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The Philly Winter Break Survival Guide

Don't get stuck in the house -- get out and enjoy the city during the vacation!

It’s only a week between Christmas and New Year’s, but that week can go very slowly with no school, no schedule, and cold weather. By Wednesday, bumming around in pajamas until 11 am like you’re in a toaster waffle ad turns into kids fighting over the iPad.


So bundle up and get out of the house before you all go crazy. Don’t worry, there’s plenty to do around town, and we’ve got the rundown.

Please Touch Museum

December 24 — 30 (closed December 25)

4231 Avenue of the Republic


Stop into PTM every day during the break for special winter break programming that’s educational and fun. Join an interactive storytime and explore holiday and winter themed books using your sense of smell and sound every day at 1:30 pm. On December 26 at 3:30 pm, kids ages 4 and up (with a caregiver) can join the Tinker Program, where they will explore lights and circuits with hands-on activities. Drop by the new Creative Arts Studio for a fun project every day from 11 am—2 pm (until 3 pm on weekends). You can see all the daily activities planned at the Please Touch Museum on their calendar.


And of course, the special exhibit “Thomas and Friends: Explore the Rails” is still running through January 6, so stop by and visit the Island of Sodor before it’s too late. You can also catch the train-themed All Aboard! show downstairs in the theater.

Photograph courtesy of Please Touch Museum.

Looking ahead, you can also celebrate New Year’s with Countdown 2 Noon, the museum’s annual bash that ends with a ball drop in Hamilton Hall so you can get home by naptime.

Winter Break Family Studio at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

December 26 — 31, 10:30 am—3 pm

2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway


Create tiny wonders inspired by the miniatures of the “Little Ladies” exhibit, and capture their magic in a snow globe. Take a family-friendly Jolly Jaunts tour, pick up a Holiday Family Guide, and drop by the museum’s miniature winter wonderland created by artist Lydia Ricci—she’ll be adding her tiny sculptures (and yours) to it throughout the week.

The Franklin Institute

December 26—31

222 North 20th Street


Visitors can see live shows including The Science of Fireworks Show and the Holiday Spectacular Show, plus Random Acts of Science and more expanded daily programming. The museum will also feature their family-focused Creation Station for young scientists to design, build, and play with everything from Imagination Playground blocks to Rig Ama Jigs and more!

National Constitution Center

December 26 — 31

525 Arch St.


The National Constitution Center’s exhibit “Hamilton: The Constitutional Clashes That Shaped a Nation” is front and center, and the week will feature an interactive show about Hamilton’s early life, the “ultimate Hamilton trivia game,” 18th century games, make-and-take craft projects, colonial dress up stations, and more.

Museum of the American Revolution

December 26 — 31

101 S. Third St.


The museum will focus on the “The Ten Crucial Days” during the Revolutionary War that turned things around for the Continental Army, and for our country’s future. Guests can explore these days with costumed interpretation and craft demonstrations that highlight famous duels, river crossings, and military families. On December 28, learn the rules of dueling; and on December 29 and 30, follow a fashion demonstration to stitch a gown similar to what Eliza Schuyler Hamilton might have worn. These activities are largely centered around the museum’s “Hamilton Was Here” exhibit, so check that out, too, if you haven’t yet!

Xtreme Science Days at the Academy of Natural Sciences

December 27—30

1900 Benjamin Franklin Parkway


Make slime, visit the Mad Scientist Laboratory for hands-on experiments, take “extreme food challenges,” and see live auditorium demonstrations. Adults will like the indoor afternoon beer garden as well. And of course, you can visit the “Xtreme Bugs” exhibit before it leaves for good on January 21.

Children’s Theater

Winter break is a great time to take in a show. The Broadway musical How the Grinch Stole Christmas will be at the Merriam Theater through December 29, while Matilda and Charlotte’s Web are at the Walnut Street Theatre and Arden Theatre, respectively, all through break (and beyond).

Photograph by Laura Swartz.

George Balanchine’s ‘The Nutcracker’

December 7—31 (Sensory-Friendly Performance: December 27, noon)

Academy of Music, 240 S. Broad St.


From the Tchaikovsky score to the timeless story of holiday magic, this ballet is a classic for a reason. On December 27 at noon, there will be a sensory-friendly performance with accommodations both inside and outside the theater to make children who are on the autism spectrum, or who may have sensory sensitivities, more welcome.

Disney on Ice

December 24—31

Wells Fargo Center, 3601 S. Broad St.


You know the drill—and your little ones have probably been begging to go since last year— so get on your best princess dress and bring your light-up wand for skating, music, and adventure. This new production, Mickey’s Search Party, includes favorite characters like Elsa, Ariel, Moana, Belle, and the debut Miguel from Coco. Of course, Mickey, Minnie, and the whole gang are there too.


December 28—31

Pennsylvania Convention Center, 1101 Arch St.


Go behind the scenes of the Mummers Parade with this interactive family festival leading up to the big day. Kids can try on costumes, watch the bands and brigades rehearse their routines, create make-and-take crafts, learn about the Mummers’ history, and maybe even practice their own Mummers strut!

Light Shows

Christmas may be over, but that won’t stop Philly’s holiday institutions from sparkling until 2018. The Macy’s Christmas Light Show (and Dickens Village upstairs), the Comcast Holiday Spectacular, Franklin Square’s Electrical Spectacle, and City Hall’s Deck the Hall Light Show all run through the end of the year. So keep that holiday magic alive a little longer!

Photograph by Laura Swartz.

Ice Skating

Both the BlueCross River Rink at Penn’s Landing and the Rothman Rink at Dilworth Park will be open during the break (and beyond), so if you haven’t gotten a chance to take a spin around the ice, go for it! For little ones, definitely rent a penguin at Dilworth Park for help with balance. Afterwards, warm up with some delicious hot chocolate.


Lead photograph courtesy of Please Touch Museum. The Please Touch Museum supports the Philly Family community.

Contributing Writer