Planning a staycation this holiday season? With airport hassles guaranteed, celebrating closer to home is just the ticket. Good news is there are plenty of merry options within an easy drive of Philly, places to channel the season or simply get away from it all.
The Shore takes on a whole different vibe come the holiday season, with oceans of planned activities stretching from the Boardwalk to Cape May.
For a Do AC kind of holiday, head to the Tropicana for the annual Holiday Musical Light Show, in the Quarter. It runs on the hour from noon until 10 during the week and till midnight on the weekend.
This Saturday get your ugly holiday sweater fix at Absecon Lighthouse, where prizes will be awarded to the ugliest sweater and most-plaid-possible outfit. There will be caroling, light refreshments and a tree-lighting. You can take in the view with a night climb to the top of the lighthouse.
For the next three Sundays (Dec. 6, 13, 20), you can have brunch with Santa at the Renault Winery, in Egg Harbor, $14.95 for kids and $23.95 for adults - don't forget your list for the Big Guy.
Wildwood does it up with its eighth annual Family Holiday Celebration on Dec. 11 and 12. The festival kicks off that Friday evening with a parade, tree-lighting ceremony and sweet treat at the Convention Center. The party continues Saturday with family fun, pictures with Santa and a holiday bazaar.
Cape May is putting on a Dickensian display from one edge of its Victorian downtown to the other. A few highlights include the 42nd annual Christmas Candlelight House Tours (Dec. 5, 12 and 19), plus Lamplighter Christmas Tours, Ghosts of Christmas Past Trolley Rides, Emlen Physick Estate Christmas Tours, Holiday Inns Tours, Evening Holiday Lights Trolley Rides, Evening Ghosts of Christmas Past Trolley Rides, Santa's Trolley Rides and more. "A Cape May Christmas," presented by Cape May Stage, is a family-friendly holiday production that has Santa and Mrs. Claus making a secret visit to a certain Cape May resort, through Jan. 2.
Mountains of fun
The Pocono Mountains and the surrounding region dish plenty of seasonal cheer along with wintry outdoor fun.
See more than 100 nativity scenes from around the world at the Shawnee Inn and Golf Resort. There's no charge to view the hand-carved tableaux of Mary, Joseph and the three wise men around the crib of Jesus in the stable at Bethlehem, but donations may be made to Hands-On Disaster Relief. Through Jan. 3.
In Lehighton, at Country Junction, billed as the world's largest general store, the third annual Santa's Winterfest continues weekends through Dec. 22. All kinds of activities and contests are ongoing for kids (with a $6 "funband"), from cookie decorating and coloring to story time with Mrs. Claus, train rides and reindeer games with Buddy the Elf. You can add on breakfast with Santa, have pics snapped and more, all for additional fees.
The Inn at Pocono Manor is decorated to the hilt and offers horse-drawn carriage rides, storytelling, craft- and ornament-making, face-painting, letters to Santa, cookie-decorating and the like on weekends through Dec. 18. Have the kids get into the spirit of giving by bringing unwrapped gifts for Toys For Tots.
Christmas comes in with a splash at Camelback Lodge & Aquatopia indoor waterpark - the largest ski-in/ski-out indoor waterpark resort in the Northeast. Ooh and ahh at the 28-foot Christmas tree in the resort's Grand Lobby, hobnob with Santa and the elves, have story time with Mrs. Claus. The waterpark, with its 13 slides and huge pool, is all kinds of fun, but you must be a guest of the lodge to jump in.
Bethlehem, a/k/a Christmas City, USA, is transformed for the holidays with Christkindlmarkt, a German-style craft and artist market that continues through Dec. 20. More than 125 vendors participate and there are all kinds of special events, from choir sing-alongs to breakfast with St. Nick.
If over-the-top holiday family fun is just what St. Nick ordered to keep your kids occupied, the region's got that.
A chocolate-flavored holiday is waiting for the gang at Hersheypark, where Christmas Candylane, lit up with 4 million twinkling lights, takes over. You can ice-skate at Rudolph's Skating Pond, cozy up to Santa and his nine live reindeer and catch holiday-themed shows, like "A Music Box Christmas: The Littlest Tree" and "Noel," a synchronized music and light spectacle.
Peddler's Village always dresses up and throws a party during holidays, and the Village is lit up like, well, a Christmas tree. You can see the winners of this year's gingerbread house competition through Jan. 2. This weekend is the annual Christmas Festival, with a parade featuring Santa on a horse-drawn carriage, toasted marshmallows and hot cider and live entertainment. Get a selfie with Santa through Dec. 23. The Village stays open until 9 Monday through Saturday and 7 on Sunday, in case you need a little retail therapy.
On Dec. 12, pay a visit to historic Pennypacker Mills, in Schwenksville, for a Victorian Christmas Open House, featuring living-history re-enactments, holiday music from the Estey Pump Organ and sing-alongs around the Christmas tree decorated with antique ornaments. Walk through the newly restored servant area to see the working kitchen filled with holiday foods, a candy demonstration and busy re-enactors.
The holidays go red, white and green during A Longwood Gardens Christmas, where hundreds of thousands of lights, strolling carolers, daily concerts and other festivities brighten the gardens' vast grounds, through Jan. 10. This is a popular stop on the St. Nick express - do yourself a favor and buy tickets in advance.
At the nearby Brandywine River Museum, in Chadds Ford, A Brandywine Christmas takes center stage through Jan. 3. You'll see a display of trees featuring "critters" and all things natural, a Victorian dollhouse and a model railroad with nearly 2,000 feet of track.
And closer to home . . .
For a real dose of nearby nostalgia, take in the annual Holiday Light Show at Macy's in the Wanamaker Building. A rite of passage for locals since 1956 - and now all fancified with LED technology - the light show runs through Dec. 31, except on Christmas Day. The famous Wanamaker organ is played at the end of the noon and 6 p.m. shows daily, and the Friends of the Wanamaker Organ Christmas in the Grand Tradition concert takes place Dec. 11 at 7 p.m. Organist Peter Richard Conte, soprano Clara Rottsolk and flugelhornist Andrew Ennis make a joyful noise at this free holiday show. Head to the third floor to hang out with Santa at Dickens' Christmas Village.
It's a miniature winter wonderland amid the evergreens at Morris Arboretum's Holiday Garden Railway Display, a quarter-mile of model-train track featuring seven loops and tunnels with 15 rail lines, two cable cars, nine bridges and bustling trains that cruise past scaled replicas of historic monuments. Philadelphia-area landmarks, such as a replica of Independence Hall, are made using pinecone seeds for shingles, acorns as finials and twigs as downspouts. All aboard through Jan. 3.
Then there's Winterfest, at Spruce Street Harbor Park, that's home to an Olympic-size skating rink overlooking the Delaware River, ski chalet-style lodge and winter garden with recycled shipping containers, a heated tent, holiday trees, fire pits and plenty of seating. New this year are the winter warming huts around some of the firepits, cozy places to sip hot chocolate and soak up the winter wonderland, Philly-style.
Beth D'Addono writes about the Philadelphia and national restaurant scene. Read more at bethdaddono.contently.