Nothing is as warming and welcoming as a light in the darkness. Make that hundreds or thousands of lights and you know it's December. From cheery strings of lights that frame windows and wrap around bushes, to more professional displays, you can bask in the glow of colorful lights throughout the holiday season. If you're looking for the best holiday light displays in Philadelphia, we have good news for you — Philly and its surrounding suburbs offer a feast of new and old light shows.
From the six-decade running Christmas Light Show At Macy's in Center City to festive blocks in South Philly and the multiple holiday attractions at City Hall, you could easily visit a light show every day for the entire month of December. So pack up your kids and a thermos of hot chocolate and get ready to be dazzled. As a longtime Philly-area resident, many of these selections are familiar and dear to me. I've been visiting Longwood every Christmas for as long as I can remember and last year I took my kids to Macy's for the first time. This year I'm excited to expand my list with some holiday light displays I haven't visited yet.
The Christmas Light Show At Macy's
Centrally located near City Hall, this light show is a must-see classic. From Macy's website: "The Christmas Light Show and Wanamaker Organ Concert at Macy’s is a Philadelphia holiday tradition that dates back half a century. Come to the famous Center City store... to watch snowflakes, ballerinas and reindeer float beyond the four-story-high velvet curtain of the Grand Court atrium. During the light show, more than 100,000 bright, energy-efficient LED lights combine to create fantastic holiday images. The lighting display is accompanied by festive music from the world-renowned Wanamaker Grand Organ." After the light show you can visit the Dickens Village upstairs. Both events are free and the light show runs every two hours. I recommend coming early to grab a good spot as it gets crowded.
Deck the Hall Light Show at City Hall
Cross the street from Macy's to see another free attraction at an iconic Philadelphia location. City Hall is illuminated in animated lights every half hour of the evening from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m (until 9:30 on weekends). Go ice skating afterward at the Rothman Ice Rink in Dilworth Park.
America's Garden Capital Maze At Dilworth Park
Think gardens are only for spring and summer? Greater Philadelphia Gardens debunks that idea with a beautiful display of seasonal plants and holiday lights. Adults will enjoy the sights and scents of fresh winter greenery while kids will delight in trying to solve the maze. The holiday garden is next to the previously mentioned Rothman Ice Rink and City Hall also hosts a Christmas Village. Suffice to say that you can easily spend every weekend in December here without running out of options.
Franklin Square Holiday Festival & Electrical Spectacle Holiday Light Show
Nestled among some of Philly's most historic sites, the Holiday Light Show at Franklin Square emulates Benjamin Franklin's "electrifying genius." Holiday music accompanies the show to increase the festive feeling. Admission is free and shows run every half hour between 4:30 and 8:00 p.m. (and until 9 on Friday and Saturday) through Christmas Eve.
A few blocks from Franklin Square you can stroll along the 700 block of Sansom Street and then north on 8th Street for a delightful holiday display of lights and decorations. More than 300 business owners collaborate on this annual spectacle, during which it's hard to say which has more dazzle: the lights or the diamonds.
Miracle on South 13th Street
Philly is a city of neighborhoods and perhaps no 'hood goes all out for Christmas like South Philly. From elaborate holiday displays in rowhome windows to a few blocks famous for their lighting, head south to see some free and wonderful light displays. "Miracle on South 13th Street," on the 1600 block of South 13th Street, is probably the most famous individual block light display, but you should also check out the 2700 block of Smedley Street.
A Longwood Christmas
Longwood Gardens is about an hour's drive from Philly, but it's well worth the trip in my opinion. Between the indoor conservatory displays and the large outdoor grounds strung with lights, you could easily spend the day here. This holiday display also runs a little longer than the others — until Jan. 7 — so it could be a good activity during the week your kids are off from school. You'll need to plan ahead with timed admission tickets: $23 for adults and $12 for kids ages 5 to 18 (4 and under is free). You can also make a day of it by visiting Winterthur first, a historic Dupont family mansion that gets all decked out for the holidays.
The Holiday Hayride at Arasapha Farms
Hayrides aren't just for Halloween anymore. Arasapha Farms in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania, about 45 minutes from Philly, offers a 20-minute holiday hayride through light displays and with a soundtrack of festive music. While you're there you can also select a Christmas tree and/or get your photo taken with Santa. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for kids under 8.
Holiday Light Show At Shady Brook Farm
North of the city in Bucks County you can drive through Shady Brook Farm's holiday light show of more than three million lights. Drive-thru hours are 5 to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 5 to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Admission is $30 per car. Like Arasapha, Shady Brook also offers Christmas trees, seasonal refreshments, and Santa photos.
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