The Philly Winter Survival Guide: How to Stay Busy Till Spring

Your handbook on fun ways to survive — and thrive — during the coldest time of the year

things to do in winter philadelphia

Philly winter activities: Stained glass classes at Colors of Glass / Photograph by Jeff Fusco

It’s February. You know what comes in February? Peak winter doldrums. A few flakes of snow that turn into nasty street slush. And a chill in the air that makes it even harder to drag yourself from bed to your work-from-home desk. That’s why we’ve put together a guide to great activities, inside and out, to keep you entertained until springtime.

 

Stain Some Glass

Colors of Glass

Capture the winter sun sparkling in the snow with your own piece of stained glass, which you can craft at this 10-year-old studio. Colors of Glass offers group and private classes — in a basic session, you’ll choose from one of seven patterns, then learn how to do everything from cutting glass to soldering. (Band-Aids are provided.) An advanced sesh will give you the tools to make more complicated designs, like a Tiffany-style lamp for your front window. Audubon.

Bird-Watch

Discovery Center

Not all birds fly south for the winter, and you can see these stalwart winged creatures at Strawberry Mansion’s 37-acre reservoir. Borrow a pair of binocs from the center (or BYO) to spot great blue herons and red-billed woodpeckers on your own, or take the free intro-to-birding class on February 17th for a guided lesson on viewing methods and codes of conduct. (Think inside voices.) Fairmount Park. 

Indulge Your Inner Art Lover

Wexler Gallery

This 24-year-old organization has a bright new flagship in a former pretzel factory. Spend a couple hours discovering avant-garde pieces by Philly creatives such as Henry Bermudez, a Latin American artist whose murals and installations are based on myth and symbolism. Fishtown.

Photograph courtesy of The Lodge at Woodloch

Heat Things Up Poolside

Yes, you can have an outdoor swim during the winter, thanks to these all-season alfresco oases within a three-hour drive from Center City.

The Asbury
While this hotel is about a block from the Asbury Park beach, the pool beckons in winter with its 95-degree temps and private cabanas. Open to overnight hotel guests; rooms from $153; day passes $20.

The Lodge at Woodloch
Soak in the Poconos resort’s forest-facing horizon-edge whirlpool—which gets up to 104 degrees—between your facial and massage. Open to overnight hotel guests; rooms from $529.

SoJo Spa Club
This club in Edgewater, New Jersey, brings the heat to its 10 pools and baths. Steamy tents, saunas, and add-ons like a volcanic sand bath will keep you toasty between dips. Day passes $110 to $135.

W Philadelphia
Access the hotel’s hot pool with a Cryo Cabana reservation that comes with a poolside ice bath. Open to overnight hotel guests; rooms from $275; $50 to $60 for Cryo Cabana day passes.

Dine With Scientists

Academy of Natural Sciences

Want to help the planet this year? Then take part in the museum’s February 22nd event to debut local caterer 12th Street Catering’s new carbon-neutral menu and dinner series. You’ll enjoy a three-course meal crafted using ingredients sourced from within a 25-mile radius in the museum’s North American hall. You might even have the chance to mingle with scientists working on carbon-recapture projects in Africa, such as reforestation. Logan Square.

Frolicking goats at Ethereal Farms / Photograph by Jason Wilson

Stay on a Vineyard

Ethereal Farms

Okay, Ethereal Farms isn’t a vineyard, but it is next door to one — Wayvine winery, its sister property uncorking Chester County-grown reds for sipping once you’ve snowshoed the 1.5 miles to the tasting room. Ethereal Farms offers accommodations in a restored circa-1800s mill or a modern loft. Both keep you cozy with libraries, board games, and access to a sauna. Should you want to brave the elements, you can hike on 1,000 acres of trails, then gather around the firepit to cook s’mores. But whatever you do, say hi to the goats, cows and horses who call the farm home. From $217 per night; Nottingham.

things to do in winter philadelphia pottery

Get your hands dirty at a couple’s wheel-throwing class. / Photograph via Getty Images

Plan a One-of-a-Kind Date

Trade your standard prix-fixe dinner for one of these lovefests.

Laurel Hill Cemetery’s “Love Stories” tour was inspired by one of its … residents: Mary Peterson’s heart — just her heart — is buried with her first husband here. Their “All Thorns, No Roses” tour at Bala Cynwyd’s Laurel Hill West is less rosy: It focuses on “stories about love lost, betrayed, or gotten with guise.”

Take a spin around the RiverRink at the V-Day Sweetheart Skate, or play a round of Philly Mini Golf With LOVE at Franklin Square. If golf isn’t challenging enough, John Heinz Wildlife Refuge has free Cupid’s Arrow Archery the afternoon of Valentine’s Day. (For something more private, plan a “Love & War” date night at Callowhill Archery.)

Have some laughs as the Not Yet Rated troupe holds its annual rom-com shows at Plays & Players Theatre: Using audience suggestion and improv, they’ll craft an original, hilarious love story onstage.

Get your hands dirty at one of the Clay Studio’s or YayClay‘s date nights, with champagne and couples’ wheel-throwing.

For more unique Valentine’s Day ideas, check out our guide.

Read-ins at Amerian Grammar / Photograph by Jeff Fusco

Read in Public

American Grammar

Channel your inner Gertrude Stein and head to this cafe/bookstore for its silent read-ins. Held on the third Wednesday of the month, the evenings bring together a group of bibliophiles who read quietly for about 90 minutes (you can BYO book or select from a list), then share their experiences of the texts. You’ll discuss excerpts that struck you, the authors, literary themes and theories, all while sipping a steaming cup of java. Kensington.

Meditate

The Sound Lab

Best of Philly-winning sound-meditation practitioner Luna Maye has a new album perfect for shaking off the winter blues within the comfort of your own home. Dubbed The Sound Lab, the hour-long melodic journey features what she calls “sonic landscapes” (her vocal intonations are set against audio compositions and frequencies) that help relieve your stress, refocus you, and provide inspiration. So find a quiet space, curl up with a blanket, put on an eye mask, and hit play. Available on Spotify.

Sew your own lingerie! / Photograph by Maddie Kulig

DIY Your Underthings

Sew Lingerie

Maddie Kulig, Brewerytown’s lingerie-making doyenne, has written her first book, Sew Lingerie!, providing an inside look at sewing sweet or slinky panties and bralettes, bodysuits, and bathing suits (for those thinking ahead to warmer times). The book guides you through everything from selecting fabric to where to shop for materials to measurement, and the easy-to-follow patterns are inclusive. (There are patterns for nursing and mastectomy bras.) Now, even sewing neophytes can try their hands at making lacy French-cut panties. $35; C&T Publishing.

Take a Day Trip to D.C.

Explore all the District has to offer—mostly indoors

Beloved BBQ at Love, Makoto / Photograph by David Dworkind

Washington, D.C., makes for a quick jaunt (via train or car), but get going early. Begin your visit by relaxing travel-weary muscles with a massage at the year-old Pendry hotel’s spa. Then hit up one of the (free) Smithsonian museums along the National Mall. Make an advance reservation to see exhibits focusing on Black identity and the African diaspora at the National Museum of African American History & Culture. The National Gallery of Art offers a serene space for contemplating works by the greats, and an outdoor ice rink allows you to skate in the Sculpture Garden. While not free — general admission is $16 — the National Museum of Women in the Arts just reopened after a two-year renovation to the circa-1908 building’s interiors. Before you head home, fuel up at Love, Makoto, a Japanese culinary hub that launched last May and offers food on-the-go (that matcha soft-serve!), a walk-in-only bar for snacks and sips, and a barbecue restaurant with a steak omakase and the chance to cook your own meat at your table’s personal grill. And should you want your excursion to turn into an overnight stay, book a room at the art-driven Conrad (from $394 a night) at CityCenterDC, where you can gawk at the views from your room’s floor-to-ceiling windows.

Make a Finer Frosty

things to do in winter philadelphia

Illustration via Getty Images

Longwood Gardens display designer Jim Sutton has some tips on upping your snow-person game using items you might find in your backyard or garden.

The Hat: “Inverted terra-cotta­ pots are so great! You can color them any color you’d like. And they have the drain hole on the bottom, so you can stick some greenery in there. Or instead of a hat, you could go all Roman: Make an ivy wreath and do an angelic halo.”

The Arms: “People tend to use any old stick they can find. But I always suggest adding colors. I might go for a nice dogwood stem with some good color to it, like the yellow or red. Just take a stroll around outside. You’d be amazed at what you can find once you start looking.”

The Neckwear: “I often see women wearing those big chunky necklaces, and you could get that effect by wrapping a couple of pieces of grapevine together.”

The “Winter Wonder” display at Longwood Gardens runs through March 24th.

 

Published as “Winter Sucks!” in the February 2024 issue of Philadelphia magazine.