09 November 2010

Christmastime in the City

Whether you like it or not, it's that time of year. The time of year when the stores bring out a dazzling array of red and green stuff and your mailbox fills with a heaping load of catalogs. While most of us are still coming down from a Halloween high or looking forward to a delicious turkey dinner in two weeks, the commercial world is busy telling us all that it's Christmastime. For city-dwellers, this is especially exciting. Most major cities have fantastic holiday traditions, and Philadelphia is no exception. Following are the top yuletide stops for you to make in Philly this holiday season.

Macy's Christmas Light Show
Since 1956, the light show has been presented in the main gallery of the Wanamaker building. This breathtaking display was narrated by John Facenda, the voice of NFL Films, for many years before a new narration was recorded by Julie Andrews in 2006. Andrews' narration is paired with the beautiful blinking lights telling classic holiday tales such as the Nutcracker and Frosty the Snowman featuring musical accompaniment from a live organist playing the massive organ. This show will air every hour between 10AM and 8PM daily from the day after Thanksgiving until New Year's Eve. Get there early for a good seat! 

The Dickens Village at Macy's
When Strawbridge's shut its doors several years ago, many (including myself) feared that it marked the end for the Dickens Village. Luckily, Macy's wasted no time in moving the village across the street to the Wanamaker building, placing it in the same building as the Light Show for everyone's Christmas convenience. The village tells the story of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol with 26 different scenes from the famous novel. Over 100 animatronic characters bring the tale to life as you read actual text from the novel on sign posts set throughout the miniature version of 1840's London. A new feature added by Macy's comes at the end of the exhibit, at which point you are escorted into a room to have a quick chat and a photo with Father Christmas himself!

Deck the Alley
When visiting the oldest continuously occupied residential street in the United States, many people wish they could see the inside of the historic Elfreth's Alley houses. Well, on December 4th, you will finally get your chance! As many as 14 of the residents living on the alley will graciously open their homes for touring. Outside, expect to see carolers in period garb and classic Christmas decor. Inside, you will find refreshments (often provided by the fantastic Race Street Cafe) and a book signing with David Papp, author of the children's book The Scarlet Stockings Spy. Tickets are selling fast, so do not hesitate to pick yours up!

Light Displays
The Philadelphia region is home to a variety of impressive holiday decoration displays. Several blocks throughout the city, especially in Southwark and Manayunk, will work together to decorate, while other houses go all out on their own. One such house is located at Fairfax Road and Huey Avenue in Drexel Hill. This house puts on a display that would shame the Griswolds. From lights, to animatronics, to a life-size Santa in his sleigh complete with all of his reindeer, this place has it all. It's easily accessible from the Drexel Park stop on either the 101 or 102 trolleys from 69th Street, and well worth the trip into Delco.

Holiday Train Sets
Nothing says Christmas like a decent holiday model train setup, and there are several to check out in Philly. The Franklin Institute and Septa Museum will often present modest sets in their respective museum spaces. The best set in the city, however, can be found in the old Reading Railroad building. Enter the door next to Dunkin Donuts and you'll be greeted with the expansive set. With sections representing cities, suburbs, and rural areas, this set has it all. Also, kids (and adults) will get a kick out of being able to operate select parts of the display.

Links & Last Words
This list is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to celebrating the holidays in the City of Brotherly Love. We welcome your comments to address any of your favorite traditions we may have left out. Check out the links below for more information, and have a happy holiday season!

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