Pennsylvania Ballet begins its 25th annual "Nutcracker," with magnificent choreography by George Balanchine and visual treats to charm every heart.
Academy of Music, Broad and Locust streets, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday, 12 p.m. and 5 p.m. Sunday, performances through Dec. 30, $20-$135, 215-893-1999, paballet.org.
The ageless Peter Nero revisits a number of songs of the season in his yearly Holiday POPS! Concert. (Among the voices: The Philadelphia Boys Choir, African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas Gospel Choir, Capathia Jenkins.)
Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center, Spruce and Broad streets, Friday-Dec. 22, $28-$110, phillypops.org.
It's First Friday at the Betsy Ross House. Waldron Mercy Academy's choir will be on hand to sing carols, and guides will lead visitors on candlelight tours of the flag seamstress' wee yet festive dwelling.
Betsy Ross House, 239 Arch St., 5-6:30 p.m. Friday, $7 adults, $6 children, students, seniors and military, 215-629-4026, historicphiladelphia.org.
Red, white and Nutcracker
If you adore the (little) angels in "The Nutcracker" at the Academy of Music, then you'll adore The Rock School's rendition of the classic holiday ballet, as performed by future pros, including some very young dancers. The setup is a bit different from the Pennsylvania Ballet's, too - it's 1776-theme.
The Haverford School's Centennial Hall, 450 W. Lancaster Ave., Haverford, 1 p.m. and 4 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, $25 adults, $15 children/students, 610-431-4321, therockschool.org.
The American Swedish Historical Museum celebrates Sweden's favorite saint's day (really, Dec. 13) with song, lights and one little girl wearing a crown of candles. There will be two St. Lucia processions (at 1 and 3 p.m.), and decorations, presents and baked goods.
American Swedish Historical Museum, 1900 Pattison Ave. (enter at 20th and Pattison), 11:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Saturday, $10 adults, $7 members, $4 children 4-12, free, children under 4, 215-389-1776, americanswedish.org.
A great place to get a unique holiday gift, the Craft Show at University City Arts League features 35 artists selling everything from jewelry to dolls to glass art.
The Arts League, 4226 Spruce St., Saturday through Dec. 21, free, 215-382-7811, ucartsleague.org.
Looking for gifts in South Philly? Crafty Balboa is a must-visit. There will be 60 vendors selling their stuff that you certainly won't find at Target. The first 50 shoppers get free goody bags.
Ss. Neumann Goretti High School, 11th and Moore streets, 11 a.m.-6 p.m., Saturday, free, craftybalboa.com.
The Wildwood Convention Center will be transformed into North Pole South. There's a parade Friday in North Wildwood at 7 p.m., then a tree lighting at the Convention Center at 8 p.m. Saturday, the center hosts a bazaar, face-painters, Irish dancers and more. All free.
Wildwood Convention Center, 4501 Boardwalk, Wildwood, N.J., 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, free, 609-729-9000, wildwoodholiday.com.
Wet 'n' wild
Check out the weirdest creatures in the sea during Fish Discovery Weekend. See rare fish, meet fish scientists (called ichthyologists) and explore the museum's 10,000-species collection.
The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, 1900 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, free with museum admission, 215-299-1000, ansp.org.
"The Real Inspector Hound," inspired by Tom Stoppard's own time as a theater critic, takes aim at parlor mysteries (think Agatha Christie) and pompous critics - but in that surreally hilarious way that few but Stoppard can achieve.
Curio Theatre, 4740 Baltimore Ave., through Dec. 29, $15-$20, curiotheatre.org.
WTF podcaster Marc Maron normally interviews comics, but his own stand-up is personal, biting and hilarious.
Helium Comedy Club, 2301 Sansom St., 7:30 and 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday, $25-$35, 215-496-9001, heliumcomedy.com .
Philadanco returns home for its ". . . black to BLACK" program, which celebrates the African-American influence on popular culture and pays tribute to famous names like Otis Redding and Nina Simone.
Perelman Theater at the Kimmel Center, Broad and Spruce streets, 7:30 Friday, 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, $29-$46, 215-893-1999, philadanco.org.
Food for thought
TV food maven Paula Deen returns to Atlantic City Saturday for an appearance at Tropicana. She'll discuss various aspects of her career and life and answer audience members' questions.
Tropicana, Boardwalk at Brighton Avenue, 8 p.m., $50, $40 and $35, 800-736-1420, ticketmaster.com.
Former Saosin front guy Anthony Green whines he'll "always be unhappy if I don't sing." Hear, here. The opener is Geoff Rickley.
TLA, 334 South St., $17, 800-745-3000, livenation.com.
Cobra Juicy aims to blow your mind with their buzzed-up, synth-tuned, multirhythm and vocally-impaired experimental rock. With Casket Girls and Creepoid.
Union Transfer, 1026 Spring Garden St., 8:30 p.m. Friday, $15, 215-232-2100, utphilly.com.
Less is more
Philly father and son talents Beaucoup Blue lay on a generous slab of slide guitar blues, folk and jam rock that creatively honors the past. Angelo M opens.
Psalm Salon, 5841 Overbrook Ave., Friday, $25, 215-477-7578, psalmsalon.org.
Alt rock icons Smashing Pumpkins make good on a previously postponed show, with Morning Parade materializing first.
Susquehanna Bank Center, 1 Harbour Blvd., Camden, 8 p.m. Saturday, $64, $45, $35, $25, $20 (pack, individual), 800-745-3000, livenation.com.
A star of the 1980s and '90s, British reggae-soul man Maxi Priest puts a romantic spin on tunes original or remade with island grooves.
Keswick Theatre, Easton Road and Keswick Avenue, Glenside, 8 p.m. Saturday, $30-$40, 215-572-7650, keswicktheatre.com.
Punch your ticket
The British troubadour known as Passenger (Mike Rosenberg) headlines. Kate Earl hits first.
World Cafe Live, 3025 Walnut St., 8 p.m. Sunday, $12-$15, 215-222-1400, worldcafelive.com.
Home for the holidays
An interesting double bill features Judy Collins and one of the songwriters she likes to cover, Jimmy Webb.
Keswick Theatre, Easton Road and Keswick Avenue, Glenside, 7 p.m. Sunday, $29, $39, $49, 215-572-7650, keswicktheatre.com.
"American Idol" winner and earnest singer/songwriter Lee DeWyze plays an intimate club date.
Tin Angel, 20 S. 2nd St., 8 p.m. Sunday, $20 and $60 (VIP, includes rehearsal), 215-928-0978, tinangel.com.
One to watch
It's only a matter of time before the world discovers how good Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit really are. A start: The 2012 Americana Music Awards honored the heartland rockers with a "Song of the Year" citation. Communist Daughter opens.
World Cafe Live, 3025 Walnut St., 8 p.m. Monday, $15/$17, 215-222-1400, worldcafelive.com.
One of the hippest of "inspiration" artists and last of the DC Talk gang to go solo, TobyMac works hip-hop, house and Latin into his otherwise praiseworthy music. With Mandisa (sure to be focusing on her Christmas album), Brandon Heath, Chris August, Britt Nicole, Jamie Grace and Group1Crew.
Liacouras Center, 1776 N. Broad St., 7 p.m. Saturday, $29, $40, $19 (each in groups of 10-plus), 215-204-2400, comcasttix.com.
Turnabout's fair play
Aaron Lewis - former vocalist of Staind - has gone country. Randy Montana opens this all ages show. Tattoos optional.
Trocadero, 10th and Arch streets, 8 p.m. Sunday, $32.50/$34, 215-922-6888, thetroc.com.
With that baritone voice and romantic border-rock sensibility, long time Mavericks lead singer Raul Malo offers an unusually passionate take on holiday fare.
World Cafe Live, 3025 Walnut St., 8 p.m. Tuesday, $32-$35, 215-222-1400, worldcafelive.com.
Festival of Lights
Chasidic-attuned reggae man Matisyahu offers a Hanukkah-minded show. You don't have to be Jewish to enjoy.
Electric Factory, 7th and Willow streets, 8 p.m. Wednesday, $39.90, 215-627-1332, electricfactory.info.
Solange Knowles, younger sister of superstar Beyoncé, has a substantial new set ("True") of soul pop to lay on you. Kelela opens.
Union Transfer, 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, $15, 215-232-2100, utphilly.com.
Back from Buffalo
Violinist Michael Ludwig, an ex-Philadelphia Orchestra member now riding high as Buffalo Philharmonic's concertmaster, returns home for a recital of Debussy, Faure and Brahms with piano accompanist Orli Shaham.
Philadelphia Museum of Art, 26th Street and Benjamin Franklin Parkway, 3 p.m. Sunday, $18, 215-569-8080, pcmsconcerts.org.
Rossen Milanov leads his exuberant Symphony in C with Vivaldi's Four Seasons (featuring violinist Stefani Collins) and Argentinean tango master Astor Piazzolla's "The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires."
Gordon Theater at Rutgers-Camden Center for the Arts, 3rd and Cooper streets, 8 p.m. Saturday, $23-$50, 854-963-6683, symphonyinc.org.
Pinchas Zukerman plays violin and viola in a recital of Bach, Beethoven, Kodaly and Mendelssohn. With cellist Amanda Forsyth and pianist Angela Cheng.
Perelman Theater at the Kimmel Center, Broad and Spruce streets, 8 p.m. Wednesday, $24, 215-569-8080, pcmconcerts.org.
Rachmaninoff revered the Philadelphia Orchestra, and their definitive performances of his Second Symphony tell why. Gianandrea Noseda conducts this soaring work and the composer's Third Piano Concerto, with Russian pianist Denis Matsuev tackling this ultimate keyboard challenge.
Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center, Broad and Spruce streets, 2 p.m. Friday and 8 p.m. Saturday, $20-$119, 215-893-1999, philorch.org.
South Jersey-based West River Drive celebrates the release of its self-titled debut CD Saturday at Chris' Jazz Café. The quartet - whose keyboard/sax player Deb Sheldon is a Temple music professor - serves up a sonic stew of instrumental jazz, funk and rock.
Chris' Jazz Café, 1421 Sansom St., 11:30 p.m.-1:45 a.m. Saturday, $10, $5 with student ID, 215-568-3131, chrisjazzcafe.com.
- Compiled by Lauren McCutcheon, Jonathan Takiff, Molly Eichel, Chuck Darrow and Tom Di Nardo.