The holiday season can sneak up like the kids while you’re wrapping presents, and you don’t want to miss out on one minute of the fun. With so many winter-themed holidays, there are plenty of opportunities for families and friends to come together for new experiences and events in the Philadelphia area. Often free and perfect for the whole family, these are the best celebrations of the season.

Longwood Gardens
1001 Longwood Road
Kennett Square, PA 19348
(610) 388-1000

Price: $25 adult admission on weekends/$22 senior citizens/$11 ages 5 to 22/ free children younger than 4/$18 adults on weekdays/$15 senior citizens/$8 students/$42 breakfast with Santa ages 12 and older/$23 ages 5 to 11/$5 children younger than 4/free for infants/roughly 20 percent discount for members

Hours: Dec. 26 to Dec. 31 – 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Dec. 8, 9, 15, 16 and 22 Santa visits – 8:30 a.m. and 10 a.m.

Longwood Gardens features more than 1,000 square acres of meadows, trees, seasonal flowers and lighted fountain shows. At Christmas, it transforms into A Longwood Christmas and features dazzling light displays, decorated Christmas trees and fountain shows set to holiday music. The fountain light shows begin daily at 3:30 p.m. There are also choirs and musical events, some of which are free with admission. In addition, enjoy a gourmet breakfast buffet with Santa at Longwood’s onsite restaurant, The Terrace. Tickets for breakfast with Santa include the buffet breakfast and admission tickets to A Longwood Christmas. Longwood Gardens does give a 25-percent off military discount for military families with proper ID. Tickets may be purchased at the gate or online.

Christmas Village at Dilworth
Love Park (JFK Plaza)
1500 Arch St.
Philadelphia, PA 19102

Price: free
Hours: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Every year, Love Park transforms into a European Christmas village of crafters and vendors. The fully decorated atmosphere of lights and the aromas of holiday scents are free to enjoy. There will be more than 60 vendors selling traditional German foods including bratwurst, goodies such as Bavarian nuts (frosted nuts) and crafts for your German-American choir. Enjoy additional German specialties such as Gluehwein (mulled wine) and dancers on Saturday, Dec. 8.

The Philly Pops
The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts
250 S. Broad St.
Philadelphia, PA 19102
(215) 893-1999

Dates: Dec. 7 to 9, 12, 14 to 16, 19 and 22

Every year on the Avenue of the Arts, visitors and locals alike enjoy the holiday music from the Philly Pops at the Kimmel Center. New for the holiday season this year will be the 150-person Philadelphia Boys Choir. “Holiday POPS!” Promises a delightful evening of pure holiday joy for your family, showcasing classics, choral and gospel music, and the ever-impressive pipe organ.

Macy’s Holiday Light Show
1300 Market St.
Philadelphia, PA
(215) 241-9000

Hours: every hour on the hour daily – 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Santa made his first appearance in Macy’s in the 1840s and has been included in family traditions from then on. Since 1955, Macy’s in Philadelphia has shown its love for the holidays with a light show and a fully decked out store. Get some shopping done while enjoying the free holiday decorations and snowflakes, ballerinas and reindeer floating magically in the Grand Court Atrium. More than 100,000 bright lights set to holiday music dazzle shoppers and visitors looking for some holiday spirit. On the third floor of Macys is an animated Dickens Village that sprawls more than 6,000 square feet. There are more than 100 animatronics displaying 26 of the most memorable scenes of “A Christmas Carol.”

Maple Shade Holiday Festival
Maple Shade, NJ 08052
(856) 779-9610

Hours: Dec. 7 – 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Price: free

For small-town holiday fun that’s free and just five minutes across the Betsy Ross Bridge, head to Maple Shade. Downtown Maple Shade transforms to a winter wonderland every holiday season, when some of the town’s streets are closed down to vehicle traffic and are instead full of shoppers, families and free trolley rides. Holiday-themed music is played over the loud speakers, and the decorated street is filled with choirs, entertainment, ice sculptures, pony rides, story telling and shopping. Santa also visits for children to give their wish lists and get their photo taken. In previous years, a live nativity and reindeer have been present. Walk over to the town’s restored train station, run by the Maple Shade Historical Society, for free cider and cookies. Free parking is at Forklanding Road and Main Street behind Acme. The holiday fest covers Main Street from Fellowship Road to Coles Avenue.

Related: Holiday Theater Preview

Christina Dagnelli is a freelance writer covering all things Philadelphia. Her work can be found on