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.
The 11:00 show ends with plenty of time to walk to Macy’s for the 12:00 light show (with time to spare to look at the holiday themed window displays). Although they’ve updated with LED lights, the show is definitely low tech fun (with the voice of Julie Andrews as the narrator). The bonus of seeing the 12:00 show is that the finale is played live on the Wanamaker organ (Free Concerts on the World’s Largest Pipe Organ… (in a Historic Department Store!)).
You can stick around for an additional 1/2 hour of live organ music, or go right up to the 3rd floor for a walk through the Dickens Village. I love cheesy, especially around the holidays and this is the best kind of cheesy. From an introduction by animatronic Dickens himself, to Marley’s ghost and the blessing of Tiny Tim, this is a scene by scene recreation of “A Christmas Carol.”
Finish up with the model trains and lunch at Reading Terminal Market. The perfect ending? A peppermint (or any) donut from Bieler’s. (just not on a Sunday – this Mennonite-owned business is closed).Or you could head over to City Hall and LOVE Park for the winter garden, carousal, ice skating and the Christmas Market:
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.
Tour one (or all) of the historic houses in Fairmount Park for some old fashioned Christmas spirit. Visit 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.
Speaking of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the holidays are a great time to visit. Enjoy card making, music in the galleries, arts & crafts, and the “Christmas Story in Art” tour (this Hieronymus Bosch painting probably won’t be on the tour, but is one of the creepiest wise-men scenes ever). All activities are included in admission (plus, the first Sunday of the month and all Wednesday evenings are “pay what you wish”).
For Christmas lights Philly-style, head to the 1600 block of South 13th Street for the “Miracle on South 13th Street.” (off Passyunk Avenue, which has great restaurants, and is also close to the Mexican and Italian restaurants of the Italian Market area (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.