Philadelphia’s annual winter pop-up markets are back, filling Dilworth Park, the City Hall courtyard, and Love Park with nearly 200 vendors offering gifts, food, and a bustle of colorful activity. It’s a fun place to be, whether you’re shopping or just strolling through.
You can go with a mission to pick up a gift for everyone on your list, or just for an outdoor snack. Take the kids, or meet up for a drink with friends.
After a decade and a half of this pop-up, in ever-evolving form, organizers have hit on a layout and design that just works. This year brings new cabins and several table-filled areas where you can sit and nosh or just rest your feet.
Here are 10 things to look for when you go.
1) Art from vinyl records
As any record store proprietor will tell you, vinyl is back. At Astro Vinyl Art, next to the Dilworth Park Winter Garden (Booth 15), you don’t need a player to take advantage — the Pottstown outfit etches the albums into visual art. Some designs translate the vibes of the music they held, while others are themed after Philly sports.
There’s another booth at the southeast corner of Love Park (it seems to be missing from the official map) that also sells vinyl etchings, this time made in Italy and turned into clocks.
2) The torch-wielding glass artist
One of the best visuals in the whole market happens when you catch Chester County glass blower Thomas von Koch at work in his WGK Glass Art booth in Dilworth Park (No. 43). Sitting behind a dazzling array of delicate handiwork — ornaments, jewelry, tchotchkes — the native of Germany shows off his craft.
3) Candles, candles, and more candles
Candles are a gift you can give just about anyone, from your boss to your sibling to your best friend’s partner you don’t know that well but really should get something.
There’s lots of choices throughout the pop-up, but for local options check out the handmade creations from Lit Lab Co. (Dilworth Park Booth 40); the colorful assortment at State of Being (Booth 38), where each candle comes with an affirmation for the day; and Native Sun Companies (Booth 36), which also offers skincare and wellness products.
4) Gifts with a helping of Philly attitude
It’s easy to send Philadelphia vibes to your gift recipients, thanks to a few Dilworth Park vendors who translate the city’s M.O. into various goods. You’ll find it at the Philly Tarot Deck (Booth 16), which offers the cards themselves or the designs turned into art prints, or check Crafts Dept. Philly (Booth 21) for mugs, homeware, and ornaments printed with ~unusual~ sayings.
5) Sassy socks that don’t match
Winter apparel is available from several vendors, including lots of gloves, scarves, wraps, hats, and sweaters, but Dilworth Park Booth 20 has what you need to cover your feet. Pals Socks, a Philly company that’s LGBTQ and woman-owned, sells pairs that don’t match — on purpose. The idea is to have a teachable moment for kids about how variety is the spice of life, but they’re fun for adults, too.
6) ‘Slow fashion’ designer bags
Help someone carry their stuff in style but skip the exorbitant price with a gift from Philadelphia fashion fabricator City Totes, which holds Booth 31 in Dilworth Park. Everything is made from designer leftovers and remnants, and prices start at $50 for something you can use every day. Bonus: Outerwear made from thrift clothes by the Connecticut-based Salvage Sistas.
7) Food from around the globe
You could visit the market just to eat and not be disappointed. A large number of booths in Love Park and the City Hall courtyard are dedicated to food this year, and options span the globe. Most dishes are $10 or less.
German bratwursts are enticing as they cook on an open grill, and you can stay with the country where the “Christmas Village” idea originated by seeking out spaetzle (like German mac ‘n’ cheese), schnitzel (breaded and fried pork), or strudel (fruit-filled puff pastry).
Also available at various booths: Belgian fries, locally made french toast bites, carnival-style funnel cakes, cookies, and ice cream. There’s also a stand from Poke Burri, offering snacks like gyoza, fried tofu, fried sushi balls, takoyaki, and Korean K-dogs — fried fish sausage and mozzarella on a stick.
8) Local beer, wine, and spirits
There’s plenty to drink, whether with the food or on its own. Hot chocolate booths abound, and you can get your spiked with booze. Outside of that, it’s up to local purveyors to provide the buzz. A couple of beer “alms” offer drafts from Philly’s Brewery Techne and Mainstay Independent; hot mulled wine comes courtesy of Chaddsford Winery; and on City Hall’s north apron you can sample tastes from Stoll & Wolfe Distillery.
9) Inside-out s’mores on a stick
Before you eat your fill, consider leaving room for one of the most original food-on-a-stick ideas: Tuck-Ins. They look like big marshmallow circles, but they’re really inside-out s’mores, with chocolate and graham cracker inside. Even better: the set-up at Booth 10 in Dilworth Park has a charcoal pit so you can roast your treat and eat its melty goodness on the spot.
10) Activities for kids (and adults)
There’s so many attractions for kids that amusing them could easily be the reason for a visit. The north apron has a Ferris wheel, and a kiddie train is set up next to it. Or step into the City Hall courtyard to find the big, multi-level carousel.
The Rothman Rink in the middle of Dilworth Park isn’t technically part of the pop-ups, but it’s fun for any age. There’s also a stage in Christmas Village for live music, and several photo op location, including the big Love Park tree and a hidden set of angel’s wings just north of City Hall.