21 Things to Do in Philly This Weekend

Three tree-lighting celebrations, Latkepalooza, a slew of pop-up markets and more eventful ways to pass this first weekend in December.

This weekend, there are plenty of holiday celebrations to greet December properly, from shopping opportunities on Rittenhouse Row, to a trio of tree lighting ceremonies, at Christmas Village, Winterfest and South Street.Jewish celebrations aren’t exempt either — enjoy Hanakkah festivities at Latkepalooza with latkes, donuts and ice cream. Want to get away from the Christmas-y mood for a while? Check out a show like Deerhunter at Union Transfer, an award-winning film made by Temple and Penn students, a murder mystery at the Art Museum, and more.

Tree Lighting Celebrations

Photo by Matt Stanley

Photo by Matt Stanley

Lantern Parade and Tree Lighting at Christmas Village

Tomorrow night before the tree-lighting ceremony at Christmas Village, locals will gather at the Comcast Center with glowing lanterns to embark on a Christmas carol-backed parade to LOVE Park. The parade will wind its way from the Comcast Center to the Christmas Village at LOVE Park, where the tree will be lit with 5,929 43-inch LED lights and stars, and adorned with 672 ornaments. We put together an everything-you-need-to-know guide for the festivities here. Friday, December 4th, 4 pm (parade starts at Comcast Center Plaza), 6:20 pm (tree lighting at LOVE Park).

Blue Cross River Rink Winterfest

To officially ring in the holiday season, Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest will set a tree alight with over 40,000 bulbs. The processional will be a grand affair, with Santa and his elves, Sixers’ Robert Covington and mascot Franklin, and more. Performances include the Philadelphia Symmetry Ice Skaters, Arielle Baril of America’s Got Talent, and even Ms. Marilyn Monroe. Friday, December 4th, 6 pm, free, 101 South Columbus Boulevard. 

South Street and Headhouse Shambles

Local vendors will set up booths with handmade goods and food and drink from area restaurants under the Headhouse Shambles. At 4:30 pm, organizers will make history by lighting a menorah on location for the first time ever. For the little ones, there will be arts and craft workshops throughout the day. Santa Claus will arrive on a fire truck at 5 pm, before plopping down for some photo opps. (Parents are asked to bring their own cameras.) His arrival will be celebrated with dancing and live musical performances until around 6:15, when everyone will gather for the tree-lighting ceremony at the south-facing end of the Shambles. Sunday, December 6th, 3 pm, Headhouse Square. 

Holiday Happenings In and Around Philly

Electrical Spectacle in Franklin Square Park.

Electrical Spectacle in Franklin Square Park, which is hosting two holiday events this weekend.

West Chester Christmas Parade

If you’re looking for a truly old-fashioned Christmas parade, West Chester claims to have it. The producer Todd Marcocci has also produced other Philly parades like the Thanksgiving Day and Independence Day celebrations. The small town is expecting big numbers for the event, which has become something of a spectacle with 200 performers, dancers, and musicians. Friday, December 4th, 7:15 pm, West Chester, PA.

Deck the Alley

Get a peek at national history holiday style by visiting the historical homes on Elfreth’s Alley, the oldest residential block in the country. There will be festive decorations like an upside-down Christmas tree, carolers and refreshments. You may even run in to Ben Franklin — his friends once lived in the Alley homes. Saturday, December 5th, 3 pm, $10-$60, Elfreth’s Alley. 

Christmas in Fairmount Park

There are two ways to celebrate the holidays in Fairmount Park this weekend. First, the Holiday Candlelight Tour, where you can stroll through Laurel Hill, Woodford and Historic Strawberry mansions by candlelight, learning about the history of the park and those who once lived there. You’ll end off the visit with hors d’oeuvres and desserts in the Historic Strawberry Mansion. Friday, December 4th, 5:30 pm, $45, Fairmount Park. On Holly Trolley Day, check out the eight houses of Fairmount in their holiday outfits – with carolers, refreshments, music and glass blowing. The trolley stops at each site and runs every 10 to 15 minutes, so you can tour at your own leisure. Saturday, December 5th, 10 am, $5 per house, Fairmount Park. 

Franklin Square Holiday Festival Events

Friday is Frozen Night at Fairmount Park, which was just named one of our favorite places to see Christmas lights in and around Philadelphia. If you and the kids (still) can’t get enough of the 2013 Disney film, characters Elsa and Anna will be at Franklin Square for an evening of fun activities with the little ones. Friday, December 4th, 5:30 pm. On Saturday, Santa Paws comes to town. Bring your camera and furry pal to take a photo with Saint Nick. Saturday, December 5th, 5:30 pm.

TOY 2015

On average, over 400 guests attend this popular mixer that provides toys to benefit local children in need during the holiday season. Party goers bring an unwrapped toy which is donated to patients in the Special Immunology Service at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia or youth served by ActionAIDS. This year’s TOY will feature plenty of dancing, a silent auction, cocktails, and light bites. In addition to all of the toys that will be collected for children, proceeds from the event will support DVLF’s campaign to provide support for LGBTQ organizations in the region. Saturday, December 5th, 7 pm, $75, Fire and Ice. —Bryan Buttler.


It’s potato pancake heaven. Celebrate the coming of Hanukkah with latkes from eight restaurants (including gluten-free ones), donuts from Federal Donuts, and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. There will be lots of kid-friendly events — from music, craft-making, a visit from magician Ari Paul and balloon art. Sunday, December 6th, 2 pm, $0-$20, The Gershman Y.

Plow Through That Shopping List

Mural Arts Holiday Pop-up Shop

Support Philly’s upcoming talent with a pop-up shop presented by Mural Arts. You’ll have the chance to buy products created by students of their “Artrepreneur” program, which helps young people develop their own business visions featuring artistic goods and services. RSVP by emailing Naima Murphy at naima.murphy@muralarts.orgFriday, December 4th, 5:30 pm, Pipeline Philly. 

Asian American Maker Fair

Philly will have its first Asian American Maker Fair, with artwork, handmade clothing and accessories, teas and spices. Grab a bite to eat and cross off another name or two from your holiday shopping list. Saturday, December 5th, 10 am, free, Asian Arts Initiative.

Rittenhouse Row Holiday Crawl

Black Friday is over, but you can still get some great holiday shopping done along Rittenhouse Row. There will be in-store parties with discounts and chances to win gift cards and merchandise. Enjoy cocktails, treats, and best of all, free parking. Check out a map of all the stops hereSaturday, December 5th, 11 am, free, Rittenhouse Row.

Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary Art Sale

For the first time ever, the Wynnewood seminary is hosting an art show and sale showcasing unique paintings and prints from its collection. If you have an art lover with a penchant for religious imagery on your gift list, this is the place to go for paintings of everything from the Virgin Mary and the popes to a collection called “Saints and Sinners.” View the different pieces here. Saturday, December 5th, 10 am to 5 pm, and Sunday, December 6th, from 1 pm to 4 pm, Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary, Wynnewood. 

Non-Holiday Haps

Catch a screening of the Temple- and Penn-student-made "Driving Not Knowing" Sunday at PhilaMOCA.

Catch a screening of the Temple- and Penn-student-made “Driving Not Knowing” Sunday at PhilaMOCA.

Asian Arts Initiative First Friday

For the Initiative’s December First Friday, Philly-based photographer Susan Nam will exhibit a collection of street photography she captured in Philadelphia, often with one of her children on her arm. Also present will be the mobile service cart Hot Tea, and the Philly History Truck, a museum project that brings local history to life. Friday, December 4th, 6 pm, free, Asian Arts Initiative. 

Night Kitchen

The salon will host performances by Philly’s Mary McCool, Hannah Van Sciver, and others, with art installations and herbal cocktails courtesy of Barlume Apothecary and art installations. Afterwards, there will be a Late Nite party around the corner at 5101 Chester Street, so bring your dancing shoes. Saturday, December 5th, 8 pm, $5-$10 suggested donation, Beaumont Warehouse. 

Murder at the Art Museum Scavenger Hunt

After a curator is mysteriously murdered in connection with a planned purchase of a da Vinci painting, it’s up to you and your team to find the clues among the Museum’s works of arts. This hunt will be a bit more challenging, so try to bring at least two buddies with you. Tickets include Museum admission and are for adults only. Saturday, December 5th, 2 pm, $32.50-$37.50, Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Driving Not Knowing Premiere

Selected for film festivals across the country and the RIIFF Alternative Spirit Award, Driving Not Knowing is the work of several Penn and Temple graduates, premiering in Philly at the PhilaMOCA this weekend. Shot in Philadelphia and Northeast Pennsylvania, the film follows a musician, Lee, who falls for Will, a poet who resists completely opening himself up. When the pair reunite after a year apart, they try to figure out what direction they are moving toward. Sunday, December 6th, 7 pm, $5, PhilaMOCA.

“Children of Abraham” Exhibition

In the only U.S. showing of the exhibition, the Arthur Moss Gallery inside Penn’s Fisher Fine Arts Library will showcase a series by photographer Abbas, who is known for his coverage of the Iranian Revolution. This collection of 66 black-and-white photographs documents a 16-year journey exploring the spirituality of followers of the Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Islam and Christianity. Through March 20th, 2016, various times, free, Arthur Moss Gallery.


Deerhunter perform at Union Transfer on Sunday.

Deerhunter perform at Union Transfer on Sunday.

The World is a Beautiful Place & I am No Longer Afraid to Die at Union Transfer

TWIABP is a shape-shifting group, with the band’s lineup constantly changing. But as evidenced by their second full LP, Harmlessness, they still blend an atmospheric sound with the energy and lyric style of emo and post-rock. Melodic math rock group TTNG (formerly This Town Needs Guns) and St Louis’s Foxing will join the band at Union Transfer. Friday, December 4th, 7:30 pm.

Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz at the Electric Factory

Say what you want about Ms. Cyrus, but she knows how to put on a show. After her reinvention with 2013 album Bangerz, Cyrus took things in a more experimental direction by teaming up with The Flaming Lips for Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz. For this Milky Milky Milk tour, expect crazy costumes, substance-use endorsement, and Miley just being Miley. Check out the link above for StubHub tickets; they are not much more than the original venue price. Listen before you go: “Bang Me Box.” Saturday, December 5th, 8 pm.

Deerhunter at Union Transfer

As a band who has played with dream/psychedelia and ambient rock, Deerhunter has a host of influences and inspirations for their latest LP, Fading Frontiers, which premiered last month. One of the tracks, “Living My Life,” is dedicated to the great Miles Davis. The group has even included a concept map online for the record, which includes iced earl grey tea, R.E.M., the soulless new car smell, among other things. Listen before you go: “Snakeskin.” Sunday, December 6th, 8:30 pm.

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