Actually Cool Things You Can Still Do This Winter in Philly

There’s plenty to do this winter, we swear.

Winter is coming and COVID-19 is still here and, with high volumes of cases still persistent in Philadelphia, it’s time to get creative this winter. If you’re ready to brace the cold, there’s lots of outdoor festivity to be had, from open air markets to art installations to spectacles of light. If you’d prefer to stay indoors, there are plenty of ways to achieve optimum coziness while also staying connected to all the things you love about Philly. Take a look at our guide to what to do in Philly this winter.

Catch a show (from home)

Maybe the season doesn’t feel quite the same without a visit to one of your favorite Philly music venues to kick things off. Rest assured the city’s top venues are working to churn out content you can enjoy from home, like The Kimmel Center’s virtual holiday programming including the Hip-Hop Nutcracker, or World Cafe Live’s full calendar of live streams. 

Cozy up with cocoa and a blanket outdoors

With indoor dining on hold in Philly, you can still get some wintertime ambiance (and flavors) with a visit to one of the many city restaurants fully equipped with heat lamps, cozy blankets, and even some spiked hot drinks to enjoy. See our full list of still-friendly outdoor dining options here.

Take in the festive sights of Lehigh Valley

Take a drive to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and the neighboring towns of Easton and Allentown for some no-nonsense holiday spectacle. The region is literally lit up with the Kozier Christmas Village, which you can view from the safety of your car, or you can stroll Bethlehem's Christmas Huts on Main for outdoor shopping.

Have a game night courtesy of Thirsty Dice

Shop local and spice up your typical Netflix evening with a custom at-home game experience from Thirsty Dice, where you can make your own “comfort crate” of games from their 125+ inventory along with some snacks and meal kits. You can also opt for pre-made comfort crates, like the Coffee Lovers or Family Night edition. Shop online or call for recommendations.

Up your home cocktail game with locally made spirits

Winter is definitely the perfect time to upgrade your cocktail game, especially if you’re planning to forego Dry January this time around. Boardroom Spirits is offering gift bundles of their best spirits, as well as the once-a-year walnut liqueur Nocino. You can also score a Cocktail Party Pack and other gift boxes from ROOT Crafted, which make perfect stocking stuffers for yourself, or try a beginner’s kit from Art in the Age. If you don’t feel like mixing and shaking, maybe just stick to Chaddsford Winery’s seasonal winter wines, which you can get delivered. 

Catch the changing lights on Boathouse Row

Get some fresh air (or look from your car) and take in the changing lights on Boathouse Row this season, which will update to commemorate Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa this December, with additional virtual programming available.

Treat yourself to a Poconos escape

Why not wait out the winter for a bit in a place where snow is always a beautiful thing? Take a drive or may a socially distant weekend of the neighboring Poconos. Check out our COVID-friendly guide here.

Fall even more in love with cheese

As quite possibly the greatest comfort food of all time, there is no shortage of cheese cravings this winter. Shop local and leave the Cabot behind when you opt for the Pennsylvania Cheese Sampler Box from Weaver’s Way. The subscription box features a collection of award-winning (!) cheeses from local farms and creameries. If you’d like to add some of the best bread ever to your box of cheese, also check out Headhouse Farmer’s Market, where you can get five weeks of Collective Creamery cheeses to be enjoyed with High Street Philly bread. It’s a match made in hibernation heaven.

Venture (with caution) to all the familiar Philadelphia wintertime sights

With COVID-19 protocols in place, Philly has been working to continue on some of all our favorite wintertime traditions, from the Made in Philadelphia Holiday Market outside City Hall, to the Christmas Village in Love Park, to historic holidays in Old City. In addition to these favorites, there’s some new traditions in the mix, including the Northern Liberties Holiday Pop-Up Market, where you can shop outside for some unique and locally made gifts. 

Talk breakfast with Philadelphia Contemporary

Do a deep dive into early morning reflection with a new video series from Philadelphia Contemporary, Talking Breakfast, which features Philadelphia musicians, writers, chefs, and artists offering a self-made look into making and eating their morning breakfast, offering a brief but often sincere look at how artists manage to get in the routine and create every day. 

Create some candle-lit ambiance

Chances are your quarantine bubble could use a new candle. Paddywax is open in Philly for you to come by (in a mask), get some coffee, and even spontaneously pour some wax to create your own custom candle if you so desire. If you’d rather leave it to the professionals, some Center City favorites like Workshop Underground and Duross & Langel usually have whatever’s needed.

Skip town for a road trip

One of the good things about Philly: you can drive an hour outside the city and usually end up somewhere cool . . . or at least completely different. For a change of scenery, check out our guide to Philly drives and day trips, from small mountain towns to seaside hideaways.

Get fit with Philly trainers from home

One of the hardest parts of sticking to a diet is maintaining it while socializing. Well, given the current situation, that’s not really a factor any more! If you have the desire, catch up on virtual workouts offered by area trainers and fitness experts, including virtual workshops from Be Well Philly and Sweat Fitness

Cuddle up with a book with help from local bookstores

Philly has so many independent bookstores filled with hidden treasures, and it would be really nice to still have them around once this is all over. For winter nights under a blanket with a good book, get some fresh reads from local shops like Uncle Bobbie’s, Harriet’s Bookshop, Brickbat Books, Head House Books, and Big Blue Marble—all of which are open for online ordering and delivery.

See some outdoor art installations at East Market

East Market has all kinds of holiday-centric activities this season, including one that’s great any time of year, particularly while museums are closed. The latest from Mural Arts Philadelphia is on Chestnut Walk (Market Street between 11lth and 12th Streets) that features a multi-window installation mixing light, sculpture, and 3D pattern design, all created by local artists. 

Return to the waterfront for a socially distant Winterfest 

One of the best things about winter in Philly is Blue Cross Riverrink Winterfest, and while this year is very different from last, advanced tickets are available for you to indulge in your ice skating, fire pitting, and cabin-ing desires. Private spaces can be booked in advance, whether you want to skate or just want to cuddle up with some spiked hot cider.

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Marielle Mondon is a writer from Philadelphia. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @MarielleMondon.
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