupied.
Koziar’s Christmas Village will open on November 7, 2020 and runs through January 2, 2021.
Choo Choo Barn in Strasburg
The Choo Choo Barn in Lancaster County is one of the largest model train displays in Pennsylvania and one of the few that is open year-round.
Each holiday season, the display takes on a holiday feel as decorations are added to turn the village surrounding the train into a winter wonderland. Walking around this great display is a surefire way to put the entire family in the Christmas spirit.
Note that in 2020, there will be no holiday display at the Choo Choo Barn. However, they will be open for business so that you can see their great year-round display.
Winter Flower Show at Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh
Phipps Conservatory is a beautiful destination throughout the year, but their holiday season display really kicks things up a notch.
Known as the Winter Flower Show, this event combines the beautiful plants you can expect to see at Phipps year-round with incredible holiday decorations. These decorations are both traditional and whimsical.
Phipps’ Winter Flower Show is open from November 20, 2020, through mid-January 2021.
Winter Light Spectacular in Allentown
Each evening during the holiday season, the Lehigh Valley Zoo turns itself into a winter wonderland known as the Winter Light Spectacular. While the animals are sleeping, visitors can walk through the grounds and enjoy over a million twinkling lights set up in a variety of festive displays.
These displays are intricately done and are sure to entertain everyone in the family. There are even princess shows and visits with Santa throughout the event.
The Winter Light Spectacular is open from November 13, 2020 through January 2, 2021.
Christmas at the PA Capitol in Harrisburg
The Pennsylvania Capitol in Harrisburg is already one of the country’s most stunning state capitol buildings. However, it really comes to life in time for Christmas in PA.
Outside on the Capitol’s steps, there is a beautiful tree, and the lights shining on the building at nighttime are often red and green.
Inside, the main rotunda of the building is incredibly decorated for the season with holiday decorations adorning many of the areas of the building. In the middle of the rotunda, there is a giant Christmas tree.
If you’re lucky, you might even hear a festive performance from one of the many groups that are invited to perform at the Capitol each holiday season. (Note: These performances will likely be canceled in 2020.)
Olde Time Christmas in Jim Thorpe
The Carbon County borough of Jim Thorpe is worth visiting any time of the year. However, at Christmas time the town turns itself into an old-time Christmas village.
While the official events that normally take place during the first and second weekends in December are canceled in 2020, the town is still one of the most beautiful and festive in all of Pennsylvania. There are also many great local shops you can browse for gifts while visiting.
There are few places in the state that can compete with the quaint Christmas atmosphere of Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania.
Daffin’s Chocolate Kingdom in Sharon
Located in Sharon, PA, Daffin’s Chocolate Kingdom is a chocolate lover’s dream come true. Not only does this large store produce their own delicious chocolates, but they also are home to giant sculptures made from this delicious treat.
During the holiday season, the Chocolate Kingdom at Daffin’s takes on a holiday theme with decorations throughout this unique display. There are also many holiday chocolate treats that can be purchased at the store.
Daffin’s is open year-round.
Hershey Sweet Lights
Hershey Sweet Lights is one of the best and one of the largest drive-through Christmas light displays in Pennsylvania.
First opened in 2003, Hershey Sweet Lights is located along a two-mile stretch of roadway behind the Hotel Hershey. Visitors drive through the display and have a chance to see more than 2 million twinkling lights set up in a variety of holiday season displays.
Since there are more than 600 different displays along the route, there’s definitely a bit of something for everyone that loves Christmas in Pennsylvania to enjoy.
For the 2020 holiday season, Hershey Sweet Lights is open nightly from November 13, 2020 through January 3, 2021.
Do you have a favorite thing to do during Christmas in Pennsylvania? Let us know in the comments section below!
(Article updated in October 2020 to reflect 2020 holiday season operating dates)