The Wanamaker Christmas Light Show
Housed in the old Wanamaker building turned Macy's, this Christmas light show attracts thousands of visitors every year. Timed to organ music (they still use the original organ from the first show!), the light show lasts around 10 minutes and happens every hour. They clear the sales floor so that visitors can sit down and look up at the gigantic show that soars 5 stories up in the atrium. I love coming here because it’s just so magical. It might be just some lights to others, but after establishing the tradition as a teen, I’ve tried to continue it yearly. This is probably one of the best events to take your kids to, low risk, stunning visuals, and maybe they might even sit down for longer than 2 seconds. You could potentially even get some shopping time in while you’re there.
The Dickens Village
No Christmas story is told more often than the cautionary tale of Mr. Ebenezer Scrooge, the penny pinching, mean-spirited octogenarian and his plight one fateful Christmas Eve. Scrooge’s story is memorialized on the third floor of the Wanamaker building, just steps from a balcony that has uninhibited views of the light show (arguably one of the best spots to watch!). The village is a walk-through exhibit with animatronic and stationary characters that bring the story to life. You’ll meet the ghosts of past, present, and future as they take you on his journey. Notice the Tiny Tim in the corner, or Scrooge in the window proclaiming “Merry Christmas!” As it is free, it sometimes gets a little crowded, but for the most part its a fun, quick experience for all ages.
Love Park’s Christmas Village
For me, this is a new section of the city, as Love Park was previously under construction. The village features a 2 story gift box of lights that serves as a donation point for your favorite charities (or a cool photoshoot location), Santa, a beer garden and several other local delights. The Christmas Village houses dozens of vendors of all sorts, from clothing to tchotchkes, and rarely disappoints. Visit the mulled wine vendor and grab a cup of wine or cider and take a walk throughout the village. What they have in great options for everyone is limited by time, of these 5 events, the village typically closes up right after Christmas, while the others go until the new year.
The City of Philadelphia has a yearly tradition of its own for the holidays. Each year, City Hall has a Christmas tree lighting ceremony, botanical gardens, a carousel, skating rink, and it’s famous light show. Put on by 6ABC and Independence Blue Cross, the light show shines on the Dilworth Park side of City Hall. Starting at 5:30 pm to 8:30 pm (weekdays: hourly, weekends: every half hour) the light show has dazzled visitors for several years now, even during the reconstruction of Love Park across the street which put a halt on the Christmas Village there.
We all know the significance of Benjamin Franklin in Philadelphia, but did you know that the man who discovered electricity has an electric spectacular dedicated to him now in Philadelphia? Situated between 6th and 7th streets near Race and Vine, the spectacular show has been running for a few years. It’s an ode to Franklin and his experiments, using over 75,000 twinkling lights to do so. No, you won’t be able to fly a kite in a lightning storm, but you may be able to find “his” kite floating above the revelers. This completely free event has food and drink vendors and is fantastic for all ages. While I haven’t visited there yet this year, I have definitely started considering when I’ll go, maybe if it snows!