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21 wonderful things to do in Philadelphia this weekend

By
Josh Middleton
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The weekend after Thanksgiving means that it’s officially Christmas in Philadelphia, and as such all the Christmas events in Philadelphia start rolling out. This weekend alone, Christmas Village opens at LOVE Park, there are tons of new places to see Christmas lights in Philadelphia—including the National Lampoons Christmas Vacation-inspired West Chester Griswolds—and all the traditional Macy’s shows begin, from Dickens Village to the glowing display in the Grand Court with the Wanamaker Organ. Find info on all that and more below. Happy holidays, folks!

Friday, November 24

blue cross riverrink winterfest

Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest

Reading Terminal Holiday Railroad at Reading Terminal Market; 10am; free
Every year, Philadelphia’s upscale food court sets up an oversize holiday village with 17 model trains chugging along a third-of-a-mile track. This year’s setup comprises five displays celebrating the history of the Reading Terminal Market.

Christmas Village at LOVE Park; 11am; pay as you go
Philadelphia’s LOVE Park reopens for one month to host this 10th annual German-inspired holiday market. You’ll find plenty of reasons to prioritize a trip here—whether you want to shop for gifts in the cute little huts full of international and locally made wares, ogle at the thousands of holiday lights or get all nostalgic—and plastered—under the 40-foot Christmas tree with a cup of mulled wine in hand.

Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest; 11am; pay as you go
Wassail on the waterfront at this urban wintertime retreat, or rent skates and hit the ice on their outdoor rink. RiverRink affords kids and adults the chance to kick their heels on the ice for a $3 admission fee, with a $10 skate-rental fee collected for those who don’t bring their own. The at-large Winterfest, meanwhile—an approximately two-acre campus encompassing an arcade, lodge and a Franklin Fountain–operated “Confectionary Cabin”—is a free space with plenty of pay-as-you-go indulgences. While the kids skate or push quarters in the arcade machines, adults can warm up by the fire pits with the Latin-inspired dishes of Garces, a basket of Chickie’s & Pete’s famous fries and their choices from a menu of craft beer.

Comcast Holiday Spectacular at Comcast Center; 11am; free
Since 2008, families have oohed and ahhed at this all-singing, all-dancing holiday show on a 2,100 square-foot hi-def LED video wall in the Comcast Center. At the top of every hour from 10am to 8pm, a projector displays massive winter scenes on the Comcast Experience video wall while you listen to orchestral versions of holiday songs. Also keep a look out for animatronic snowmen and ice skating penguins and a video snippet of George Balanchine's The Nutcracker as performed by the Pennsylvania Ballet.

West Chester Griswolds; 4:45pm; free
Inspired by the cranky Christmas-loving Clark Griswold in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, a West Chester family begins installing their holiday lights in September and works every weekend until Thanksgiving to achieve a holiday spectacle that could probably be seen from the moon. Multiple Christmas trees, stars, arches and snowmen adorn the property, which is also decked out in over 60,000 LED lights. While you’re there, tune your car’s radio to 87.9 to get the low-down on the high-key display. Discover other places to see Christmas lights in Philadelphia.

Deck the Hall Light Show at Dilworth Park; 6pm; free
Dilworth Park’s Wintergarden is a hotbed of holiday activity throughout the season, comprising the Rothman Institute Ice Rink and America’s Garden Capital Maze, the Made in Philadelphia Holiday Market and this hype animated light show. Multiple times every night throughout Wintergarden’s run, vibrant images are projected onto the west portal of City Hall with an accompanying synchronized soundtrack. Top off your yuletide feelings with hot cocoa or hot toddies at the Rothman Institute Cab and a lap around the ice rink.

Kirk Franklin & Ledisi at Tower Theater; 7:30pm; $30–$199
You don’t need to be cross-carrying Christian to dig Kirk Franklin & Ledisi’s passionate soul-gospel sound. But it probably helps.

This Is the Week That Is at Plays & Players Theatre; 8pm; $28–$45
Can we laugh at politics? What choice do we have? For 12 years, TITWTI has been a holiday crowd-pleaser. And though details about the show are sketchy at press time (it capitalizes on up-to-the-minute topicality) you’re sure to be in good hands with the funny folks of 1812 Production’s ensemble—including company doyenne Jennifer Childs, whose character Patsy always brings down the house.

Saturday, November 25 

A Christmas Carol

Macy’s Christmas Light Show at Macy’s; 10am; free
The giant singing, blinking, five-stories-tall display has been craning necks since 1956. So many Philadelphians smile remembering how their parents would drag them to the department store to sit on the floor and watch the time-honored story. More than 100,000 LED lights bring to life jolly figures like nutcrackers, clocks, elves and more. The shows happen every other hour from 10am to 8pm, but for the ultimate experience time your visit around noon. A bonus: Each show ends with music from the famous Wanamaker Grand Organ.

Macy’s Dickens Village at Macy’s; 10am; free
Trudge up to the third floor of Macy’s, where pint-size Dickens characters are arranged in settings familiar to fans of A Christmas Carol, each of their faces frozen with a hideous rictus usually only observed on the newly embalmed. Scrooge, Tiny Tim, Jacob Marley—they’re all present to mime the timeless story of a rich man tormented by otherworldly ghouls into doing something kind for once. From there, travel on through to Santaland (through Dec 24) where the kids can hop on the jolly man’s lap for photos and tell him what they want for Christmas.

A Christmas Carol at Hedgerow Theatre Company at 7:30pm
One reason to see this is, of course, the show—a family favorite that’s been a perennial hit for Hedgerow for two decades. But the other big selling point is the venue: You’d be hard-pressed to find a more charming theater than this tiny jewel-box space, brimming with history. An enchanting little garden is also on the property. If all of that isn’t a great way to jump-start your Christmas spirit, maybe nothing will.

Guordan Banks at Coda Philly; 7:30pm; $15
Frequent Meek Mills wingman and songwriter for John Legend and Keyshia Cole, Philly’s own Guordan (pronounced Jordan) Banks, has made some headway as a solo artist, thanks to songs like “Keep You In Mind”—a sultry uplifting R&B jam that would’ve fit right in between New Edition and Genesis back in the day.

Sunday, November 26

A Longwood Christmas at Longwood Gardens; 9am; $23–$30
The 1,000-acre botanical garden in Kennett Square lights up for the holiday season with over 100 trees sparkling with a half-a-million lights. Fire pits fashioned by craftsmen and local artists will be kindled each night to keep visitors warm and toasty on the trail, but those needing a more substantial respite from the elements can step into the heated conservatory. There, Francophiles will be dazzled by an elaborately adorned table set with Versailles-inspired holiday decor, four acres of fragrant seasonal plants and a colossal fir bedecked with blue, copper and gilded ornaments.

Holiday Garden Railway at Morris Arboretum; 10am; $17
Chestnut Hill horticultural haven Morris Arboretum decorates its adorable quarter-mile-long mini railway for the holidays, adorning the tiny village with tinsel and miniature wreaths and Christmas trees. It’s open after dark every Friday in December, when you can grab a cup of hot cocoa from the onsite Compton Café and watch the train putter around the track with all the twinkling lights aglow. On select nights, carolers stop by to add some holiday tunes to the cutesy experience.

Good Morning Miami at Good Good Comedy Theatre; 7pm; $5
Every month, Philly comic Reem Seliem hosts an “end-of-days time talk show” set in New Miami, West Virginia. Basically it’s like the Today show except the year is 2050, climate change has destroyed much of the eastern seaboard, and everything is funny in a doomed kind of way. Remember to bring some drinks. The venue is BYOB.

Ongoing

Cut Your Own Christmas Tree at Linvilla Orchards; 10am; $69.99
Linvilla Orchards is one of the best Christmas tree farms near Philadelphia, featuring a whopping 40,000 firs of all shapes and sizes. A trip out there to cut your own Christmas tree begins with a hayride through the 300-acre farm, where you’ll wind through verdant tree forests stocked with Canaan and Douglas Fir varieties. After you chop down your pick, Linvilla employees will wrap it up and help you haul it back to your vehicle. Not in the mood to cut your own Christmas tree? You can also shop from a variety of pre-cut ones in the Garden Center, and maybe pick up some holiday decor while you’re there. Be sure to head back on select Saturdays in December to take one of the nighttime Wassailing Caroling Hayrides.

Made in Philadelphia Holiday Market at Dilworth Park; 11am; pay as you go
Load up all season (and even a little beyond) with distinctive creations from area artisans, designers and confectioners in the shadow of City Hall. Find more great Christmas markets Philadelphia has to offer.

Holiday Light Show at Shady Brook Farm; 5pm; $12–$30
A one-stop holiday shop, Shady Brook Farm offers freshly cut Christmas trees, visits with Santa, marshmallow roasting, and, of course, lights—over 3 million of them. The Grinch, Statue of Liberty and local favorite characters make appearances during the 20-minute light tour, which you can enjoy from the comfort of your car or on a festive wagon ride. Discover other places to see Christmas lights in Philadelphia.

Rothman Ice Rink and America’s Garden Capital Maze at Dilworth Park; all day; pay as you go
Get the full holiday experience at this charming rink in the shadow of City Hall. Besides endless skating, this year’s Wintergarden features the Rothman Institute Cabin, where you can cozy up with seasonal cocktails, craft beer and light bites; the America’s Garden Capital Maze, a “popup maze-meets-garden” full of photogenic plants and lights; and the Made in Philadelphia Holiday Market, which features wares from area artists, craftspeople and confectionary wizards.

Franklin Square Holiday Festival and Electrical Spectacle; 4:30pm; pay as you go
Franklin Square spreads the holiday cheer with its annual celebration centered around its dazzling light show, Electrical Spectacle, which features more than 50,000 lights and a glowing kite that recalls Ben Franklin’s famous experiment that was supposedly performed there. Wintry comfort foods, the Winter Beer Garden—which is always stocked with seasonal beers and cider—and weekend visits from Santa round out the seasonal fun.

CraftNOW Philadelphia at various locations, times and prices
This month-plus event is a celebration of Philadelphia’s vibrant crafting community. Keep your eyes peeled throughout November for events that run the spectrum from hands-on craft-making workshops to parties and exhibitions at crafting hubs around town such as the Center for Art in Wood and the Clay Studio in Old City.

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