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. And this year, Winter Break seems longer than ever. Four days in, 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.
Winter Break Camps
If the kids have off and you don’t, or you just need to send them somewhere enriching for the day, check out these great camps around town!
The Franklin Institute
December 26—31, 10 am—4 pm
222 North 20th Street
The museum will again 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! While you’re there, check out the highly interactive (and fun) special exhibit “Worst-Case Scenario,” at the museum through April 19.
Also on display during Winter Break, see a photorealistic sculpture of the moon—measuring 23 feet in diameter and featuring high-resolution NASA imagery of the lunar surface that shows every cliff and crater—suspended over the giant Benjamin Franklin statue in the entrance! Then on December 31, ring in 2020 with Noon Year’s Eve, a morning filled with science, fun, and celebration!
Winter Break Family Studio at the Philadelphia Museum of Art
December 26 — 31, 10 am—3 pm
2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Work with guest artists from Space 1026 on a day of festive art-making. Be sure to hop on an all-ages gallery tour and pick up a holiday family guide.
Please Touch Museum
December 26— 31
4231 Avenue of the Republic
The special “Very Eric Carle: A Very Hungry, Quiet, Lonely, Clumsy, Busy Exhibit” is still running through January 12, so stop by and step into the classic storybooks before it’s too late! And be sure to drop into the Creative Arts Studio for a fun project every day. You can see all the daily activities planned at the Please Touch Museum on their calendar.
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.
National Constitution Center
December 26 — 31
525 Arch St.
Visitors can experience special Civil War-themed programming in conjunction with the exhibit, “Civil War and Reconstruction: The Battle for Freedom and Equality.” There will be a Civil War encampment, meet-and-greets with historic figures like Henry “Box” Brown, as well as Union soldiers and battlefield nurses, photo ops, crafts, and more.
It’s also your last chance to see the exhibit “Hamilton: The Constitutional Clashes That Shaped a Nation” before it closes on December 31. Download and show the free Historic Holiday Pass at the box office of the National Constitution Center and receive $2 off general admission.
Museum of the American Revolution
December 21 — 31
101 S. Third St.
The museum will focus on “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 the diverse stories of men and women who experienced this period of history in the Philadelphia area.
National Museum of American Jewish History
December 22–January 3
National Museum of American Jewish History, 101 South Independence Mall East
Through January 12, catch Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the first-ever museum retrospective of the Supreme Court Justice-turned-pop-culture-icon, including artifacts, media stations, and gallery interactives including fun memes and fan art made about the incomparable Justice. Plus, on Christmas Day, the museum remains open for its annual “Being ______ at Christmas” celebration: a day of family fun including crafts, storytime, live music with Alex and the Kaleidoscope, face painting, balloon art, and more.
Academy of Natural Sciences
Minefaire on December 28—29 (closed to public without tickets on these dates)
1900 Benjamin Franklin Parkway
For all you dino-lovers, be sure to check out the animatronic “Dinosaurs Around the World” before it closes on January 20. The museum will be closed to members and the public on December 28 and 29 for Minefaire, a special weekend event when Minecraft players and their families can unite to compete in tournaments and build battles. Tickets available online.
Global Adventures at the Penn Museum
December 26 — 29
3260 South St.
Spend much-needed family time at the Penn Museum during the holidays! Visitors of all ages can adventure around the globe with exciting tours from Global Guides and scavenger hunt explorations of the galleries, along with art-making, games, and oral storytelling in the traditional African style.
Winter break is a great time to take in a show. Shrek: The Musical is at Walnut Street Theatre through January 5, while The Wizard of Oz and The Snow Queen are at the Sedgwick Theater and Arden Theatre, respectively, all through break (and beyond). If you’re looking for some real spectacle, Cirque Dreams Holidaze will be at Merriam Theater from December 26—29, and it is sure to dazzle all ages.
George Balanchine’s ‘The Nutcracker’
December 6—31 (Sensory-Friendly Performance: December 30, 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 30 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 27—January 5
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 production, Road Trip Adventures, includes favorite characters like Moana, Buzz and Woody, Aladdin, Queen Elsa, and more. Of course, Mickey, Minnie, and the whole gang are there too.
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, learn about the Mummers’ history, and maybe even practice their own Mummers strut! Tickets are $5 at the door.
Even if Christmas is over, that won’t stop Philly’s holiday institutions from sparkling until 2020. 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!
Speaking of light shows, the Philadelphia Zoo’s magnificent LumiNature is on display nights through January 5. This special nighttime experience is a multimedia holiday spectacle the likes of which you have never seen, with immersive realms and even a show projected onto a giant polar bear every half hour.
For more animal-centric fun, head across the river to Adventure Aquarium to visit Scuba Santa in Ocean Realm as he spreads the magic of Christmas and takes selfies through the glass. The aquarium will also have the World’s Tallest Underwater Christmas Tree, and more decorations throughout.
Go 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.
Strike a Pose
Don’t miss Photo Pop’s new Winter Wonderland installations at The Bourse before they leave for good on January 5. More than 15 local artists have lent their talents to create over 30 installations and murals with all things festive! There’s even a New Year’s Eve themed room to make your instagram pop as you ring in 2020.
For even more fun (and photo ops), snag some timed tickets for the wildly popular Candytopia in Fashion District Philadelphia. These seven fantastical rooms of larger-than-life candy art and sensory experiences—like the marshmallow pit filled with over 250,000 foam marshmallows, and the rainbow-filled room with flying unicorn pigs and confetti explosions— close for good on January 26.
Need plans for a pre-midnight New Year’s Eve celebration? Check out our roundup!
Lead photograph by Laura Swartz.