Philadelphia is a world-class city with so much to offer year-round, but in my opinion, there’s no better time to explore the downtown than during the holiday season.
My husband and I started an annual tradition of bringing our three children into downtown Philadelphia during the holiday season to enjoy all that it offers. From light shows and ice skating, to shopping, dining, and seasonal wellness activities, no matter what you’re looking for, Philadelphia has something for everyone.
For our annual tradition, we take the train into the city, sometimes with a big group of family and friends. This is especially fun for the kids because it’s a unique and fun experience for them to ride the train. While we usually try to squeeze in as much as we can in one day, sometimes it’s too much, so we’ll save some of the attractions, like the Blue Cross RiverRink, for later in the winter. Whether you do it all in one day, or space it out over time, you will have plenty to choose from to help occupy the many days off from school!
Five Can’t-Miss Philadelphia Holiday Attractions
- Deck the Hall Light Show, presented by Independence Blue Cross, is a free choreographed light show synchronized with holiday music and projected on Philadelphia’s City Hall. Local designers, Klip Collective, who created this cheerful light show last year, expanded and improved the show, making it even more vibrant for 2019.
- Location: Dilworth Park, 1 South 15th Street (West Side of City Hall)
- Dates: Runs through January 1, 2020
- Time: Starts nightly at 5:30 p.m.Sunday to Thursday: Every hour on the half hour
Friday to Saturday: Every 30 minutes
December 21 – January 1: Every 30 minutes
While you’re there, you can ice skate or shop for locally-made gifts and food at the Christmas Village.
- The Comcast Holiday Spectacular, is a crowd-favorite musical journey featuring footage from The Pennsylvania Ballet’s The Nutcracker, a magical sleigh ride over the city, and a sing-along to beloved holiday classics. This show is always a big hit with my kids, especially at the end of the show when snow falls among the audience — they love it. We’ve seen this show a few times, so they know where the most snow falls and make it a point to get a good spot to catch the flurries.
- Location: Comcast Center lobby, 17th and JFK & at the new Comcast Technology Center, 18th and Arch Street
- Dates: Runs through January 1, 2020
- Time: Daily at the top of each hour, 10 a.m. – 8 p.m., excluding weekdays at 5 p.m.
- The Christmas Light Show and Wanamaker Organ Concert at Macy’s is a Philadelphia holiday tradition. Both kids and adults watch in awe at the more than 100,000 LED lights on display in the shape of sparkling holiday-themed images. The show includes live seasonal music from the world-renowned Wanamaker Grand Organ.
- Location: 1300 Market Street
- Dates: Runs through December 25, 2019, excluding Christmas Day
- Time: 10 a.m., noon, 2 p.m., 4 p.m., 6 p.m., and 8 p.m.
- After seeing the light show at Macy’s, we always make a stop at the Reading Terminal Market for a bite to eat. With 30 merchants to choose from, you’re guaranteed to find something that pleases everyone in your group, even for picky eaters.
- Location: 51 North 12th Street
- Time: Open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily
- The Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest is a winter wonderland of activities and appeals to both adults and kids. This year, the RiverRink celebrates its 26th anniversary and as always, Independence Blue Cross card holders receive free ice-skating admission. If skating isn’t your thing, you can cozy up inside The Lodge, which offers a variety of food and beverage options from Chickie’s and Pete’s, Village Burger by Garces, and more. There’s also a Kids Lodge and arcade, outdoor fire pits, and warming cabins. One year, our family and friends rented a cabin. We warmed up by the fire with hot chocolate and the kids made s’mores with the s’mores kits available at the Franklin Fountain Confectionary Cabin.
- Location: 101 South Columbus Blvd.
- Dates: Runs through March 3, 2020
- Time: Open every day, including all holidays. Hours vary, check website for times.
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Find More Festive Fun
Check out more local holiday attractions in and around Philadelphia.