Now that we’ve all eaten our weight in turkey, potatoes and pie, I’m excited to share with you my list of holiday activities I’m going to take part in this year! These events and festive sights are around the Philadelphia and New Jersey area, and are a mixture of things I’ve already done that I’m excited to do again or new things I want to try this year.
A Longwood Christmas
This exhibit has become one of my personal traditions, and has become a great date night for James and I year after year. While the exhibits change themes every year, they never disappoint. This year the theme is “Tree Re-imagined” that feature your obvious traditional Christmas tree as well as some trees made of things you may not think of. Bundle up if you plan on walking the grounds – there are plenty of trees and displays to see outside including their musical fountain, a miniature train display featuring Thomas and friends, and a semi-new display of floating trees on their lake. If you hate the cold or it turns out to be a wet night, there’s plenty to see inside the greenhouses. Poinsettias, more Christmas trees, and caroling can be found inside. There’s also a heated tent nearby that sells wine, beer, [spiked or not spiked] cider and hot chocolate, and lots of tasty treats for you to enjoy. Make sure you buy your tickets in advance as well! They do offer discounts to students, seniors, and children, and you can go in anytime after your time slot – if you make it a date night, take your time at dinner!
Blue Cross River Rink
I only just went to this last year for the first time, and I fell in love. There’s something here for everyone in the family, and you could easily spend a whole day just in this village. The village is free to enter, but you;ll have to buy tickets for your skate sessions. The sessions are for 90 minutes and cost just $4, or if you have your Blue Cross insurance card it’s FREE! You can also rent your skates here for $10. If you have other things planned for the day, I suggest buying your time slot in advance here. If not, do what James and I did and wing it! There’s plenty to do before your session. The lodge next to the rink has plenty to eat and drink from Chickie’s and Pete’s to craft beer, and there are concession stands throughout the village that sell lots of tasty treats. Outdoors there are games and fire pits for you to enjoy, and you can even rent little cabins if you have a larger group.
The River Rink opened this weekend and runs until March. For Christmas there are a couple events to note, including the Tree Lighting on Friday, Nov 30 and the New Year’s Fireworks on NYE. I’ve always wanted to go to the tree lighting, so hopefully I can make the trip this year!
Festive Bars in the city
I just started getting to all the festive bars and restaurants in the city, but I found a couple gems last year. Unfortunately I can’t partake in the brews this year, but I wouldn’t miss the decorations!
First stop – I didn’t get anything to eat here last year, but stopped for a couple beers before the river rink and it did not disappoint! McGillin’s Olde Ale House is one of the most festive bars I’ve ever seen. There’s not much walking space, and there may be a bit of a wait if you have a large group, but if there’s just two of you James and I had no problem getting seated pretty quickly. If you had to chose one of the places on this list to grab a drink – I’d pick this one.
Another bar that I haven’t gotten the chance to get to yet is Manatawny Still Works. This bar is been known to wrap their bar tops in wrapping paper among other festive decorations. If you like whiskey, this appears to be the place to go. If you venture here, let me know what you think!
Among the light displays around the city, pop up bars are coming up nearby. Last year there were two pop ups that were Christmas themed. While Tinsel doesn’t appear to be coming back this year, ITV is decorating once again partnering with Miracle – a bar that originated in NYC. While the decorations will likely be enough to lure you in, their cocktail menu looks amazing AND they serve them in kitschy Santa mugs! In The Valley is a must visit for me this year and I can’t even drink!
Christmas Tree Lightings
I’m sure every person reading this has a tree lighting event near them. I plan on going to one nearby my town, and would love to go to the tree lighting at the river rink. Just go to your facebook events page and look up “tree lighting”- I’m sure there are plenty over the next week that will come up.
Photo by J. Fusco for Visit Philadelphia
Macy’s Light Show
This is a Philadelphia staple. The light show in Macy’s runs every other hour starting at 10 AM. If you have kids, this was always a great tradition we did with my Grandmom. I suggest taking your kids here if you can. Maybe get some breakfast nearby at Harp & Crown while it’s decorated for Christmas, and plan on going early so you can have the rest of the day to do more fun activities!
A Legendary Christmas
John Legend has decided to go on a Christmas Tour, and I’ve never been so excited. James and I have feelings about him since we listened to him when we first started dating, he proposed to me while John’s music was playing, and we saw him within a month of getting married in concert. It was one of the best concerts we’ve ever been to – very relaxing and romantic – and we always said whenever he comes back we HAVE to be there. This time he’s playing in the new music venue in center city, The Met, and we will be attending on Dec 4th. The link above will take you to all his dates, just incase you’re not from the area, but I strongly suggest seeing him – especially if you want a romantic night in the city.
So this festivity is where it gets a little complicated. I don’t know about you, but I’m very particular in what version of the Nutcracker I watch over the holidays. Sometimes, the ballet is enough to distract me from the storyline, but some of the versions of the Christmas tale are boring to me. You know there’s the version with or without Mother Ginger, the version where Clara is played by an adult and is in pointe, and many other renditions. My favorite is definitly when Clara is played my an adult, danced the pas de deux, and has a romance with the Nutcracker. The traditional version is the opposite. I think i like this version because of watching Barishnikov and Gelsey Kirkland all these years. If you live near a major city, I’m sure you have a ballet company there. The PA Ballet has started their production that runs through NYE – you can buy tickets here. If you can’t get enough of the ballet, the company also breakfast with the Sugar Plum faerie! My Mom & Dad were great enough to get me tickets to see this last year, and the ballet was amazing. It was James first professional ballet he’d been to and he enjoyed it as well. We usually go to the Brandywine Ballet’s production at West Chester University while we visit our families. If you live in Chester county or it’s surrounding areas, I suggest going to see this – and bring the kids! They’ll love it! Tickets are sold here. The production is great for a small company, and features local dancers. You and your family will love it, and trust me – the Arabian dance will not disappoint.
Yule Ball Brunch
This I just found this year, and I’m unsure how festive this will be but I don’t care! Grab your wands and your cloaks and head to Victoria Freehouse for brunch this December. For $35 you can enjoy breakfast and quizzo Harry Potter style. There are two dates in December for this family event, so bring your family! I’m unsure what the prize is, but I honestly don’t care – I’m so curious to see how they transform the venue into the Yule Ball.