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How to Drink Your Way Through Philly's Holiday Attractions

By Patrick Rapa
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Survive Philly’s holiday attractions with our drinking game and guide to the nearest watering hole.

Macy’s Christmas Light Show

Macy's Christmas Light Show

Photograph: Courtesy Visit Philly/J. Fusco

The giant singing, blinking, five-story 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 of, like, nutcrackers and clocks and elves and whatever the hell else it was about.

You deserve a drink when: You realize only the parents are paying attention. Head to: Fergie’s Pub for its alternate-universe version of the citywide special: a can of Austin Eastciders pineapple cider and a shot of tequila. It’s efficiently festive.

Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest

Ice Skating at Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest on the Delaware River Waterfront

Photograph: Matt Stanley

Drink on the waterfront at this urban wintertime retreat, or bring skates and hit the ice on the outdoor rink.

You deserve a drink when: You see one shaky-legged skater take down a whole family along the sideboards. Head to: The on-site Franklin Fountain Confectionery Cabin for house-made hot chocolate. It’s nonalcoholic, and maybe that’s a good thing when everybody’s wearing knives on their feet.

The Comcast Holiday Spectacular

Comcast Holiday Spectacular, where families have oohed and aahed at this all-singing, all-dancing show on a 2,100-square-foot hi-def LED video wall in the Comcast Center.

Photograph: Courtesy Visit Philly/M. Fischetti

Since 2008, families have oohed and aahed at this all-singing, all-dancing show on a 2,100-square-foot hi-def LED video wall in the Comcast Center.

You deserve a drink when: It hits you that you basically paid for this giant audiovisual display with your giant cable and
internet bill. Head to: The brown paper bag tucked into your pocket, which should hold a bottle of Philadelphia Brewing Company’s Winter Wünder.

The Christmas Village

Shop for handmade crafts and other gifts at this German-inspired Christmas Village holiday market

Photograph: Russ Brown Photography

Shop for handmade crafts and other gifts at this German-inspired holiday market.

You deserve a drink when: You spy a relative purchasing a tin drum and hope it’s not for your kid. Head to: Tir Na Nog for a bottle of Samuel Adams’ White Christmas. A little cinnamon, a bit of nutmeg…call it headache-prevention medicine.

Rittenhouse Row

Rittenhouse Square holiday lights

Photograph: Courtesy Visit Philly/M. Fischetti

Do a little window shopping, peering through the faux-frosted glass to check out all the winter fashions before heading to Rittenhouse Square Christmas Tree and Holiday Lights to see the tree and decorations there.

You deserve a drink when: You feel body shamed by a headless mannequin.

Head to: The Dandelion for a hot chai cider or a gin cocktail made with Earl Grey tea.

Miracle on South 13th Street

Miracle on 13th Street holiday display in South Philadelphia

Photograph: Courtesy Visit Philly/J. Fusco

Cruise down this South Philly block where every house, tree and telephone pole is decked out with lights in a dazzling display of community spirit and energy use.

You deserve a drink when: You remember you still have a pumpkin rotting on your stoop. Head to: South Philly Bar & Grill to grab Yards Brewing Company’s PYNK. It’s not technically a holiday brew, but it’s made with raspberries and cherries so, you know, close enough.

Reading Terminal Holiday Railroad

Every year, Reading Terminal Market sets up an oversize holiday village with 17 model trains chugging along a third-of-a-mile track.

Photograph: George Widman

Every year, Philly’s upscale food court sets up an oversize holiday village with 17 model trains chugging along a third-of-a-mile track.

You deserve a drink when: You catch yourself dreaming of releasing a stampede of hamsters upon this idyllic little winter wonderland, derailing trains and gnawing on Dickensian waifs. Head to: Well, you could grab a beer from Molly Malloy’s in the middle of the market—Flying Fish Brewing Co.’s Grand Cru Winter Reserve would hit the spot—but maybe you should have some coffee. The hamster thing…it’s weird.

Electrical Spectacle Holiday Light Show

PECO sets up its giant, free, light show in Franklin Square. It features 50,000 lights and a glowing kite in the center of the fountain.

Photograph: Jeff Fusco

PECO once again sets up its giant, free, fossil-fuel-gobbling light show in Franklin Square. It features 50,000 lights and a glowing kite in the center of the fountain.

You deserve a drink when: You wander around a city park that sparkles with the splendor of Van Gogh’s Starry Night but can’t find an outlet to charge your phone. Head to: The on-site Winter Beer Garden, which is always stocked with seasonal beers. A nice spiked cider will help you forget you’re outside in the wintertime when you don’t need to be.

Rothman Ice Rink and America’s Garden Capital Maze

The Rothman Ice Rink and America’s Garden Capital Maze features In addition to the skating rink, there’s a “pop-up-maze–meets–garden” full of photogenic plants and lights to get lost in.

Photograph: Visit Philly/J. Fusco

In addition to the skating rink, there’s a “pop-up-maze–meets–garden” full of photogenic plants and lights to get lost in—except it’s not that kind of maze, and you couldn’t really get lost in it, unless you’re an idiot.

You deserve a drink when: You get lost in the maze. What is wrong with you? Head to: The Rothman Cabin in the park to warm up with a sweet DeKuyper-cordial–spiked hot chocolate, because you made it out of the maze, and you deserve a reward, dammit.

Macy's Dickens Christmas Village

During the holidays, Macy's sets up a Christmas Village adorned with characters and scenes from Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol

Photograph: Courtesy Macy’s/Michael Perez

Wait, we’re going back to Macy’s? Yeah, we forgot to trudge up to the third floor, where pint-size Dickens characters are arranged in settings familiar to sufferers 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.

You deserve a drink when: You can’t remember the last time you did something nice for somebody.

Head to: Oscar’s Tavern for a Long Island Ice Tea. Maybe buy one for a stranger, too? Good deed done.

Kindy’s Synchronized Light Show

Kindy's Christmas Factory Outlet is a no-frills holiday decorations depot and a Southwest Philly institution for 80-plus years.

Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Cindy M.

Kindy's Christmas Factory Outlet is a no-frills holiday decorations depot and a Southwest Philly institution for 80-plus years. Tinsel, ornaments, fake trees and more are stacked high in this place. Out front, there’s a blinking light show synced to music designed to lure you inside for the winter crafts market.

You deserve a drink when: You start wondering whether one of those inflatable snow globe monstrosities will fit in your living room. Head to: Penrose Diner across the street for a cocktail and a giant cookie. The place has a full bar and an lit-up case of baked goods to make your mouth water as soon as you walk in.

The Mummers Parade

The Philadelphia Mummers Parade is a New Year's Day tradition in the City of Brotherly Love

Photograph; Courtesy Visit Philly/M. Edlow

On New Year’s Day, stand on the sidewalk while people decked out in sequins and feathers (and hopefully not blackface) kinda amble up the street for their own entertainment. It’s impressive how some of them can walk and play banjo and be drunk at the same time.

You deserve a drink when: You don’t pee in public.

Head to: Well, the Mummers Parade is kind of BYO (cops generally overlook the whole “it’s illegal to drink in public thing,” so plan ahead. To steel yourself against the elements, maybe line your coat pockets with a few cans of something local and exotic at the same time, like the Flyers-themes Ghost Bear golden ale made by Conshohocken Brewing Company, or a spicy, blood-red Christmas Ale from Sly Fox.

RECOMMENDED: The full guide to Christmas in Philadelphia

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