If you have 2-3 hours…
Start with the 11:00 Holiday Spectacular in the lobby of the Comcast building: 15 minutes of Philly-themed video and music on one of the world’s largest highest-resolution LED displays – ending with an audience sing-a-long and a shower of “snow” over the audience.
Free Concerts on the World’s Largest Pipe Organ… (in a Historic Department Store!)).
Other Philly holiday experiences:
Buying Clear Toy Candy from Shane’s Confectionery, where they make this old fashioned treat using Victorian-era candy molds. They even taste good – I thought honey, Tobey thought maple syrup (they come in a variety of colors, but just “sugar” flavor). Enjoy the Victorian decor and indulge in one of their house-made drinking chocolates in the cafe at the rear of the store.
www.holidaysinthepark.com for details. Tip: Cedar Grove (pictured) is operated by the Philadelphia Museum of Art, so a ticket to the art museum will get you into Cedar Grove for free. You can pay for the houses individually, or a ticket that will get you into all the houses for one price. Lemon Hill (Steps to Nowhere? Lemon Hill – A Hidden Neoclassical Gem) is walking distance from the art museum, the rest are an easy drive away, with plenty of parking at each site.
Exploring Mexican South Philly/Italian Market)). Pretty much every house on this block of row homes is covered with lights and other Christmas decorations. (sorry, no photos – we were too busy gawking, but you can Google it).
There is also a great garden railroad at Morris Arboretum. Although the gardens are open daily year round, the train garden, with its terrific nature themed Philly buildings, is seasonal. However, a few nights around Christmas they add holiday lights and seasonal decorations, and run the trains at night (in 2020, Billy Penn sported a Covid mask along with his holiday wreath). Tickets sell out, so advanced purchase is definite.
And, for the ultimate in holiday lights, a trek to Longwood Gardens is in order. Definitely not a secret (they can probably be seen from space!), this is a fun way to celebrate the season. Dinner in the fancy 1906 restaurant is definitely a splurge, with fancy food garnished with flowers and brioche cooked in flower pots (plus, Kennet Square mushroom soup is always on the menu). Reservations for the gardens and restaurant required- they always sell out.
A more subtle Christmas display can be found at Glencairn (Glencairn: Medieval and Religious Art), where a display of world nativities is on view in this mansion/museum of medieval and religious art.
Viewing the nativities is free, but paying for the tour gets you a ride on the tiny elevator to the balcony, and a view of the Pitcairns’ fabulous bathroom.