Tinseltown’s Holiday Lights Are Taking Over FDR Park. Here’s What to Expect
Tinseltown is back in South Philly! Here’s everything to see, do and eat — including when to catch Gritty Claus!
The first holiday season of the pandemic was dark. No family gatherings, no sitting on Santa’s lap (maybe that one wasn’t so bad), no traditional holiday performances. (We watched The Nutcracker “virtually,” thanks to the ballet’s pre-taped streaming tickets. We all did our best.) And that last one was a real hit for venues like the Wells Fargo Center, who typically would be filled with games and Disney on Ice for the season. As the arena sat unused — along with its parking — owner Comcast Spectacor had an idea: utilize their 160,000 square feet of outdoor space to create some holiday magic anyway.
Out of that, “Winter on Broad Street” was born, taking over the WFC parking lot with light sculptures, treats, and even socially distanced visits from Gritty Claus (wearing a face shield, naturally). It was literally a light in the darkness. Or thousands of LED lights, to be exact.
In 2021, they had a little more time to plan, which meant custom light sculptures celebrating Philly sports and icons (including “JAWN” in lights). It was bigger and better … but unfortunately for this city dweller and her city kid, it was moved to Oaks. Renamed Tinseltown, the holiday attraction grew to include Santa visits, a two-lane ice slide, and more to see and do. But I never made it out there those two years.
Well, I’m going now, because they’ve moved it back into the city. Back into South Philly, even. This time, they’re taking over nine acres of FDR Park, including the boathouse, which will also be decked out and have one of their cozy food-and-drink areas. But, seeing as this is the first time the massive holiday lights display will reside somewhere other than a parking lot, the possibilities are bigger, too, Michael Sulkes, senior vice president of Comcast Spectacor, tells us. The trees will be lit up, too, and there’s even more to do. “We want this to be one of the new Philadelphia holiday traditions that’s here for years to come,” says Sulkes.
Read on for everything to see, do and eat at Tinseltown — including when to catch Gritty Claus!
What to See
Tinseltown is powered by over 2.5 million twinkling lights illuminating hundreds of light sculptures and displays. Those include a 60-foot light tunnel, nods to each of Philly’s big five sports teams, a walk-through Liberty Bell, Santa’s sleigh, and more interactive (and photo-op-worthy) sights.
What to Do
In addition to walking through the lights and soaking in the merriment, you can also skate through the lights! New for this year, the 13,000-square-foot ice trail weaves through some of the displays to allow you to view the lights from another perspective. Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for kids; skate rentals are included. They recommend pre-ordering tickets when you buy your Tinseltown tickets; walk-up sales are based on availability.
For more icy fun, head to the ice slide. This year, it’s expanded from two lanes to four (and 10 feet higher), and it’s exactly what it sounds like: You ride a big tube sled down a 160-foot ice track. Tickets are sold on-site, and are $10 for three rides. Note: You have to be at least 42 inches tall to ride.
And finally, you can get some holiday shopping done at the Mistletoe Marketplace, with local vendors selling their wares.
Santa and Special Events
If you need to cross Santa photos off your family holiday bucket list, Tinseltown has you covered. You can get a professional photo with Santa in his workshop and buy photo package to take home. This needs to be reserved: Click “Santa Photo” when you buy your Tinseltown tickets online.
And, free of charge, you can visit Mrs. Claus’s reading room for holiday storytime each night.
And if Santa isn’t doing it for you, make sure to come on a Friday night in December for Gritty Claus! Photos with Gritty aren’t free either, though. You need to buy a photo as part of your ticket package.
Want your pups to get in on the action? Bring them on Wednesdays, when dogs are allowed each week. Dogs need to stay on-leash, but you can share the festiveness with them and take some epic photos of them all lit up!
Food and Drink
No outside food or drinks are allowed, but you’ve got some options on site.
The Union Forge Lodge is a cozy heated tent serving up cocktails, spiked hot cider and cocoa, and holiday-inspired treats. And FDR Park’s boathouse will transform into North Pole Cafe. Food items include warm soups, pretzel twists, and some “Elf Dinner” snack mix. The boathouse will also provide a great view of Tinseltown and the pond from above.
Know Before You Go
Tinseltown opens Friday, November 17th and runs through January 1st. It’s located at FDR Park at 1900 Pattison Avenue in South Philly.
Advance timed tickets are required; walk-ins will be limited based on availability. On weekends, tickets are $24 for kids ages four to 17, and $30 for adults. That price goes up if you want to come when Gritty is there. Tickets are discounted on Mondays through Thursdays, as well as during the 9 p.m. timeslots on Fridays and Sundays. Look for “Santa Savings” icons on the calendar when you select your tickets. Not sure what time you want to come? You can also buy a flex ticket for $41 that allows you to come any day, anytime.
Activities like skating, ice slide, and Santa photos are extra. Food and drink are pay-as-you-go.
There are three sensory-friendly entry times, when the music is turned down and the crowds are lighter. Those are December 1st, 14th and 28th, all at 4:30 p.m.
There are restrooms on site, and strollers are permitted. Dogs are only allowed on Wednesdays, and must remain on leash — this doesn’t apply to service dogs.
You can park across the street from FDR Park in the Novacare Lot on Pattison Avenue. You can also get there by taking SEPTA’s Broad Street Line to the end and walking a little when you arrive.