Holiday Attractions in Philadelphia Mix Old and New

Many traditional holiday events like the Thanksgiving Day Parade have long been hit holiday attractions in Philadelphia, but a few recent additions, including pop-up winter festivals, have joined the line-up. We explore the city’s top winter goings-on.

Philadelphians love to celebrate the holidays, and each year the city hosts an abundance of seasonal events. Spectacular decorations deck both homes and businesses around town. Many traditional holiday attractions in Philadelphia (like the Thanksgiving Day Parade) have delighted Philly residents for years, but a few recent additions, including pop-up winter festivals throughout the city, have joined the seasonal lineup. Here are a few can’t-miss holiday attractions you’ll want to experience.

Try a Whirlwind Center City Holiday Extravaganza Tour

With a little advanced planning, you can spend a day in Center City and take in many popular holiday attractions in one quick trip. Stop by the Center City Macy’s to watch the Christmas Light Show with daily shows beginning every two hours through the holiday season. After the lights dim, ride the escalator to the third floor of Macy’s and stroll through Dickens Village, a 26-scene recreation of A Christmas Carol. On your way out of the department store, take note of the store’s seasonally decorated windows before hiking up to the Comcast Center to watch the Comcast Holiday Spectacular, shown on one of the world’s largest LED displays. If you’re in town on a Saturday in December, check out FrostFest at Sister Cities Park, which includes live holiday music, carriage rides, and cool winter-themed science experiments sponsored by the Franklin Institute.

Tree Lightings

Many city and suburban towns and neighborhoods host tree lightings to kick of the holiday season. The Christmas tree in Rittenhouse Square is one of the largest and most festively decorated in Philadelphia, strung with 5,000 lights. Other holiday trees on display in the downtown area include the Love Park tree, which is part of Christmas Village, an old-fashioned open-air German holiday market. To escape the chill, stop by the Shops at Liberty Place’s multi-story holiday tree or sample the hot chocolate bar at the Ritz-Carlton on December weekends.

Ice Skating Options

If ice skating is on your holiday to-do list, check out the new Rothman Ice Rink at Dilworth Park, next to City Hall. One of the newest holiday attractions in Philadelphia, the ice rink offers reasonable admission prices, skate rentals, and extended holiday hours. A second popular option is the Blue Cross RiverRink at Penn’s Landing, part of the holiday celebration known as Winterfest. The Penn’s Landing ice rink is surrounded by a scenic winter garden, and fire pits have been added to keep visitors warm during the chilly weather.

Day Trips

Looking for a city escape? Many surrounding towns also provide holiday entertainment. Longwood Gardens hosts an awesome display of lighted trees and fountains, both indoors and outdoors. If you’re traveling through Bucks County, don’t miss the Shady Brook Farm Holiday Light Display, in Yardley, a drive-through experience of holiday decorations featuring more than three million lights. You can also day-trip out to Hershey, Pennsylvania, for holiday events in Chocolatetown. Hersheypark’s Christmas Candylane opens most of the smaller rides and provides holiday entertainment and lighted decorations. Santa’s reindeer also make an appearance in Hersheypark this time of year.

During the holidays, it’s nice to take a break from shopping to spend time with family and enjoy the decorative attractions in and around Philadelphia. This joyous season is special for so many reasons, and you won’t need to travel very far to find the magic of the holidays.

Image Source: Flickr/Kevin Burkett


Jennifer DiGiovanni is a freelance writer and a partner in a real estate investment firm focusing on residential properties. She previously worked in the financial services industry and has earned an MBA from Villanova University. Jennifer enjoys writing about real estate, home improvement and small business.

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