The holiday season has arrived, and if you’re looking for some festive outdoor fun, a drive- or walk-through outdoor holiday light show is a good option.
You could crack open your wallet for any of the great, ticketed holiday light shows in the Philly area, including Shady Brook Farms’ Holiday Light Show or A Longwood Christmas, but if you’re looking for less expensive options, this list is for you.
From neighborhood blocks to offerings from corporate entities, we’ve rounded up a list of local holiday light shows that you can see without spending a cent.
Most run daily starting at dusk, but to avoid crowds, weeknights can be better. And remember: Some of these are on small blocks or at private homes, so be respectful. It is the holidays, after all.
COVID-19 can’t keep down a good holiday light display like the Miracle on South 13th Street. Back in full swing after a downsized 2020, the 2021 version of this South Philly holiday light display is up and running with many houses on the block in their best holiday regalia. Expect holiday light shows, music, inflatable decor, lights hanging from trees and over the street, and much more. Whether you take a walk or drive, remember: This is a residential area, so follow all pandemic precautions.
Go deeper into South Philly to find a favorite local tradition just off Oregon Avenue. On the 2700 block of Smedley Street, you’ll experience all the holiday lights that you can handle — including a median in the center of the block that’s fully populated with Christmas-themed decor and blowups. Again, this one is a community display, so be respectful and follow all of the usual COVID-19 precautions.
Just off Passyunk Avenue near Carpenter Street is a budding favorite neighborhood light show. Marking its fourth year in 2021, this display features dozens of inflatables and plenty of lights and projections, and adds another stop on your South Philly Christmas light tour. Feel free to take a walk or a drive through, but be sure to respect residents’ peace and privacy.
Boathouse Row’s iconic houses are known for their light displays, but they change things up around the holidays. Depending on when you go, you’ll see colorful themed displays marking Hanukkah (Nov. 28-Dec. 6), Christmas (Dec. 20-25), and Kwanzaa (Dec. 26-Jan. 1). Take it all in on Martin Luther King Drive.
Winter in Franklin Square includes all kinds of yuletide activities, but for folks looking for a show, there’s the Electrical Spectacle Holiday Light Show. Running every 30 minutes, it features more than 100,000 holiday lights synchronized to holiday classics performed by the Philly Pops starting at 5 p.m. daily, weather permitting.
📍 200 N. Sixth St. 📞 215-629-4026 🌐 historicphiladelphia.org/franklin-square 📷 @franklinsquarephilly 🕑 through Feb. 27, Sun.-Thur. 10 a.m.-9 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 10 a.m.-10 p.m., show runs every half hour beginning at 5 p.m.
Get thee to City Hall for a couple holiday spectacles. First, check out the Deck the Hall Holiday Lights, which features colorful projections timed to sound effects on display on the western side of City Hall. Then, head around the corner to Philly’s official holiday tree — a 45-foot concolor fir that’s decked out with about 5,000 feet of LEDs.
Credit unions know how to celebrate the holidays, too. This year’s 14th Grand Illumination is a drive-through event at the main campus of American Heritage in Northeast Philly, where you’ll glimpse holiday displays made from more than 400,000 lights. You can get out of your car for photos, provided you follow social-distancing guidelines.
Held in the Grand Court, this annual holiday light show attracts more than 175,000 visitors each season. The show features musical accompaniment from the famed Wanamaker Organ, as well as narration by Julie Andrews. For 2021, the light show runs once a day at 10:30 a.m. from Dec. 1 to 24, and moves to 11:30 a.m. from Dec. 26 to 31. No reservations, but times may change as the holidays approach, so check the Santaland website — where you can also watch it on demand — before heading out.
Like the West Chester Griswolds, this Langhorne-based attraction is a holiday light show at a private home. For this one, you can tune your car radio to 92.1 FM to hear the half-hour music playlist to which the light show is synced. While it’s free, you can make a donation, which this year will go to the Challenged Athletes Foundation. The show started Nov. 26, but the official kickoff is Dec. 5, when Mr. and Mrs. Claus join, too.
Peddler’s Village usually has plenty for people to do thanks to its more than 60 specialty stores, but around this time of year, it adds about one million dazzling lights as part of its Holidays in the Village event. There’s a light tunnel to grab the perfect Instagram photo, and 75 gingerbread creations on display as part of its annual competition.
The Plummer family’s holiday light show gets its name from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. They have been doing displays since 1998 — starting in Aston with just 2,000 lights. They’ve since moved and added a lot more lights to their annual display — more than 128,000 this year, which are all set to music Mon.-Thur. from 5:30 to 9 p.m. on 87.9 FM. The radio-backed show runs every half hour. Plus, the kiddos can drop off a letter to Santa.
Herr’s makes some pretty good snacks, but it’s also been serving up some crisp light displays every holiday season for more than 30 years. Head to Nottingham to drive through its corporate headquarters, where you’ll take in more than 600,000 holiday lights through Jan. 2. Just remember to stay in your car.
In Delaware County, Rose Tree Park is celebrating the holidays with its annual light show — just like it’s been doing for over four decades. This year, attractions include dozens of decorated, lighted trees, and figures that include everything from Santa and his reindeer to toy soldiers and gingerbread men. Plus, look out for a vendor village on the first three weekends of the festival.
Steven White contributed to this article.