Going places: Some of our favorite holiday destinations

Karen Rubin
Philadelphia’s City Hall becomes a canvass for a holiday lights show, just one of many festive attractions and events underway in the region © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Where to go to be immersed in the spirit of the season? Over the years, we have assembled a list of destinations that provide just the right feeling. Here are some of our favorites that are driveable, with loads of outdoor seasonal attractions that keep you and yours warm with holiday cheer.

Visit Philadelphia

Greater Philadelphia celebrates the season with time-honored traditions and brand-new festive offerings. Highlights in the Philadelphia region include:

A Longwood Gardens Christmas, Longwood Gardens – This year’s display highlights the contrast between fire and ice with a clear blue alpine stream with flocked trees, a waterfall and suspended icicles in the Exhibition Hall, a 22-foot-tall Fraser fir outfitted with flame lanterns and red, gold and amber ornaments in the East Conservatory; 500,000 lights glittering in trees, a 200-foot tunnel of light and spectacular fountains and fire pit flames dancing to seasonal music. Timed tickets required. Thru Jan. 9, 2022.

Christmas Light Show and Dickens’ Village, Macy’s – The Grand Court in the National Historic Landmark Wanamaker Building has hosted its Christmas Light Show since 1956. The department store continues the tradition of twinkling snowflakes, dancing snowmen and more with a 100,000-light show narrated by Julie Andrews and accompanied by the famed Wanamaker Organ. Free performances of the light show take place once daily thru Dec. 31. Also tour the vintage Dickens’ Village, where intricate animated dolls and sets retell A Christmas Carol (advance reservation only). Thru Dec. 31, 2021.

Winter at Dilworth Park – Wintergarden on the Greenfield Lawn, an open-air wonderland of lights, topiaries and rustic décor perfect for photo-ops (thru Apr. 3, 2022). The Rothman Orthopaedics Ice Rink offers 90-minute skating sessions (thru Feb. 27, 2022); Rothman Orthopedics Cabin serves seasonal cocktails and food chalet-style (thru Feb. 27, 2022). Made in Philadelphia Holiday Market, selling handmade trinkets, treats and crafts galore created by local makers, thru Jan. 1, 2022; Deck the Hall Holiday Lights features stunning technicolor projections synchronized to sound effects and played continuously on a nonstop loop animating the western façade of City Hall (thru Jan. 1, 2022). Also Visit Philadelphia Holiday Tree adorning the north side of City Hall, thru Jan.1, 2022.

George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker, Academy of Music – The Sugar Plum Fairy, the King of Mice and others leap and twirl across the stage during the Philadelphia Ballet’s annual holiday production of George Balanchine’s classic holiday story (Dec. 10-31, 2021).

LumiNature, Philadelphia Zoo – A dozen illuminating and interactive experiences, including a menagerie of 500 colorful flamingos, a 25-foot-tall flamingo holiday tree, over 200 glowing penguins and a 21-foot-tall colored snake. Timed tickets required. Thru Jan. 9, 2022.
Winter in Franklin Square Presented by Citizens – The Electrical Spectacle Light Show presented by PECO makes this historic square twinkle, with free shows featuring 100,000 lights (more than ever!). Comfort food, local beers and hot beverages are available in the Franklin’s Winter View (plus, outdoor fire pits and an indoor heated tent). During the day, play mini-golf on the Chilly Philly Mini Golf course and take a spin on the Parx Liberty Carousel to a holiday soundtrack. Thru Feb. 27, 2022.

Deck the District – At the Fashion District Philadelphia, shoppers can check out designer Matthew Schwam’s magical, 45-foot-tall floating tree featuring 600 mirrored, stainless steel orbs in the center of the complex. Every half hour from 4 p.m. until closing, the tree is the center of a light show featuring the festive sounds of the Philadelphia POPS (thru Jan. 1, 2022).

Christmas Village in Philadelphia – The European wonderland in LOVE Park features glowing Herrnhut stars decorating the tops of the wooden booths of 110 different vendors; additional vendors at City Hall where a new double-decker Christmas Village Carousel sits. Thru Dec. 24, 2021.

Holiday Garden Railway, Morris Arboretum – The annual holiday railway brings a mini-winter wonderland to the historic Morris Arboretum, with a quarter-mile track where model trains chug along loops, through tunnels and over bridges, past perfect little replicas of beloved Philadelphia landmarks. On select weekend evenings throughout the display’s run, guests enjoy the railway amid thousands of twinkling lights during Holiday Garden Railway Nights. Lighted trees and other colored lights make the garden even more magical. Advanced tickets required. Thru Jan. 2, 2022.

Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest –Skate on the city’s largest outdoor rink, take a ride on the Ferris wheel, cozy up at one of the warming cabins and fire-pit stations and gaze at the twinkling lights and holiday tree while overlooking the Delaware River. Plus carnival games and holiday markets on select dates (thru Mar 6, 2022).

Holiday Light Show, Shady Brook Farm – This Bucks County farm kicks off its three-million-light Holiday Light Show with Dashin’ Through the … Lights, a family-friendly two-miler through the attraction. Visitors drive or, if weather permits, ride in wagons past after-dark displays: illuminated tunnel. Timed tickets required. Visit with Santa, cozy up around a campfire. Thru Jan. 30, 2022.

Holiday Lights Display, Herr’s Snack Factory – Herr’s lights up its factory exterior in Nottingham during its annual (and free) light display. Guests drive through the grounds featuring 600,000 lights Thru Jan. 2, 2022.
NEW: Tinseltown Holiday Spectacular Presented by Dietz & Watson, Greater Philadelphia Expo Center – This brand-new event in Oaks invites guests to walk through a winter wonderland of light sculptures and displays, including illuminated recreations of local landmarks like the Liberty Bell, boasting a million bulbs. Also: ice skating on a synthetic rink, photos with Santa, shopping, and seasonal treats and drinks. Thru Jan. 2, 2022.

A Very Furry Christmas, Sesame Place – The Bucks County-based theme park is transformed with millions of twinkling lights. Hop aboard the Sesame Place Furry Express for a train ride and tour of The Twiddlebugs’ Gingerbread Factory; reserve a time slot for a pic with Santa or Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Plus, the Furry & Bright Christmas Drive-Thru enables guests to experience the best of Sesame Place from their cars. Thru Jan. 2, 2022.

Holidays in the Village – With more than 60 specialty shops perfect for holiday shopping, Peddler’s Village’s charm and festive decorations help ring in the season — as do the attraction’s million twinkling lights, set to cover its buildings and trees. Thru Jan. 8, 2022.

Miracle on South 13th Street – Homegrown South Philly tradition, this festive light display brings neighbors along the 1600 block of South 13th Street together to decorate their homes with holiday lights and over-the-top decorations. Thru Jan.1, 2022.

Smedley Street Christmas Light Spectacular – The Smedley Street Christmas Light Spectacular has illuminated the 2700 block of Smedley Street for over half a century. Thru Jan.10, 2022.

West Chester Griswolds – The Plummer family of West Chester takes cues from the hilarious Griswold family of the National Lampoon movies with this massive annual holiday light display at their home. It features 100,000 lights. Bonus: Kids can drop off their letters to Santa here. Thru Jan. 2, 2022.

Christmas Around the Farm, Linvilla Orchards – At this popular Delaware County attraction, take wagon rides to cut your own Douglas or Canaan fir and visit with Santa every December weekend, when kids can speak to the Big Man over the socially distanced (and adorably named) Noelziphone. Linvilla’s market offers holiday shoppers pies and other baked goods; the Garden Center has pre-cut Christmas trees, poinsettias, mistletoe, Christmas roses and more; and the gift shop sells festive decorations. In the Barnyard, guests can visit white-tailed deer, calves, goats, horses, ducks, birds and peacocks. Dec. 1-31, 2021.

Greater Philadelphia visitor info at visitphilly.com and uwishunu.com; Visitor Center 6th & Market Streets, 800-537-7676.

Christmas in Newport

Now in its 51st year, Christmas in Newport boasts multiple activities for nearly each day of December including concerts, tree lighting, craft fairs, candlelight house tours.

The opulence of Newport’s Gilded Age mansions meets the sparkle and magic of Christmas during the return of Holidays at the Newport Mansions on Saturday, November 20, 2021 through January 9, 2022. Wander three mansions, The Breakers, Marble House and The Elms bedecked in ornamented evergreens, wreaths, fresh flowers, dining tables set with period silver and china, decorations on all mantelpieces and many other festive touches. Also, wander the grounds at The Breakers to experience Sparkling Lights, an Outdoor Magical Wonderland.

Blithewold Mansion, Gardens & Arboretum: Wander the elaborately decorated rooms and enjoy a glimpse into the family’s Christmas and New Years traditions. New this year: Stroll the grounds at night to catch Blithewold’s holiday display, Night Lights (thru Dec. 19).
A Newport Nutcracker at Rosecliff (548 Bellevue Ave), Island Moving Company performs this Newport Tradition (Nov 30-Dec. 30)

Ice skate by the sea at Gurney’s Ice Rink, (Gurney’s Newport Resort, 1 Goat Island), through Mar. 31, 2022.

More information at www.discovernewport.org/blog/post/things-to-do-in-december, DiscoverNewport.org, 800-326-6030.

A Capital Christmas in Washington DC

Among the holiday happenings in the nation’s capital on top of all the spectacular museums and attractions:

Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” at Ford’s Theatre (thru Dec. 27).
Washington Ballet presents “The Nutcracker” (thru Dec. 26).
The United States Botanic Garden features an outdoor holiday display thru Jan. 2, 2022.
Explore the magic of the Mischievous Elf at the world’s largest light maze, Enchant at Nationals Park thru Jan. 2, 2022; also ice skating, holiday beverages, a holiday market and a chance to meet Santa Claus.
The Yards DC features illuminated 22-foot tall trees, Light Yards trimmed top to bottom in holiday decor and festooned lights nightly thru Jan. 1, 2022.
George Washington’s Mount Vernon (Dec. 3-4, 10-11, 19) is decked out in eye-catching candlelight illuminations with tasty holiday treats and drinks for sale.
The U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, chosen from Six Rivers National Forest in California glows nightly on the West Front Lawn thru New Year’s Day.
Ice skating at Washington Harbour Ice Rink (thru Mar 13, 2022); in the shadow of the National Gallery of Art (thru Mar. 6, 2022) and at The Wharf Ice Rink (thru Feb. 2022).

For the latest guide to Washington, DC in the wintertime, visit washington.org/winter.

Christmas in Baltimore

Zoo Lights, presented by Chase at the Baltimore, Maryland Zoo features 80 different light displays, collectively made of 150,000 environmentally friendly LED lights that form favorite zoo animals. On Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays (5-8 pm), a walk-through; Wednesdays and Thursdays (5-8pm) a drive-through experience. Tickets are $33 per vehicle for drive-thru and $28 pp for walk-thru; advanced purchase is required. (Pre-purchase tickets at https://www.marylandzoo.org/special_events/zoo-lights/)

“Christmas Street”, on 34th Street in the Baltimore neighborhood of Hampden, for the 73rd year, this small block of modest attached homes goes all out with holiday lighting. (726 West 34th Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21211, christmasstreet.com.)

Christmas Village (501 Light Street) transforms West Shore Park into a traditional indoor and outdoor German Christmas Market, thru Dec. 24, 2021. 30 foot tall Christmas Pyramid from the Ore Mountains, the 65 foot tall illuminated ferris wheel and new Christmas Village Carousel (501 Light Street, Baltimore, MD 21230, www.baltimore-christmas.com)

Holidays in New York’s Finger Lakes

Cheer-filled activities abound throughout December:
Corning Museum of Glass: Make your own glass ornament, join a glass holiday feast, or snap a selfie in front of the 14-foot-tall holiday ornament tree on display at the Corning Museum of Glass.

Crystal City Christmas: Watch the Parade of Lights, or attend Sparkle, with live entertainment and other family fun to enjoy while holiday shopping in Corning’s Gaffer District.

Genesee Country Museum: Travel back in time and take part in traditional Yuletide, Breakfast with St. Nick, and more holiday fun at the Genesee Country Museum.
Dickens Christmas: Skaneateles hosts literary treat weekends. Characters from Charles Dickens’ classics roam the streets, putting on acts in town and interacting with shoppers and diners.

Lights on the River: The Historic Owego Marketplace is planning the return of Lights on the River, an event filled with warm food and drinks, twinkling holiday lights, and Santa Claus himself.

Wings of Eagles Discovery Center events include Breakfast or Lunch with Santa; Wings of Eagles Discovery Center teaches students learn how to make a glass ornament or metal artwork to take home at Make a Christmas Present.

Check the Finger Lakes Travel Guide for information and discounts and promotions (https://www.fingerlakes.org/travel-guide).

Holiday Season on the Cape

On Cape Cod, Christmas on Cape Cod festivities will run through New Year’s Day, with each of the Cape’s 15 towns putting their own special stamp on the season. Savor such quintessential holiday experiences as the illuminated Pilgrim Monument, festively decorated village centers, and Heritage Museums and Gardens’ twinkling Garden Aglow. Spot all of The Giants, local glass artist Michael Magyar’s oversized illuminated whimsical figures, dotted along Route 6A in Sandwich and Dennis. A vibrant arts community and picturesque Main Streets offer a boatload of unique treasures and hand-crafted items for holiday shopping.

On Martha’s Vineyard, enjoy Vineyard Holidays, where you’ll find a list of fun activities, dining and lodging options and Vineyard inspired gift guides. Take a selfie at the stunningly illuminated Edgartown Light.

Other favorite destinations: Wilmington and the Brandywine (www.visitwilmingtonde.com, 800-489-6664); Colonial Williamsburg and Jamestown; Portsmouth, New Hampshire (especially Strawbery Banke Museum; VintageChristmasNH.org; Discover Portsmouth, PortsmouthHistory.org, 603-436-8433); Cape May, NJ (MAC, 800-275-4278, www.capemaymac.org; Chamber of Commerce of Greater Cape May at 609-884-5508, www.capemaychamber.com).
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