Franklin Square Celebrates the Holidays all Season Long
Nightly light shows, special visits with Santa and Elsa, sweet treats, Philly POPs, and more! Here’s what’s going on at the Franklin Square Holiday Festival, beginning November 15.
For six weeks this season, Franklin Square is all holidays, all the time. The Franklin Square Holiday Festival begins November 15 and brings sparkle, sweets, and so much merriment. From Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve, and the holidays in between, Franklin Square will celebrate with magnificent lights, and lots of fun to accompany the spectacle. Here’s all they’ve got planned.
Electrical Spectacle Light Show
More than 75,000 lights illuminate Franklin Square, timed to a soundtrack of holiday classics, some of which are performed by The Philly POPS. There are two alternating shows every 30 minutes beginning at 4:30 pm daily and running throughout the night’s activities, so if you stay a while, you can catch them both.
Santa Visits through December 22
Santa will first arrive on Friday, November 23 at 5 pm to spread Christmas cheer and take photos. After that, he will be in Franklin Square every Saturday evening through December 22 (5:30—7:30 pm) for Santa Saturdays, where he will stroll around the park and take photos for free. He’ll even bring his friend Buddy the Elf on December 12!
Want to get your furry friends involved? Come on December 15 from 5:30—7:30 pm for Santa Paws, where Santa will pose for pictures with pets! Not only that, PAFA students will be available to draw free holiday pet portraits that night.
And if you want a more personal (and warmer) Santa experience, buy tickets in advance ($20) for Milk & Cookies with Santa which takes place in the heated Pavilion right before Santa Saturdays from 4—5 pm. Kids can enjoy milk and cookies with Santa as he tells some of his favorite stories and poses for pictures.
Kids are also invited to bring their letters to Santa for the special Santa Mailbox in the square for days he’s not there in person.
Special Events: Franklin Square Fridays
Friday evenings from 5:30—7:30 pm will be special themed nights with character visits, free crafts, and holiday fun for the whole family. From the Grinch to Queen Elsa, be sure to catch your favorites!
On November 16, Franklin Square Fridays kick off with a Thanksgiving celebration including free crafts. Then, as promised, Santa arrives on November 23. On December 7, Franklin Square will host a Chanukah celebration with dreidel games, latkes, and free crafts for children celebrating the Festival of Lights. And on December 28, come celebrate Kwanzaa with free crafts for children.
The Franklin Square Holiday Festival will close out with the Kids’ New Year’s Eve Countdown on December 31 from 3—8 pm. Enjoy music and crafts before the “Square Drop” from atop SquareBurger at 6 pm and stay to watch the fireworks over the waterfront, which are viewable from the square. The indoor Pavilion will host a Kids’ Dance Party until 8 pm for the final Electrical Spectacle Holiday Light Show of the year.
Get in the holiday spirit—and get ready for the Pennsylvania Ballet’s holiday reign—when characters from The Nutcracker visit on the evening of November 30. The event will also include free Nutcracker-themed crafts.
On December 14, The Grinch will visit Franklin Square before the How the Grinch Stole Christmas musical hits the Merriam Theater later that week.
And if “Let it Go” is the official anthem of your household, you’ll want to mark your calendars for December 21 (5:30—7:30 pm), for Frozen Friday! Anna and Elsa from Frozen will come for a special night of fun activities, and sing-alongs. Costumes are encouraged! Want even more? Buy your tickets now for a Party with the Princesses from 4 – 5 pm in the heated Pavilion before Arendelle’s royalty venture outside to the fountain for the free evening events.
Food and Drink
Ben’s Sweet Treats tent features a hot chocolate bar with five different flavors of hot chocolate, a s’more making station, cookie decorating, and more. It’s a great way to warm up in between Electrical Spectacle light shows at night while still taking in the views.
Franklin Square’s resident SquareBurger will be serving its regular menu of kid favorites like burgers, hot dogs, fries, and its signature Cake Shake blended with Tastykake Butterscotch Krimpets. In addition, they will have warm seasonal additions like latkes, turkey legs, egg nog, and hot apple cider.
This year will also feature an outdoor beer garden where you can sit around the fire pits and enjoy seasonal beverages, local craft beers, wine, and specialty holiday cocktails (like the “Holly Jolly Toddy” which includes flaming marshmallow, and the amazingly named “Hot Buttered Rum Pum Pum Rum”).
Free Live Music on Sundays
Every Sunday evening from November 25—December 30, enjoy choirs, sing-a-longs, dance performances, and more during select Electrical Spectacle intermissions. Seasonal Sounds on Sundays will take place at 5:30 pm and 6 pm.
Fun and Games
As always, you can play Philadelphia-themed miniature golf and ride on the beautifully illuminated carousel—now playing holiday music through December 31. In addition to these mainstays, you can ride the Lightning Bolt Holiday Express Train around the square on Saturdays and Sundays (as well as special events on November 15 and 23, and December 31). These activities are all pay-as-you go; tickets are available at the ticket booth in the park.
The Franklin Square Holiday Festival runs from November 15—December 31. The Electrical Spectacle Light Show begins at 4:30 pm daily, and runs every 30 minutes with the final show at 8 pm (and until 9 pm on Fridays and Saturdays. Admission and most special events are free. Food, rides, and miniature golf are pay-as-you-go.
Franklin Square is located at Sixth and Race streets in Philadelphia. It is accessible via SEPTA’s Market Frankford Line, which stops at Eighth and Market streets. And starting November 23 and through December 30, the PHLASH Holiday Shuttle, will provide free evening transportation to Philadelphia Holiday Festival events around town, including Franklin Square, from 6—9 pm.
Parking is available on the street, as well as in the PPA garage with discounted parking after 5 pm located below the Independence Visitor Center (on Fifth and Sixth streets between Arch and Market streets). Coming on a Saturday? There’s free on-street meter parking on Saturdays after 11 am from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day.
Photographs by Jeff Fusco for Historic Philadelphia, Inc.