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MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL MY WAYFARERS WHO CELEBRATE IT!
As you already know, I don’t travel on Christmas because I would miss my family’s holiday traditions way too much to enjoy the sights around me.
So what did I do on Christmas Eve instead of sleeping at random airports and fighting lines at hostel check in desks? Visited Philadelphia, of course!
My dad, brother, and cousins have been driving into The City of Brotherly Love since I was about four years old. I’m now pushing my late twenties (wail). You do the math. I think I’ll still be driving into Philadelphia when I have grandchildren.
Although the city’s window displays and Christmas Trees do not have the same “WHOA!” factor as New York City’s do, Philadelphia still has many adorable and fun Christmas attractions for everyone to enjoy! There are fewer crowds, and the sights and restaurants are more affordable than the ones in New York City, too.
1. Macy’s Dickens Village
In the Wanamaker Building (now Macy’s), you can visit Dickens Village where small animated figures regale holiday seekers with the classic story of “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens.
Soooo, as a literature nerd, this exhibit is totally up my alley and I highly recommend it! Admission is free, so the exhibit does attract crowds and lines, but the line does move at a reasonable pace, considering only a few people are admitted at a time. Seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever waited longer than a half hour to go inside the exhibit itself. Well worth it.
Make sure to take your time and read the display boards throughout Dickens Village. They stay remarkably true to the original text. Inside, crowd movement is free flowing and you can spend as long or as little as you’d like in each of the rooms.
Personally, I think Dickens Village is a must-see for every Philadelphia Metro Area resident. The Marley and Ghost of Christmas Future’s rooms may be a little intense for tiny, tiny children, but to be honest, this exhibit is really great for all ages. I’ve loved it since I was tiny. Photos are permitted, and actors dressed in period costumes can answer any questions that you might have.
You can take your picture with Santa Claus afterwards, but when I went yesterday, the line was Santa was enormous. Enormous.
After visiting Scoorge and Friends, you can wander downstairs to see The Holiday Light Show, a Philadelphia Christmas tradition since the 1950s.
2. Christmas Light Show
As you can see, the Christmas Light Show tells many familiar holiday stories including The Nutcracker, Frosty the Snowman, and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. The Wanamaker organ plays many familiar Christmas songs for all to enjoy and sing along to, and the experience is great fun for young and old. I was practically bouncing to Frosty the Snowman and almost knocked into the poor woman next to me. Sorry for that if you’re reading this, by the way.
The Christmas Light Show plays every two hours, so try to time your visit so you’re not waiting around forever and twiddling your thumbs. Some years, we’ve been great about our timing. Other years… well…
Be warned: Macy’s has gotten quite strict about where patrons may sit and stand to view the light show. You used to be able to sit wherever your heart desired, but not so much anymore.
The show takes place in a busy shopping area, the notorious shoe and handbag room, and the employees insist certain aisles need to stay clear for shoppers to browse the merchandise. As a result, the area around the Christmas Light Show can get packed and uncomfortable if you arrive too late. Plan accordingly to have a good view.
3. The Comcast Holiday Spectacular
Comcast and I are not on great terms after they knocked out my internet for two days, yet their Christmas Show is still a ton of fun and I will definitely continue to attend in the future! I highly recommend it! Unlike The Light Show, The Comcast Holiday Spectacular runs every hour and there’s plenty of room to sit or stand and still feel comfortable. Most areas provide decent viewing of the screens, too.
ProTip: Use the restrooms here. They are clean and free.
The Comcast Holiday Spectacular plays several classic holiday tunes and shifts from wintry scene to wintry scene, ending with a glorious sky view of Philadelphia itself, all aglow in the snow as Santa flies overhead! Ahhh, it warms my heart.
Fake snow bursts from the ceiling, too, and it’s a lovely added touch, especially on Christmas Eves like this one when the balmy weather made it feel more like April than December.
4. Center City Holiday Shopping
Are you naughty and still have last minute Christmas shopping to do? Center City is perfect for you, then! Not only can you check out adorable window displays, but there are an abundance of bustling shops to fulfill your Christmas shopping needs.
Mitchell and Ness for sporting goods lovers, Boyd’s for those seeking high quality (and expensive) fashion items, Kiehl’s if you’re obsessed with creams like my mother, and many many many more! I have a soft spot for the Barnes and Noble near Rittenhouse Square myself.
Most stores are open on Christmas Eve so if you’re a notorious procrastinator (like me), you ought to do fine.
5. German Christmas Village at LOVE Park
Can’t go to Germany for Christmas? Never fear! LOVE Park has an adorable Christmas Village for you! We didn’t have much time to explore the village since we were on our way to the Comcast Show, but the wooden stalls looked adorable and next year, I’ll take my time checking out some of the merchandise and decorations!
The Christmas Village has several booths selling cute holiday trinkets, as well as European snacks like bratwurst and apple strudel and pretzels. If you need a quick snack, you can’t go wrong buying something yummy here.
At the nearby City Hall, you can even go ice-skating The Rothman Ice Rink. Due to rain, I didn’t have the guts to ice-skate, given that I probably would’ve fallen and bruised both my butt and pride, but plenty of talented skaters were taking part in the fun!
6. Lunch at McGillin’s Olde Ale House
McGillin’s Olde Ale House is a historic Irish pub located in Center City. It was established in 1860 and survived the Prohibition years. History seeps out of this place’s walls.
It’s also the perfect place to grab a Christmas Eve lunch. Cozy, festive, and cheerful. The menu has a variety of Christmas specials including both food and drinks. Both my dad and brother ordered Shepard’s Pie, and it looked perfect: not too heavy yet hearty.
Again, be warned, because since the downstairs area is quite small, seating can be hard to find. Try to visit McGillin’s later in the afternoon when the lunch crowds have already waned a bit. We managed to snag the last table. Talk about luck.
Have you ever spent Christmas in Philadelphia? What are your favorite cities to visit at Christmas? Share in the comments!