This year, I think we all need some extra joy and holiday spirit. And with the winter holidays fast approaching, you may think there won’t be much to do when it comes to holiday and Christmas events in Philadelphia. (Or Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.) But you’d be wrong! Many holiday traditions will continue in 2020, albeit with some changes.
Whether you prefer to enjoy these Philadelphia holiday events virtually or want to celebrate carefully following safety protocols, there are lots of options to choose from. The same is true for New Year’s Eve events, too.
I’ve pulled together more than 50 of the best, most unique, and fun holiday and Christmas events in Philadelphia and across the region plus New Year’s Eve events, too!
(Note: Please keep in mind that 2020 is an unusual year. It’s entirely possible that these holiday and Christmas events in Philadelphia and across the region may be canceled or protocols changed at the last minute. I recommend confirming events and details for attending as close to the event date as possible. This could be as simple and confirming on the event’s social media account that no notice has been posted.)
Holiday & Christmas Events in Philadelphia
Happy Holidays from Roxborough
Celebrate the holidays from November 27th through the first of the New Year in Roxborough. There will be a 14-foot holiday tree as well as carolers and a colorful wall perfect for selfies and holiday family photos.
Blue Cross Riverrink Winterfest
The Blue Cross Riverrink Winterfest returns for 2020 with a new process for keeping visitors safe that includes (but isn’t limited to) staggered skate times, encouraging advance purchases, and limited capacity. Now onto the fun stuff! New for Winterfest this year are Skelly’s Amusements, offering boardwalk games and Ferris wheel rides. And, of course, you can count on ice skating, plenty of food, and cabins. It’s also worth noting that Winterfest’s outdoor spots are dog-friendly. Winterfest runs from November 27th through March 7th.
Winter at Dilworth Park
It wouldn’t be the holidays without Dilworth Park offering its Christmas events in Philadelphia. Through February 28th, Dilworth Park will make its annual transformation into a winter wonderland. All of your favorite winter traditions will return, from the Wintergarden to the Rothman Orthopaedics Ice Rink!
Made in Philadelphia Holiday Market
Part of the Dilworth Park attractions, the Made in Philadelphia Holiday Market returns for 2020 with more than 50 artisans from across the tri-state area! The market is free to visit.
Christmas Village in Philadelphia
Christmas Village in Philadelphia (pictured above in previous years), the ever-popular German-style open-air Christmas market at LOVE Park and City Hall, is back for 2020! With social distancing and safety protocols in place, the market will run at half capacity. That means there will be more than 60 vendors on offer as well as plenty of delicious (and hot!) food. As one of the most popular Christmas events in Philadelphia, it will surely offer all of the charm and holiday spirit that it has in the past.
Winter in Franklin Square
Now through the end of the year, Franklin Square is offering a special winter event. On display is the Electrical Spectacle Holiday Light Show presented by PECO in addition to all of the fun attractions that the park always offers, like mini-golf. There will be special celebrations held throughout the season, like a Hanukkah Dreidel Giveaway with the Old City Jewish Arts Center and a Kwanzaa Weekend with the African American Museum in Philadelphia.
Don’t Let the Light Go Out
Aish Chaim is hosting their annual Chanukah celebration virtually for 2020. The Zoom event, named Don’t Let the Light Go Out, takes place Thursday, December 17th. Registration is required.
A Magical Hanukkah Celebration
The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia and jkidphilly are joining forces for a virtual Hanukkah celebration! Taking place on December 15th, the free event for the whole family will include holiday songs, a magician, Hanukkah bingo, and let participants join together to light the candles.
American Swedish Historical Museum’s Outdoor Christmas Market
Don’t let the Christmas Village fool you, it’s not just the Germans who love a good Christmas market! The folks at the American Swedish Historical Museum will be hosting an outdoor European style Christmas market on December 5th. The event will, unsurprisingly, feature Scandinavian crafts as well as music and a ceremonial Lucia will act as hostess.
Northern Liberties Holiday Pop-up Shops
You can get a start on your holiday shopping starting on Black Friday with the Northern Liberties Holiday Pop-up Shops. More than 15 small local businesses and makers from around the region will unite (socially distanced, of course) for this new event. The pop-up event will be held November 27th-29th and December 3rd-6th.
Historic Holidays in Old City
Old City has a lot planned to celebrate the season. Starting on November 28th and running through the New Year, they’ll be holding a window decorating contest. More than a dozen shops are participating and they’re counting on YOU to vote for the window.
On Thursday, December 3rd, they’re hosting a virtual historic holidays tree lighting on the Old City District’s Facebook page. Then on Thursday, December 10th, they’ll be hosting a virtual menorah lighting on the Old City District’s Facebook page.
Holiday & Christmas Events in Philadelphia Suburbs
Holidays at Fonthill Castle
The historic Fonthill Castle in Doylestown is hosting three different events for the 2020 holiday season. First, they’re offering daily hour-long guided tours of the remarkable and unique building that Henry Mercer once called home. If you’d prefer a self-guided experience, they’re offering 30-minute windows to enjoy the holiday lights of the home. And, finally, on select dates, there are Fonthill Castle guided evening tours.
A Longwood Christmas
Year after year, a visit to Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square for A Longwood Christmas is a popular tradition. The family-friendly attraction is unique and magical each holiday season. But you can always count on more evergreens, poinsettias, and twinkling lights than you’ll be able to count! Timed tickets are required and the holiday event runs through January 10.
Light Up the Square
Historic Kennett Square’s Light Up the Square event continues this year. And it’s going to be bigger and better than ever. The event sees the historic downtown area covered in lights and decorations! Visitors can enjoy while also taking in some of the wonderful independent boutiques and restaurants that Kennett Square has to offer.
Holiday Magic at Brandywine
The Brandywine River Museum of Art is always a pleasure to visit and it offers something extra special at the end of each year. Since 1972, they’ve offered a fun Brandywine Railroad exhibition. Running through January 10th, Holiday Magic at the Brandywine keeps that tradition alive and offers some modern twists. For example, to keep things interactive, the museum is using foot pedals! The exhibit this year also includes model trains that once belong to artist Andrew Wyeth’s sons Nicky and Jamie. Timed tickets are required for the event.
Ardmore Holiday Kick-off and Virtual Tree Lighting
Ardmore will safely start the holiday season with a virtual tree lighting on Facebook Live (@DestinationArdmore and @ArdmoreBiz pages) on Friday, November 27th at 5pm.
Christmas in the Castle
For those looking to enjoy the holidays from the safety (and warmth) of home, the Glencairn Museum is offering Christmas in the Castle. Starting November 27th, the museum will be offering a virtual online holiday tour on their website and on their YouTube Channel. The new video offers insight into the Pitcairn family holiday traditions as well as the building itself. And, of course, you can count on some sneak peeks at the museum’s remarkable Nativity art collection.
PHestival of Trees
The Fairgrounds at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center in Oaks is transforming itself into PHestival of Trees, a magical holiday drive-thru experience. The event includes 200 decorated trees and a live nativity scene as well as a menorah and Kwanzaa decorations. The event takes place the last weekend of November and benefits local animal shelters and rescues.
Colebrookdale Railroad Holiday Excursions
Boyertown’s Colebrookdale Railroad is hosting three different holiday and winter excursions for 2020. The ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas Train sees the famous poem read aloud amid the comfort of the vintage train. Santa’s Polar Bear Express lets your family travel with Santa while the Snowflake Special provides a sightseeing opportunity.
A Taste of Britain’s Winter Wonderland Teas
The Wayne-based A Taste of Britain is a delightful teahouse to visit any time of the year, and since the pandemic, their to-go afternoon tea and pies have been a favorite in my household. This year they will be continuing their annual tradition of a holiday afternoon tea. The special tea will be available in the restaurant or for curbside pickup, meaning you have no excuse not to indulge! Be sure to act fast, reservations usually go quick for this event.
Delaware River Crossing Reenactment
The annual event reenacting General George Washington’s crossing of the Delaware River will, unfortunately, not take place this year. But you can still relive this pivotal moment of the American Revolution. The Washington Crossing Historic Park will stream a special video on Christmas Day on their Facebook page and YouTube.
Wild Lights & Brunch with Santa
Santa’s known for his love of cookies and milk, but the man loves a good brunch, too! The Elmwood Park Zoo is hosting a brunch buffet with the Man in Red on most weekends in December.
Also, through the end of the year, the Elmwood Park Zoo will be hosting Wild Lights, a festive and bright attraction.
Celebrating the Season at Peddler’s Village
Now through the end of the year, Peddler’s Village in Bucks County is offering a special holiday experience. The entire village is covered in lights for you to enjoy while you shop, dine, or ride the 1920s carousel. There’s also a gingerbread house competition and plenty of opportunities to see Santa on select weekends.
Koziar’s Christmas Village
Koziar’s Christmas Village kicked off the season earlier in November. The popular family-owned and operated event in Berks County wows with more than a million Christmas lights.
The Krampus Crypt-mas Spectacular
Phoenixville’s Colonial Theatre is hosting a virtual Christmas movie marathon, The Krampus Crypt-mas Spectacular, on Saturday, December 5th. But don’t expect heartwarming Christmas films — these are “bone-chilling tales of holiday fright!” The triple feature also includes some holiday-themed shorts.
Colonial Frost Fair at Pottsgrove Manor
Experience an 18th century winter market at Pottsgrove Manor on December 12th. The outdoor holiday event will include vendors as well as living history interpreters.
Holiday Tours at Pennypacker Mills
Pennypacker Mills are offering holiday tours through January 10th. Visitors can enjoy the Victorian-inspired decorations at the mansion and learn the history of the holidays and local traditions.
The Village of Skippack is transforming into a softly light winter wonderland called Illuminaire Nights. On Wednesday and Friday evenings from November 27th through December 23rd, luminaries will line the sidewalks of the Village. Enjoy the charming atmosphere while taking in the local shops and spots.
Holiday & Christmas Events in Lancaster & York Counties
The Christmas Market at Flinchbaugh’s Orchard
Flinchbaugh’s Orchard is looking to bring the experience of a European Christmas Market to York County. The outdoor event on December 4th and 5th includes hot mulled cider, carolers, local artisans, and more.
Lancaster County’s 12 Shops of Christmas Tour
You could easily just shop online for gifts for your friends and family this holiday season. Or, you could take part in the Best Kept Secrets Tour of twelve Lancaster County shops that are off-the-beaten-path and find unique and unusual gifts for those close to you. Tours are taking place from December 3rd through the 12th.
Christmas Light Drive-Thru
Stone Gables Estate are hosting their third annual drive-thru Christmas light extravaganza. The 2.6-mile route includes Herr’s Mill Covered Bridge and a restored 1934 Lancaster City fire engine cab while featuring more than 600,000 LED bulbs! Stone Gables Estate is also hosting Santa Express, a train excursion, and a Christmas Dinner in the Star Barn Village.
Amish Christmas Cookie Tour
The Amish Farm and House in Lancaster is hosting its annual Christmas Cookie Tour. The event lets attendees learn more about the local Amish tradition by getting to meet families in their homes and sampling some of their homemade Christmas cookies.
Strasburg Rail Road Christmas Trains
Starting in November, the Strasburg Rail Road puts on its holiday finest. The nation’s oldest operating railroad offers a variety of different excursions. Santa takes the spotlight for Santa’s Paradise Express and Santa’s Christmas Trolley while there’s also a Night Before Christmas train. For the Christmas tree train, you can ride an authentic steam train to pick out a tree at Leaman Place Grove.
Santa’s Visit to Turkey Hill Experience
On two Sundays in December, Santa Claus will be making a special visit to the Turkey Hill Experience. The reservations-required event will surely be a sweet experience!
Yuletide at Wheatland
President-Elect Biden might be the latest president born in Pennsylvania but James Buchanan was the first. Wheatland, his Lancaster County home, is a worthwhile travel destination and it offers something special at Christmas. This year, Yuletide at Wheatland will be a virtual event through the end of the year. Attendees will get to participate in a Zoom call with a real-time tour.
Ziplines & Christmas Lights at Refreshing Mountain
Anyone looking for a holiday adventure should head to Lancaster County. Refreshing Mountain has decorated with eight miles of Christmas lights that you can see by driving through or flying by on a zipline! You’ll surely give those reindeer a run for their money.
New Year’s Eve in Lancaster City
Kitchen Kettle Events in the Winter
Lancaster County’s Kitchen Kettle Village are offering a couple of special events for the holidays. The Festival Family Tasting Tour is a new self-guided tour that allows visitors to sample different eateries at the Village. Mrs. Claus will be doing storytelling and, of course, she will be with the mister for photos. KKV will also be hosting events with Santa and friends.
Holidays & Christmas Events in Harrisburg (& the Greater Region)
Harrisburg’s Reverse Holiday Parade
The City of Harrisburg is trying something fun for 2020. Instead of a traditional holiday parade, they’re doing a reverse parade on November 21st. That means the floats are stationary so that parade attendees can drive by. The event is free. There will also be a live stream of the parade on local television and on Facebook!
Christmas at Fort Hunter
The historic Furt Hunter house in Harrisburg is offering limited tours for the holiday season throughout December. The Civic Committee of the Garden Club of Harrisburg has covered the home in all sorts of traditional decorations, such as dried and fresh flowers and greens.
Hershey’s Winter Events
The Sweetest Place on Earth puts on its holiday best for the end of the year. And, boy, are there are a lot of options with Hershey’s Winter Events!
There’s a sweets covered Hershey’s Holiday Chocolate House as well as the Holly Jolly Trolley, a bit of a throwback to old school holiday joy. There are also plenty of opportunities to see Santa for photos or even for breakfast!
Free timed-entry passes are required for entry to buildings, grounds, and events. Some events also require paid tickets.
Hersheypark Christmas Candylane
At nearby Hersheypark, they’re turning the amusement park into a holiday wonderland for Christmas Candylane. More than five million lights cover the park. Some of the rides, including popular coasters, are still open. Plus you can visit Santa and his reindeer at the stables.
They don’t call Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, the Christmas City for nothing! Now through the first week of December, the city will continue to host their annual Christkindlmarkt holiday market at the SteelStacks campus. Visitors can enjoy the sights and sounds of the holidays, as well as unique experiences. Among the shops are more than 50 artisans from across the country along with the go-to German ornament and decorations shop Käthe Wohlfahrt. In addition to storytimes and socially distanced photos, Santa will also be hosting a virtual cooking event.
Stourbridge Holiday Train Excursions
Located just outside of Scranton and not far from the New York-Pennsylvania State Line, Honesdale is home to the Stourbridge Line, offering scenic train excursions of the Lackawaxen River Valley. For the holidays, they’re offering a few options. There is a 2-hour long Santa Christmas Tree Express where you can visit the Big Man and pick out your Christmas tree or enjoy a winter wonderland trip through the Pocono Mountains.
Holidays & Christmas Events in Northern Delaware
Capital Holiday Celebration
A Farmer’s Christmas
The Delaware Agricultural Museum and Village transports visitors back to 1890 with their attraction A Farmer’s Christmas. The on-going event includes self-guided tours of their 1890 holiday village, exhibits, as well as a Christmas tree decorating contest. Plan your visit around different live performances and demonstrations. Experience demonstrations like blacksmithing, butter churning, and chainsaw carving.
City of Harrington Christmas Parade
Harrington, Delaware will be hosting their annual Christmas parade on December 4th at 7 pm. The theme is Christmas Through A Child’s Eyes. The city has posted guidelines for attendance on their website.
Christmas in Odessa
Each year, the Women’s Club of Odessa keeps us guessing with a new theme for their yearly Christmas in Odessa event. For 2020, it’s An Inside out Christmas in Odessa. The 56th annual event is a one-day event on Saturday, December 5th that will allow visitors to take self-guided tours through the historic town to admire doors in their holiday best. The event will culminate in a tree lighting. Admission is free, but donations are encouraged.
Holidays in Odessa
Throughout the month of December, the Historic Odessa Foundation will be hosting events in the historic Delaware town. Every Tuesday and Thursday evening, the foundation will host guided candlelight walking tours of the historic buildings.
Donuts with Santa
It’s not just cookies that Santa likes to dunk in his milk. Oh no, he likes donuts, too. And I’m guessing that Fifer’s famous apple cider donuts and Christmas iced donuts are a favorite. The folks at Fifer Orchards are hosting a Donuts with Santa event that includes some tasty treats and a photo with Santa and Mrs. Claus. This is an outdoor event and tickets are required.
Christmas in Milford
Downtown Milford has a couple of holiday events planned for 2020. First, the Santa Claus House will offer visits via a drive-thru window at the Milford Customer Service Center. The visits are free but donations are encouraged. Then on the first Friday of December, the city will host an outdoor Christmas Market with featuring artisan vendors.
Holidays at Hagley
The Hagley Museum has a full schedule for the rest of the year that is fit for the whole family. It all kicks off with a month-long gingerbread house contest with additional weekend events. Santa and Mrs. Claus will also be there for some socially distanced fun. During the holiday season, admission to the museum is free for teachers, front-line healthcare workers, active fire and police personnel, and other “Hometown Heroes.”
Yuletide at Winterthur
Winterthur in the Brandywine Valley has a schedule as varied as it is full for the holiday season. The first half of December sees them putting on an outdoor 3D light show (rain or shine!). But throughout the rest of the year, you can enjoy special activities like Yuletide House Tours, s’mores, and special workshops. For the grown-ups, there will be Yuletide Jazz & Wine evenings on Wednesdays in December. Winterthur is known for their gardens, so, of course, you can count on them for some special green events, too! Winterthur will be open on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day! On New Year’s Day, you can take part in the du Pont family tradition of New Year’s Calling for a special Yuletide Tour.
Holiday & Christmas Events in New Jersey
You may not know that when he’s not in his workshop or flying with his reindeer, Santa’s an avid scuba diver. It’s true! From November 27th through December 24th, Scuba Santa will be hanging out at the Adventure Aquarium in Camden, New Jersey. The underwater world features the world’s tallest underwater Christmas tree AND the world’s smallest underwater Christmas tree. Christmas Underwater is included in regular admission to the aquarium.
Wildwoods Holiday Shopping Village
Head to Byrne Plaza in Downtown Wildwood on Saturday, November 28th for a the Wildwoods Holiday Shopping Village, a fully outdoor holiday shopping experience including handcrafted items from local artisans.
Cape May Christmas Candlelight House Tours
Greater Wildwood Jaycees Christmas Parade
Kick-off the holiday season on Saturday, December 4th with the Greater Wildwood Jaycees Christmas Parade. The route runs from 16th Avenue and finishes and Byrne Plaza. A tree lighting will follow awards for the most festive floats and businesses. The rain date is December 6th.
After the parade, head to Byrne Plaza for more holiday festivities.
Hereford Inlet Lighthouse Christmas Tree Lighting
On Saturday, December 4th, the Hereford Inlet Lighthouse in North Wildwood will host a Christmas tree lighting event. The free event will include music and refreshments, along with free tours of the lighthouse. Santa will, of course, be there.
Pinch the GrYnch Boardwalk 5K Run
Enjoy a different kind of holiday fun at the Wildwoods Boardwalk on December 12th by taking part in a 5K run and 1-mile walk. The rain or shine event encourages participants to dress festively!
Cape May Dancers Christmas Performance
Head to Downtown Wildwood’s Byrne Plaza on December 12th to see a free performance of the Cape May Dancers. The Christmas-themed show is family-friendly.
Emlen Physick Estate Holiday House Tours
Cape May’s only Victorian house museum, Emlen Physick Estate is offering several different holiday house tours this year. Visitors can enjoy a visit to the 1879 Victorian house museum to see the decorations and learn the history. Additionally, the house museum is offering a Dickens of a Murder party and an evening Yuletide house tour.
Cape May Winter Wonderwalk
Cape May is kicking off their first-ever Winter Wonderwalk in 2020. Running from November 20th through the winter, the free walk allows strollers to enjoy the grounds of the Emlen Physick Estate which, just like the inside of the house, is transformed for the holiday and winter seasons.
All photos are my own.