There’s something about visiting a city at Christmas time. The people shopping and rushing, the cold air making cheeks rosy and the sounds of the season (traffic noises? I’d rather say Christmas carols!) We’ve been sharing tips for visiting Philadelphia at Christmas time for years and we are now sharing with you FREE Philadelphia Christmas activities for 2023.
We’re currently updating this for Christmas 2023. Save this and check back often for updates.
The Best FREE Philadelphia Christmas Activities
Macy’s Christmas Light Show and Holiday Displays
This is the first of our things to do in Philadelphia with kids this Christmas. The Macy’s Christmas light show is a tradition reaching back to 1956 and includes performances on the historic Wanamaker Grand Organ. In prior years the show was narrated by Julie Andrews and included 100,000 LED lights. Watch the snowflakes, ballerinas, and reindeer float beyond the four-story-high velvet curtain of the Grand Court atrium.
Macy’s Christmas Light Show and Holiday Display location
- Macy’s Christmas Light Show & other holiday displays are located at The Wanamaker Building, 1300 Market Street Philadelphia, PA.
Macy’s Christmas Light Show Schedule
- For 2023, the light show will run from November 24, 2023 through December 31, 2023. The schedule is Monday through Saturday at 10:30 am, 12:00 pm, 2:00 pm, 4:00 pm and 6:00 pm and Sunday at 12 pm, 2 pm, and 4 pm.
- The light show is about 11 minutes long.
- No reservations, but times may change as the holidays approach, so check the Macy’s Santaland website — where you can also watch it on demand — before heading out. Reportedly the Christmas Light Show backdrop will remain fully lit most of the shopping day, as it was in prior years.
- For more information about the details and history of Macy’s Christmas Light Show visit this link.
The Dickens Village at Macy’s
While you’re at Macy’s don’t miss their holiday window displays and the third floor Dickens Village with vintage animatronics. The Macy’s Dickens Village entrance starts out with a giant book and a tree where you can take pictures while you wait in line. You can walk through the village at your own pace but allow yourself at least 90 minutes to enjoy it.
Once the workers instruct you to come in (they are all dressed in appropriate time period garb with accents to boot) a little Charles Dickens himself begins to tell the story of Mr. Scrooge. In the beginning you walk through a tiny village which you can walk up to each door, seeing moveable scenes in each doorway and signs that read parts of the story.
Continue your journey through Christmas Past, Christmas Present, Christmas yet to Come and The Fate of Scrooge. At the end of the story, you have a choice to go right and leave or go left and sit on Santa’s lap.
Macy’s Dickens Village Schedule and Tips to visiting
- The best viewing times are Mondays through Thursdays. The Dickens Village is free and is open on a continuous basis. Reservations are required five days in advance, and shoppers may register in advance at the Macy’s Santaland website HERE.
- Go early and do not come after the light show like we did years ago, everyone had the same idea.
- Go to the bathroom before entering which is directly to the right of the entrance.
- Dress in layers as it does get warm waiting in line to go through Macy’s Dickens Village.
- Bring activities and snacks to keep kids busy as they wait in line.
- The Dickens Village contains realistic scenes with statues representing the characters and ghosts from The Christmas Carol. These images might be scary for some children. Christmas to Come includes Death himself and darkness/strobe lights. Christmas Past includes three ghosts hanging that may be scary for some children as well.
- The Dickens Village opens on November 24, 2023. Children can get their pictures with Santa or other background settings in the Dickens Village area. Santa returns to the North Pole on December 24, 2023, of course! Dickens Village remains open through December 31, 2023. You can see all of our Macy’s Dickens Village photos in our Facebook album.
Franklin Square Holiday Festival and Electrical Spectacle Light Show
Winter in Franklin Square featuring the Electrical Spectacle Light Show will sparkle from November 16, 2023 – February 25, 2024. Guests can celebrate the magic of the season in festive Franklin Square day or night. The Electrical Spectacle is more than 80,000 LED lights throughout the park that form an amazing light show. Start a new holiday tradition this year with this Franklin Square holiday light show!
Inspired by Benjamin Franklin’s electrifying genius, the free Electrical Spectacle Holiday Light Show presented by PECO is the key to holiday fun in Franklin Square. Marvel at more than 80,000 lights as they shimmer, dance, and illuminate the Square to a soundtrack of holiday classics in two alternating shows every 30 minutes beginning at 5:00 pm daily.
Other festivities include visits from Santa and Ben Franklin, rides on the holiday train and carousel, a beer garden and fire pits and even mini-golf with warming stations (some of these are paid attractions).
New this year, Winter in Franklin Square will feature new songs incorporated into the Electrical Spectacle Light Show. Plus, Franklin’s Winter View provides outdoor fire pits and a beautiful indoor heated tent featuring adult and hot beverages and seasonal food.
Franklin Square Holiday Festival and Electrical Spectacle Light Show location
- Franklin Square is at 200 North 6th Street, Philadelphia.
Franklin Square Holiday Festival and Electrical Spectacle Light Show Schedule
- Weekly events include Santa, Activities with YOYO, Nutcracker Night, and a Hanukkah celebrations. Come back after Christmas for the New Year’s Eve countdown.
- The light show runs every 30 minutes from 5 p.m. – 9 p.m. daily. Please see their website for additional days and hours.
- For more information visit this website.
Comcast Holiday Spectacular
In the lobby of the Comcast Center is one of the world’s largest high resolution displays and during the holiday season it is a destination for many!
Since 2008, the Comcast Center has been delivering free holiday fun! Over 2 million people have come and seen the show on the giant 83’ x 25’ Comcast Experience video wall in the Comcast Center lobby, which is one of world’s largest highest resolution LED displays. Now in its 15th year, the 15 minute show is set to the music of a like Carol of the Bells, Jingle Bell Rock, and The Twelve Days of Christmas and also scenes of performances by the renowned Pennsylvania Ballet.
There is also a sensory-friendly version of the show available for viewers. An Audio Description of the show is available, which can be accessed either on guests’ mobile devices or by request.
Also there to explore is The Universal Sphere, a free cinematic experience created by Steven Spielberg, DreamWorks Animation, Universal Parks & Resorts and Comcast Labs. It is located in the upper lobby of the nearby Comcast Technology Center.
Comcast Holiday Spectacular location
- The Comcast Center is located at 1701 John F Kennedy Blvd. Philadelphia.
Comcast Holiday Spectacular schedule
- The Comcast Holiday Spectacular debuts November 23, 2023 and runs through January 1, 2024. The show begins at the top of the hour daily from 10 am – 8 pm with a sensory friendly show at 2:30 pm daily.
View our Facebook album from previous year’s shows to see pictures from the Comcast Holiday Spectacular.
Christmas Village in Philadelphia
Christmas Village returns to LOVE park in 2023 for its 15th anniversary. It’s a Christmas season must visit! This year visit the traditional German market, Christmas decorations, live music, and more. See Santa, enjoy children’s activities and shop and eat at 80 different vendors. Admission is free, with food, drink, and shopping pay as you go.
On top of the great shopping and dining experiences, Philadelphia’s Christmas Village visitors will enjoy the glorious Christmas Tree in Dilworth Park, St. Nikolaus Day, storytime Mondays, theme days and weekends, a carousel, and other surprises! Dogs are welcome too!
Christmas Village in Philadelphia location
- Christmas Village is located at 1501 John F Kennedy Blvd, Philadelphia.
Christmas Village in Philadelphia schedule
- The official opening is November 18, 2023. In past years, each weekend has been specially themed with performances throughout the day.
- Christmas Village is open daily from 12 am to 8 pm and 12 am to 9 pm Friday and Saturday. Holiday hours vary.
Visit www.philachristmas.com for more information.
Winter at Dilworth Park
There are lots of ways to enjoy the winter holidays at Dilworth Park, situated on City Hall’s west side. On the Wintergarden on the Greenfield Lawn there’s an open-air wonderland of lights, topiaries and rustic décor perfect for photo-ops. This will be available through March 17, 2024.
The Rothman Orthopedics Ice Rink offers timed, 90-minute skating sessions, through February 25, 2024. The Made in Philadelphia Holiday Market will be back again selling handmade trinkets, treats and crafts galore created by local makers, November 10, 2023 through January 1, 2024. This is a paid attraction during November, December, and January. Monday and Tuesdays are “Free in February” subject to availability. Skate rental not included.
Not to be missed is the Deck the Hall Holiday Lights, where stunning technicolor projections — synchronized to sound effects and played continuously on a nonstop loop — animate the western façade of City Hall, November 21, 2022 through January 1, 2023.
Rounding out the offerings is the Visit Philadelphia Holiday Tree, a magnificent 45-foot-tall tree adorning the north side of City Hall. Revelers can see the tree sparkle for the first time this season during a lighting celebration on Thursday, November 30, 2023. Pay attention to the tree’s custom-made steel base, with designs representing signature Philadelphia landmarks, portions of the city’s skyline, and diverse neighborhoods. The Philadelphia Christmas tree will be on display from November 30, 2023 through January 1, 2024.
Winterfest at the River Rink
Penn’s Landing’s Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest will host its 30th season in 2023. Winterfest is a pop-up winter garden with cozy fire pits, fresh-air eats and drinks, a kids’ lodge and arcade, and ice skating. Plus, special events and activities are on tap at the Blue Cross RiverRink throughout the season.
Winterfest at the River Rink location
- Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest is at 101 S. Columbus Boulevard at Market Street, Penns Landing area of Philadelphia
Winterfest at the River Rink Schedule
- It opens for the season November 24, 2023 open hours and skating session times vary. Skating and warming cabins are at an additional cost. Learn more at the Blue Cross RiverRink website.
Read more about our experience here in our 13 Winterful Activities to do With Your Kids at Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest.
Wondering how you’ll get around to all these great free Philadelphia Christmas activities? In 2023, the Snowflake Shuttle powered by PHLASH makes it easy to enjoy all the holiday events with rides throughout Historic Philadelphia, beginning at Franklin Square, with daily service from 10 am – 6 pm. It’s one of the best ways to get around all the free things to do in Philadelphia with kids at Christmas. See their website for ticketing information.
Of all the free Philadelphia Christmas activities which are your favorite?
Holiday & Christmas Things to Do in New Jersey with Kids
Updating for 2023.
Holiday & Christmas Things to Do in New Jersey with Kids
Updating for 2023.
For your holiday and Christmas Shopping take a look at these posts
- Gift Them Experiences Gift Guide ~ Amazing Experience Gifts for Kids in New Jersey
- Deals, Coupons, and Discounts on Things to Do in New York City with Kids
- The Best Philadelphia & South Jersey Deals for Families
- The Best New York & North Jersey Deals for Families