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The Best FREE Philadelphia Christmas Activities

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 2021.

The Best Free Things to Do in Philadelphia with Kids This Christmas (Twitter)

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. This year the show is narrated by Julie Andrews and includes 100,000 LED lights. Watch 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 2021, the light show will run just once a day at 10:30 a.m. from Dec. 1-24, and moves to 11:30 a.m. from Dec. 26-31.
  • 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 last year.
  • The Friends of the Wanamaker Organ annual Christmas in the Grand Tradition Concert, starring Peter Richard Conte, is held Sunday December 12, 2021, at 6:45 pm and is admission-free in the Grand Court.
  • For more information about the details and history of the Macy’s Christmas Light Show visit this link.

The Dickens Village at Macy’s

New for 2021, Dickens Christmas Village may be enjoyed virtually by watching the video below.

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.

Dickens Village at Macy's in Philadelphia
The start of your journey through another time.
  • 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 the 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.
  • Children can get their pictures with Santa or other background settings in the Dickens Village area. Santa returns to the North Pole December 24, of course! Dickens Village remains open through December 31. You can see all of our Macy’s Dickens Village photos in our Facebook album.
Macy's Dicken's Village

Franklin Square Holiday Festival and Electrical Spectacle Light Show

Winter in Franklin Square featuring the Electrical Spectacle Light Show will sparkle from November 18, 2021 – February 27, 2022. Guests can celebrate the magic of the season both day and night in festive Franklin Square. The Electrical Spectacle is more than 80,000 LED lights, featuring a 12-foot-tall lighted kite and 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, some of which are performed by The Philly POPS®* in two alternating shows every 30 minutes beginning at 4:30 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.

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, Nutcracker characters, Star Wars Characters, Kwanzaa and Hanukkah celebrations and a Frozen night. 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 and until 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
  • For more information visit this website.
Photo by M. Edlow for VISIT PHILADELPHIA®
Photo by M. Edlow for VISIT PHILADELPHIA®

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! Typically shown in the lobby of The Comcast Center, The Comcast Holiday Spectacular moves outdoors to the Comcast Center plaza for 2021.

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 11th 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. And an Audio Description of the show is available, which can be accessed either on guests’ mobile devices or by request.

Also new 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 25 2021 and runs through January 1, 2022. The show begins at the top of the hour daily from 10 AM – 8 PM.

View our Facebook album from previous year’s shows to see pictures from the Comcast Holiday Spectacular.

See scenes from Walnut Street Thetre's The Nut Cracker
See scenes from Walnut Street Theatre’s The Nutcracker

Christmas Village in Philadelphia

Christmas Village returns to LOVE park in 2021 for its 13th 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.

Philadelphia's Christmas Village 1
Photo credit Christmas Village – Photo taken prior to 2020.

On top of the great shopping and dining experiences, Philadelphia’s Christmas Village visitors will enjoy the glorious Christmas Tree in Dilwort Park, St. Nikolaus Day, story time Mondays, theme days and weekends, a carousel, and other surprises! Dogs welcome too!

Christmas Village in Philadelphia location

  • Christmas Village is located at 1501 John F Kennedy Blvd, Philadelphia.

Christmas Village in Philadelphia schedule

  • Official opening is November 25, 2021. In past years, each weekend has been specially themed with performances throughout the day.
  • Christmas Village is open daily 11-7 and 11-8 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 April 3, 2022. 

The Rothman Orthopaedics Ice Rink offers timed, 90-minute skating sessions, through February 27, 2022. The Made in Philadelphia Holiday Market will be back again selling handmade trinkets, treats and crafts galore created by local makers, November 20, 2021-January 1, 2022.

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 22, 2021-January 1, 2022. 

Rounding out the offerings is the Visit Philadelphia Holiday Treea 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, December 2, 2021. 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 December 2, 2021 through January 1, 2022.

Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest wrap
Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest wrap

Winterfest at the River Rink

Penn’s Landing’s Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest will host its 28th season in 2021. 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 29, 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.

Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest

Wondering how you’ll get around to all these great free Philadelphia Christmas activities? The Snowflake Shuttle powered by PHLASH makes it easy to enjoy all the holiday events with free rides throughout Historic Philadelphia, beginning at Franklin Square, Thursday through Sunday evenings, 6 – 9 pm, beginning November 23. It’s one of the best ways to get around all the free things to do in Philadelphia with kids at Christmas.

The Best Free Things to Do in Philadelphia with Kids This Christmas

Of all the free Philadelphia Christmas activities which are your favorite?

For more New Jersey Christmas Family Fun visit these blog posts and listings

Santa Claus photos in New Jersey
New Jersey Holiday Train Shows with Christmas Train Sets on Display
Living Nativity Scenes in New Jersey

For your holiday and Christmas Shopping take a look at these posts

New Jersey gift experiences gift guide

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