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The Best Holiday Things to Do in Philly This Year

Tree lightings, makers markets, pop-up Christmas bars, live concerts, destination light displays, family festivities and several Nutcrackers: Everything you want and need to know about holidays in Philadelphia

The Best Holiday Things to Do in Philly This Year

Tree lightings, makers markets, pop-up Christmas bars, live concerts, destination light displays, family festivities and several Nutcrackers: Everything you want and need to know about holidays in Philadelphia

Tis the season to be jolly, yes, but also quite busy. This time of year, many things to do in Philly are sorta must-do: Shop for secret Santas. Show up at end-of-year celebrations. Cram into the old Wanamaker’s to see the light show and Dickens’ Village. Shop some more.

But there are also so many ways to feel incredible doing all the holiday things: Take an evening stroll through neighborhood lights. Surprise a neighbor with a little gift from one of those makers markets. Treat an old friend a seasonal cocktail at a pop-up bar. Do things you gotta do, for sure. But also: Do things you want to do.



EXPERIENCE A MIRACLE ON 13TH STREET. Every December, the 1600 block of South 13th Street — a couple blocks from East Passyunk Avenue — transforms into residential holiday display that delights the whole family. Look out for festive trolleys full of tipsy revelers (see below).

GO FARTHER SOUTH INTO SOUTH PHILLY. Girard Estates does the season right. The residents of South Smedley Street up a winter wonderland park complete with a nativity scene in the center of a quaint circle of tidy rowhomes. 2700 S. Smedley Street

Wintergarden at Dilworth Park.

STROLL THROUGH A WINTERGARDEN. Through March 17, Dilworth Park’s display of topiary and lights features 100 varieties of native plants, a willow branch pergola, and space for families and friends to mingle and snap festive photos. Free. 1 S.15th Street

Photo by Daryl Moran for Chestnut Hill Business District

SHOP STAG & DOE IN CHESTNUT HILL. Every Wednesday evening through Christmas, pretty Germantown Avenue lights up and gets festive: Shops stay open late, bars get crowded, a brass quartet roams, and Santa stops by. On December 6, 13 and 20 from 6:30 to 8:30pm.

CROWD IN FOR THE WANAMAKER’S MACY’S CHRISTMAS LIGHT SHOW. Through December 31, five times a weekday (10:30am, noon, 2, 4 and 6pm), three times on the weekend (noon, 2 and 6pm), plus retro snowpeople, teddy bears, a train, candy canes and such appear on the giant Lite Brite display in the Grant Court. Sundays, the giant organ accompanies the spectacle. While you’re there, you might as well explore Dickens’ village. Free. 1300 Market Street

Photo by Jeff Fusco for Visit Philadelphia.

CATCH A COMCAST CHRISTMAS. The 15-minute LED Holiday Spectacular in the lobby of the original Comcast Center draws a crowd from November 23 through January 1, at the top of each hour from 10am to 8pm. Sensory friendly show daily at 2:30pm. 1701 JFK Boulevard

SEE ICE SCULPTURES AND SHOP DURING FISHTOWN FREEZE. Get in on the ice sculpting act on December 9 from 11am to 8pm, and just walk among them on December 10 from 11am to 6pm during this fifth annual holiday event that spotlights 20 independent retailers in Fishtown and Kensington — and serves photos with Santa at Frankford Hall. Drink specials all over the neighborhood too. Frankford Avenue north of Girard Avenue

HAVE SOME HOLIDAY HOOPLA IN WEST PHILLY. December 9 brings pop-up makers markets plus specials at shops and eateries throughout University City, along Baltimore Avenue and into West Philly. Various locations

CELEBRATE DECEMBER 25 WITH FAMILY AT THE WEITZMAN. Being _____ at Christmas is an all-day family party with live music and dance, lots of activities, classic winter movies, and a site-wide scavenger hunt. Time TBA. Free. 5th and Market streets

MAKE A NIGHT OF IT IN FRANKLIN SQUARE. Through February 25, from 5 to 9pm, Winter in Franklin Square sets off a fountain-based Electrical Spectacle light-and-music show (free), and offers street curling ($40/hour; also available in daytime), mini golf ($12-$15), carousel rides ($4), and holiday treats. 200 N. 6th Street


TRY OUT CHRISTMAS HOUSE. Locals, don’t be fooled by the name or URL. This new Christmas attraction that lets ticket holders take 45-minute strolls through 12 rooms, including one where it’s snowing, one dedicated to Buddy the Elf, and, of course, the North Pole, is not at all in King of Prussia. It’s in the Andorra Shopping Center. Open daily through January 2. From $25 per adult, $20 per child. 701 Cathedral Road

LumiNature at the Philadelphia Zoo.

EXPERIENCE NATURE IN NEON AT THE ZOO. A 40-foot-tall penguin (plus 200 little ones), pine tree made of light-up flamingos, plus butterflies, jellyfish, a giant gorilla, huge snake, vines, flowers, coral reef, and more electrified nature take over the Philadelphia Zoo every night during LumiNature, through January 6. $23-$28. 3400 W. Girard Avenue

STROLL THROUGH LIGHTS AT FDR PARK. Through January 1, on the edge of Pattison Avenue, Tinseltown has transformed white lights into shapes — a giant Liberty Bell, tunnel, reindeer — and, more importantly, opened an ice slide ($10 for 3 rides) and skating trail ($15-$20). Select nights offer select specials. Wednesdays, for example, it’s BYO dog. $15-$41. 1900 Pattison Avenue

OGLE TOY TRAINS IN GREENERY. Chestnut Hill’s historic Morris Arboretum runs its Holiday Garden Railway of G-scale trains in a lovely and living green corner, through December 30. Reservations recommended if you’re coming on a weekend after dusk. $20 adult, $18 senior, $10 ages 3-17. 100 E. Northwestern Avenue

Founding Footsteps’ holiday trolley.

RIDE JOLLY ON A HOLIDAY TROLLEY. Tour group Founding Fathers charters wooden trolleys seven nights a week, through December 31 to take riders holiday light sightseeing — accompanied by live music. The two-hour tour starts on N. Delaware Avenue and spends most of its time in South Philly: Dickinson Square Park, Smedley Street, 13th Street, etc. The event is all ages and BYOB, within limits. By reservation. $55-$65. Start at 901 N. Delaware Avenue

GET INTO THE SPIRIT ELFRETH’S ALLEY. Old City’s extra-old residential seat hosts its annual Deck the Alley festival on December 9 from 2 to 4pm and 4 to 6pm. Ticket holders can pop into the wee historic homes, sample snacks, shop a makers market and search for hidden elves and while donating to tiny street’s upkeep. $25 adult, $10 child, $60 family of up to 5. Elfreth’s Alley


DO A DUPONT INDOOR-OUTDOOR CHRISTMAS. A Longwood Christmas, open through January 7, is a road trip worth making, what with the indoor and outdoor displays, the fabulous fountains, the (sometimes live) music, and the utter greenery and glamor. $16-$30. 1001 Longwood Road, Kennett Square

DRIVE-THROUGH LIGHTS ON A BUCKS CO. FARM. Through January 8, Shady Brook Farm has the holiday light thing down to a festive science. Cars drive through two miles of lights. Riders can also take the tour by wagon ($15-$23). There’s Mr. Claus and bonfires and plenty to buy too. $40-$50 per car, $75 mini bus or limo. 931 Stony Hill Road, Yardley

GET TRIPPY IN ACRES OF LIGHTS. Through January 15, the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center in Montgomery County (not to be confused with the PA Convention Center in Philly) offers 8 or so acres of Christmas decor galore, plus, new this year, festively animatronic dinosaurs — and calls it Luminocity. $20-$32. 100 Station Avenue, Oaks


CHECK OUT THE POPS’ HOLIDAY REPLACEMENT. The No Name Pops and conductor Enrico Lopez-Yañez take over where the now-defunct Philly Pops left off. A Very Philly Christmas offers a variety of shows and local and national guest performers throughout the month, always with live and lively music at Verizon Hall, Through December 23. $29-99. 300 S. Broad Street

SOLVE SCROOGE’S MURDER. Without a Cue Presents and Red Rum Theater hosts A Dickens of a Murder, where A Christmas Carol meets Sherlock Holmes. Weekends through December 30. $35. 601 Walnut Street

Dan Rouse.

HEAR THE HOLIDAY JAWN. Fresh from touring with Lauryn Hill, multi-instrumentalist Dan Rouse comes home on December 6 at 8pm to jam on holiday tunes in the lounge of the World Cafe Live. $10. 3025 Walnut Street

SEE THE CLASSIC: PHILADELPHIA BALLET’S NUTCRACKER. George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker, set to the classic Tchaikovsky, returns to make the Academy of Music feel extra magical, growing and glowing tree and all, December 8 through December 30. $25-241. 240 S. Broad Street

HAVE A DRAG QUEEN XMAS. The Jinkx & DeLa Holiday Show put the queen in Christmas, serving boisterous, LOL humor, belted-out songs and plenty of glam from the Miller Theater stage, December 8 at 8pm. From $49.50. 250 S. Broad Street

A scene from Dorrance Dance’s The Nutcracker Suite.

CATCH THE NUTCRACKER, DUKE ELLINGTON STYLE. Dorrance Dance’s The Nutcracker Suite puts a tap, jazz, boogie and swing spin on Tchaikovsky’s score, courtesy of the Duke Ellington and tap superstar and MacArthur Fellow Michelle Dorrance at Penn’s Zellerbach Theatre, December 8 at 8pm and December 9 at 2 and 8pm. $70–$80. 3680 Walnut Street

GET IN ON THE TAPCRACKER. Pros, apprentices and students from Philly’s own Lady Hoofers take to the Suzanne Roberts stage to present their now-classic take on the Christmas tale, only set in Paris, December 9 at 2 and 7pm and December 10 at 3pm. $30-$45. 480 S. Broad Street

A Soulful Christmas at the Kimmel Center.

EXPERIENCE A SOULFUL CHRISTMAS. The acclaimed Dr. J. Donald Dumpson returns to the Kimmel to lead regional choirs in holiday spirituals and gospel classics in a performance that ends in a finale of lights. Patty Jackson and Craig Hayes host on December 12 at 7:30pm in Verizon Hall. $36-$60. 300 S. Broad Street

SEE THE NUTCRACKER BY THE ROCK SCHOOL. The talented youth toes of South Philly’s eminent Rock School do up the holiday classic The Nutcracker on December 15, 16 and 17 at the Miller Theater. $9.50-$96. 250 S Broad Street

HEAR AN A CAPPELLA WORLD PREMIERE. One of the country’s most vaunted choirs performs a new work by composer David Lang. poor hymnal explores how religious songbooks can better value community and humanity. December 15 at 6 and 8:30pm at Penn’s Iron Gate Theatre ($42, 3700 Chestnut Street) and December 17 at 5pm at the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill ($20-$35, 8855 Germantown Avenue)

GET UP AND DANCE TO MOTOWN & STAX HOLIDAY TUNES. Philadelphia’s popular 1960s soul and Motown cover band York Street Hustle comes to the World Cafe Live to play seasonal hits and B-sides by Aretha Franklin, The Supremes, Al Green, Otis Redding and the Jackson Five. The York Street Hustle Holiday Spectacular is on December 16 at 8pm. $15-$35. 3025 Walnut Street

HAVE A VERY MUPPET HOLIDAY. The Rev. TJ McGlinchey & Friends put on a Jim Henson Holiday Extravaganza on December 23 at 7pm at the World Cafe Live, an all-ages show inspired by Henson’s most iconic creations: The Muppets and Sesame Street. $10. 3025 Walnut Street

KEEP THE HOLIDAYS GOING WITH CIRQUE DREAMS. Cirque Dreams Holidaze sets astounding feats of acrobatics, dance and more to live performances of holiday songs like Deck the Halls and Winter Wonderland. All family-friendly performances take place December 26–31 at the Miller Theater. $45-$109. 250 S. Broad Street


NORTHERN LIBERTIES TREE LIGHTING CEREMONY AND PARTY. The festivities include music, complimentary hot cocoa and treats — and the Figo Igloo grand opening party. November 28, from 6 to 8pm. 1033 N. 2nd Street

OLD CITY TREE LIGHTING. The courtyard of the historic Betsy Ross House hosts its neighborhood tree fete on November 29, from 5:30 to 6:30pm. 239 Arch Street

EAST PASSYUNK AVENUE TREE LIGHTING. Local carolers and, yes, Santa himself will be making a guest appearance at the Singing Fountain on November 29 at 5:30pm. Tasker Street and E. Passyunk Avenue

EVIL GENIUS FISHTOWN TREE LIGHTING. Join the brewery in ringing in the holiday season at its Twas an Evil Christmas party November 30 from 6 to 9pm, (lighting at 7:30pm) with live music, Christmas carols, decorations, photo stations, and the first tapping of Santa!! I Know Him!, a 7.2% ABV saison. 1727 N. Front Street

The Philadelphia City Hall Christmas Tree, with the Comcast Center in the background
The City Hall tree. Photo by K. Kelly / Visit Philadelphia

CITY HALL LIGHTS ITS TREE. The folks who work (for you) inside the municipal seat join DJ Diamond Kuts, Felicia Ponzo and cast members from Disney’s Frozen outside on the North Apron on November 30 at 7pm. Broad Street and John F. Kennedy Boulevard

TREE LIGHTS ON SOUTH STREET / HEADHOUSE. The only tree lighting we know of that happens during the day (parents of little kids thank you) takes place December 2 from noon to 4:30pm at the Headhouse Shambles. Mr. Claus will be there, along with Mrs. Claus’s holiday market. 2nd and Pine streets

Photo by Dominique Nichole for Visit Philadlephia.

PHILLY HOLIDAY PARADE TAKES OVER MARKET. This relatively new tradition celebrates all the winter holidays on December 2 at 5pm. Center City drivers beware. From 2nd and Market streets to City Hall

ROXBOROUGH LIGHTS ITS TREE. Pocket Park hosts, kicking off a weekend with a holiday pop-up market across the street (6174 Ridge Avenue), starting December 8 at 5:30pm.

This image of the menorah at the Betsy Ross house in Philadelphia accompanies a writeup about a lighting ceremony
The menorah at the Betsy Ross House. Photo by S. Almazon

OLD CITY LIGHTS THE MENORAH In the courtyard of the Betsy Ross House, in partnership with the Old City Jewish Arts Center — and with jelly donuts and latkes — on December 10 from 4 to 5pm. 239 Arch Street

HEADHOUSE ILLUMINATES ITS CANDLES. Communities and clergy from nearby B’nai Abraham, Kesher Israel Congregation and Society Hill Synagogue invite the neighborhood to gather under the Headhouse Shambles for a mid-Hanukkah menorah lighting on December 11 at 4:30pm. 2nd and Pine streets


Craftsman Row Saloon at Christmas time.

CRAFTSMAN ROW SALOON has 50,000 ornaments, hundreds of Santa hats, and nutcrackers everywhere, plus fancy burgers and holiday cocktails, seven days and nights a week. 112 S. 8th Street

DILWORTH PARK WARMING CABIN. Wednesdays from 5 to 7 pm through February 21, you can sip $7 Maker’s Mark cocktails, $6 wine, and $5 Hazy Beer Hug brews outside City Hall, next to the skating rink 1 S. 15th Street

McGILLAN’S OLDE ALE HOUSE: A literally old standby, hiding the shadow of City Hall, feels like Aunt Pat’s after she’s had one too many eggnog martinis. Bonus: They’ve opened their own holiday pop-up shop a block away at 1314 Juniper. 1310 Drury Street

Tinsel Bar.

TINSEL: Over the top barely begins to capture Center City’s, crammed, OG pop-up Christmas bar. Open through December 31. Cover charge on Fridays & Saturdays. 116 S. 12th Street

U-VILLE (UPTOWN BEER GARDEN): Bundle up. This purposely tacky, Grinch-inspired spread of lighted pergolas, tunnels and decor is all outdoors. 1500 JFK Boulevard

YULE WHISKEY LODGE AT BUTCHER BAR. Rittenhouse’s meat-forward brasserie is getting into the winter act, opening a cozy, ski chalet-theme with serious cocktails — bacon-washed bourbon with maple syrup and black walnut bitters — and cozy, less in-your-face-holidays ambience 2034 Chestnut Street


The Made in Philly Holiday Market.

MADE IN PHILADELPHIA HOLIDAY MARKET is the name of the Philly vendors outside City Hall in Dilworth Park. The market is open daily through January 1, closed December 25. 1 S. 15th Street

Christmas in Kensington holiday pop-up.
Thunderbird Salvage’s Christmas in Kensington pop-up.

SHOP CHRISTMAS IN KENSINGTON. The hip collectors behind Thunderbird Salvage open a pop-up selling trees, ornaments, and Xmas kitsch galore. On Fridays, Forin Cafe comes over to serve wine by the glass and bottle. Anyday, enjoy the photo booth. Dogs and children are welcome. Open Fridays through Sundays through December 31. 2856 Frankford Avenue

GIVE IN TO THE CHRISTMAS VILLAGE. Through December 24, the German-inspired market is the spot to score extra-fancy ornaments, every single Eagles tchotchke, mulled wine, with Ferris wheel, carousel, mini SEPTA train, plus dozens of vendors and mulled wine. Free entry. 1 S. 15th Street

SHOP ON SATURDAYS AT CHERRY STREET PIER. December 16 and 23 from noon to 5pm, local makers show up to sell their handmade wares atop the Delaware River at Cherry Street. 121 N. Columbus Boulevard

HOLIDAY GIFTS GALORE MARKET. The peeps behind the Now & Then Marketplace are taking over the Frankford Arsenal on December 1 from 5 to 11pm and December 2 from 11am to 5pm, offering an all-ages environment, welcoming dogs, and selling both essential and wackadoodle gifts. 2275 Bridge Street

LIBERTY FLEA AT BOK. The South Philly makers’ space collabs with New York’s Liberty Flea for a very cool vintage-meets-handmade market on December 2, from 10am to 5pm. 821 Dudley Street

NORTHERN LIBERTIES HOLIDAY POP-UP MARKET takes place December 9 and 10, from 11am to 4pm, at Operator’s Club at the Piazza. This annual shopping event features wares from local makers, snacks, make-and-take crafts and a visit from Krampus. 1010 Hancock Street

WEST CRAFT FEST comes indoors to The Rotunda for two days, December 9 and 10 from 10am to 4pm. The vendors — of handmade jewelry, ceramics, ornaments, art prints and originals, home wares, clothing, hand knits, bodycare, candles, stationery, toys — switch up from Saturday to Sunday, so you might want to swing by both days. 4014 Walnut Street

Two potted plants, each has a small wooden sign. One says: "My plants are gay." The other says "My plants are trans."
Photo by Major Davis

TRANS ART MART. Some of Philly’s top trans and nonbinary makers set up shops in the West Gym of the Bok Building, selling original art, stuffies, stained glass and more on December 10, 11am to 5pm. 821 Dudley Street

HOLIDAY PUNK ROCK FLEA MARKET. The Captain’s Vintage brings clothing, records, crafts, art and old punk junk from 200 different vendors to Center City’s Armory. Festivities with a night market, December 15 from 4 to 10pm, and then December 16 and 17 from 10am to 5pm. $10. 22 S. 23rd Street

FESTIVELY FLY HOLIDAY MARKET. This all-Black market returns December 16 from noon to 8pm to Location 215 with more than 20 Black-owned brands, artists, designers and creators, plus entertainment by Carla Gamble and She’J Q’Dee. $10 – $25. 990 Spring Garden StreetART STAR PROCRASTINATOR MARKET. The one we all gotta go to, courtesy of the arts- and craft-makers who started it all, Art Star. December 16 and 17, 11am – 4pm. The Bourse, 111 S. 5th Street

MADE@BOK. South Philadelphia’s Bok building showcases and sells the work of resident crafters and artists, December 16 and 17, from 11am to 5pm. Look for made-there wares like sustainable fashion, hand-blown glass, and all kinds of ceramics and jewelry. 821 Dudley Street


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