RiverRink Opens for its 25th Season at Penn’s Landing
A Philadelphia tradition continues. From skating to holiday celebrations, here’s what’s happening at Winterfest this season!
For 25 years now, the Blue Cross RiverRink has brought fun and merriness to Philadelphia every year after Thanksgiving. In recent years, the Delaware River Waterfront has made the RiverRink even more of a holiday destination, expanding into Winterfest—with food, games, photo ops, cozy cabins, and more (not to mention its summertime complement).
This year, Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest is set to open on November 23 bigger and better than ever before, with a free day of skating to celebrate its 25th year, and even more fun—online free tickets are sold out, but they assure us there will be plenty available on site for Opening Day.
Here’s all you can look forward to this season at Winterfest.
The city’s only regulation-sized outdoor ice skating rink is a favorite winter spot for all ages, and has amazing views of the river and Ben Franklin Bridge. The rink has skates for adults and kids (from toddler size 8 up to men’s size 15) available to rent. For kids (or adults) that need a little help, you can also rent a skate trainer with rails to hold onto.
Skating sessions are 90 minutes long, and if you reserve your tickets online, you can select your timeslot in advance. Skating admission is $4 (free for kids under 3, all Independence Blue Cross Cardholders and employees, as well as first responders and military personnel). Skate rental is $10. You can buy tickets online or at the box office on site.
Visitors of all ages will want to get warm and play in the Kids Lodge, which has arcade games, skee-ball, pinball, and even coin-op ride-ons outside for the little ones. Or stop by the fire pits for a rinkside game of cornhole.
New for this year, there’s a kid-sized “Winterfest Express” train by the rink, with rides around a little track. This is a great diversion for the littles while their older siblings skate, since you can still see the rink from the train, but they won’t feel relegated to the sidelines. Plus, they’ll love ringing the bell!
Come on Saturdays at 11:30 am for Storytime at The Lodge, hosted by Listen, Learn and Play. Kids will enjoy interactive activities and music, along with the reading of classics, as well as new books. On select weekends, local Philly authors, performers, personalities, and more will do the readings. Light snacks and hot chocolate will be provided for the kids as well. Be sure to check our weekend posts for more info each week!
Don’t forget to snap a pic at the giant red Visit Philly chair, or stick your face through the cutouts to take an Elfie Selfie at the RiverRink photo stop.
Eat and Drink
The cozy Lodge houses Chickie’s and Pete’s, Garces’ Village Burger, and a bar. More treats can be found outside by the fire pits, thanks to Franklin Fountain.
Chickie’s and Pete’s will be serving up their famous Crabfries, as well as cheesesteaks, chicken, and variety of soups to warm up with, and more. Kids will be happy to know that they can get crab mac and cheese there too.
As its name suggests, Village Burger has a variety of burgers (including veggie), plus hot dogs, fries, and chicken sandwiches. Not to mention, chicken fried pierogies!
If you visit the Arcade in the Kids’ Lodge, you can also buy pizza, in case all those options aren’t kid-friendly enough. There is also a stand selling carnival fare (like funnel cake) right next to the rink.
When it gets really busy, the Lodge will be operating two bars to cut down on lines. The bar will have craft beers, as well as hot cocktails like spiked cider and spiked hot chocolate (you can also get those without alcohol—you know, for the kids).
And finally, Franklin Fountain, the most delicious spot in all of Winterfest. Yes, they are serving their homemade ice cream in the winter, because why not? You can also get their premium drinking chocolate (they’ll even do a Hot Cocoa Float with ice cream), hot mulled apple cider, baked goods, and most importantly, s’mores kits for the fire pits! So be sure to grab one and get cozy (and gooey) to really complete your visit.
The season kicks off with a fabulous Opening Weekend including visits from the Grinch, circus arts, storytime in the Lodge, face painting, wreath making, hot chocolate samples, and more. Plus on Opening Day (Friday, November 23), you can skate for free!
Come back on November 30 at 6 pm, when the RiverRink lights up one of the city’s largest holiday trees, followed by a dazzling fireworks show to send Santa back to the North Pole. Live entertainment, including singers, dancers, and ice skaters will add to the two-hour celebration.
Winterfest will remain open on Christmas Day, and will hold New Year’s Eve Parties on Ice (including skating tickets, food, and prime viewing for fireworks)—one timed for each NYE fireworks show on the river that day, so you can buy tickets for the earlier one and still make it for bedtime.
Additionally, the rink, Lodge, and cabins can be rented for birthday parties.
Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest is located at 101 S. Columbus Boulevard in Philadelphia. It will be open every day from November 23, 2018—March 3, 2019, including all holidays. It opens on weekdays at 1 pm, and weekends at 11 am.
See their website for special holiday hours, as well as times for 90-minute skating sessions, if you wish to reserve a specific time. Skating tickets can be purchased online or at the box office on site. Admission to Winterfest is free, but attractions like skating, games, and food are pay-as-you-go.
Parking is available on the streets, as well as in lots located at Market Street and Walnut Street. The waterfront attractions are all accessible via SEPTA bus lines and the Market-Frankford line with minimal walking. You can also take the Phlash bus on weekends, which stops directly at Penn’s Landing. Additionally, the free Philly Holiday Festival Shuttle serviced by Phlash will offer an expanded holiday attraction loop and will circulate Thursdays—Sundays between 6–9 pm from Friday, November 23–Sunday, December 30.
Photographs by Laura Swartz.