If you’re looking for somewhere great to visit this holiday season, start planning your travels to these amazingly festive holiday towns in Pennsylvania.
(Note: Please double check if the events listed below are happening in 2020. While I’ve done my best to note where things have changed, it’s possible I missed something or that changes happen later in the season.)
Dubbed “Christmas City USA,” the name of the community itself makes this Lehigh Valley city one of the most festive in the state. The city is home to two Christmas markets, the authentic Christmas City Village downtown, and the somewhat overhyped Christkindlmarkt.
In addition to shopping, visitors can also tour the buildings of Historic Bethlehem and see their Christmas decorations and learn about the past residents of the area. There are even horse-drawn carriage rides through beautiful downtown Bethlehem.
To see more of our top picks, check out our favorite things to do in Bethlehem at Christmas.
The birthplace of actor Jimmy Stewart, Indiana looks just like the setting of his most famous film, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The city comes alive each November and December with the It’s a Wonderful Life Festival, which brings a parade, live music, and many exciting events and activities into downtown Indiana.
(Note: the town’s parade won’t be occurring in 2020, but they are still a lot of fun activities happening throughout the season.)
While there, don’t miss the fantastic Jimmy Stewart Museum, where you can learn about the actor’s life and legacy. Then, head out to a Christmas tree farm and see why the area is dubbed the “Christmas Tree Capital of the World.” Finally, return for some great shopping at the local merchants along Philadelphia Street.
Pennsylvania’s largest city features more than enough Christmas excitement to keep you occupied this holiday season. In fact, I’ve even written a whole post just about my favorite holiday destinations in the city.
Highlights include an amazing Christmas show at the world’s largest, functioning pipe organ. Then head over to the most authentic German Christmas market I’ve come across in the state, the great Miracle on South 13th Street, or try a bit of ice skating at the two outdoor rinks.
Philadelphia is also home to the oldest Thanksgiving Day parade in the country, great New Year’s Eve fireworks, and the Mummers Day Parade on New Year’s Day, the oldest folk festival in the nation. (Note: Both the Thanksgiving Day Parade and the Mummers Day Parade are canceled for the 2020/2021 holiday season.)
I’ve been to many communities in Pennsylvania, but none have made me feel most nostalgic than Wellsboro. This north-central Pennsylvania town features an amazing downtown filled almost exclusively with local shops and restaurants. After dark, the 1920s theater and gas-powered street lamps give off a warm glow that’s sure to make you feel a little peace on earth.
The highlight of Wellsboro’s holiday celebrations is their Dickens of a Christmas festival held during the first weekend in December. This festival brings Victorian interpreters to the streets of the city, and you might even run into Scrooge himself.
(Note: While the Dickens of a Christmas festival is canceled for 2020, there are a lot of great events and sights to be seen during the holiday season in Wellsboro).
Pittsburgh pulls out all the stops during the holiday season. Starting with their Light Up Night in mid-November, the city comes alive with a Christmas market, ice skating rink, lights, and more. Phipps Conservatory decks their gardens for their Winter Flower Show, and the Nationality Rooms at the University of Pittsburgh allow visitors to see how the holiday season is celebrated around the world.
The season culminates on New Year’s Eve with one of the best displays of fireworks in Pennsylvania.
(Note: For 2020, Light Up Night is canceled.)
The western PA city of Hermitage comes alive this time of year and makes a great holiday destination in Pennsylvania. The most popular place to visit during the holiday season is Kraynak’s Christmas display. This display is known throughout the state as being one of the most festive holiday displays in Pennsylvania. Stroll through the 300-foot long holiday spectacular and enjoy the sights and sounds of the season.
Also not to be missed is the Festival of Trees at the Stewart House. Other attractions in the area worth visiting include Christmas at the Waugh House Museum, Christmas in the Park in nearby Grove City, or the Christmas tree in downtown Mercer. (Note: Both of these events are canceled for 2020, but Kraynak’s will still have their Christmas display.)
7. Jim Thorpe
Another great holiday destination in Pennsylvania is the community of Jim Thorpe. Nestled among the Pocono Mountains, Jim Thorpe features a quaint downtown that seems like a winter wonderland.
The town throws an Olde Time Christmas celebration during the first three weekends of December. Visitors can enjoy shopping in the downtown shops and enjoy live music.
(Note: There will be no official festival in 2020, but the town is still a great place to visit to do some shopping and enjoy the beauty of the holiday season.)
It should come as no surprise that the town known as the “Sweetest Place on Earth” and “Chocolatetown, USA” is also one of the best holiday destinations in Pennsylvania. In fact, I’ve written a whole post with my suggestions for things to do at Christmastime in Hershey and Harrisburg.
The star attraction in Hershey is Christmas Candylane at Hersheypark. The park is open for holiday festivities in November and December and features many of your favorite rides, along with special holiday decorations, live reindeer, and Santa. Nearby, visitors can drive through Hershey Sweet Lights, a two-mile driving trail through the countryside featuring hundreds of displays.
The holiday season in Greensburg means one thing: Overly’s Country Christmas. Begun in 1956, this holiday tradition has grown to become one of the largest holiday light displays in the state. Visitors flock to the Westmoreland County Fairgrounds just outside of Greensburg to see this light display, and proceeds go towards local children’s charities.
When visiting the area, don’t miss the holiday plays at both the Greensburg Garden and Civic Center and The Palace Theatre. (Note: The Garden and Civic Center has canceled all events in 2020. The Palace Theater will be streaming several online Christmas concerts in December.)
What’s your favorite holiday town in Pennsylvania? Let us know in the comments below.