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No Naughty, Just Nice (& Safe) Outdoor Holiday Activities - Part 1

Updated: Dec 2, 2020

Photo courtesy of Christmas Village.

This year we’ve missed out on big Thanksgiving dinners, weddings, graduation, hugs and handshakes, but we don’t have to miss out on the holidays too. There are many safe, socially-distant ways to celebrate the winter holidays, including some brand new events.

Photo courtesy of Comcast Spectacor

Imagine nearly 200 larger-than-life light sculptures including a 25-foot reindeer, 20 foot ornament, an enchanted forest of more than 45 illuminated trees and glowing tunnels. You’ll find it at the this new holiday light show near the Wells Fargo Center, an outdoor experience featuring half a million bulbs. Adding to the festive atmosphere will be musical performances by local groups, a marketplace (of course), a dining area with spiked ciders and mulled wines, a letter writing station with a mailbox that goes directly to the North Pole, and DIY ornament workshops. The icing on the cake is a chance to get your photo taken with Gritty Claus.

To provide for a safe experience, capacity will be limited. Timed tickets are needed. Hand sanitizer stations and safety checkpoints will be found throughout the area. Masks are required except when seated in dining areas, and contactless payments will be available.

From November 27, 2020 to January 3, 2021.

Tip: Watch for announcements about pet nights.

South Jersey Holiday Light Show. Courtesy of BOLD Media.

Another new outdoor holiday activity is the South Jersey Holiday Show at the Bridgeport Speedway in Logan Township. As you drive the mile long route, you’ll see displays that are up to 3 stories high and 50-feet long. You can tune your car radio into synchronized holiday music. This experience is safely done from your own car and the photo opportunities are designed to be car-friendly.

On Thursday through Sunday evenings through December 30.

Tip: Takes about 20-25 minutes.


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Courtesy of Center City District. Photo by Matt Stanley.

Start at the massive Christmas tree at City Hall then head to Dilworth Park on the west side of City Hall. In just a couple of years, Winter at Dilworth Park has become a beloved holiday tradition. This outdoor activity returns in 2020 with some new social distancing protocols in place.

The open air Wintergarden is back with whimsical reindeer topiaries, festive twinkling lights and a new rustic arbor. Walk through and snap great Instagrammable shots. And, it’s free! Warm up with mulled wine from Chaddsford Winery, obviously not free, but tasty. Masks are required when not eating or drinking.

The Deck the Halls Holiday Light Show has been redesigned so it doesn't draw crowds. The remarkable illumination of the west side of City Hall will be continuous throughout the evening. This year there will be sound effects but no music. It will run on Fridays & Saturdays from 5 - 11 pm and until 9 pm on other days.

Adding to the fun is the Ice Rink. Tickets can be purchased online for a 90-minute skating session. Tickets can be printed or you can check in by showing a QR code on your phone. Capacity will be limited. Skate rental and storage lockers are available. The rink will be open daily through February 28, 2021.

The open air dining area is decorated with winter foliage and twinkling lights and has heat lamps. Food and drink options include Tröegs Blizzard Hops, cheesesteak egg rolls and tomato soup.

The Made in Philadelphia market with handmade trinkets, treats and crafts, will be back from from November 23, 2020 through January 1, 2021. The wintergarden and ice rink will be open daily through February 28, 2021.

Tip: The open air cabin offers food and drink discounts on Wednesday nights.

Surely the smells of fresh waffles, grilled bratwurst, gingerbread and mulled wine will draw people from Dilworth Park across the street to Love Park for Christmas Village. This charming holiday activity, which is modeled after traditional Christmas villages in Germany, is back this year with a new safety protocol. It will feature 60 wooden booths selling holiday gifts, ornaments, jewelry, quality arts and crafts, traditional European foods, sweets and drink including a beer garden. In addition, there will be an old fashioned holiday carousel in the City Hall courtyard and more booths on the north side of City Hall.

Masks over the nose and mouth will be required (except when seated to eat or drink) and social distancing ambassadors will keep everyone safe. There will be a fenced off food court with adequately spaced tables, and gift vendors will be placed on the outside perimeter of the park, facing the street to make for a one-way shopping experience.

From Thanksgiving Day through December 24, 2020.

Tip: Visit on weekdays, when crowds will be lighter.

Watch James Beard award-winning Chef Michael Solomonov cook some of his favorite Chanukah recipes in this virtual event on Wednesday, December 2. Solomonov is is chef/co-owner of Zahav, Kfar, Merkatz, Lazer Wolf, Abe Fisher, Dizengoff and Goldie. The menu for the evening includes: apple shrub, Abe Fisher’s potato latkes, Roman artichokes with arugula and olive oil, poached salmon and, sfenj (Moroccan donuts) with cinnamon and sugar. This free, virtual event is organized by the Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund and is presented in collaboration with Federation partners throughout North America.

Tip: Not virtual: Solomonov is also associated with Federal Donuts - grab some for Chanukah! And latke fries at Abe Fisher. With apple sauce and herb sour cream for dipping!

’Tis the season to be jolly. Check back next week for gift ideas for foodies and in two weeks for more holiday activities.

This charming zoo in Norristown will once again host its Wild Lights holiday event and this year it will be bigger than ever, with new lights and decorations. Watch for unique animal encounters, a Christmas tree and glistening forest, appearances by Santa (who will pose for pictures) and characters and music. Plus carousel rides. This is an open air event that takes place rain or shine. Timed tickets are needed. Runs through December 30.


by Irene Levy Baker, author, 100 Things To Do In Philadelphia and Unique Eats & Eateries of Philadelphia. Both books are full of tips. For even more tips, visit Planning a staycation? Need a gift? Go to the website for signed copies of books. For free shipping, use promo code TheCityPulse. Click here for more blog postings by Irene Levy Baker including two posts with tips for how to help restaurants survive, photos of Philly-centric masks, a list of some of the area's best pumpkin foods and more. Watch for more holiday ideas coming soon.


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