Although the weather outside may be frightful, there are plenty of reasons not to stay hunkered down inside this December and beyond. A lot of hot spots in Philly become hubs of activity in the winter. You’ll find lots of places to stroll, gawk at the sights, be inspired, and take pictures. And most of the ones listed below are free and accessible.
Christmas Light Show and Wanamaker Organ Concert
Nov. 29 – Dec. 31 (Closed Christmas Day)
Enjoy a longtime Philadelphia tradition. Since 1956, locals have flocked to the Christmas Light Show and Wanamaker Organ Concert, which is wheelchair accessible. Now at Macy’s Center City store in the historic Wanamaker Building, you can watch snowflakes, ballerinas, and reindeer float by against a blue velvet curtain. During the light show, 100,000 bright LED lights create fantastic holiday images. The shows run every two hours from 10 am to 8 pm. At the end of the light show, you’ll hear live festive music from the world-famous Wanamaker Grand Organ. Good, less crowded times for viewing the show are Monday through Thursday.
While you’re there, check out the third floor of Macy’s, which became a “Dickens Village” for the holidays. The 6,000 sq. ft. village brings Dickens’ A Christmas Carol to life with a free self-guided tour of an animatronic display that ends with a one-on-one with Santa.
Also worth a look: Macy’s animated Christmas street windows on the Market Street side.
Where: Macy’s is located in The Wanamaker Building at 13th & Market Streets. More details.
Christmas Village at LOVE Park
Nov. 28 – Dec. 24
Get into the holiday spirit at Christmas Village at LOVE Park in Philadelphia. Inspired by traditional European open-air Christmas markets, this shopper’s destination offers gifts and festive treats like warm waffles, gingerbread, and mulled wine. About 80 local and international vendors have set up shop here. Each day, street-side performances and special events will be held. For the brave, there are daily Ferris wheel and carousel rides. See the full Christmas Village calendar for upcoming events. The complete festival is wheelchair-accessible.
Where: N. 15th Street and Arch Street
Here’s a vendor list.
Dilworth Park (multiple attractions)
Now – Feb. 23, 2020 (dates vary by attraction)
Head to Center City’s Dilworth Park to see seasonal attractions that have popped up for the holidays and beyond. Like ice skating? Then glide on over to Rothman Orthopaedics Ice Rink. Even if you prefer not to skate yourself, it’s always fun watching others zipping around. Relax with a hot cocoa at the Rothman Orthopaedics Cabin. And take a stroll through the seasonal plant arrangements and holiday topiary in the Wintergarden. On one side of City Hall, through Jan. 1 you can see a free Deck the Hall light show.
Something new this season is “Play the Lights,” an interactive instrument that works like a normal keyboard, only with technicolor visual effects that are projected onto the façade of City Hall when you play each note. While local professional pianists and organists will be around to showcase what’s possible with synchronized holiday music, you may also get a chance to try your hand at this. Every Tuesday and Wednesday night from 8:45 pm to 9:30 pm, visitors of all ages are welcome to try “playing the lights.”
Look for gifts like handcrafted trinkets, jewelry, and yummies like French toast bites and pretzels at the Made in Philadelphia Holiday Market through Dec. 24. Elevators between the transit concourse and surface streets make Dilworth Park wheelchair-accessible.
Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest
From now to March 8, 2020
Check out the Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest, which turns Penn’s Landing into a wintry riverfront park. The Olympic-size ice skating rink, a ski chalet-style lodge and winter garden are like another world with outdoor seating, fire pits, cozy warming cabins, and arcade games. The Winterfest is a favorite for residents of every age and background. (Penn’s Landing is wheelchair-accessible. And you can take a Philly Phlash bus on the downtown loop to get to it.)
Kwanzaa at the African American Museum
Dec. 26 (2–5 pm)
Celebrate the winter harvest by lighting kinara and enjoying music, dance, and stilt-walkers at The African American Museum in Philadelphia’s annual Kwanzaa event. (The museum offers barrier-free access for the physically disabled.)
Fireworks on the Waterfront
If you would like to close out the year with fireworks, head on down to see Rivers Casino New Year’s Eve Fireworks on the Waterfront. You can catch great views of the free fireworks displays which will take place twice on the last day of the year at 6 pm and midnight.
Where: Various locations at the Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest at 101 S. Christopher Columbus Boulevard.
Enjoy the month! And we wish you all a happy new year!