It’s the “most wonderful time of the year,” when the canopy of crisp autumn colors fades and the season’s first snowflakes, sprigs of evergreen and the warm glow of twinkling lights and holiday decorations blanket the City of Brotherly Love with holiday cheer. Whether you’re coming home for a slice of Mom’s homemade pumpkin pie, visiting for the first time or following an annual family tradition, Philadelphia is brimming with holiday events, beckoning venues and delightful activities throughout the holiday season.

Blue Cross RiverRink
6th St. and Market St.
Philadelphia, PA 19106
(215) 965-2305

Date: Nov. 28, 2014 to March 1, 2015

Nothing kicks off the holiday season quite like ice skating outdoors at the Blue Cross RiverRink. The RiverRink and its Waterfront Winterfest opens on November 28, 2014 and runs well past the holidays and into March. Skate with Santa takes place on December 11 and admission rates vary depending on the day you visit. The Delaware River Waterfront Corporation, along with a number of local partners, created the enchanting holiday-themed events that feature ice skating set to the backdrop of the city’s skyline as well as a beautiful light show.

The Comcast Holiday Spectacular
Comcast experience wall
1701 John F. Kennedy Blvd.
Philadelphia, PA 19103

Date: Nov. 27, 2014 to Jan. 1, 2015

The popular Comcast Holiday Spectacular is a 15-minute show that provides an unexpected and delightful sampling of all that is Philadelphia during the holidays, from the sounds of a 64-piece orchestra playing traditional holiday tunes to snippets of the Pennsylvania Ballet performing “The Nutcracker” to a sleigh ride that navigates the Pennsylvania countryside before taking flight above the city of Philadelphia. Complete with computer-generated graphics shown on an LED screen that spans 83.3 feet across and 25.4 feet from top to bottom and is set on 2,100 square feet of holiday cheer, you won’t want to miss this.

Related:  Tips for Philadelphia Area Travel this Holiday Season

Franklin Square
200 N. 6th St.
Philadelphia, PA 19102

Date: Nov. 13 to Dec. 31, 2014

Philadelphia’s historic Franklin Square traditionally sports historic holiday fun and even a visit or two from Santa. Soak in the holiday music or hitch a ride on the Philadelphia Park Liberty Carousel. Enjoy a candy cane shake or other holiday-themed treats from SquareBurger as you take in the sights. Inspired by the great Benjamin Franklin, this spectacular light show runs from mid-November through the end of December and features a display of light with more than 50,000 specially designed lights. One of the best things about this attraction is its location – mere steps from the iconic Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. Even better than the location is the price to visit all three of these historic gems — nothing!

Pennsylvania Ballet Presents “The Nutcracker”
Academy of Music
240 S. Broad St.
Philadelphia, PA 19102
(215) 893-1999

Date: Dec. 6-31, 2014

Whether or not one embraces the Christmas holiday, it is hard not to get into the spirit of the season when, beginning December 6 through New Year’s Eve, “The Nutcracker” ballet will be playing to a packed house. A tradition for many and a bucket list item for others, this enchanting tale unfolds to the music of Tchaikovsky and is enhanced by the captivating voices of the Philadelphia Boys Choir. Back for its second year after a warm reception last season, the Nutcracker Market will again be open from December 11-14 at the Kimmel Center, where handmade crafts and artisan goods will be for sale. Sweeten the deal for the romantic or young-at-heart with “Tea with the Sugar Plum Fairy” on December 14 at 2:30 p.m., and December 20 at noon.

Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade
20th and Market Sts.
Philadelphia, PA 19103

Date: Nov. 27, 2014

Nothing sets the mood for a season of holiday festivities like the annual Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade. The oldest Thanksgiving Day parade in the United States, this family favorite is a holiday tradition that, for many in Philly, marks the official start of the season.

Related: Top Holiday Attractions

Christy Ayala covers sports, recreation, the outdoors, and leisure activities in the Philadelphia area. She earned a masters degree in recreation administration from George Williams College and managed programs in the Midwest, Hawaii, and Pennsylvania. Her work can be found on