Things to Do in Philadelphia in Winter 2018 – December & January 2019 Activities & More

Philly can be a cold city in winter, but it’s also a very charming travel destination.

The city gets really into the holidays, with city-wide illuminations across multiple neighborhoods, festive holiday attractions and activities, and fun indoor events to enjoy.

If you’re looking for some fun seasonal activities and things to do in Philadelphia in winter 2018-2019, check out our top suggestions!

Save on Winter Attraction Admission

Regular admission to a number of these attractions is included on the Philadelphia Pass.

Choose as you go from dozens of top attractions and save up to 45% on combined admission vs. paying at the gate.

See all available Philadelphia passes, attractions & prices.

Please note, some of these special winter events may be separately ticketed and not included on the Philadelphia Pass.

A Longwood Christmas

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When: now through January 6, 2019

Step inside Longwood Garden’s Versailles-inspired Conservatory to be transported into a magical wonderland of holiday décor.

Stroll through seasonal topiaries, gorgeous wreaths, floating cranberries in pools of calm water, and even a few gilded nuts and berries to round it all out.

Outside of the Conservatory, marvel at the nearly half-million lights that deck the trees, plus fountains that dance to holiday songs.

This year’s special theme is “Tree Reimagined,” which puts surprising and beautiful twists on conventional holiday decor. You’ll find things like “trees” out of funky materials (including books!), trees suspending from the ceiling, and much more.

Please note that this event requires timed admission tickets.

Getting In: Longwood Gardens tickets are included with The Philadelphia Pass.

Holidays at the Philadelphia Zoo

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Celebrate the holidays at the Philadelphia Zoo with a special seasonal event — a chance to meet Santa himself!

Visitors can enjoy a breakfast buffet breakfast and mingle with Santa at the Rare Animal Conservation Center. You can choose to purchase professional photos of your child with Santa, or use your own camera.

Santa will visit the Philadelphia Zoo on weekends in December 2018. Please note that this event is separately ticketed from general admission and is not included with the Philadelphia Pass.

Getting In: Philadelphia Zoo tickets are included with The Philadelphia Pass.

Holidays at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

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When: November 21, 2018 – January 1, 2019

For the artsy folks among you, the Philadelphia Museum of Art has some wonderful festive activities and events going on this holiday season.

There are special programs going on like speciality, holiday-themed tours for little ones called Art Explorers, DIY card-making sessions, and a classic cartoon jazz party (all of which are included with general admission).

Enjoy seasonal performances and cocktails on Friday nights (a good time for holiday date night), and winter break family programs between Christmas and New Year’s Day.

Don’t forget to pick up some holiday gifts in the museum gift shop!

Getting in: Philadelphia Museum of Art tickets are included with The Philadelphia Pass.

A Very Philly Holiday at One Liberty Observation Deck

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When: November 21, 2018 – January 1, 2019

For something unique and special, take a ride to the One Liberty Observation Deck to partake in their fun holiday experience.

They’re celebrating three major local traditions: the Mummers, the Pennsylvania Ballet, and the Miracle on South 13th Street.

NEW for 2018: a Meet and Greet with the Grinch himself (December 16 — included with admission); an Ugly Sweater Party (December 19); and even a fun New Year’s Eve Celebration called Midnight from the Top (December 31).

See displays and costumes from each located throughout the observation deck, alongside the massive Ben Franklin head!

Getting In: One Liberty Observation Deck tickets are included with The Philadelphia Pass.

Adventure Aquarium Christmas Celebration

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When: November 23 – December 30, 2018

Celebrate the holidays at the Adventure Aquarium in Camden, NJ — right across the river from Philly!

Marvel at the largest underwater Christmas tree in Shark’s Realm, scope out Scuba Santa and his “elf” helpers as they swim in the underwater tanks of Shark’s Realm, and more.

For a specially ticketed experience, you’ll get to have special milk and cookies with Santa on select weekends.

Plus, you get to enjoy all of the fun and excitement of visiting the aquarium every other time of the year!

Getting In: Adventure Aquarium tickets are included with The Philadelphia Pass.

Reading Terminal Market Holiday Railroad

This is one for the kids and kids at heart. Head to Reading Terminal Market to see their iconic Holiday Railroad display.

This year’s display features the history of the market, as well as the history of the iconic Reading Railroad.

Kids can also meet Santa on December 22, 2018, when he shows up at the Market with a horse-drawn wagon.

Getting In: Reading Terminal Market is free to explore.

A Very Philly Christmas

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When: Select dates, December 2018

For those of you who love historical homes and historical Christmas décor, you’ll love A Very Philly Christmas. See five historic homes from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, located in Fairmont Park, completely decked out for the holidays.

Your ticket allows you admission to these gorgeous homes and access to periodic accompanying musical performances. It’s a must-see for history buffs.

Getting In: A Very Philly Christmas is separately ticketed and is not included with The Philadelphia Pass.

Ice Skating in Philadelphia

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There are plenty of options for those of you who love to take a spin on the ice to celebrate the season. Two of our favorites are the Rothman Ice Rink at Dilworth Park and the Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest.

The Winterfest is actually a larger event featuring tasty food and hot beverages, games, and much more, located at Penn’s Landing.

The Winterfest runs from November 23, 2018 – March 3, 2019.

Getting In: Blue Cross RiverRink tickets are included with The Philadelphia Pass.

Pennsylvania Ballet performs The Nutcracker

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This Christmas classic is beloved by children and adults from around the world.

Come to see George Balanchine’s magnificent choreography at the Academy of Music, as performed by the Pennsylvania Ballet.

You’ll be immersed in the magic and wonder with gorgeous costumes, lavish sets, and the instantly-recognizable music. 

Getting In: Nutcracker tickets are separately priced and are not included on the pass. 

Franklin Square Holiday Festival & Electric Spectacle Holiday Light Show

Visit this historic square to see it totally illuminated in vibrant lights and colors.

Enjoy light shows every 30 minutes between 4:00 – 8:00 pm on weeknights, and 4:00 – 9:00 pm on Fridays and Saturdays.

Getting In: Franklin Square events are free.

Remember to Save on Attraction Admission

So there’s our list of the top things to do in Philadelphia during the holidays, in January, and even beyond.

Remember, many of these options are included on The Philadelphia Pass, where you can save up to 55% on combined admission vs. paying at the gate.

Please note, the winter events taking place at some of these attractions may be separately ticketed and not included with The Philadelphia Pass.

We hope you plan to add a few of these fun options to your winter vacation itinerary!

The information contained in this post, to the best of the author's knowledge, was accurate at time of publishing. We do our best to ensure and maintain the accuracy of this information.

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