The magic of the holiday season has blanketed Philadelphia in lights, displays, and cheer. Trees illuminate parks, pop-up markets liven neighborhood hotspots, and a bevy of festivities spread merriment all across the city. We’ve got the complete guide to all the best activities to get you in the holiday spirits.


The heart of Philadelphia has transformed into a sprawling holiday celebration, complete with a garden, ice rink, light show, and pop-up shops. A new Deck the Hall Light Show displays a choreographed light show on Philadelphia’s historic City Hall every night, and below revelers can rent skates and twirl on the Rothman Institute Ice Rink. Or visitors can explore and relax in a labyrinth of seasonal plants and lights at America’s Garden Capital Maze. The city’s official tree overlooks North Broad Street, and a beer garden, bakery, and barbecue offer snacks, cocktails, and warm drinks.  


For the 10th year, the German-style Christmas Village will return to the newly restored JFK Plaza (or LOVA Park). Over seventy wooden booth display local and international merchandise like handmade toys, wintry apparel, ornaments, jewelry, and artwork. The Christmas Village offers the perfect opportunity to find that one-of-a-kind holiday gift. Or just stop by for some drinks and foodstuffs from the many vendors.


One of the best places in Philadelphia to lace up and ice skate, the Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest is also one of the most popular holiday destinations in town. Fire pits, an arcade, a cozy, chalet-style restaurant and bar, and a regulation skating rink make the Winterfest a go-to destination for winter fun. The Franklin Fountain Confectionary Cabin serves up sweet treats, while Garces Group and Chickie and Pete’s offer heartier options like wings, cheesesteaks, pretzels, burgers, and soups. Their 12 Days of Christmas Movies celebration will feature film showings from December 14th Christmas Day.


The Christmas light show at Macy’s Center City is a Philadelphia tradition that dates back to 1956. Snowflakes, reindeer, and ballerinas composed of over 100,000 LED lights compose a four-story-tall display in the Grand Court atrium.Every two hours, an 11-minute light show brings the impressive exhibition to life. For more lights, check out the Holiday Light Show at Franklin Square. The park twinkles every thirty minutes in the afternoon, as 50,000 bulbs dance to music around a giant, illuminated kite. While you’re in the square, check out the mini golf, carousel, holiday train, or Hanukkah favorites like dreidel games and fresh latkes. If you’re in South Philly, be sure to make your way to the holiday lights on 13th Street. The 1600 block of South 13th Street between Tasker and Morris Streets is alight with a frenzy of decorations and is a local and national favorite.


Instead of a Chinese food and a movie at home on Christmas, Jewish celebrants can enjoy an alternative. The Gersham Y will host its 9th annual Moo Shu Jew Show, featuring a multi-course Chinese meal in the heart of Chinatown while soaking in performances from nationally-renowned comedians. Moody McCarthy, Marla Schultz, and Brad Zimmerman highlight this year’s lineup. Tickets are required for the December 24th show.  


On December 27th families can enjoy a kid-friendly Philadelphia dance tradition when The Nutcracker returns to the Academy of Music. An elegant stage is beset with lavish sets, intricate costumes, and enchanting performances by the Pennsylvania Ballet Orchestra and Philadelphia Boys Choir. If Tchaikovsky isn’t your speed, try the annual A Christmas Carol show at the Walnut Street Theatre. The Philadelphia Orchestra Holiday Concerts also offer a variety of spirited musical performances throughout December in the Kimmel Center’s Verizon Hall.

Spend the night with The Independent’s Visit Philly – Winter Getaway package for free parking and so much more!