The holiday season is upon us in Philadelphia!

The Philly Holiday Festival is a seven-week long holiday celebration for locals and visitors to enjoy. The Holiday Festival includes a dazzling lit tree, parades, light shows, fireworks and more.

Citywide, events are happening that celebrate the rich diversity of various faiths and belief systems — as well as celebrations that are inclusive of everyone regardless of their beliefs!

This month, the City celebrates the diversity of various religious and cultural holidays through public recognition and celebrations for Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa.

Enjoy the twinkling lights, carols, and holiday cheer by checking out the festivities all across town! Be sure to share your photos with us on social media using #PhillyHolidayFest, too.

Here are a few of our favorite events:

SugarHouse New Year’s Eve Fireworks on the Waterfront

December 31, 2016

On New Year’s Eve, people can watch the fireworks light up the sky over the Delaware River at 6 p.m. and again at midnight. There will also be family-friendly Holiday Parties on Ice, with entertainment, party favors, outdoor seating and great views. For more information, visit the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation’s website. 

50th Anniversary Kwanzaa Celebration at the African American Museum in Philadelphia

December 30, 2016

Partnering with Macy’s, the African American Museum in Philadelphia hosts a family-friendly Kwanzaa Celebration, with a candle-lighting ceremony, storytelling, music, crafts and other activities. This year is particularly notable as it’s the 50th anniversary of the holiday’s founding by Dr. Maulana Karenga, Professor and Chair of Africana Studies California State Universtiy, Long Beach. For more information, visit the African American Museum in Philadelphia’s website.

City of Philadelphia Kwanzaa Celebration at City Hall

December 26, 2016 — January 1, 2017; City Hall Celebration December 27

The City will also recognize Kwanzaa from December 26 through January 1.   This year marks the 50th Anniversary of the holiday, based on the “first fruits” agricultural celebrations of Africa which were times of harvest, ingatherings, reverence, commemoration, re-commitment, and celebration. While not a religious holiday, Kwanzaa is celebrated by African Americans and Africans in the diaspora of all religious affiliations and focuses on the cultural, ethical, and spiritual visions and values of African culture.  During a City Hall observance scheduled for 10:00 a.m. the morning of Tuesday, December 27, The Mayor will accept a kinara, a candle holder for seven candles that represent the Kwanzaa daily principles, and Unity Cup from the Kwanzaa Collective, a local non-profit, on behalf of the City.

Boathouse Row Lights Lit for Hanukkah

December 24 — December 31, 2016

New this year, from December 24 until December 31, Boathouse Row will be white and blue in honor of the Hanukkah holiday. The design of the lights will turn the houses into one of the largest representations of the Menorah in the nation! For the first night of Hanukkah, one house in the middle of the Row will be illuminated in white lights, representing the shamash candle, and one house on the far right of the row will be illuminated in blue lights, representing the first candle, while the rest of the houses will be dark. Each successive evening at sundown one more house on Boathouse Row (representing that night’s candle) will turn blue, working from right to left in the Jewish tradition. By the eighth and final night of Hanukkah, all nine buildings representing the Menorah will be lit.

“Being __________at Christmas”

December 25, 2016

Snowy. Jewish. Happy. Caring. Buddhist. Generous. Family. Creative. Friendly. Sparkly.
Fill in your own blank and join the National Museum of American Jewish History a day of music, games, dancing, crafts with The Clay Studio and other children’s activities. This year’s event also features live music from Emmy Award-winning Alex & the Kaleidoscope and access to the special exhibition Bill Graham and the Rock & Roll Revolution. For more information, visit NMAJH’s website.

Franklin Square Holiday Festival & Electrical Spectacle Holiday Light Show 

November 10 – December 31, 2016 (except Thanksgiving & Christmas)

The free show, presented by PECO, incorporates a giant lighted kite and 50,000 lights choreographed to holiday music. The show runs every 30 minutes from 4 to 8 p.m. on weeknights and 4 to 9 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Other festivities include visits from Santa, rides on the holiday train and carousel, min-golf and the brand new Ben’s Bites & Brews. There’s also a family-friendly 6 p.m. Kids’ New Year’s Eve Countdown and Dance Party with fireworks. For more information, visit Historic Philadelphia’s website.

Rothman Institute Ice Rink at Dilworth Park

November 11, 2016 – February 27, 2017

The holiday season kicks off early with the opening of Rothman Institute Ice Rink & Cabin. Skaters and non-skaters alike can relax in the cozy cabin over seasonal snacks, frosty beers and warm beverages, Themed events and holiday activities take place throughout the season. For more information, visit Center City District’s website.

America’s Garden Capital Maze

November 11, 2016 – February 27, 2017

This new attraction brings a festive winter garden to Dilworth Park. It features willow-branch archways, a variety of seasonal perennials, trees and shrubs and several topiary sculptures that showcase all 32 of the public gardens, arboreta and historic landscapes that are located in the Philadelphia region. For more information, visit Center City District’s website.

Christmas Village
Credit: J. Fusco for Visit Philadelphia

Christmas Village

November 19-20; November 24 – December 24, 2016

Philadelphia’s German-style Christmas Village returns again this year, but with a new location—City Hall! This holiday favorite lets shoppers find the perfect gifts from Germany and around the world, including glass ornaments, handcrafted jewelry, music boxes, nutcrackers and more. Shoppers can also enjoy hot mulled wine, gingerbread and bratwursts during their visit. For more information, visit the Christmas Village website.

Made in Philadelphia Holiday Market

November 19 – December, 24, 2016

Holiday shoppers can stock up on handcrafted goods made by local artists, crafters and designers at the holiday market in Dilworth Park. Also available: lots of yummy Philly foods that will satisfy shoppers’ cravings and/or make great gifts. For more information, visit Center City District’s website.

Neighborhood Tree-Lighting Festivities

Various dates

Vibrant neighborhoods across Philadelphia offer holiday sing-alongs, parades and tree-lighting festivities. Join Chestnut Hill on November 19; Manayunk on November 26; Rittenhouse Square on November 29 and South Street on December 4.

Thanksgiving Day Parade

November 24, 2016

Thousands of spectators watch and cheer Santa, dancers, marching bands, floats, costumed characters and others during the 6ABC Dunkin’ Donuts Thanksgiving Day Parade, the oldest in the nation. For more information, visit 6ABC’s website.

Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest

November 25, 2016 – March 5, 2017

This winter wonderland at Penn’s Landing offers an Olympic-size skating rink surrounded by fire pits, cozy cabanas and a chalet-style lodge. The towering holiday tree that overlooks the skating rink will be lit on December 2. For more information, visit the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation’s website.

Christmas Light Show at Macy's
Credit: G. Widman for Visit Philadelphia

Christmas Light Show

November 25 – December 31, 2016

Since 1956, visitors have flocked to the Macy’s in Center City to watch one of Philadelphia’s great holiday traditions: the Christmas Light Show. People of all ages watch the 100,000 LED lights illuminate the Grand Court inside the Wanamaker building, while listening to a story narrated by Julie Andrews and holiday music from the Wanamaker Organ. Free performances take place every two hours during store hours. For more information, visit Friends of the Wanamaker Organ’s website.

Philly Holiday Tree Lighting Celebration 

November 26, 2016, 4:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.

Bring the whole family to a free evening of holiday cheer, live entertainment, hot chocolate, and a few surprises as the City of Philadelphia and Welcome America, Inc., officially kick-off the holiday season! This year, the new Philly Holiday Tree will be displayed at City Hall in Dilworth Park. The 40-foot live tree is harvested in Pennsylvania and will be set in a newly designed tree base showcasing iconic Philadelphia landmarks and neighborhoods. The lighting for the tree will support 100% wind power sourced through local Philadelphia clean tech company Inspire.

Holidays in Manayunk

November 26, 2016 – December 10, 2016

The lighting of the tree on Canal Island starts the holiday season in Manayunk with sing-alongs, Santa and more. During the Santa Paws and Holiday Tree Promenade (December 3), pets can pose for photos with Santa while local merchants vie for bragging rights for the decorated trees adorning their sidewalks and shop windows. And runners can work off holiday-induced calories during the Rudolph Run 5K (December 10), where costumes are encouraged. For more information, visit Manayunk Development Corporation’s website.

Historic Holiday Nights in Old City

December 1, 8, 15 & 22, 2016

Carolers and historical re-enactors signal the start of extended shopping hours on Thursday nights. Boutiques and restaurants treat visitors to special sales and menu items. For more information, visit Old City District’s website.

Celebrations Around the World

December 3, 2016

Penn Museum offers free festivities like international music and dance performances by groups from around the region, craft activities, storytelling and more. For more information, visit Penn Museum’s website.


Can’t get enough of the holiday season? Check out Visit Philly’s Holiday Festival Guide and Philadelphia Parks and Recreation’s Guide to Holiday Events for more fun events happening around Philadelphia.