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 Tuesday, 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.
4231 Avenue of the Republic, Philadelphia
December 23 — 30 (except December 25)
Stop into PTM every day during the break for special programming that’s educational and fun. From a pretend indoor snow day to snowflake arts and crafts, the focus is on the magic of winter. This is also a great opportunity to check out the new “Healthy Me, Healthy Family, Healthy Community” addition to the permanent collection, and also to bid farewell to the special “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” exhibit (he and his trolley roll out of town January 15).
525 Arch St., Philadelphia
December 26 — 30
Bring your kids for a week of Colonial era activities, from crafts to games to photo ops. Create tricorn hats, Founding Father portraits, and other historical flair at craft stations, or learn the art of marching and musket etiquette. You can also dress up in Colonial attire for fun photo op, including a meet-and-greet with Continental soldiers. We haven’t even gotten to the Quizzo or Colonial fashion show yet. There’s a whole schedule of programming reaching every aspect of life in colonial times, so be sure check it out.
101 S. Third St., Philadelphia
December 26 — 31
Even more colonial fun in Old City! Every day at 11 am, visitors can participate in a different demonstration of activities from the Revolutionary period — try fencing, sewing, dancing, and more. There will also be focus on the untold stories from the people who shaped this country. In addition to the calendar of events, every day will feature a craft based on the art and inventions of Philadelphia artist Charles Willson Peale: guests can admire the museum’s colorful holiday window illuminations based on his “transparent scenes,” and then make one of their own to take home.
2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia
December 26 — January 1
Enjoy some creative family time with seasonal art projects every day at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. And every day at 11 am, you can go on one of the museum’s Winter Break Family Tours for some kid-friendly art appreciation.
1900 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia
December 27 — 30
Enjoy stage shows, hands-on science featuring real specimens, crafts, and more. Your kids can complete a diorama scavenger hunt to learn about warm-blooded and cold-blooded animals and make a bear-themed hibernation craft to take home. Of course, the “Tiny Titans” special exhibit is still on display, and as an added bonus for those who visit the exhibit, kids can create their own dinosaur dig to take home.
222 N. 20th St, Philadelphia
December 26 — 31
The Franklin Institute has a whole schedule of invention, discovery, and festiveness! Every day, the Holiday Spectacular Show will feature carols, a decorated tree, special guests, and pyrotechnics! There will also be all kinds of fun scientific demonstrations, like real dissections, drone robotics, and the science of fireworks! In addition to all the live demos, the museum will have a Creation Station set up all week featuring giant Tinker Toys, colossal Imagination Playground blocks and noodles, and an area for building with KEVA planks and LEGOs.
Wells Fargo Center, 3601 S. Broad St., Philadelphia
December 22 — January 1 (Except December 25 and 31)
Watch your favorite Disney heroines dazzle on the ice, including Moana and Maui in their debut show. Of course, Anna and Elsa will be there (it is ice, after all), as well as other favorite characters. So get that Princess Belle Halloween costume out of storage, buy the overpriced commemorative light-up wand, and have a ball!
Academy of Music, 240 S. Broad St., Philadelphia
Through December 31 (Except December 25)
If you weren’t able to catch a performance of The Nutcracker before Christmas, don’t worry because it will stick around another week afterwards. The Pennsylvania Ballet’s production will be at the Academy of Music to close out the year, including a sensory-friendly performance on December 27. Share the magic of Clara’s journey to the Land of Sweets, and don’t forget to get a picture with a one of the characters before the show! Maybe even start with a fancy Nutcracker Tea at the Bellevue before the show. If this isn’t already a tradition in your family, it is sure to become one for any little ballet lover you have.
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!
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.
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 new Deck the Hall Light Show all run through the end of the year. So keep that holiday magic alive a little longer!
Winter break is a great time to take in a show. Peter Pan is still playing at the Arden, and Annie is still at Walnut Street Theatre. Both plays are classic stories sure to delight and inspire kids of all ages.
Even with all these great ideas, maybe your kids want to be a little more independent and adventurous. How about a day of rock climbing, or circus arts, or exploring the wilderness? Philly’s got all that and more, you just need to know where to look (Hint: it’s right here, in our winter break camp rundown)!
Photographs by Laura Swartz.