‘Tis the season to plug in strands of colorful bulbs, illuminate inflatable cartoon characters, and set up projectors with moving images of festive symbols.
For those looking to take in a bright display of holiday cheer, here’s a list of options in the Philadelphia region — both free and ticketed events.
Free to admire
1600 block of South 13th Street
5 to 11 p.m. daily through Dec. 31
What started as just a few neighbors putting up lights has become a South Philly tradition lasting decades. Each weekend, neighbors raise money for various charities. Details are on the neighborhood Facebook and Instagram pages.
You can drive through for a quick tour, or walk the block for more leisurely viewing. A note from the neighborhood: “If visiting, please do so respectfully and remember that these are our homes. Keep your voices down, take any trash with you, and try not to touch the displays.”
Bonus: East Passyunk’s “Deck the Ave” is just a block away, with local business deals and festive decorations throughout the season.
2700 block of Smedley Street
Nightly through Jan. 1
Created by members of the deep South Philadelphia neighborhood, this tradition has been going for half a century. You can walk or drive through, with respect for the residents who live there.
800 Block of Kimball Street
Nightly through Jan. 1
Residents of this South Philly block started a holiday display tradition just five years ago, featuring inflatables, lights and projections. You can walk or drive through.
West facade of City Hall
On the hour, 5 to 9 p.m. through Jan. 1
Created by Philadelphia studio Klip Collective, this show is projected onto the side of City Hall, transforming the historic building into a sparkling winter landscape or colorful psychedelic design. Between performances, Dilworth Park offers plenty of festive activities, including ice skating or sipping mulled wine from Chaddsford Winery at the Wintergarden.
Franklin Square, 200 N 6th St
Every 30 minutes from 5 p.m. to park close (9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 10 p.m. Friday-Saturday)
In its 10th year, this musical light show features 200,000 lights, and with a theme of Ben Franklin’s kite-and-key discovery of electricity. Each show features two of five songs, including this year’s new addition: “All I Want For Christmas Is You” by Mariah Carey.
Also available in the park are outdoor fire pits and seating, and concessions including hot beverages and cocktails. You can also buy tickets to play 18 holes of mini golf.
Comcast Center, 1701 JFK Blvd
10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily, at the top of the hour, except 5 p.m. Sensory-friendly shows Thursday & Friday at 2:30 p.m.
This 15-minute family-friendly show — projected on the giant wall at the back of the lobby — includes classic holiday songs, visuals from a sleigh ride around the world, and performances by the Philadelphia Ballet.
Visitors who are blind or visually impaired can experience the show with audio description on their own mobile device. Comcast also has extended hours throughout the holiday season for the Universal Sphere, in the CTC building at 1800 Arch St. Next door
Macy’s Center City, 1300 Market St
Daily through Dec. 31. Monday -Thursday at 4 & 6 p.m.; Friday – Sunday at 10 a.m., Noon, 2 and 4 p.m. (no 4 p.m. show on 12/24)
Visitors to Macy’s during the holiday season can look up from their shopping several times a day to see a festive light show. The performance also features the massive, 28,575-pipe Wanamaker Organ for the noon and 6 p.m. showings on Friday and Saturday, and the 6 p.m. showings on Monday – Thursday.
Holiday revelers can also make a reservation to walk through Dickens Christmas Village through Dec. 31 and visit with Santa through Dec. 24.
Main Street, Manayunk
5 to 9 p.m. nightly
More than 50 Main Street businesses decorate their storefronts with holiday lights, thanks to the third year of Manayunk Development Corp. organizing.
Thursdays in December also feature special deals and live entertainment from 5 to 9 p.m., with free rides on the Jolly Trolley for those who would rather sit than stroll.
Boathouse Row (best viewed from across the river on MLK Drive)
Dec. 18-23 for Hanukkah, Dec. 24-25 for Christmas, Dec. 26-Jan. 1 for Kwanzaa
The historic boathouses along the Schuylkill light up with the traditional colors of various winter holidays. The city holds a virtual lighting ceremony for the first night of each, at 4:30 p.m.
2400 Street Rd, New Hope
Nightly through Jan. 14
Worth a trip to Bucks County, this area offers a wealth of holiday activities, including millions of twinkling lights adorning the trees and shops lining the village’s quaint streets.
You can also peep 100 gingerbread creations at the Visitor and Event Center, or plan your trip around several Santa Claus appearances throughout the season. The village is closed on Christmas Day.
2060 Red Lion Rd
Nightly through New Year’s Day
With two 40-foot Christmas trees and over 400k lights, this credit union campus transforms into a winter wonderland. The free attraction, going for the past 15 years, which comes from free parking on site.
Ticket to view
Philadelphia Zoo, 3400 W Girard Ave
5 to 9 p.m. Wednesday – Sunday, through Jan. 7
As the animals go to sleep for the evening, a million twinkling lights illuminate 14 zones throughout the zoo. Although the wildlife will be resting indoors, visitors will see strolling performers alongside the lights.
Cost: $18-$24 for zoo members and $20-$28 for non-members. Price varies by date. You’ll want to reserve online ahead of time. Not open Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.
Philadelphia Mills Mall, 1455 Franklin Mills Circle
5 to 10:30 p.m. daily,
Those who prefer to stay in the comfort of their warm car can do so at Dasher’s Lightshow. The Philadelphia location is one of five throughout the country. Visitors are encouraged to drive as slow as 1 MPH through the planned track, and can hear festive musical accompaniment through a radio station posted at the entrance.
Cost: $30 per vehicle, with bundle deals and season passes available. Tickets must be purchased ahead of time for a designated time slot.
Longwood Gardens, 1001 Longwood Rd, Kennett Square
Open 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily, displays lit at noon
The world-famous botanical garden, about an hour’s drive from Philadelphia, is adorned with seasonal plants and floral designs for the holiday season, and botanically inspired light displays in its outdoor areas.
Cost: $16-$30, with discounts for students, seniors, veterans and SNAP/EBT/PA Access card holders. Children 4 and under free.
Elmwood Park Zoo, 1661 Harding Blvd. Norristown
5 to 9 p.m. select nights through Dec. 30
In Norristown, a short drive north of the city, visitors will see light displays alongside illuminated animals, with live entertainment as well. Tickets must be reserved ahead of time.
Cost: $16-20 for non-members, $11-15 for members (children 2 and under free). See ticket site for available dates.
Greater Philadelphia Expo Center, 100 Station Ave, Oaks
Open through Dec. 31 (closed Dec. 5, 6, 12, 13, and 25) with entry times between 4:30 and 9 p.m.
This outdoor attraction at the fairground features 1.2 million twinkle lights including a 60-foot light tunnel, light-up models of Philly landmarks and tributes to the area’s professional sports teams.
You’ll also find an ice rink, an ice slide, visits with Santa and a number of vendors for food, drink and gifts.
Cost: $15+ for children under 13, $20+ for adults (children 4 and under free). Advance purchase recommended.
Shady Brook Farm, 931 Stony Hill Rd, Yardley
5 to 10 p.m. Sunday – Thursday, 5 to 11 p.m. Friday – Saturday through Jan. 8
After a jaunt out to the Bucks County burbs, this 2-mile show can be enjoyed from your own car, with musical accompaniment over the radio, or on an open-air wagon ride.
The farm offers other holiday-themed activities for those who want to get out of their vehicle and stretch their legs.
Cost: starts at $40 per car or $15 per person for open-air wagon ride (children under 2 free)
Morris Arboretum, 100 E Northwestern Ave
4:30 to 8:00 p.m. Dec. 3, 4, 9, 10, 11, 16, 17, 18, 23
The arboretum’s Holiday Garden Railway gets lit up at night for the season. Tickets should be purchased online ahead of visiting.
Cost: $10-17 for members, $12-22 for non-members (children under 3 free)