Winter Break Master Plan: Everything to Do With Kids in Philly When School’s Out
From holiday happenings to day-off camps, there is so much to do in the city when school is out!
There’s only a week between Christmas and New Year’s, but that week can go very slowly with no school, no schedule, and cold weather. Four days in, all the presents have been opened and discarded, bumming around in pajamas until 11 a.m. like you’re in a cereal ad turns into the 100th viewing of Encanto on Disney+, and you’ve just got to get out of the house before you all go crazy. Don’t worry: There’s plenty to do around Philly, from day-off camps to holiday magic. Here’s the rundown.
See Also: What’s Open on Christmas Day in Philly?
Holiday Stuff That’s Still Around After Christmas
Look, the holiday season flew by and you didn’t get around to it all, and that’s fine because Philly’s not ready to let go either. Here’s what sticks around through winter break (and beyond, in some cases).
Even if Christmas is over, that won’t stop Philly’s holiday institutions from sparkling until 2023. The Macy’s Christmas Light Show (and Dickens Village upstairs, with a reservation), the Comcast Holiday Spectacular, Franklin Square’s Electrical Spectacle, and City Hall’s Deck the Hall Light Show all run through the end of the year. You can also walk through some lights at the zoo, take an open-wagon ride through an illuminated Shady Brook Farm, stroll through a lit-up South Philly street, check out Tinseltown in Oaks, and more. The list goes on, so keep that holiday magic alive a little longer with a guide to all of them here.
“Christmas Underwater” at Adventure Aquarium
Though Scuba Santa will have returned to the North Pole by Christmas (catch him through December 24th), the aquarium’s unique oceanic spin on seasonal decor — including the “World’s Tallest Underwater Christmas Tree” in Shark Realm — will still be on display throughout the animals’ homes through December 31st. Where else are you going to see an 18-foot-tall coral sculpture with sharks swimming around it? Plus, the rest of the aquarium is up and running, so stop by to wish all the sea life a merry “Fishmas.”
Winter in Franklin Square
Franklin Square is full of sparkle, holiday-themed mini golf, and plenty to eat, drink, and celebrate every day through New Year’s and beyond. Catch the Electrical Spectacle light show every 30 minutes beginning at 5 p.m. daily and running through 9 p.m. This week, you can gather a group of up to eight to enjoy their brand-new iceless “street curling” rinks.
A Longwood Christmas
Longwood Gardens’ annual holiday exhibition runs through January 8th, with decorations both indoors and out. There’s also live holiday music, open-air fountain shows, and the delightful Garden Railway display. Timed tickets are required, and weekends in particular sell out — but they’re one of the few attractions open on Christmas Day.
Teddy Bear Tea at the Rittenhouse Hotel
Afternoon tea in the hotel’s Mary Cassatt Tea Room is all old-school grandeur — which may just be what you’re looking for in a high tea. Their special holiday-themed Teddy Bear Tea run through December 30th. Kids get storytime, a Gund teddy bear to take home, treats, sandwiches shaped like bears, and the choice of cider or hot cocoa instead of tea. Parents get sparkling wine. Win-win. The pre-paid cost is $79 per person for both adults and children. Reservations are required and can be booked here.
For festive wintertime memories, you can’t beat a spin around the ice with music playing and lights twinkling. And you can get that experience at Rothman Rink in Dilworth Park, as well as the nearly-30-years-running Blue Cross RiverRink. The latter’s Winterfest offers a cozy lodge, food and drink, rides, photo ops, fun and games, and river views to make it a holiday must-do even for those not interested in strapping on a pair of skates. Check out our complete guide here, and make reservations here. Both rinks stay open well past the holiday season, so even if you don’t get there over break, you’ve got a couple months left in the season.
Looking for a lower-key ice-skating experience? Be Well Philly has a complete guide to rinks in the city and beyond.
See a Show
From Disney on Ice to The Nutcracker, you can always count on plenty of kid-friendly fare onstage throughout winter break. Here’s what’s on this year:
Blending the novels of P.L. Travers and the Walt Disney film, Quintessence Theatre Group presents Mary Poppins. The stage version, adapted by Julian Fellowes (the creator of Downton Abbey), retains Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman’s classic score and songs with “an edge.” (“Spoonful of Sugar” is still there, don’t worry.)
Through December 31st, Sedgwick Theatre, 7137 Germantown Avenue.
George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker
The ultimate classic. From the Tchaikovsky score to the fantastical journey to the Land of Sweets and back, this ballet never really changes, and never really has to. Come early for a pre-show picture with the Mouse King and Sugar Plum Fairy to really make your holiday season complete.
Through December 28th, Academy of Music, 240 South Broad Street.
Alice in Wonderland: A Musical Panto
People’s Light always stages an elaborate, comical and fun-for-all-ages panto for the holidays, and this year they’re really bringing it. “With origins dating back to commedia dell’arte, the ‘pantomime’ takes a well-known children’s story and turns it on its ear,” they explain. New for this year, it’s Alice in Wonderland, full of jokes and songs, and led by the wonderful drag performer Eric Jaffe as the Cheshire Cat. Best for ages five and up.
Through January 1st, People’s Light, 39 Conestoga Road, Malvern.
Disney on Ice
You know the drill, parents: Get the kids out of the house and in their most glittery princess costumes for a couple hours of figure skating set to their favorite Disney movie soundtracks. This year, Encanto joins the lineup, so feel free to sing along to “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” because, be honest, you know all the words. Also, Frozen, because Disney knows where its bread is buttered. Buy the $30 light-up wands and commemorative cups while you’re at it.
December 25th-31st, Wells Fargo Center, 3601 South Broad Street.
Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella
Kids and adults alike will be swept away in the fairy tale with classic songs like “In My Own Little Corner” and “Impossible.”
Through December 31st, Walnut Street Theatre, 825 Walnut Street.
The Sound of Music
Media Theatre stages one of the most beloved musicals ever, with classics like “Do Re Mi,” “Climb Ev’ry Mountain,” and “My Favorite Things.” Catch the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic through early January.
Through January 8th, Media Theatre, 104 East State Street, Media.
Arden Children’s Theatre apparently wants to make all the kids cry this holiday season with the heartwarming and heartbreaking story of a special friendship between a pig and a spider. I’m still not over it. Seriously, though, the E.B. White book remains a childhood classic for a reason. The show runs for 90 minutes with one intermission.
Through January 29th, Arden Theatre, 40 North 2nd Street.
Blue Man Group
“The men are still blue but the rest is all new!” promises Kimmel Cultural Campus, and I don’t really know what that means, but I do know that the show still includes their signature drumming, absurdity, audience interaction, and custom-made instruments. It’s fun; don’t think about it too hard.
December 27th-31st, Miller Theater, 250 South Broad Street.
… Or a Movie
Philadelphia Film Society is really bringing it this winter break with Disney sing-alongs and a Harry Potter marathon!
Watch all eight original Harry Potter films over six days at the Film Center, from The Sorcerer’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets on December 26th through the two Deathly Hallows flicks on December 31st.
December 26th-31st, Philadelphia Film Center, 1412 Chestnut Street.
You know how you try to teach your little ones that they need to be quiet at the movies? Well, forget all that, because they can come see their favorite Disney princess movies on the big screen and sing their little hearts out. All screenings take place at the Philadelphia Film Center at 1412 Chestnut Street.
- Beauty and the Beast: December 27th, 3 p.m.
- Frozen: December 29th, 3 p.m.
- Frozen II: December 30th, 3 p.m.
From December 27th through 30th, the Penn Museum is free for everyone under 17, and there are some special daily activities to engage kids of all ages. Along with the self-guided “Amazing Artifacts” tour featuring QR codes to help guests “dig deeper” into each object, kids can create paper mosaics at a free “Creation Station,” learn about the principals of Kwanzaa through inspirational stories with Paul D. Best (“Our Sun Paul” from Keepers of the Culture), and join the “Daily Dig” to take a 15-minute deep dive into one artifact on display.
December 27th-30th, 3260 South Street.
Head to the Franklin Institute for the science museum’s annual winter celebration Franklin Frost. The holiday programming runs through January 2nd and includes a 26-foot-tall “celestial-themed tree,” miniature train displays, crafts and other activities in Big Chill Valley and Celestial Village. All activities are included with admission.
Through January 2nd, 222 North 20th Street.
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Check out Art Kids events including pop-up studio activities and tours every day during break. On Wednesday, December 28th, students, caregivers, and staff of the School District of Philadelphia (including charter schools) will get free admission to the Art Museum all day, along with musical performances and art-making activities. To close out the year, celebrate Matisse’s 153rd birthday with a kid-friendly, family-focused art workshop and free cupcake giveaway (153 cupcakes, to be exact) to coincide with the museum’s special exhibit on Saturday, December 31st.
December 26th-31st, 2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
Please Touch Museum
The Please Touch Museum‘s special exhibit, “The Lion Guard,” based on the popular animated show, brings the story to life with games, movement, music, and more Pride Lands-inspired fun through January 8th. There will also be a Kwanzaa celebration on December 30th and, of course, their Countdown2Noon event on New Year’s is a must-do for little ones (more on that below).
Through January 8th, 4231 Avenue of the Republic.
Museum of the American Revolution
Over break, the museum is planning special activities with costumed re-enactors, hands-on discovery carts, engaging in-gallery talks and more to highlight the diverse stories of men and women who experienced winter during the American Revolution in the Philadelphia area. Most activities are included with admission, but on December 27th there will be a special ticketed History Explorer Meet-Up where kids will learn about Henry Knox’s 1775 journey to Fort Ticonderoga to bring back cannons in the ice and snow: “Explore a miniature diorama and use replica objects to help us solve how exactly he managed to move all 59 cannons in the middle of winter to help free the city of Boston!”
December 26th-31st, 101 South 3rd Street.
Academy of Natural Sciences
The Academy of Natural Sciences continues its interactive special exhibit “Ocean Bound,” which encourages visitors to explore marine life and how our habits and actions can affect the health of our waterways and oceans. Plus, on December 27th, they’re offering $10 admission.
Through January 15th, 1900 Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
“Banksy Was Here”
Not exactly a museum, but it fits! New this month, “Banksy Was Here” opened in the former Candytopia space in Fashion District, presenting the work of elusive, anonymous street artist Banksy in an immersive, multisensory exhibit featuring original works, projections, virtual reality and more. The “unauthorized exhibition” features artwork and installations, as well as interactivity and photo ops to keep the experience fresh. Your mileage may vary with kids — some may find the subject matter or special effects jarring, but others will enjoy the chaos. More info in our preview.
Through January 31st, Fashion District, 901 Market Street, Suite 1150.
Winter Break Camps
If your kids are off, but you aren’t, here are plenty of camps to keep them occupied all day, whatever they’re into. Prices are per day.
Music Theatre Philly
From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., your kids (ages four through 10) will spend the day with singing, acting, dancing, doing crafts and games, and more. Each day has a different theme, from Disney to Broadway classics. Each day starts with a full warmup of mind, body, voice, and imagination; and throughout the day crafts related to the theme give kids breaks from performing. Camp is $120 per day, or $475 for the whole week, with extended care available for an extra $15 per hour.
December 26th-30th, Music Theatre Philly, 262 South 12th Street.
Kids in kindergarten through eighth grade can spend their days playing sports and games in this massive indoor sports facility. Full-day ($50) and half-day ($30) options are available, and there is a 10-percent sibling discount.
December 26th-30th & January 2nd-3rd, Phield House, 814 Spring Garden Street.
Philly Art Center
Artists ages five through 12 can get creative in the studio at Philly Art Center’s Queen Village, Mount Airy and Fairmount locations. Age groups are split up and guided by teachers who structure creative playtime. Camps are full-day ($84), with before- and after-care available for an additional cost.
December 27th-30th, Philly Art Center, 514 Bainbridge Street (Queen Village), 530 Carpenter Lane (Mount Airy), and 2333 Fairmount Avenue (Fairmount).
Philadelphia Rock Gym
Philadelphia Rock Gym’s Fishtown and East Falls locations are hosting full-day ($90) and half-day ($55) camps. Kids ages six and up will learn bouldering and top rope skills while strengthening their problem solving, communication, and teamwork. Lunch is provided for full-day campers. Extended care is available for an additional $10 an hour. Discounts are available for multiple-day registration. PRG’s suburban outposts in Malvern and Oaks are also hosting camp.
December 26th-30th, & January 2nd, Philadelphia Rock Gym, 2412 East York Street (Fishtown) and 3500 Scotts Lane (East Falls).
Philadelphia School of Circus Arts
This unique camp lets kids literally run off to join the circus in Mount Airy. It’s open to ages six through 16 and limited to just 12 children. Camp combines elements of play, mental concentration, trust and team-building in a full day of lessons and activities on real circus equipment. The full-day camp is $85 per day, or $400 for the whole week.
December 26th-30th, Philadelphia School of Circus Arts, 6452 Greene Street.
Skate the Foundry
Kids ages eight and up can enroll in two-day camps over break to perfect their skateboarding skills at Skate the Foundry’s indoor West Philly location. Campers must have their own skateboard, helmet, and safety gear. Full-day camp is $120 for a single day, or $230 for the two-day camp.
December 27th-28th and December 29th-30th, Skate The Foundry West Philly, 888 North 40th Street.
The kids (probably) aren’t making it up til midnight, so party with them a little earlier. (And then plan something fun for yourself!) Check out our full NYE guide here, and see below for some of the best family-friendly celebrations.
Fireworks light up the Delaware River waterfront at 6 p.m. and midnight, so plan your day around the earlier show and get a front-row seat with waterfront parties like the one at Cherry Street Pier that has PopUpPlay-led craft activities, a dance party, a cash bar for the grownups, free hot cocoa for kids, and fantastic views. Want to watch those fireworks from the ice? Book a ticket to RiverRink’s 5 p.m. New Year’s on Ice party and enjoy them from the rink, along with rides, food and music. Liberty Point also has a family-friendly waterfront party with a live ice-sculpting demonstration, make-and-take crafts, and dancing.
Coundown2Noon at Please Touch Museum
The Please Touch Museum goes all out with their signature Countdown2Noon event, which features a full day of performances, crafts, dance parties and a ball drop (and confetti shower) at noon in Memorial Hall.
Kids’ New Year’s Eve Countdown at Franklin Square
New Year’s Eve craft-making starts at 5 p.m. Then, at 6 p.m., there’s a countdown to the “Square Drop” from atop SquareBurger. Afterward, stick around until 8 p.m., when you can take in the final Electrical Spectacle light show of the year, play Chilly Philly Mini Golf, ride the carousel and more. Best of all, this party is free!
Brunch With Cinderella at Figo
Cinderella knows a thing or two about watching for the clock to strike 12, so it’s only natural that she’d host her own countdown celebration! Come take photos with Cinderella and book an igloo (or table) for brunch at Figo before she counts down to noon. Reservations required.