30 Things to Do in Philly on Christmas Day (for Non-Christmas People)
Not a tree-and-presents type? We found 30 other ways to make the most of the 25th.
Eat at a Hotel
They pretty much never close.
1. XIX Nineteen: Historic building plus banquette seating plus fireplace equals one luxurious place to brunch. Stuff yourself silly with the buffet, which has desserts galore. Hyatt at the Bellevue, 200 South Broad Street, Center City.
2. Red Owl Tavern: Most days, this corner resto is all about local stuff. Come Christmas Day, though, chef Caitlin Mateo takes inspiration from A Christmas Story with a pop-up menu that includes Peking duck and sweet-and-sour broccoli. Hotel Monaco, 433 Chestnut Street, Old City.
3. Aqimero: The Ritz’s new-ish restaurant got off to a rocky start but has course-corrected into a respectable hotel eatery — one that’ll be serving up a special holiday prix-fixe meal with shareable sides. The Ritz-Carlton, 10 Avenue of the Arts, Center City.
4. Lacroix: The usual Sunday buffet brunch will be served on the 25th — a good thing, seeing as it’s one of the most decadent dining experiences in town. Move from the raw bar to the wagyu brisket carving station, and make sure to marvel at the gingerbread houses constructed by the pastry team on your way out. The Rittenhouse Hotel, 210 West Rittenhouse Square, Rittenhouse.
Tie One On
Always-festive, always-open judgment-free watering holes.
12 Steps Down
Only those 12 stairs stand between you, a pool table and dollar beers (a Christmas special) at this subterranean bar. 831 Christian Street, Bella Vista.
The Eagles play at 8:30 p.m., and the dozen-plus draft lines here will be primed. 611 South 3rd Street, Queen Village.
South Philadelphia Tap Room
Don’t let the unassuming name fool you: The beer and kitchen menus are above average. The regulars will be here on the 25th, for sure. 1509 Mifflin Street, Point Breeze.
A down-to-earth respite in a trendy neighborhood. The fantastic cocktails almost feel like an accident. 1301 Frankford Avenue, Fishtown.
New Wave Cafe
Never turning its back on Queen Villagers, New Wave opens up every Christmas. The kitchen will be closed, but there will be a complimentary buffet for the Eagles game. 784 South 3rd Street, Queen Village.
American Sardine Bar
SPTR’s sister bar has drafts, cans, sandwiches and sardines, and a back lawn that’ll be decked out in lights and warmed by a fire pit. 1800 Federal Street, Point Breeze.
Piano Bar at Tavern on Camac
Sing your heart out on the top floor of one of the city’s most legendary gay bars. Opens at 8 p.m. 243 South Camac Street, Midtown Village.
A handful of seats, a solid bottle collection, and Christmas lights up all year. 229 South 45th Street, second floor, University City.
Ray’s Happy Birthday Bar
No better place to pour one out for J.C. on His birthday. 1200 East Passyunk Avenue, East Passyunk.
It’s dark, classy, intimate, and as well suited to drinking with a loved one as it is to drinking alone. The Rittenhouse Hotel, 210 West Rittenhouse Square, Rittenhouse.
Have an Adventure
There’s actually a lot to do.
Do the spa. The Rittenhouse Hotel’s upmarket Spa & Club (210 Rittenhouse Square, Rittenhouse) isn’t just open; it’s running a special: a full-body exfoliation and 90-minute massage for $250.
Be a local tourist. Spend as much time on the Shark Bridge as you want at AdventureAquarium (1 Riverside Drive, Camden). Take in the 360-degree city views from the 57th floor at One Liberty Observation Deck (1650 Market Street, Center City). Or head to the National Museum of American Jewish History (101 South Independence Mall East, Old City) for its annual “Being — at Christmas,” a day with crafts, music and movies.
Catch an indie flick. The city’s three Ritz theaters are open (Ritz East, 125 South 2nd Street, Ritz Five, 214 Walnut Street, and Ritz at the Bourse, 400 Ranstead Street, all in Old City), as are the Philadelphia Film Society’s Roxy (2023 Sansom Street, Rittenhouse) and Prince Theater (1412 Chestnut Street, Center City).
Go skating. You can do your best Peggy Fleming plus eat and drink at both the BlueCross RiverRink at Penn’s Landing (101 South Columbus Boulevard, Old City) and the Rothman Ice Rink (1 South 15th Street, Center City), which is in the shadows of City Hall.
Get outside. Between the decked-out Conservatory and the bazillion (rough estimate) outdoor lights, you could easily spend the entire day at Longwood Gardens (100 Longwood Road, Kennett Square). Or stand on the Delaware River banks at 1 p.m. and watch as a bunch of dudes in cool costumes (some even play flutes) put on the annual Washington Crossing Reenactment (Route 532 and River Road, Washington Crossing). Better yet, sign up to be one of the actors — anyone but George, that is. He’s taken.
Sweat it out. Start your morning with a serious turn on the bike. SoulCycle (113 South 16th Street, Rittenhouse, and 2 Coulter Avenue, Ardmore) and Flywheel (1521 Locust Street, Rittenhouse, and 711 Lancaster Avenue, number 300, Bryn Mawr) are both open.
Eat Your Way Through Chinatown
From soup to cocktails, a totally cliché but totally awesome progressive dream meal.
Stop #1: Soup
Ting Wong for wonton soup » Go for the BBQ pork, in any form: in congee, over rice, with Hong Kong-style noodles, or in this soup with wontons and choy sum greens. 138 North 10th Street.
Stop #2: Dumplings
Tom’s Dim Sum for dumplings » The fluffy, meaty pan-fried Shanghai and soup dumplings are a must. 59 North 11th Street.
Stop #3: Noodles
Xi’an Sizzling Woks for biangbiang noodles » These noodles are wide, fat, irresistibly chewy, and substantial enough to carry those burly, fiery Xi’an sauces. 902 Arch Street.
Stop #4: Main course
Rangoon for Burmese Inlay Fish » Still with us? This sweet, spicy, garlicky goodness is a flavor-packed way to end your savory courses. 112 North 9th Street.
Stop #5: Dessert
N2 Sweet Café for Eskimo Kisses » Like your high-school chemistry teacher, they’re all about liquid nitrogen high jinks here. Order the smoking ice cream with Eskimo Kisses (tiny flavored nitrogen balls), and queue up your phone to capture the vapor shooting out of your nose. 125 North 11th Street.
Stop #5: Nightcap
Chinatown Square for Johnny Walker and karaoke » Think anything-goes Euro discotheque meets karaoke bar, with shots. Might as well see where the night takes you. 1016-1018 Race Street.
What Do You Do On Christmas?
Answers from notable non-celebrating Philadelphians.
Yehuda Sichel, executive chef at Abe Fisher
“My wife and I spend Christmas in Florida with my in-laws. We’ll head to the beach, see a movie, and some years I’ll cook a Hanukkah-style dinner. I’ll fry latkes and cook Swedish meatballs and both savory and sweet noodle kugel. If it’s not Hanukkah dinner, we go out for Chinese food.”
Ange Branca, co-owner of Saté Kampar
“We roast turkey, because the British taught us that, but accompanied by dishes of rendang, mee hoon, rice and chicken curry. Though a majority of my family and friends are not Christians, we all ‘celebrate Christmas’ because why not? It’s a reason for a get-together with great food, just like Chinese New Year, Aidilfitri and Diwali.”
Inga Saffron, architecture critic, the Inquirer
“I don’t celebrate Christmas, so I’ve always volunteered to work a news shift at the Inquirer/Philly.com — part of an ‘all the news by Jews’ tradition. I usually make it out in time to attend Christmas dinner with friends and their boisterous extended family.”
Stu Bykofsky, columnist, Daily News
“While I’m not a Christian, I do ‘celebrate’ Christmas as an ‘American’ holiday. It’s not just for Christians anymore. For long periods of my life I have been romantically involved with Christians, so I would join them as they gathered with family. When unattached, I might hit the bars on Christmas Eve — I only did Chinatown once, and that was out of curiosity. The movies were usually empty Christmas Eve but packed on Christmas Day.”
First published as “Christmas Day for Non-Christmas People” in Philadelphia magazine’s December 2017 issue.