I have to confess that I love Christmas time. This past week, one of my colleagues who is from Alaska mentioned that she would be in Philly for Christmas this year and wondered what there is to do. This question brought back a lot of great memories and thoughts about what I might want to do this year. With that in mind, I thought I would make a list of 10 Great Things to do in Philly this Christmas.
1. Macy’s Christmas Light Show – As a child, I did not live in Philadelphia because my parents served in the Caribbean as missionaries. When my parents did occasionally come back from the mission field at Christmas time, we always came to the CLC headquarters in Fort Washington and ALWAYS went to Center City to see the light show at Wanamakers. Now that Wanamakers is Macys, a few things have changed, but the amazing light show is still there. In addition, they now have the Dicken’s Village display that used to be at the Strawbridges department store. One other special feature at Macy’s in Center City is the largest operational pipe organ in the world located in the same atrium area as the light show.
2. Church of the Open Door Cantata and Live Nativity – located right here in Fort Washington, the Church of the Open Door (COD) does an excellent Christmas canatata each year. This year, the cantata is entitled, “A New Heart for Christmas” and will be performed on Saturday, December 19th and Sunday, December 20th at 7PM. In addition, COD will host it’s drive though LIVE NATIVITY on Saturday, December 5th and Sunday, December 6th from 5-8PM. These free events are well worth your time.
3. Longwood Gardens – This beautiful place is at its best during the Christmas season. The first time that I went with my family, I did know what to expect and was blown away at how big the place was. With more than 400,000 twinkling lights and spectacular fountain shows, it is pretty incredible. The continuously performing Theatre fountains present the colors of a Christmas rainbow from 5 to 9 p.m. There is also an ice skating show to enjoy. Tickets cost $16.00 for adults, $6 for kids 5 to 18 and kids under 4 are free.
4. The Nutcracker at the Academy of Music– As a child visiting the USA at Christmas time one year, I was blessed with tickets to this spectacular Philadelphia tradition. Even though we sat high up in the balconies, I remember being stunned by the costumes and sets even though I had not yet grown to appreciate ballet. Set to Peter Ilych Tchaikovsky’s magnificent score, Pennsylvania Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker has become a beloved tradition, attracting more than 50,000 people each year. This year’s production boasts new colorful costumes designed by Judanna Lynn and spectacular sets by Peter Horne. Single event tickets appear to start at $21.50.
5. Peddler’s Village – This collection of quaint shops located near Doylestown in Bucks county is a favorite place for my mother to visit each year. This year it features its famous Christmas themed ginger bread displays, incredible light displays, the Giggleberry Fair family entertainment center with lots for kids to do and the memorable Cock and Bull restaurant. Even for someone who can get jaded by Christmas commercialism, this place is fun and memorable.
6. Neighboorhood Lights – I am not sure if we are unusual in this area, but it seems that many of the neighborhoods work to outdo each other with their light displays each year. I am convinced that some of the people that do these displays must have a special agreement with PECO for their electicity bill. Some of the best neighborhoods to see lights are off of Susquhanna Avenue and Fitzwatertown Roads.
In an attempt to try some new things this year and maybe establish some new traditions, I am listing some ideas that I have not tried yet, but would like to.
7. Christmas Village at Dilworth Plaza – this is an entirely new event in Philly. Fifty local vendors will set up shop next to City Hall on Dilworth Plaza in a Christmas Village with great gifts for all types of shoppers. This new idea will be sure to add a festive touch to the already exciting down town area at Christmas time.
8. Comcast Holiday Spectacular – Located at the newly opened Comcast Center in down town Philly, the Comcast Experience Video Wall has an amazing display of images and sounds. From Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day, the Video Wall will project The Comcast Holiday Spectacular, a 15-minute program filled with the images and sounds of the season. Astoundingly clear images of ice skaters, Christmas lights twinkling and a youth choir singing It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year look so real, you’ll think they’re jumping out of the wall. And the image of Santa’s sleigh circling Philadelphia before landing on the Art Museum steps fills the Comcast Center with both the holiday spirit and Philadelphia pride! Other favorite holiday songs include The 12 Days of Christmas, Sleigh Ride and the classic Nutcracker score.
9. Holiday Garden Railway at Morris Arboretum – Morris Arboretum’s Holiday Garden Railway Display is a special holiday treat. Featuring seven G-scale model train lines in the garden, the display also includes more than 40 miniature houses and buildings decorated for the holidays. Delight at the scale-model buildings, which include replicas of Independence Hall, the Betsy Ross House, the Fisher Fine Arts Library at Penn (designed by Frank Furness) and many other structures from the region. All of the replicas were constructed using natural materials — acorns, moss, bark and twigs form the exterior décor, accented for the holidays with tiny decorations of tinsel and beads. Twinkling lights surround the display, which is set on about 1/8 of an acre. While the display is appropriate for all ages, small children will especially love the moving trains and adults will enjoy the clever landscaping and the ingenious layout of the train lines.
10. Handel’s Messiah at the Kimmel Center – On December 13, 2009, prepare to be truly delighted when Conductor Paul Goodwin leads the Philadelphia Singers Chorale and four leading Baroque soloists in Handel’s Messiah — giving the performance the vibrant energy of the Baroque period while continuing a beloved Orchestra tradition, now in its 47th year. I have loved going to prior renditions of Handel’s Messiah at other locations and this event sounds spectacular.
I look forward to celebrating the real reason for the season – Jesus Christ – with my family and friends in both familiar and new ways this year. What an amazing thing it is to honor the birth of our savior in so many varied ways and places.