Solo’s Ten Picks For Holiday Fun In Philly

When it comes to the holiday season, Philadelphia has no shortage of festivities. From the neighborhood light shows to official Center City holiday markets, if you are itching to celebrate, you will not have to look far to satisfy your festive winter urges. This week we decided to round up just a handful of the many, many holiday events going on throughout the city. Check out some of our personal favorites below!


Photo of the Miracle on South 13th Street in Passyunk Square by unexpectedphilablog.com.


Miracle On South 13th Street

We wrote about Philadelphia’s longstanding tradition of block-wide holiday light displays last year. The most famous of these shows is the Miracle on South 13th Street, and this always tops our list for sites to check out around the holidays because it represents so much of what this city is about – community, collaboration, and festivity. For some info on a few other notoriously decorated blocks in the city check out our previous blog entry on the topic.



Crowds gather at LOVE Park for the opening of the Christmas Village. (Photo by Tud09851 (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.)

Christmas Village in LOVE Park

Despite the construction at LOVE Park, the Christmas Village is up and running this year! Take care of all your holiday gift shopping needs here at this open-air market. Vendors stationed in old fashioned wooden vending stalls will have items ranging from crafts, jewelry, art, toys, ornaments, and other holiday fare. For a list of vendors and special events head over to the Christmas Village website.

Dilworth Park Wintergarden

Just across the street from the Christmas Village you’ll find even more Center City holiday festivities. At Dilworth you can enjoy an ice skating rink, seasonal food & drink, a made-in-Philadelphia market, and plenty more!



A nighttime scene at the riverside skating rink.

Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest

For an even larger rink to show off your ice skating skills on head over to Penn’s Landing to experience the amazing riverside ice rink. Fun seasonal cocktails and snacks are also available for purchase at this beautiful winter wonderland.


Chanukah Wonderland at Please Touch Museum

On December 13 swing by the Please Touch Museum for a pop-up Chanukah event with crafts, music, games, and more! Discover all that holiday fun that surrounds Chanukah. The event is free with regular admission to the museum.

Franklin Square Electrical Spectacle

The Franklin Square Electrical Spectacle is a holiday light show like you’ve never seen before. Watch the scene as more than 50,000 lights illuminate the park along with a festive soundtrack. The show pops off every 30 minutes from November 9 through December 31 excluding Christmas Day. Sundays through Thursdays the show runs 4:30-8:00 pm and until 9:00 pm on Fridays and Saturdays.

A Longwood Christmas

While not in Philadelphia proper, we couldn’t resist including the Longwood Gardens Christmas display on our list. See the beautiful gardens transformed into a festive holiday season extravaganza. This year’s theme is French-inspired and will feature topiaries, wreaths, decorated trees, and floating cranberries, apples, and gilded walnuts. The holiday display is viewable now through January 7th, but act quick since advance tickets are required! Find out more here.

A Very Philly Christmas at Fairmount Park

This year, in conjunction with Parks & Recreation, five beautiful historic homes in Fairmount Park will be decked out in holiday decorations and filled with fun events for all ages to enjoy. Different events consist of musical performances, house tours, seasonal treats such as hot cocoa, and children’s activities. Find out more about visiting here.


Macy’s holiday display. Photo by https://www.flickr.com/photos/jcapaldi/11358573735/.


Christmas Light Show at Macy’s Center City

A longstanding cornerstone of the Philadelphia holiday scene, the light show and Wanamaker Organ Concert are sure to become a staple of your holiday routine. The light show and concert, complete with floating reindeer and snowflakes, run through December 31 every two hours starting at 10:00 am and with the last show at 8:00 pm. So stop by the Center City Macy’s, located in the historic Wanamaker Building at 1300 Market Street for some classic Philadelphia holiday cheer.


Photo of Boathouse Row all lit up by michaelwm25 [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

Chanukah Candle Lighting

Join the Center City Kehillah at Rittenhouse Square for the annual candle lighting. Mingle with the local community and enjoy some holiday treats as well! The event will take place on December 18 at 5:00 pm. Check out the details here. If Rittenhouse Square isn’t convenient for you, there will also be a menorah lighting on December 12 on Boathouse Row.



Featured photo is of Rittenhouse Square taken by Marc Cappelletti https://www.flickr.com/photos/marccappelletti/11515689706.

Blocks We Love: 500 South 45th Street

The 500 block of South 45th Street is nestled right between Baltimore and Larchwood Avenues in the Spruce Hill neighborhood of West Philadelphia. A section of the city known for its strong record on preservation of historic architecture and tucked right around the corner from West Philadelphia’s gem, Clark Park, the initial appeal of this block is readily apparent.


Most of this neighborhood is dominated by West Philadelphia’s iconic Victorian twins, decked out in grand front porches, larger plots of land, and colorfully painted bay windows. The stretch of rowhomes covering the western side of this block of 45th street, however, are distinct in their smaller footprint and attached nature. These rowhomes are characterized by boxy, glassed-in sun rooms, each painted in it’s own vibrant color scheme.



One of the most remarkable aspects of the colorful, leafy, streetcar suburb now known as University City, which encompasses Spruce Hill, is how each home is adorned in its own unique color pattern, yet no semblance of clashing hues ensues.


This row of houses follows a consistent pattern from one end to the other of alternating sets of four. The first set consists of gabled roofs while the second set sports a sort of mock-mansard roof with a semi-circular panel in the middle. Each home has the aforementioned glassed in sun room, a third story tripartite window, and, in keeping with West Philadelphia architectural tradition, a front bay window, in this case on the second story.






This block is memorable not only for its unique and striking aesthetics, but also for its proximity to much of the burgeoning activity in University City, notably Drexel University and the University of Pennsylvania, the magnificent and expansive Clark Park, and countless restaurants and cafes. In fact, the block is bookended by dining options, with the lauded Marigold Kitchen on the north end and popular Milk & Honey Cafe to the south.


The mix of larger homes, lawns and porches, and ever more popular Clark Park with large universities, plenty of food and nightlife, and abundant shops and businesses presents residents with the best of both worlds – an active urban environment paired with spaciousness and greenery.


We love this block because it’s so one-of-a-kind in a neighborhood already bursting with character, and it is nestled right in the heart of so much that makes University City vibrant and distinctive.

Blocks We Love: 4000 block of Spring Garden Street

In West Powelton, tucked between the commercial corridors of Market Street and Lancaster Avenue, sits a residential block that is both majestic yet intimate, coherent yet diverse. A peak through the history books reveals how the lovely 4000 block of Spring Garden Street came to be.


Developed in the early 20th century, this swath of Spring Garden Street was originally called Bridge Street. The residential street ran between the commercial corridors of Lancaster Avenue and Market Street, which remain bustling with commercial activity to this day, as well as Haverford Avenue, which is now largely residential.


In the late 19th and early-to-mid 20th century the corridors boasted retail and industrial workshops, including wood and metal fabrication, foundries, and other such uses.


An 1836 map of West Powelton shows the street grid laid for the 4000 block of Spring Garden (then Bridge Street, bottom of map), but hardly any houses built

Post-1960s, this area saw the same urban decline and disinvestment that much of the City experienced. This pattern continued through the mid-1990s, until several organizations including the then-recently established People’s Emergency Center Community Development Corporation (PECCDC) began investing in the area.


PECCDC acquired several vacant properties on the 4000 block of Spring Garden Street and rehabbed them into permanent supportive-service rental housing and homeownership units for first time homebuyers.


500 North 40th Street, at the corner of Spring Garden & 40th in 1950 (left) and today (right)

Spring Garden Street is a wide thoroughfare that boasts larger homes than many of the smaller streets that run perpendicular to it, such as Sloan, Wiota, and Holly Streets. This block running between 40th and Preston Streets is remarkably preserved, representing a hybrid of Powelton Village’s Victorian and Queen Anne estates and the classic, dense Philadelphia rowhome.

The 4000 block of Spring Garden Street in 1927, as majestic then as it is now

A substantial number of historic details can be spotted: columned porches and decorative spindlework, brickwork and corbelling; steeply pitched gables with fishscale shingles; turrets; and ornate lintels and cornices. Despite the variety in these features property to property, the porch lines and gables keep a visual continuity throughout the block.


Plenty of Queen Anne-style detail to be found (top), even the simpler rowhomes (bottom) boast ornate cornices and brownstone lintels appearing like piped-on icing, especially when coated in pastel hues

Though the block is revitalized and and well-maintained, a large, historic apartment building sits vacant, catty-corner to it. 437 North 40th Street represents a huge and thus far missed opportunity: a 13,500 square foot, four-story apartment building that we’re sure residents of the 4000 block of Spring Garden would love to see rehabbed and occupied.

437 North 40th Street is a long-time vacant apartment building catty-corner to the 4000 block of Spring Garden Street

Overall, this is a stunning historic block in a neighborhood that is experiencing a rash of revitalization and new construction. That apartment complex likely won’t remain vacant for much longer.


Map courtesy of the Free Library of Philadelphia, historic photos courtesy of the Philadelphia Department of Records via PhillyHistory.org, 437 North 40th Street image courtesy of the Neighborhood Design Group.

Blocks We Love: 4000-4037 Pine Street

Just south of UPenn’s grungy frat houses sits a pleasant surprise: some of Philadelphia’s most over-the-top Victorian architecture. Indeed despite its rowdy neighbors, history and beauty are all over Spruce Hill.


The 4000 block of Pine Street in Spruce Hill is one of these true West Philadelphia gems. This particular block has been called “one of the handsomest and best preserved mid-19th century suburban streetscapes of Philadelphia”, earning the block a place on the National Historic Registry.


The fact that the block merits historic preservation is immediately obvious even to casual visitors. Compared to Center City’s flat, tightly-packed streetscape, the 4000 block of Pine has over a dozen grand Victorian homes, most sitting on green slopes above the street. The effect is both beautiful and distinctly different from most areas just across the Schuylkill.


The houses themselves are stand-outs too. From ornately carved wooden front porches to cupolas to even spooky-looking towers with mansard roofs, few blocks in Philadelphia have so much 19th century character. While a some homes could use a little TLC, most are in solid shape.


Two unusual yet beautiful Victorian front porches on the 4000 block of Pine Street.


In addition, these houses give a taste of Philadelphia’s fascinating 19th century history. As the city’s industrial wealth grew, the newly rich left the crowded, polluted spaces of Victorian-era Center City for homes like these, founding some of the nation’s first suburbs.


Comparing 19th century drawings of the 4000 block of Pine (left) to photos from today (right) shows the block’s remarkable preservation.


The preservation of the 4000 block’s historic legacy has recently become an issue however. Located on the southwest corner of 40th and Pine, the Levy-Leas House remains Spruce Hill’s earliest and largest Italianate mansions. In the 1970s though the home was badly renovated; it served as a nursing home for decades and now sits unused. In recent years multiple plans from both private developers and UPenn have called for tearing down the home and redeveloping the site itself.


While the house’s fate remains uncertain one thing is for sure: destroying the home would further alter the block historic character, and not necessarily for the better.


People ought to come and experience this amazing slice of Spruce Hill then while they still can.


Drawings courtesy of Hidden City.

Blocks We Love: 800-916 South 47th Street

There’s no confusing West Philadelphia with any other part of our city’s urban core. And with brightly painted homes, leafy streets and a dizzying diversity of residents, few neighborhoods are as colorful – literally and figuratively – as this fascinating community.


While West Philadelphia has many different neighborhoods, few are as heterogenous or as popular as Cedar Park, the area directly southwest of booming University City. Baltimore Avenue, Cedar Park’s main corridor, drives this development, as its mix of shops, cafés and services attracts a unique group of funky young professionals, African Americans and immigrant communities. Just off this strip you’ll find the wonderful 800-916 block of South 47th Street, whose collection of mixed-use buildings typifies the diversity, and eye-catching aesthetics, of this popular West Philadelphia neighborhood.


Since the 1850s, the growth and success of Cedar Park, and indeed much of West Philadelphia, has depended on the area’s trolley network. About a century ago wealthy Philadelphians began using these trolleys to create the nation’s first suburbs, building large Victorian and Queen Anne style homes in the greenery and space outside Center City. Although the neighborhood suffered a serious economic and social decline for much of the latter half of the 20th century, this grand architecture and extensive public transportation network has laid the foundation for the area’s contemporary redevelopment.


Residents using Cedar Park’s trolley lines (left). The nearby yellow domed St. Francis de Sales Church (left) is an important, and striking, local institution as well.


Indeed, up and down the 800-916 block of South 47th Street, one can see how this physical heritage shapes the area’s modern fortunes. Fresh coats of blue, pink and green paint bring out the fine detailing on the block’s Victorian homes, while commercial spaces near the trolley now host popular restaurants. And although this part of South 47th Street does have a few decidedly downscale shops, closer examination shows that the block’s bodega has adapted to the neighborhood’s influx of crunchy young people, selling organic Castile soaps along side the Doritos. This quirky mix buzzes below the brightly painted dome of the Saint Francis De Sales Catholic Church, whose hall often plays host to community events and gatherings.


The 800-916 block of South 47th Street really shows the best of Cedar Park, and serves a strong example for how a neighborhood’s historic infrastructure can meet the demands of a modern community. It’s enough to make other Philadelphians wish they could have a bright blue home here, too.