Philadelphia, PA - This December, Philadelphia’s Historic District transforms into holiday central. The original city neighborhoods of Old City, Society Hill and the Delaware River Waterfront join forces for Philadelphia’s Historic District HoliDays & Nights, a celebration of the season. From November 30 through December 31.
- Franklin Square – The Electrical Spectacle Holiday Light Show makes the park twinkle with free light shows every 30 minutes between 4 and 8 p.m. on weeknights and 4 and 9 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Among the 50,000 lights set to music are a giant, illuminated kite and key. Festivities include #FranklinSquareFridays; Saturdays with Santa; Seasonal Sounds on Sundays; a holiday train and carousel; make-your-own s’mores, hot and fresh doughnuts, local brews and hot beverages—served in a warm, tented beer garden; and mini-golf. The grand finale comes during the Kids’ New Year’s Eve Countdown and Dance Party, a family-friendly celebration at 6 p.m.—with a “Square Drop” and a view of the first fireworks show (see below). November 9-December 31. 6th & Race Streets, (215) 629-4026, historicphiladelphia.org
- Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest – The Delaware River Waterfront’s popular, seven-day-a-week (holidays included) seasonal attractionreturns for its 24th year. On tap: fire pits, a Kids Lodge arcade, a chalet-style Lodge Restaurant and Bar serving food from Garces Group and Chickie’s and Pete’s, story time every Saturday (beginning December 2), 12 days of Christmas movies (December 14-25), a Franklin Fountain Confectionery Cabin (for hot chocolate, hot fudge sundaes, s’mores kits and more) and a spectacular live tree (tree lighting, followed by fireworks on December 1)—centered around a regulation-size skating rink with a spectacular view of the Ben Franklin Bridge. On weekend afternoons in December, the Blue Cross RiverRink welcomes Saint Nick onto the ice for Skate With Santa (December 2, 3, 9, 10, 16, 17). The holidays culminate with The Rivers Casino New Year’s Eve Fireworks on the Waterfront, twopyrotechnics shows—one at 6 p.m. and another at midnight. Winterfest ups the celebration with NYE Parties on Ice, featuring entertainment, favors, outdoor seating and great views of the fireworks. November 24-March 4. Columbus Boulevard at Market Street, (215) 925-7465, riverrink.com
- Independence Visitor Center – ’Tis the season for the District’s information station to extend its hours until 7 p.m. and bring in colonial re-enactors to mingle with guests. November 24-25 and December 26-30. Also for a limited time: winter storytelling and colonial carolers. November 24-25, December 21-23 and 28-30. 6th & Market Streets, (800) 537-7676, phlvisitorcenter.com
- Elfreth’s Alley – The nation’s oldest continuously inhabited street tells the story of Christmas in America with Making Christmas, an exhibit retelling how 18th-century German immigrants brought over the folk traditions and customs (Santa Claus, toys, cookies and that tannebaum) that transformed December 25 into the holiday that it is today (November 25-26, December 3, 9-10, 16-17, 23-24, 30; evenings: November 30 & December 7, 14, 21). On December 2, Alley residents welcome the public to tour their 18th- and 19th-century homes during the popular ticketed event Deck the Alley. The festive afternoon includes carolers, refreshments, appearances by a 19th-century Santa Claus and Benjamin Franklin—not to mention rare access to most of the private homes. Elfreth’s Alley (exhibit entrance: No. 126), (215) 574-0560, elfrethsalley.org
- Old City – Five festive Thursday evenings become Historic Holiday Nights, when all of Old City will stay up late. Shops sell their wares until 8 p.m.; restaurants offer holiday specials, and the courtyard of the historic Betsy Ross House Courtyard will offer live entertainment, snacks and more (5-8 p.m.), beginning with a tree lighting November 30. November 30, December 7, 14, 21, 28. Betsy Ross House, 239 Arch Street, (215) 686-1252, historicphiladelphia.org; Old City District, (215) 592-7929, oldcitydistrict.org