Wintertime in the city is the most magical. This was probably not the intention of Philly’s founders, but the picturesque old streets blanketed in fresh snow were basically made for Instagram.
And there are plenty of ways to enjoy the cold weather (well, hopefully it’s cold weather given the track record so far this year) without feeling like you’re just doing the same old thing every year to keep yourself occupied.
Between public menorah lightings in unexpected places to the consistently charming light shows around the city, here are a few suggestions to make Philadelphia your winter wonderland.
If you’re more the “bah humbug,” stay in and drink indoors type, there are endless options to find hot cocoa or hot cider around the city. Or Troegs Mad Elf is already back on shelves. You’re welcome.
1 Light Up (The Menorah)
Last year, the iconic Boathouse Row was transformed into a menorah as part of the city’s effort to be more inclusive around the holidays. It was lit up in red, green, silver and gold for Christmas, and there was programming for Kwanzaa as well.
Boathouse Row will once again be lit as a menorah and the city will host an event on the first night to celebrate the holiday and light the “menorah.” More details are forthcoming. Mayor Kenney joined the festivities on the sixth night last year.
Lubavitch of Center City also holds an annual giant menorah lighting in Rittenhouse Square. This year’s lighting will take place on Dec. 17 at 5 p.m., per the Friends of Rittenhouse Square website.
2 Celebrate Christmas
OK, so maybe not actually, but there are ways to spend the holiday besides seeing Star Wars three times in a row (no judgment, though).
Here’s a riddle for you: What rhymes with Christmas? Chinese food.
The Gershman Y will hold its staple Moo Shu Jew show on Christmas Eve at Ocean Harbor Restaurant. After chowing down on a multi-course Chinese meal (not kosher), digest with some laughs from this year’s lineup of comedians: Moody McCarthy, Marla Schultz and Brad Zimmerman. Registration is required at gershmany.org or call 215-545-4400.
On Christmas itself, there are ways to spread Jewish joy and celebrate the holiday as well. The National Museum of American Jewish History will hold its annual “Being __ at Christmas” program. Keep an eye on nmajh.org for a full schedule of events.
3 All of the Lights, All of the Lights
There’s a reason the Macy’s Light Show has been around for half a century. Watch reindeer, ballerinas and snowmen twirl and twinkle as 100,000 lights (energy-efficient LED lights, for those who care about the Earth) form a magical winter show on display beginning Nov. 24.
When you’re done with the show, don’t be a Scrooge and head on up to the third floor for Dickens Village, which brings the classic A Christmas Carol to life through Dec. 31.
You can even knock out your holiday shopping while you’re there; win-win.
Or if you’re worried you’ll walk out with more sweaters and winter goodies than your bank account allows for, head to the Comcast Center for The Comcast Holiday Spectacular from Nov. 23 to Jan. 1.
Franklin Square will be lit for the holidays starting Nov. 9. Head there to check out the Electrical Spectacle Holiday Light Show with more than 50,000 lights dancing to holiday tunes.
A personal favorite is the “Season’s Greetings” strung out in lights on Jeweler’s Row, spreading along Eighth Street between Sansom, Walnut and Chestnut streets.
And of course, no winter in Philly would be complete without a stop at the Miracle on South 13th Street in South Philly. The homeowners on this street go all out to make it a must-see during the holidays.
4 Take a Day Trip
Longwood Gardens and Peddler’s Village are so close and yet we don’t always take advantage of it.
Change that this winter with a drive to the gardens to see the grounds, which are beautiful any time of year, but especially during the holidays.
A Longwood Christmas will be on display Nov. 23 through Jan. 7 and will be themed this year after France’s Versailles. Ooh la la!
Top spots for pumpkin picking in the fall turn into prime places for winter fun, too. Linvilla Orchards (Nov. 19 through Dec. 23) and Shady Brook Farm (Nov. 18 through Jan. 7) will hold their annual light shows with more than 3 million lights (!) and give you the chance to sip on some apple cider while walking through “the North Pole.”
The annual Peddler’s Village Christmas Festival will take place on Dec. 2 and 3 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. both days. While you’re there, definitely check out the Gingerbread House Competition and Display.
Or if Bavaria in the winter is more your speed (who wouldn’t want to warm up with a nice stein of beer?), check out Bavaria in Bucks at Peddler’s Village for a series of dining events featuring German cuisine, wine, beer and entertainment on Jan. 12 to 14.
5 Lace up your skates
As tempting as it is to curl up in a blanket and stay inside all day, don’t let the winter stop you from being physically active. There are tons of ways to be outside, from skiing to ice skating, and there are plenty of spots to lace up your skates and take a turn around the rink.
The Rothman Ice Rink at Dilworth Park is now open and allows you to skate around next to City Hall, right by the giant lit-up tree — really, you can’t miss it — and when you’re done, walk around the little shops and booths set up in the park. Christmas Village is set up at Dilworth Plaza while renovations at LOVE Park continue.
And new this year is the nightly Deck the Hall Light Show, which is projected right onto City Hall.
Or head to Penn’s Landing for Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest (November through March) to skate and warm up in The Lodge while you sip on cider and hot chocolate (adults can get some spiked winter cocktails).
6 Have a Ball at the MatzoBall
Dreading another holiday season where your relatives greet you with a, “Hi, how’s your job? Are you eating enough? When are you going to find a nice Jewish boyfriend/girlfriend?”
Head to the MatzoBall on Christmas Eve to meet other singles in the same boat. This year’s party will take place at Rumor Nightclub.
7 Annual Auto Show
Looking to get dressed up fancy shmancy and look at some cars you can daydream about buying when you win the lottery?
Check out the Annual Auto Show Philadelphia at the Convention Center Jan. 27 to Feb. 4 (black-tie tailgate Jan. 26).
It’s a fun alternative to typical winter activities and has become a Philly staple for good reason.
8 Turn Up the Music
For music lovers who don’t mind bravely standing outside in frigid temperatures for some great live — and free! — music, the Radio 104.5 Winter Jawn at Xfinity Live (formerly known as Winter Jam but changed to Winter Jawn because Philly) is a winter staple. Former emo teens’ favorite band Dashboard Confessional headlines this year’s concert, which in the past has included stellar acts like Elle King and Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats.
Of course, there will still be concerts aplenty in the nice warmth of venues like the Wells Fargo Center and the Fillmore.
Some standouts in the next few months include: Q102’s Jingle Ball, aka every tween parent’s nightmare, featuring a mini One Direction reunion as Liam Payne and Niall Horan are both performers (Wells Fargo Center, Dec. 6); Andrea Bocelli (Wells Fargo Center, Dec. 8); The Killers (Wells Fargo Center, Jan. 13); LCD Soundsystem (The Fillmore Dec. 5 to 7); Ladies First: A Benefit for Hurricane Relief for Puerto Rico featuring Danielle and Jennifer, Mixed People, Prima Donna, Roxy Rollz and Sylvia Platypus (World Cafe Life, Jan. 27).
9 Go See a Performance
Is it really the holidays if you don’t go see a performance of The Nutcracker? I think not.
The Pennsylvania Ballet will take you to the Land of Sweets this season from Dec. 8 to 31 at the Academy of Music.
Celebrate Leonard Bernstein with the Philadelphia Orchestra in December with artist-in-residence Hilary Hahn. The orchestra will celebrate the Jewish composer throughout December with Serenade, a musical retelling of Plato’s ode to love, written for Bernstein’s friend Isaac Stern (no relation). Or hear The Glorious Sound of Christmas from Dec. 14 to 17.
10 If All Else Fails…
There will be plenty of movies out this holiday season. So go bask in the warmth of the movie theater, grab some popcorn and see Bad Moms 2 or Star Wars: The Last Jedi however many times you like.
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