By all accounts, winter in Philadelphia is shaping up to be back to normal this year—especially if you can look past the mask-wearing Santas and the massive vats of hand sanitizer welcoming you into every shop and restaurant in town.
This year, you’ll find all your favorite winter-in-Philly activities back and bustling with locals ready to put the pandemic behind them for some good old fashioned—but still safe!—seasonal fun. The bulk of things to do in Philly this winter, of course, revolve around the holidays, with ice skating rinks, holiday markets, pop-up Christmas bars and dazzling light shows happening all over town now through December.
MORE IDEAS FOR WHAT TO DO THIS WINTER IN PHILLY
You can find out where to find all that stuff in the ever-evolving list of winter in Philadelphia activities below. Get out there and have some fun, and feel good while doing it. Simple things, like having beers around a fire pit with friends or purchasing a stocking stuffer at a local holiday market, is money in the pocket for our local businesses, artists and organizations that so desperately need it these days. An engaged city is a thriving city, and who doesn’t want that for Philly right now?
With that said, though, it’s smart to keep track of Covid protocols wherever you go. Chances are you’ll need masks and proof of your Covid-19 vaccination. And keep coming back to this list, I’ll be updating as the season moves along.
THINGS TO DO IN WINTER IN PHILLY (AND A LITTLE BEYOND)
City Hall Holiday Tree Lighting | December 2, 7pm
Disney’s D Capella group punctuates the first in-person holiday tree lighting at City Hall since before the pandemic. Stop by to hear some holiday tunes, and to see the 50-foot tree get its first glow, with more than 4,000 bulbs.
Holiday at East Market | December 2 to 30 | Various times
A lot of attractions claim to be a winter wonderland around the holidays, but the Fashion District corridor that is East Market just may take the proverbial fruit cake, with its towering, whimsical tree, strands of lights and glowing snowflakes, and food and drink options always at your fingertips. Stop by every Thursday night between December 2 and 30 for a festive light show, live music and small bites and cocktails. Similar activities happen on Fridays (from December 3 to 24) and Saturdays (December 4 to 18).
Holidays at Philadelphia Museum of Art | December 3 to 17
The Philadelphia Museum of Art celebrates the holidays with a food- and drink-themed event happening every Friday evening in December, from the 3rd to the 17th. It all starts with a swanky holiday wine, cheese and charcuterie pairing on December 3. On December 10, you could show off your creative side during a lesson in decorating adorable gingerbread people and winter forest sugar cookies. And our personal favorite, the Winter Classic Cocktail workshop on December 17, allows you to concoct—and subsequently sip—three festive cocktail creations. (We’ll take the one with bubbles, please!)
Visit Philadelphia Holiday Parade | December 4
Visit Philly helps usher in all the holidays in early December with a festive parade down East Market Street featuring floats representing Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Chinese New Year and Christmas. Local marching bands and giant cold-air balloons will also make their way along the route, which begins at 2nd and Market streets and ends, fittingly, at the holiday tree at City Hall.
PARADE OF LIGHTS | December 4
On the first weekend in December, the Independence Seaport Museum will host its annual Parade of Lights, featuring boats decorated for the season sailing up and down the Delaware River as spectators look on from the banks.
Go for a wintery hike outside the city | All season
Our city is surrounded by gorgeous places to get out around trees (leafless as they may be), open land, rivers and streams. Check out this guide for ideas on where to go hiking near Philadelphia—including Tohickon Valley Park, Hickory Run State Park and that place where the rocks actually sing to you (do they know any carols?).
Ideas We Should Steal Festival | December 13 and 14
The theme for The Philadelphia Citizen’s fourth annual Ideas We Should Steal Festival is Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Prosperity. The daylong, conference-style event features smart change-makers from cities around the country who are sharing the ideas and innovations that are changing their cities for the better. The goal? Maybe we can bring some of these ideas to Philadelphia to help make it the best city it can be. Read more about the day’s schedule and speaker lineup here.
Christmas Village | Through December 24
Now through Christmas Eve, LOVE Park and various aprons around City Hall will play home to a whimsical Bavarian-themed holiday village, full of wintery treats and opportunities for European-style knickknack-shopping. New for this year: a double-decker carousel and a German food court will take up space in the City Hall courtyard. The Ferris Wheel and Kid’s Train will also be back on the North Apron of City Hall.
Tinseltown Holiday Spectacular | Through January 2
The Fairgrounds at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center in nearby Oaks, PA, is the site of a massive holiday light show and festival that sports more than a million lights, larger-than-life holiday sculptures, a 60-foot light tunnel that sounds pretty great for Instagram, and a dining area for all your eating and drinking needs.
Take a brisk stroll around Fairmount Park
Fairmount Park is an idyllic spot to spend a sunny Saturday or Sunday afternoon this winter. You could just show up and set out on one of its many hiking trails, or plan your day around some upcoming events happening in the park, such as guided walks, bird watching tours and more. This digital guide will tell you all you need to know to get the most out of the park.
Holiday Garden Railway | Through January 2
Chestnut Hill delivers serious holiday vibes, with its decorated streets, carolers and live bands set up on the streets and not to mention tons of neat shops to explore. Any visit should be coupled with a trip to Morris Arboretum to see the truly enchanting Holiday Garden Railway, an intricate miniature train set that features tiny choo-choos buzzing around a quarter-mile track decorated with snow-filled forests, tiny town displays and glowing Christmas trees. It’s cute-overload, and just the kind of nostalgia we need right now.
LumiNature at the Philadelphia Zoo | Through January 9
During LumiNature, the Philadelphia Zoo will be transformed into a dazzling winter wonderland with over a million lights; hundreds of glowing penguins and flamingos, and to top it all off, holiday tunes wafting overhead.
A Longwood Christmas at Longwood Gardens | Through January 9
Drive to this nearby wonderland of flora and fauna to check out its gah-worthy new holiday display, inspired by the “dramatically beautiful contrast of fire and ice.” Fire pits and flame lanterns are mixed among the showcase of towering decorated trees, a frozen succulent fountain and an alpine waterway. Its on view starting November 19 through January 9.
Deck the Ave along East Passyunk Avenue | All season
Winter festivities along one of South Philly’s busiest local-business corridors kick off with a festive tree lighting at the Singing Fountain on Thursday, December 2, from 5 to 7pm. From there, the Avenue celebrates with multiple visits / photo ops with Santa, a holiday concert and dance on December 12, and a chance to score holiday deals during the Shop & Stroll event, also on December 12. See the full lineup and get more details here.
Where to see holiday theater in Philadelphia
- The Kimmel Center presents a live-action version of A Charlie Brown Christmas (December 4)
- Quintessence Theatre Group is offering a charming musical adaptation of Little Women (December 4–31)
- Meet the Grinch’s ex in You Really Are a Heel, an irreverent cabaret produced by The Bearded Ladies (December 9–19)
- The Philadelphia Ballet brings back its time-honored Philadelphia tradition,George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker (December 10–31)
- Theatre Horizon returns to live theater with Holiday Spectacular: A Celebration of Gathering, which promises to be full of music, poetry and laughter. (December 10–12)
- 11th Hour Theatre Company presents A Philadelphia Christmas Carol, a radio play inspired by the Charles Dickens holiday staple. You can listen at home anytime from 7pm on December 19 to 7pm on December 23.
- Get a peek at Christmas during wartime America in 1943 in 1812 Productions’ streaming production of The Carols. (December 20–January 2)
Wintertime at Dilworth Park | Through February 27
There are several wintery things to do at Dilworth Park now through February 27. You could twirl around the ice skating rink, lounge amongst twinkling lights and whimsical seasonal decor at the Wintergarden on the Greenfield Lawn, shop at the Made in Philadelphia Holiday Market, or head inside the cozy ski chalet for brews, snacks and cozy vibes. In the background, the westward facing facade of City Hall will glow with the stunning Deck the Halls Holiday Light Show, on display through January 1.
Kids New Years Eve Countdown at Franklin Square | December 31, 4–9pm
Ring in the new year with the little ones at historic Franklin Square, which is celebrating the dawning of 2022 with an array of fun activities, including live music, arts and crafts stations and a Kids Dance Party in a heated tent till the wee hour of 9pm. The day apexes with a “Square Drop” from atop SquareBurger, and the chance to see the fireworks booming over the Delaware River during the 6pm show.
New Year’s Eve Parties on Ice at Winterfest | December 31 | various times
You can’t get a much better view of Philly’s New Year’s Eve fireworks over the Delware River than at Blue Cross RiverRink Summerfest, which exists along the actual river banks, in view of the Ben Franklin Bridge. There are two parties happening there—one at 6 and one at 10pm—both of which will get you there in time for the two Rivers Casino New Year’s Eve Fireworks shows. Keep your eyes peeled for ticket sales. These babies sell out fast.
Take in some nature in Wissahickon Park
There’s no shortage of things to do in winter in Wissahickon Park—whether it’s hiking one of its 50 miles of rugged, breathtaking trails, biking along Forbidden Drive, horseback riding, or trying to find as many of the 200 species of birds that live in the park as you can. We also recommend Sunday brunch at the oh-so-homey Valley Green Inn, which sits at the base of several hiking trails and streams to explore.
JANUARY TO MARCH 2022
This section will be filling up soon. Happy winter, Philly! ❄️Grab some friends and rent a fire pit this weekend at Blue Cross River Rink Winterfest | Photo by Matt Stanley