Seasonal cheer in the ‘City of Brotherly Love’
Ten frosted Fraser firs adorned with gingerbread and glass ornaments decorate the flooded Exhibition Hall floor at Longwood Gardens. A 28ft-tall Nordman fir sits at the north end of the hall, while two gingerbread trees sit at the south end. (Longwood Gardens) — at Longwood Gardens.
The holiday season in Philadelphia is the perfect combination of old traditions and new celebrations.
Christmas Village, relocated across the street from its usual setting at City Hall, brings a traditional German market to the city every November. Dozens of vendors offer food, hot drinks and holiday gifts to passers-by in Philadelphia’s Center City neighbourhood. Admission is free, and booths are open from 11 am to 7 pm Sunday to Thursday, and until 8 pm on Fridays and Saturdays. The market closes on Christmas Eve.
Perhaps Philadelphia’s most honoured Christmas tradition is the entertainment duo of the Wanamaker Organ and the Macy’s light show. The 55-year-old annual event uses a five-storey interior wall as the backdrop for a unique music-and-light driven performance held every hour on the hour, from 10 am to 8 pm daily until Christmas Day. After the holiday season, organ recitals are held twice daily from Monday through Saturday at Macy’s.
Visitors who are willing to take a day trip outside the city limits can best spend their time at Longwood Gardens, a 1,000–acre estate that is transformed into a sea of lights for the holidays. Various choirs perform regular concerts as visitors stroll through the gardens and admire the gingerbread versions of Longwood landmarks. If you plan on visiting, buy tickets for a specific arrival time.
Public ice skating is also a popular way to celebrate the cold weather, and Philadelphia offers a number of locations to lace up: Rizzo Rink, the University of Pennsylvania’s Penn Ice Rink at the Class of 1923 Arena and the Blue Cross RiverRink at Penn’s Landing. The RiverRink is the city’s most popular and sees the largest crowds on weekends.
A warmer alternative is to take in the Comcast Holiday Spectacular, a 15-minute video shown on the video wall at the Comcast Center, Philadelphia's tallest building. This year’s theme includes scenes from the Pennsylvania Ballet’s performance of The Nutcracker, music from a 64-instrument orchestra and a simulated sleigh ride. The video is shown every hour on the hour (except 5 pm weekdays) from 10 am to 8 pm daily, until New Year’s Eve.