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Things to do in Philly Dec 20-26: Eat latkes at a menorah lighting, shop at the Punk Rock Flea, dance at the Nightmare Before Christmas Party

Plus Morris Arboretum's illuminated Holiday Garden Railway Nights, a butterflies-meet-lights festival, concert by Searching for Sugar Man's Rodriguez, and more...

Holiday Garden Railway at Morris Arboretum
Holiday Garden Railway at Morris ArboretumRead moreNatavan Werbock

We’ve almost made if to the end of 2019. This week is usually a flurry of shopping, cooking, eating, drinking, family, wrapping, and trying to enjoy a bit of time off. But don’t panic, and enjoy the holiday. Here’s how:

  1. Attention, last-minute shoppers: We have some doable DIY projects (including infused bourbon, a custom terrarium and a luxe body scrub) that will definitely not seem like you threw them together at the last minute. And we asked readers to scour Philly dollar and discount stores for the best stocking stuffers they could get for $20. And they found some surprising gems. Steal their ideas, and save some cash.

  2. Odds are, we’re not getting a snowy Dec. 25. But decked halls, we’ve definitely got. If you want to find the most super-seasonal tipple, we’ve got a roundup of the twinkliest, tree-filled, pine-laden bars and restaurants in Philly, whether you’re aiming for nosh around a posh fireplace or boozy nog with an inflatable holiday Yoda. The spirit is strong with that one. Some bars take it very seriously, with an extreme X-mas decor smackdown earlier this week, which is pretty much the most Philly holiday take ever.

  3. Or, if you just want to make the carols stop, here’s a way to knock Jingle Bell Rock out of your head and show some local love: A list of the best Philly music of the year, and a Spotify playlist of the best Philly music of the decade to help keep that love going into 2020. And there are plenty of non-holiday goings-on, including, you know, that whole new Star Wars movie.

  4. Also: Here’s a list of what’s open and what’s closed on Christmas Day.

— Megan Griffith-Greene (@griffithgreene,


Butterfly Light Festival

Beautiful butterflies meet beaming and twinkling lights: It’s the second annual Butterfly Light Festival from Philadelphia’s Insectarium and Butterfly Pavilion. The family-friendly celebration features a butterfly light show, butterfly release, live music, light painting workshop, interactive animal experiences, games, crafts, face painting, and more. — Grace Dickinson

11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Philadelphia Insectarium and Butterfly Pavilion, 8046 Frankford Ave., $20 for adults, $10 for kids, 215-608-2453,


Third Annual Nightmare Before Christmas Dance Party

Dance to creepy carols beneath death-themed decorations at this Halloween-Christmas mash-up. Costumes are encouraged, and there will be a pop-up Polaroid photo booth to capture them next to special guest Santa Jack Skellington. Show up early for a free Insomnia Cookie while they last. — G.D.

10 p.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday, Ruba Club, 416 Green St., $10,


Holiday Punk Rock Flea Market

Dog-themed tarot decks, steampunk accessories, and stuffed monster toys: The Punk Rock Flea has plenty of cool and quirky gifts for the hard-to-shop-for. Taking over the spacious 23rd Street Armory, this two-day flea market draws hundreds of vendors, selling vintage clothes, records, and local art. Admission gets you in all weekend, which is handy, since there are different vendors each day. — G.D.

Dec. 21-22, 23rd Street Armory, 22 S. 23rd St., $5 for two-day entry (free for kids 12 and under),


Holiday Garden Railway Nights at Morris Arboretum

Get in the holiday spirit at Morris Arboretum, where you can watch model trains cruise along a quarter-mile track, complete with seven loops and tunnels, 15 rail lines, and replicas of historic monuments and Philly landmarks. At night, it’s all lit up with thousands of twinkling lights, as is the forest of 12-foot trees you pass on the way. Advance tickets are required. — G.D.

Dec. 20-22, Morris Arboretum, 100 E. Northwestern Ave., $8-$20, 215-247-5777,


Old City Community Menorah Lighting

Celebrate the first night of Hanukkah with a community menorah lighting. The Old City Jewish Arts Center has teamed up with the Betsy Ross House for the event, which takes place in its cobblestone courtyard. There will be traditional fare, too, including latkes and doughnuts. — G.D.

4:30 p.m. Sunday, Betsy Ross House, 239 Arch St., free,


Winter Solstice Bird Walk

Good news: Daylight hours are about to start getting longer again. Celebrate with local birding expert Toribird, who will lead an hour-long bird walk on the evening of the winter solstice. Free and open to the public, the tour will wander through the historic Woodlands Cemetery. Bring your own binoculars, though there will be a few pairs available to share for those who don’t have their own. — G.D.

4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, The Woodlands, 4000 Woodland Ave., free,


Rodriguez: An Intimate Evening of Music and Conversation

A few seats remain to see Rodriguez, the legendary singer-songwriter and subject of the Oscar-winning documentary Searching for Sugar Man. A self-taught guitarist, Rodriguez started performing in Detroit in the 1960s, taking a hiatus after his first album didn’t take off. But a bootleg recording found its way to apartheid-era South Africa, where over the next two decades, Rodriguez reached rock-star status — all unbeknownst to him. Eventually, two South African fans set out to find him, a story that comes to life in the documentary. Today, Rodriguez tours extensively in South Africa, Australia, Europe, Canada, and the U.S., now making his way to Philly’s newest music venue. — G.D.

8 p.m. Saturday, City Winery, 990 Filbert St., $65-$90, 267-479-7373,

CeeLo Green

It’s been a while since CeeLo Green was on top of the world. The Gnarls Barkley hit “Crazy” dates to 2006. His viral four letter word solo hit came out in 2010. The Goodie Mob cofounder was trending last week however, after the internet noticed similarities between the silver paint job Kanye West gave himself for the premier of his Mary opera and the all-gold get up Green wore to the Grammys in 2017. On Friday, Green will bring a Christmas show to Glenside, leaning on his 2012 holiday album, Cee Lo’s Magic Moment. — Dan DeLuca

8 p.m. Friday, Keswick Theatre, 291 N. Keswick Ave., Glenside, $29-$64, 215-572-7650,

Work Drugs

Work Drugs are lovers of Christopher Cross and Michael McDonald, and they like their yacht rock with a little egg nog under the mistletoe. The duo, which bills itself as “Philadelphia’s premier bat mitzvah and quinceañera party band,” released their latest “smooth-fi” production, Fantasy File, this summer. On Saturday, they will present “The Work Drugs 9th Annual Holiday Spectacle” at Johnny Brenda’s. Get there early: Stephen Lorek of Shark Tape and Lancaster singer-songwriter Tyler Burkhart are also on the bill. — D.D.

9 p.m. Saturday, Johnny Brenda’s, 1201 N. Frankford Ave., 215-739-9684,


RFA’s self-titled 2018 debut album was full of revved-up energy and bristled with sharp, taut, Strokes-like gems, even when it was celebrating the joy of being lazy and hanging out on Philly porches. The four St. Joe’s Prep grads are now working on their follow-up, so they’ll likely be road-testing new songs when they headline the Ardmore Music Hall on Thursday, with local psych-rockers Heaven Man and instrumental explorers I Think Like Midnight. — Steve Klinge

7:30 p.m. Thursday, Ardmore Music Hall, 23 E. Lancaster Ave., Ardmore, $12-$45, 610-649-8389,

Low Cut Connie

The risk of a Low Cut Connie show is that you can get so caught up in Adam Weiner’s wild stage persona that you miss how good the songs are. But that’s a small price to pay to watch Weiner pound his upright piano while standing precariously on its bench or leap dramatically around the stage. He’s a superb frontman, in the tradition of unhinged piano players such as Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard. His fifth and most recent album, 2018’s Dirty Pictures (Part 2), is his most soulful and wide-ranging, but rest assured he will turn his hometown shows at Union Transfer and Boot & Saddle this weekend into frenetic rock-and-roll parties. — S.K.

8:30 p.m. Saturday, Union Transfer, 1026 Spring Garden St., $20, 215-232-2300, and 8 p.m. Sunday, Boot & Saddle, 1151 S. Broad St. $25, 267-639-2548,