ABOVE PHOTO: Holiday Tree at City Hall (Photo: CSmyth for Visit Philadelphia)
The 2020 holiday season in the Philadelphia region will be one like no other due to COVID-19. Many of Philadelphia’s great holiday traditions (City Hall’s Visit Philly Holiday Tree, Christmas Village, A Longwood Gardens Christmas) will carry on — business (almost) as usual — and some merry and bright new experiences will make their debut, including Winter on Broad Street: A Holiday Light Spectacular, showing off nearly 200 illuminated displays.
Also new this year: the Visit Philly Holiday Day Trip, offering free parking, courtesy of VISIT PHILADELPHIA, to those who buy an attraction ticket from the Independence Visitor Center.
Enjoying easy, meaningful holiday moments in Philadelphia this year takes just a little planning (timed tickets required for most) and a lot of 2020 common sense (mask-wearing, sanitizing and social-distancing, etc.). Revelers are encouraged to check in with each attraction before visiting.
For those who want to pack an overnight or weekend with holiday revelry, there’s the winter edition of the popular Philly Overnight Hotel Package, including hotel parking, as always, as well as a buy-one-get-one-free ticket offer for attraction tickets purchased at the Independence Visitor Center. The package is bookable at dozens of Philadelphia hotels and is available December 1, 2020 through March 31, 2021. And from November 13 through 25, 2020, visitors coming from New York, Washington, DC, Baltimore, Boston and New Haven can purchase Amtrak tickets for 50% off rides taking place from November 14, 2020 through March 31, 2021 by using code V642.
Here are some highlights of the 2020 winter holidays in Philadelphia:
New This Year:
PHestivaL of Trees – This three-day, drive-through event at the Fairgrounds at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center features 200 decorated holiday trees, including one that stands 30-feet tall; a live Nativity scene; a Hanukkah menorah; Kwanzaa imagery; a light show and Santa himself. Timed tickets are required; proceeds benefit local animal shelters and rescues. November 27-29, 2020
Winter on Broad Street: A Holiday Light Spectacular – For the first time, the Wells Fargo Center’s parking lot will be filled with 193 larger-than-life sculptures and displays in celebration of the season. There’s a 25-foot reindeer, a 20-foot ornament, an enchanted forest with 45-plus trees, glowing tunnels and winding icicle paths. Add to that photo sessions with Gritty Claus, holiday-inspired treats, along with a Mistletoe Marketplace, selling hand-crafted ornaments, custom artwork, wintertime clothing and decor. November 27, 2020-January 3, 2021.
Visit Philly Holiday Day Trip – This new deal offers free parking at the Auto Park at Independence Mall garage, courtesy of VISIT PHILADELPHIA®, to those who buy an attraction ticket at the Independence Visitor Center. Tickets are available for nearly 20 attractions and tours, including seasonal favorites like Franklin Square, Founding Footsteps and others. The offer is available for up to 12 hours on Saturdays. November 14-December 26, 2020.
Festive Light Displays:
Christmas Lights Display – Responsible for some of the region’s most celebrated snack foods, Herr’s lights up its factory in Nottingham during its annual (and free) light display. Guests drive through the impressive arrangement, which features more than 600,000 lights (90% of which are LED lights) situated throughout the complex. November 25, 2020-January 2, 2021.
The West Chester Griswolds – The Plummer family of West Chester take cues from the hilarious Griswold family of the popular National Lampoon movies with this massive annual holiday light display at their home featuring more than 100,000 lights controlled via computer. Bonus: Kids can drop off their letters to Santa here. November 26, 2020-January 3, 2021.
Holiday Light Tour – Founding Footsteps’ Holiday Light Tour is a bring-your-own-bottle extravaganza that includes live music and light bites as a trolley whisks revelers around town to see the city’s best, brightest and most colorful displays. Stops include the Philadelphia Museum Art and South Philadelphia’s Smedley Street, elaborately decorated by neighbors, along with drive-bys past City Hall and South 13th Street. November 27-December 31, 2020.
Miracle on South 13th Street – A homegrown South Philly tradition with national traction, the Miracle on South 13th Street brings neighbors along the 1600 block of South 13th Street together to decorate their homes with holiday lights and over-the-top decorations, which turn on each evening, beginning the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Drivers should know to expect traffic, especially on weekend nights. November 28, 2020-January 1, 2021.
Old City Lightings – The Betsy Ross House’s lighting ceremonies are moving online for 2020. The virtual tree-lighting celebration of the Old City Holiday Tree, created by Petit Jardin de Ville, takes place on December 3. Then, on the first night of Hanukkah, the Old City Jewish Arts Center plays host during the Menorah Lighting. December 10, 2020. Holiday enthusiasts can seek out the tree and the menorah outside the historic Old City house throughout the holidays.
Farms, Parks and Other Outdoor Celebrations
Dilworth Park – There are lots of ways to enjoy the winter holidays at Dilworth Park, situated on City Hall’s west side, and it all begins with the Wintergarden on the Greenfield Lawn, an open-air wonderland of lights, topiaries and rustic décor perfect for photo-ops. October 30, 2020-February 28, 2021. The Rothman Orthopaedics Ice Rink reopens on November 6, offering timed, 90-minute skating sessions. Through February 28, 2021. And back again will be the Made in Philadelphia Holiday Market, selling handmade trinkets, treats and crafts galore created by local makers. November 21, 2020-January 1, 2021.
Winter in Franklin Square, presented by Citizens – Holiday revelers can experience the magic of the holidays at Franklin Square, where the Electrical Spectacle Holiday Light Show, presented by PECO, dazzles seven nights a week. Also on offer throughout the season: holiday fare, beverages of the adult and kid-friendly variety and Santa Saturdays. During the day, visitors can play Chilly Philly Mini Golf, take a spin on the Parx Liberty Carousel and play along the Snowy Silly Stroll. November 19-December 31, 2020. The African American Museum in Philadelphia will helm a Kwanzaa celebration from December 26-31, 2020.
Shady Brook Farm – This Bucks County farm kicks off its 3-million-light Holiday Light Show with Dashin’ Through the … Lights, a family-friendly two-miler (timed tickets required this year) through the attraction. November 19-20, 2020. The main event opens to the public the next evening, when visitors drive or, if weather permits, ride in wagons past after-dark displays: illuminated tunnels and just about every imaginable Christmas icon rendered in tiny bulbs. Guests can also do some holiday shopping in the market and purchase their Christmas tree. November 21, 2020-January 10, 2021.
Wild Lights Holiday Festival – Elmwood Park Zoo adds even more to the millions of lights that illuminate its 16 acres over the holidays. Guests will marvel at installations such as the Peppermint Pathway, Wall of Wonder and Light Safari. Each night of the festival features live entertainment, animal encounters, holiday music and a chance to see Santa himself. November 20, 2020-December 30, 2021.
A Longwood Gardens Christmas – Thousands of poinsettias, Christmas trees and flowers transform a heated four-acre Conservatory; 500,000 lights glitter in trees; a whimsical train races around its railway; a shimmering tunnel emits light; and spectacular fountains and fire pit flames dance to seasonal music. Timed tickets required. November 20, 2020-January 10, 2021.
Linvilla Orchards – Christmas Around the Farm at this popular Delco attraction means wagon rides to cut-your-own Douglas or Canaan fir and visits from Santa every December weekend. Linvilla’s market offers holiday shoppers pies and other baked goods; the Garden Center has pre-cut Christmas trees, poinsettias, mistletoe, Christmas roses and more; and the gift shop sells oodles of festive decorations. In the Barnyard, guests can visit white-tailed deer, calves, goats, horses, ducks, birds and peacocks. November 21-December 23, 2020.
Morris Arboretum – The annual Holiday Garden Railway brings a mini winter wonderland to an historic arboretum, with a quarter-mile of track where G-scale model trains chug along loops, through tunnels and over bridges, past perfect little replicas of beloved Philadelphia landmarks. On Saturday and Sunday evenings throughout the display’s run, guests enjoy the railway amid thousands of twinkling lights. Lighted trees and other colored lights make the garden even more magical during this timed-ticket event. November 27, 2020-January 3, 2021.
Festive Exhibits and Family Experiences:
Holiday Magic at Brandywine – Every year since 1972, the Brandywine River Museum of Art has shown off its Brandywine Railroad. While slightly modified this year to provide a fun, safe and socially distant experience, the display will still feature plenty of model trains, miniature details and interactive elements. Also returning this holiday season: artist and composer Ann Wyeth McCoy’s dollhouse, featuring six rooms filled with three dozen dolls and hundreds of miniature objects, from October 31, 2020 — January 10, 2021. In addition, the gristmill-housed, Wyeth-rich museum displays live trees with thousands of Critter ornaments constructed out of pinecones, egg shells, seed pods and more natural materials; Brandywine’s annual Holiday Critter Sale has a serious following of its own. December 2-6, 2020.
The North Pole Express Train & Santa’s Steam Train Ride – Old-fashioned trains follow the 150-year-old New Hope Railroad line while passengers enjoy cookies, carols and visits with Mr. and Mrs. Claus on hour-long steam or diesel-powered family excursions. November 7-December 30, 2020.
Sesame Place – Where else but the official, Bucks County-based theme park of Sesame Street would kids get to enjoy A Very Furry Christmas, transforming the park with millions of twinkling lights? Guests can hop aboard the Sesame Place Furry Express for a train ride and tour of The Twiddlebugs’ Gingerbread Factory. Staged holiday productions, including the 1-2-3 Christmas Tree Show, a new music and light show featuring a 30-foot fully-illuminated tree; and Elmo’s Christmas Wish Show, starring Elmo, Cookie, Grover, Zoe and Rosita as they sing and dance in celebration of their favorite holiday, take place every day the park is open. November 21, 2020-January 3, 2021.
Shopping With Fun Extras:
Deck the District – At the Fashion District Philadelphia, visitors can check out designer Matthew Schwam’s magical, 45-foot-tall floating tree featuring 600 mirrored, stainless steel orbs in the center of the complex. Every half hour from 4 p.m. until closing, the tree will be the center of a light show featuring the festive sounds of the Philadelphia POPS. And on December 4, the mall will hold an outdoor event complete with performances, hot chocolate, a fashion show and giveaways. November 13-December 31, 2020.
Holidays in the Village – Bucks County’s holiday hub kicks off the season on November 19 when the village is illuminated with more than one million lights. The Gingerbread Competition & Display returns this year with more than 70 creative entries. November 19, 2020-January 9, 2021. And on weekends, families can participate in Elf on the Stealth, an outdoor walking adventure curated in partnership with Without a Cue. November 20, 2020-January 10, 2021.
Christmas Village in Philadelphia – This year 60 wooden booths — half the number from previous years due to COVID-19 — will open in LOVE Park and around City Hall, recreating a traditional German Christmas market for the 13th year. On offer: local and international gifts such as Käthe Wohlfahrt ornaments, Herrnhut stars, wintry apparel, along with raclette sandwiches, spiced wine and European treats. November 26-December 24, 2020.
VISIT PHILADELPHIA is our name and our mission. As the region’s official tourism marketing agency, we build Greater Philadelphia’s image, drive visitation and boost the economy.
On Greater Philadelphia’s official visitor website and blog, visitphilly.com and uwishunu.com, visitors can explore things to do, upcoming events, themed itineraries and hotel packages. Compelling photography and videos, interactive maps and detailed visitor information make the sites effective trip-planning tools. Along with Visit Philly social media channels, the online platforms communicate directly with consumers. Travelers can also call and stop into the Independence Visitor Center for additional information and tickets.