The city of Philadelphia is one of the United States’ top cities for learning about the country’s early history. It’s home to the famous Liberty Bell, and Independence Hall, where both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were signed by the nation’s Founding Fathers. But not only is it a great city for historical sites, it’s also a great place to visit in winter! Philadelphia has lots of fun holiday-related activities to experience, and they can all be done on a budget! If you’re looking for a place to get into the holiday spirit, try visiting Philadelphia in winter!
When I arrived in Philadelphia in winter (late-December), I was all packed and prepped to explore in the cold. However, I was greeted with no snow, and temperatures around the 40’s and 50’s (F). Coming from the frigid state of Michigan, this was like pleasant, spring weather! I had no issues facing the winter weather in Philly, and often times found myself to be too warm!
Now, as winter progresses through the months, I’m sure temperatures drop more and there will be more precipitation. Keep an eye on the weather channel for the most accurate forecast.
Philadelphia is a pretty good sized city. With so many things to in Philadelphia in winter, the city offers a FREE shuttle service between many of the city’s top holiday-themed sights. During the holiday season, the shuttle runs Thursdays through Saturdays from 6PM to 9PM (When all the holiday lights are shining brightest!) Save your dollars and your feet by taking this free service.
Things to do in Philadelphia in Winter
Dilworth Park Wintergarden
During the winter season, Philadelphia’s Dilworth Park transforms into a winter wonderland! Enjoy walking through the Garden Capital Maze, all lit up with holiday lights, take a few laps on the Rothman Institute Ice Rink, and stop by the Cabin for warm drinks and food! You can also check out some of their great public events like Game Nights, Karaoke, Gardening classes, and more!
Made in Philadelphia Market
Dilworth Park also becomes home to the Made in Philadelphia Market. Here, you will find some of the best locally made treasures in Philly. From artwork to handmade clothing, soaps, and sweets, you can find all sorts of locally made gifts for the holidays. The market is only open mid-November, through the end of December so plan your trip to Philadelphia in winter accordingly!
Deck the Hall Light Show at City Hall
Also to be experienced while exploring Dilworth Park Wintergarden is the Deck the Hall Light Show! For a few weeks at the end of December, a fantastic holiday light show is projected onto City Hall. Watch as the lights and music turn this iconic Philadelphia landmark into a festive holiday display! Shows run every half hour, starting at 5:30pm and going until 9:30pm. Check online to see when the Deck the Hall Light Show will be playing!
Holiday Tree at City Hall
While you’re in the City Hall area, duck around the corner to find Philadelphia’s magnificent holiday tree! This giant tree is covered with bright lights and huge ornaments. It just can’t be missed!
Christmas Village in Philadelphia
Not far from Dilworth Park, sits Philadelphia’s LOVE park. Most of the year, this park is home to the city’s iconic LOVE statue, which pays homage to the city’s title of “The City of Brotherly Love”. But for just one month, during the holiday season, this park becomes a Christmas Market, very similar to the ones you find in Europe during this time of year.
Get a small dose of European winter charm as you wander through the Philadelphia Christmas Village. Sample Philly’s version of German Gluhwein, grab a hot Belgian Waffle or go all out with a giant Doner Kebab. Vendors also offer products, crafts, toys and more from all over the world!
Holiday Decorations at Elfreth’s Alley
Visiting Elfreth’s Alley is incredible all throughout the year. This is the country’s oldest continually inhabited residential street and the history here is almost palpable. But it becomes even more magical during the winter when the centuries-old homes are decorated with lights and greenery for the holidays. The Elfreth’s Alley Association also hosts multiple holiday-themed events through the season that you may want to check out.
Macy’s Christmas Light Show
Since the 1950’s the Christmas Light Show at Macy’s in Philadelphia has been a yearly tradition. Inside the Wanamaker Building, the display containing more than 100,000 lights puts on a show involving familiar holiday music and story narration. Classic characters like Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph, and the Nutcracker make appearances through the show, which plays every two hours starting at 10am from mid-November through the end of December. Make sure to arrive early, as this holiday favorite gets crowded with people!
Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest
If you’re looking to adventure a bit outside of the city center, you can head over to the Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest. Situated along the Delaware River, this cozy, rustic-themed park is perfect for a family-friendly winter evening. There is so much to do from ice skating, warming up in the arcade lounge, admiring the holiday lights, and more.
The Lodge is particularly noteworthy, with its plushy couches, cozy blankets, and warm fireplaces. Plus you can get a variety of Philly’s favorite foods here, including the highly-sought-after Crabfries from Chickie and Pete’s.
Outside, find rustic wooden rocking chairs and Adirondack chairs surrounding small fire pits. You can enjoy the outdoor lights and atmosphere while staying warm by your own fire!
RiverRink Ice Skating
Ice Skating on the Blue Cross RiverRink is an obvious highlight of going to Winterfest. The huge rink is surrounded by holiday lights that only gleam brighter as the sky darkens. Skate rental is available on-site, so don’t worry about being unprepared. They even have little carts for beginning skaters to hold onto as they learn to control their balance on the ice. Admission to each skating session costs $3 per person, and skate rentals cost $10.
Hot drinks from Franklin Fountain
While at Winterfest, you can’t miss out on the delicious offerings from the Franklin Fountain! Warm up with a classic hot cocoa, or go all out with a rich cup of “Jefferson’s Drinking Chocolate”. For even more fun, you can purchase a s’more-making kit and roast your own homemade marshmallows over the fire pits!
Franklin Square Light Show
Haven’t gotten enough of all the holiday lights in Philadelphia? Head over to Franklin Square for the Electrical Spectacle light show! Over 50,000 lights stretch across the park and dance along with different holiday songs. The light-up kite in the middle of the display is a fun nod at Benjamin Franklin’s famous lightning experiment. There are also warming tents at this park, serving warm beverages, wintry cocktails, and hot food and snacks. In between the light shows, decorate cookies and check out the mini golf course and the holiday carousel!
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