My 11 Favorite Christmas Things to do in Philadelphia

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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 Pennsylvaniathe 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 Christmas things to do in Philly that are sure to leave you humming your favorite holiday jingles.

 

Philly’s Christmas Village

The Christmas Village is one of the top Christmas things to do in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The beautiful Christmas Village in downtown Philadelphia.

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.

Christmas Village is one of the top Christmas things to do in Philadelphia, PA
The Christmas Village is an authentic German Christmas market.

While walking around, don’t miss the stand from Chaddsford Winery, which sells Gl├╝hwein, 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 2018, the Christmas Village is open daily from 11am – 7pm (8pm on Fridays and Saturdays) from November 22 – December 24 in Love Park.

Dilworth Park

Ice skating in Dilworth Park during Christmas in Philly
Ice skating in Dilworth Park is a great way to enjoy the holiday season.

Located around City Hall, Dilworth Park comes alive during the holiday season and features many great things to do during Christmastime 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.

Philadelphia's Christmas trees at City Hall.
The beautiful Christmas tree adjacent to City Hall.

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 beautiful 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 until February 24, 2019.

The Miracle on South 13th Street

Miracle on South 13th Street in Philadelphia at Christmas.
The Miracle on South 13th Street is one of the most beautiful light displays in Pennsylvania.

The Miracle on South 13th Street is one of the most impressive light displays in all of Pennsylvania. 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 January 1, 2019.

Christmas at the Wanamaker Building

A Christmas window display outside of Macy's Department Store in Center City Philly.
A Christmas window display outside of Macy’s Department Store in Center City Philly.

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.

Once inside the building, head to the center court for the charming Christmas Light Show. 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.

The Christmas Light Show inside the Wanamaker Building is one of Philly's best Christmas traditions.
The Christmas Light Show inside the Wanamaker Building is one of Philly’s best Christmas traditions.

If you can, 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 6pm show will also feature live music on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.

Before you leave Macy’s, make sure to head up to the 3rd floor to see the fabulous Dickens’ Village. The store has recreated “A Christmas Carol” in wonderful fashion, telling the story of Ebenezer Scrooge through many large dioramas. I was super impressed by the Dickens’ Village and would definitely recommend it to children of all ages.

Macy's Dickens' Village is one of the top Christmas things to do in Philadelphia.
The Dickens’ Village on Macy’s 3rd floor is definitely worth checking out.

The Christmas Light Show runs seven days a week on every even hour from 10am-8pm from November 23 until December 31. Christmas concerts on the Wanamaker Organ in the center court occur from Monday-Saturday after the noon show.

RiverRink Winterfest

RiverRink Winterfest is a great Christmas thing to do in Philadelphia, PA
Skating around RiverRink Winterfest along the Delaware Riverfront.

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.

New Year's Eve fireworks in Philly over Penn's Landing
The area around RiverRink Winterfest is a perfect spot from which to view the fireworks on New Year’s Eve.

For those looking for somewhere to see Philadelphia’s New Year’s Eve fireworks, the area around RiverRink Winterfest is a great choice.

RiverRink Winterfest opens for the year on November 23, 2018 and doesn’t close until March 3, 2019.

The Comcast Holiday Spectacular

The Comcast Holiday Spectacular is one of the best Christmas things to do in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The wonderful Comcast Holiday Spectacular is definitely worth seeing.

If the Macy’s Christmas Light Show isn’t high-tech enough for you, head over to the Comcast Building for the Comcast Holiday Spectacular.

The HD screen measures 83-feet wide by 25-feet tall, and features one of the highest resolutions of any screen in the world, making the pictures ridiculously clear.

The Comcast Holiday Spectacular lasts 18 minutes and features a wide-variety of music on the screen. Scenes range from the heartwarming to the comical and feature a wide variety of characters on the screen.

This fun show is so festive that even the Grinch would be singing along by the end.

The Comcast Holiday Spectacular runs every hour on the hour from 10am-8pm (except 5pm on weekdays) from November 23 – January 1.

Reading Terminal Market Holiday Railroad

Model trains at Reading Terminal Market's Holiday Railroad in Philadelphia.
Model trains at Reading Terminal Market’s 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

Christmas Lights in Jewelers Row in Philadelphia, PA
Jewelers’ Row is a beautiful spot during the holiday season.

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

The Franklin Square Holiday Festival is one of the best things to do in Philly during Christmas
The light show at 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 4:30-8pm (until 9pm on Fridays and Saturdays) from November 15 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

Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia with Christmas decorations
Rittenhouse Square is a beautiful spot for an evening stroll during the holiday season.

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.

Tinsel

Tinsel is a great place to have a drink in Philadelphia during Christmas
Tinsel is the most festive place for a drink in Philly (Photo used courtesy of Tinsel)

If exploring all of these great Christmas things to do in Philadelphia makes you thirsty, head over to the most festive bar in the city: Tinsel. Located on South 12th Street in Center City, Tinsel looks a bit like your grandmother’s decorations threw up all over an old jewelry store (in the best possible way, of course).

Tinsel not only features festive decorations and seasonal music, but they also feature some unique holiday cocktails.

Tinsel is open daily from December 6 through New Year’s Day.

Bonus: New Year’s Eve and The Mummers Parade

Things to do in Philly during the holiday season: Mummers Parade
The Mummers Parade is a can’t miss New Year’s Day event.

The holiday season ends with two great events in the city.

During Philadelphia’s New Year’s Eve celebrations, you can see two great fireworks shows, enjoy family-friendly activities, and much more.

On New Year’s Day, the Mummers Parade is an amazing mix of artistry, pageantry, and craziness. Mummers parade through the streets on Philly acting out skits, playing music, and just having a great time.

For more information on this fantastic tradition, check out our guide to the Mummers Day Parade.

Do you have a favorite Christmas thing to do in Philadelphia that didn’t make my list? Let me know in the comments section below.

Article updated September 18, 2018 to reflect operating dates for the 2018 holiday season.


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12 thoughts on “My 11 Favorite Christmas Things to do in Philadelphia”

  1. I took my girls to Philadelphia last year when we were in the states. It is a really interesting town, and one which looks great at Christmas. I am not a fan of the cold, so glad I could read about it here.

    • Well then this is the place for you, Kathleen! There are a ton of things you can read about on the site. You can find the full website archives at UncoveringPA.com/blog, or you can look at the menu at the top of the page under “Places to Go” to find things by area or under the heading “Blog” to find things by interest. Hope that helps.

  2. My husband and I love hanging in Philly. We usually spend a couple of nights during the Christmas season, even though we only live 40 minutes away in Trenton, NJ.
    Another cool Christmas-y activity is the River Rink Winterfest at Penns Landing. It is set up like a wintery ski lodge with fire pits, indoor “living rooms”, an ice skating rink, music, a light show, food and drink. Very cool.

  3. My family loves to visit the Holiday Garden Railway at the absolutely gorgeous Morris Arboretum. It’s all decorated for the holidays and there’s always a lot to enjoy in this amazing public garden!

  4. I want to see all the things you described. They all should great for the kids. Can you suggest what is the best way to see it all. By foot? Where to park? I am not familiar with the area and didn’t know exactly how to enjoy all of this in a day. It seems they all may be close in distance to each other too. Thanks.

  5. Thank you so much for posting all these events from Uncovering PA. Hubby and I ride our Harley in PA all the time. I didn’t realize how much stuff there is to see. We are looking forward to making some memories of our own. We did a 5,000 mile ride on the bike all the way to the Dakotas, Wyoming, Michigan, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Montana. Beautiful Country here in America and so much to see. We did that trip in June of this year. In 2017 were riding to the coast. Nothing like seeing it off the back of a motorcycle. Please keep up the good work and keep those ideas coming. love it. Just saw your favorite Christmas one. We live in Buffalo, New York so you know how much snow we can get here. Don’t know if we would get to the Christmas part but its something to think about.

  6. We’re taking the train to Phila. on Christmas Day to have dinner. Is anything else open besides the
    eating establishments?

  7. Flying in on Christmas Day 2018 and know no one. Good location to stay downtown and where to eat on Christmas Day. What’s open

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