Where to See Sparkling Holiday Lights Displays in Philadelphia

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

Deck the halls, and the walls, and the windows, and the trees, and, well, everything. Philly goes all-out for the holiday season and what better to show off our jolliness than to adorn every surface with string lights and wreaths. From the heart of South Philly where tradition never dies to delightful transformations of popular attractions and decked out shopping centers, here’s where you can see the biggest and brightest holiday light displays this season.

Discover Philadelphia
Macy’s Christmas Light Show | Discover Philadelphia

Now through December 31
Macy’s Center City
Dating back to 1956, the Macy’s Christmas Light Show, set in the middle of the department store, features a grand decorated tree and delightful wintery characters dancing in lights behind it. As for the soundtrack, expect to hear the voice of Julie Andrews and the booming sounds of the Wanamaker Organ. The show runs at 4 and 6 pm on weekdays, and every two hours from 10 am to 6 pm Fridays through Sundays (except for Christmas Eve when the last show is at 2 pm and Christmas Day when the store is closed). After your Macy’s adventure, head around the corner to Christmas Village at LOVE Park and City Hall for more shopping, German treats, and mulled wine.

The Miracle on South 13th Street Holiday Light Display
The Miracle on South 13th Street Holiday Light Display

Now through December 31
South 13th Street between Tasker and Morris Streets
A classic community-wide affair, The Miracle on South 13th Street is a coordinated effort between all the houses on 13th Street between Tasker and Morris in South Philly. There’s a reason crowds and buses full of people flock to the display: Lights are strung over the street and wrap around every window and door frame. Some houses go Grinch-themed, while others don snowmen and candy canes decorations. Just a block off of East Passyunk, you’d be remiss if you didn’t grab a glass of wine at Barcelona Wine Bar or a comforting meal at Gabriella’s Vietnam after the festivities.

Tinseltown Holiday Spectacular
Tinseltown Holiday Spectacular

Now through December 31
Fairgrounds at Greater Philadelphia Expo Center, Oaks, Pa.
Your one-stop shop for all things festive, Tinseltown Holiday Spectacular prides itself on its one million bulbs throughout its grounds. Start your journey by walking through a 60-foot light tunnel and feast your eyes on familiar landmarks, personalities, and sports teams in light form. Plus, you can plummet down an ice slide, take a few laps around the ice rink, or go shopping in the Mistletoe Marketplace. Plus, there are snacks and warm beverages galore (even the adult kind) in the Tinsel Lodge.

Philadelphia Zoo
LumiNature | Philadelphia Zoo

Now through January 7
Philadelphia Zoo
Extend your day trip to the Philadelphia Zoo and see how wild things get after dark. LumiNature features hundreds of animal figures lit up by millions of colorful lights. Take pictures in front of the under-the-sea themed holiday tree, crane your neck up at the 15-foot tall glowing blue gorilla, work your way through the 100-foot long aquarium tunnel, and try to count each of the 500 illuminated flamingoes and 200 glowing penguins. Don’t miss the s’mores and hot chocolate stations for sweet treats.

A Longwood Christmas
A Longwood Christmas | Decaseconds/Flickr

Now through January 8
Longwood Gardens
The holiday season isn’t complete without a trip to Longwood Gardens. The annual holiday display encompasses the indoor conservatory and outdoor grounds, where nearly every living thing is awash in lights. Feast your eyes on a 150-foot-long light tunnel that guides guests to the Main Fountain Garden, a 30-foot-tall floating tree lit in icy elements, couture gown-like sculptures fashioned from preserved, dried, and faux floral materials, living wreaths, and plenty more. Warm up with hot chocolate and wood-fired pizza at the beer garden, open throughout the duration of A Longwood Christmas.

Now through January 31
2700 Block of Smedley Street
Just south of Oregon Avenue in South Philly is a sweet cul de sac of festiveness where the grassy center of the circle is packed with light-up figures, the trees are dressed with string lights, and blow-up Santa and friends welcome you to the party. Easily accessible by foot or bike, McCusker’s Tavern and Tap Room on 19th are both a stone’s throw away for some beers and chill hangs.

Historic Philadelphia
Historic Philadelphia

Now through February 26
Franklin Square
Where else can you see a light show inspired by Benjamin Franklin’s discovery of electricity? Nowhere, probably. The popular Electrical Spectacle Light Show—a splendid scene where more than 200,000 lights flicker and dance in the night—runs every 30 minutes starting at 5 pm each night set to popular holiday tunes like “Feliz Navidad,” the Nutcracker Suite, and, of course, “All I Want For Christmas Is You.” Other goings on in the Square include mini golf, carousel rides, and a nighttime bar serving cocktails, beer, and wine.

Boathouse Row
Boathouse Row | Geoff Livingston/Flickr

Sunday, December 18 – Sunday, January 1
Martin Luther King Jr. Drive
The 19th-century boathouses that line the Schuylkill River are lit up throughout the year, but around the holidays, things really get festive. From December 18-23, the lights outlining the buildings’ facades turn blue and white for Hanukkah, before shifting to green and red for Christmas on December 24 and 25, and red, white, and green for Kwanzaa from December 26 to January 1. The best views are on the west side of the Schuylkill River along Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. Might as well make a day out of it: Check out the new Matisse exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art during the afternoon, see the boathouses after sunset, and grab some dinner at Cantina Feliz.

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Allie Volpe is a writer based in Philadelphia. She hasn't slept in days. Follow her on Twitter: @allieevolpe.