I love visiting Philadelphia during any season, but one of my favorite times to visit is at Christmastime. During the month of December, the city is filled with Christmas cheer. Lights decorate many of the buildings as shoppers rush by beautifully decorated shop windows while doing their holiday shopping,
For those looking for a bit of Christmas cheer, I recently took to the streets of Philadelphia to uncover some of the best places to visit during this holiday season.
I’ve already shared my favorite places to get Christmas cheer in Pennsylvania, the best things to do at Christmas in Harrisburg and Hershey, great Christmas lights in downtown Pittsburgh, and the best things to do in Bethlehem during Christmas, but if you are planning on visiting the City of Brotherly Love this holiday season, here are 11 things to do during Christmas in Philadelphia that are sure to leave you humming your favorite holiday jingles.
Note: We have done our best to make sure this article is accurate for 2020. However, as things can change during these unprecedented times, please double-check information before heading out to enjoy the holiday season.
Philly’s Christmas Village
I’ve been to several different German Christmas markets throughout the state. All claim to be “authentic,” but some struggle to achieve it. However, the Christmas Village in Philly’s Love Park is simply awesome.
Walking amongst the market’s 70+ wooden stalls, I was impressed by the market’s authentic touches. In fact, I really felt like I had been transported to Germany for one of their famous Christkindlmarkt’s.
This, of course, isn’t an accident. Believe it or not, Philly’s Christmas Village is actually run by a group of Germans who base the market on the one in Nuremberg, one of the largest and most famous Christmas markets in the world.
While walking around, don’t miss the stand from Chaddsford Winery, which sells Glühwein, a type of mulled red wine that is a must while browsing the grounds of this awesome market. For those that want something different, the hot chocolate sold at the village is also amazingly delicious.
In 2020, the Christmas Village is open daily from 11am – 7pm (8pm on Fridays and Saturdays) from November 26 – December 24 in Love Park. They are open Thanksgiving Day from 9am – 5pm and Christmas Eve from 11am – 5pm.
Located around City Hall, Dilworth Park comes alive during the holiday season and features many great things to do during Christmas in Philly.
The Made in Philadelphia Holiday Market features almost four dozen vendors from the city selling a variety of handmade goods and delicious foods. This sister market to the Christmas Village offers more great shopping during the holiday season.
The Deck the Hall Light Show is shown on the facade of City Hall multiple times every night. This impressive light show combines great holiday music with some amazingly artistic lights to create one of the best shows during the holiday season in Philadelphia. (Note: I have been unable to confirm the status of the Deck the Hall Light Show at this time.)
Also in Dilworth Park is a fantastic ice skating rink, carousel, and winter garden. While there, don’t miss City Hall’s Christmas tree, which is beautifully decorated and is well-worth enjoying for a few minutes.
All attractions in Dilworth Park run daily through January 1, except for the Ice Rink which is open through late February 2020.
The Miracle on South 13th Street
The Miracle on South 13th Street is one of the most impressive displays of Christmas lights in Philadelphia. Occupying the 1600 block of South 13th Street in South Philly, this display features more lights that you’ll find in most neighborhoods.
Drive down the street, or better yet walk, to see the beautiful lights here. There are even occasional visits from Santa and singing groups.
The Miracle on South 13th Street can be seen daily from 5pm to midnight from the Saturday after Thanksgiving through December 31, 2020.
Christmas at the Wanamaker Building
The Wanamaker Building in downtown Philadelphia has been running Christmas shows for nearly 100 years, and the Macy’s Department Store that now occupies the lower floors continues that tradition in grand style.
Even before entering the building, you’ll be delighted by the festive window decorations that showcase both well-known Christmas scenes and some local Christmas flair.
Sadly, much of the interior decoration will be different for 2020.
Normally, the third floor of the building is home to the fantastic Dicken’s Village. This recreates a Victorian village straight out of “A Christmas Carol” and features visits with Santa Claus. Hopefully, it will return in 2021.
What’s less clear at this time is the status of their annual Christmas Light Show in the center court.
Started in 1956, over 1,000,000 LED lights combine together with voiceovers by Julie Andrews to create a festive holiday show. While it might be a little outdated, the show still has a festive charm that’s worth seeing.
If shows are indeed held, visit Monday-Saturday for the 12pm show, as you’ll be treated to a live performance on the world’s largest, functional pipe organ at the show’s conclusion. The 6 pm show will also feature live music on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.
The Christmas Light Show runs seven days a week on every even hour from 10am-8pm from November 29 until December 31. Christmas concerts on the Wanamaker Organ in the center court occur from Monday-Saturday after the noon show.
Shows will also be available online for the first time ever, along with many other holiday attractions at Macys.com/SantaLand.
Located along the Delaware Riverfront, RiverRink Winterfest is one of my favorite Christmas things to do in Philadelphia.
The highlight of the RiverRink Winterfest is a large ice skating rink where both experts and newbies can spend time enjoying being on the ice.
In addition to ice skating, Winterfest also features a miniature train for kids, delicious food from local restaurants, a beer garden, an arcade, and beautiful holiday lights.
For those looking for somewhere to see Philadelphia’s New Year’s Eve fireworks (if they happen in 2020), the area around RiverRink Winterfest is a great choice.
RiverRink Winterfest is open from November 27, 2020, through early March 2021.
Winter on Broad Street
New for 2020 is Winter on Broad Street.
Held in South Philly near the Wells Fargo Center, this 160,000-square-foot area will be filled with incredible holiday decorations, including 193 large light sculptures. This is a Christmas light showcase that you won’t want to miss.
In addition to lights, there will also be treats to eat, shopping, activities, and, best of all, Gritty Claus.
Winter on Broad Street will run from November 27 through January 3, 2021.
Find out more on the event’s website.
Reading Terminal Market Holiday Railroad
Tucked into a corner of the frenzy of Reading Terminal Market is their annual holiday railroad display. As the former terminus for the Reading Railroad, the market is the perfect place for a model train display.
Located in the Piano Court, this 500-square foot display features 14 different model trains running through a beautifully decorated Christmas village. While it might not be the most exciting thing on the list, kids and anyone who loves trains should really enjoy this display.
Plus, since you’re in Reading Terminal Market already, you can take a few minutes to do some holiday shopping or get a fantastic lunch.
Jewelers’ Row Lights
Jewelers’ Row is a single block of jewelry stores located on the 700 block of Sansom Street and was the first Diamond District in the country. In addition to being very historic, there’s a little extra bling on the streets during the holiday season as lights are strung over the street.
While these lights are more understated than some of the others in Philadelphia, Christmastime here is still quite beautiful.
Take an evening stroll down this quiet backstreet, and enjoy how beautiful the lights are with a backdrop of historic jewelry stores.
The Franklin Square Holiday Festival
While it might not be as exciting as the Christmas Village in Love Park or the Miracle on South 13th Street, the Holiday Festival in Franklin Square is definitely worth checking out.
The highlight of the festival is a light show at the square’s fountain. During the show, 50,000 lights dance as Christmas music is played over the loudspeaker. While the show only lasts about 5-10 minutes, there is a lot more to see in Franklin Square.
Other activities include riding the carousel, playing putt-putt golf through a variety of Philadelphia landmarks, and enjoying some food and beverages at a food tent/beer garden housed in the middle of Franklin Square.
The Franklin Square Holiday Festival is open from 5-9 pm (until 10 pm on Fridays and Saturdays) from November 19 through December 31.
Franklin Square is also home to great events throughout the year including the Philadelphia Chinese Lantern Festival in May and June.
Rittenhouse Square is one of Philadelphia’s original squares and is beautiful anytime during the year. However, the square is especially picturesque during the holiday season.
Take a stroll through this historic square and enjoy the lights strung from the trees and the around the impressive sculptures in the park.
Do you have a favorite thing to do during Christmas in Philadelphia that didn’t make my list? Let me know in the comments section below.
Article updated November 9, 2020, to reflect operating dates for the 2020 holiday season. We have done our best to ensure the accuracy of this article, but as the events of this year are unprecedented, it’s best to double-check before leaving home.