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Philadelphia’s Holiday Best In One Day

Eric Karlan

Contributing Author

Posted October 17, 2014

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There are oodles of Main Line events to keep the holiday spirits bright, but there’s something exciting about heading into the city for a bit of grandeur. Check the train schedule and head into town.

The weather outside is far from frightful, so catch the closest SEPTA train bound for Center City to enjoy a delightful winter wonderland. Philadelphia hosts a magical array of holiday traditions that are fun for the entire family, and only a few blocks away from Suburban Station in any direction.

Here is a guide to some of greatest attractions ‘€“ from the world’€™s largest operational pipe organ, to an enchanting Christmas Village, to, of course, Santa Claus!

The Comcast Holiday Spectacular (The Comcast Center, 17th Street and JFK Boulevard)

This first stop may be the baby of Philadelphia’€™s holiday traditions, but it became a must-see attraction almost instantly after its 2008 debut.

Visitors flood the Comcast Center lobby every hour, on the hour, to lose themselves to this marvelous 3-D display on the Comcast Experience Video Wall ‘€“ the world’€™s largest four-millimeter LED screen. The 15-minute video showcases scenes from The Nutcracker performed by the Pennsylvania Ballet, a swing dance rendition of ‘€œJingle Bell Rock,’€ and a breathtaking sleigh ride through the woods and into the sky above Philadelphia’€™s skyline.

By the time you step back out onto JFK Boulevard, the whole family will be dancing and singing. (Here is a look at the 2011 Spectacular, which isn’€™t quite the same on your tiny computer machine.)

Christmas Village (Love Park, Ben Franklin Parkway and Arch Street)

This charming annual marketplace of holiday cheer surrounds the fountain at Love Park for the second straight year. (Which is fine by us since Dilworth Plaza outside City Hall is transforming into an ice rink!)

This is the perfect spot to find last minute gifts and stocking stuffers. Local potters, jewelers, toymakers, and craftsmen sell stunning pieces of art, clothing, and accessories. More than a half-dozen ornament booths have dazzling additions to your tree. And if all that shopping wears you down, there are plenty of booths with hot beverages and treats ‘€“ most of them sweet and sugary.

Be sure to check out the Village events calendar for live demonstrations and workshops from local artisans.

Macy’€™s Christmas Light Show and Wanamaker Organ Concert (Macy’€™s, 13th and Market streets)

Did you know that the world’€™s largest operational pipe organ is right here in Philadelphia? The Wanamaker Grand Court Organ overlooks the Grand Court of Macy’€™s throughout the year, but only during the holiday season does it transform into a tower of more than 100,000 LED lights.

Every hour on the hour, the voice of Julie Andrews begins her narration of a Philadelphia Christmas tradition that dates back to 1955.  Snowflakes, snowmen, reindeer, and ballerinas illuminate the organ, dancing about a fantastic tree to the delight of families gazing upward from all around the store.

It may not boast the same sophisticated technology as the Comcast Center’€™s show, but Macy’€™s Christmas Light Show is a timeless classic, magical in all its splendor.

Dickens Village (Third floor of Macy’€™s)

The story of Charles Dickens’€™ A Christmas Carol is renowned to children of all ages, and every year it comes to life on the third floor of Macy’€™s . Take a break from shopping to experience this tale as you never have before (or as you have every year since you were a kid). Life-size animated characters turn the book’€™s most memorable moments into reality, if only for a moment.

And this story has a twist ending: when children emerge from the village, they can meet Santa Claus and share their Christmas wishes while sitting on his lap.

Blue Cross River Rink (101 South Columbus Boulevard, near Penn’€™s Landing on the Delaware River)

Head down Market Street from Macy’€™s, through historic Independence Mall and Old City, and arrive at the Blue Cross River Rink for ice-skating. Skate rental is just $4 per person, and they even have skate sizes for toddlers!

Be sure to purchase tickets early to ensure you can have time on the ice with your whole family.

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