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Christmas Funday in Philly: Macy's Christmas Light Show, Dickens Christmas Village & The Nutcracker


The holidays are here and after you’ve spent copious amounts of time eating turkey, ham, seafood, and desserts, as well as shopping, wrapping and opening presents, you probably want to get out of the house. Here’s the perfect opportunity to grab the family and your friends and head into Center City for what I call a Tarlecki family tradition- the Christmas Funday!

First, get dressed up in your most festive garb- bring out the velvet pants, the faux-fur-lined sweaters with snowflakes and the reindeer ties. Then jump on the train, or drive, into Center City. Mays Light Show

Once there, head to Macy’s, formerly Wanamaker’s at 1300 Market Street. Always an elegant store, Macy’s offers thousands of gift ideas and beautiful items, and home to the Christmas Light Show, a Philly tradition since 1965. The Christmas Light Show is continued annually by Macy's, from the day after Thanksgiving until New Year's Eve. The 15-minute show runs every hour on the hour from10am-8pm. Julie Andrews  narrates as she takes you on a Christmas journey. The light show is several stories high and is best viewed from the grand court on the ground floor (in between ladies’ shoes and purses). Get there early, especially if you have kids, because much of the space is taken up quickly. Look for the giant eagle- it’s a good meeting place!  Then, prepare to be amazed as over 65,000 LED lights take you through a Christmas wonderland with Santa, the Macy’s bear, the Nutcracker, ballerinas, snowflakes, Rudolph and his friends, and the Christmas train along with familiar holiday songs and tunes. It’s a wonderful sight. Afterwards, look for the spotlights of giant stars, Christmas trees, snowflakes and reindeer between shows in the Grand Court. You can also see the Macy’s pipe organ near the bottom of the show; the largest operational pipe organ in the world, with some 28,000 pipes!

After the show, head up to the 3rd floor to the Macy’s Santaland Dickens Christmas Village- try to do this while the Lightshow is going on and you have already seen it, this way, there’s less of a crowd. (The Village has the same hours as the Lightshow.) Macy’s acquired the celebrated Dickens Christmas Village from Philadelphia’s Strawbridge & Clothier Department Store. Numerous animated figures depict scenes in Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” Amble along the cobblestone walkways and see Scrooge’s horrific journey through the ghosts of past, present and future, to a happier ending. I don’t know why I love this so much, maybe the attention to details of the Victorian outfits? Or it could be the animatronic people who clap their hands? Then of course, there’s the cute little Scrooge…I don’t know- I just love it!

At the end of your visit to Merry Olde England, stop by and see Santa Claus on the way out, get your picture and tell him what you want for Christmas!! The Christmas Shop is along there as well with ornaments, gifts, toys, CDs, and holiday items for sale. Dickens Village

After Macy’s walk over to City Hall where the Christmas Village is displayed out front with many merchants selling European food and crafts, including Christmas crafts and items. It is an outdoor holiday market full of holiday cheer with local choirs, music, and local bands.

Now it’s time for lunch at the Reading Terminal Market. This place has everything- great food of all varieties, yummy desserts, cooking classes, tours, wine, books, gifts, bread, fresh and local produce and meats. This is a great place to wonder around in and try something new for lunch. I love either pizza or Chinese food and then ice cream at Bassetts, and I never leave without bread from Le Bus Bakery and some fresh unique cheeses from Downtown Cheese.

Now it’s time for the Nutcracker! Go to the Academy of Music  at the corner of Broad and Locust Streets, and get swept away into a majestic hall full of architectural wonders and elegant beauty. I always like to dress up for the ballet but you don’t have to- just go, enjoy and take in the wonder that is the Nutcracker, with the awe-inspiring Herr Drosselmeier, the beautiful tree and the breathtaking graceful moves of the artists as they take you through Christmas Eve, with Marie, the recipient of a Nutcracker doll, as she dreams of the Land of Snow and the Land of Sweets before sailing away into the night. Keep an eye out for the scary (and amusing, if you are over 5 years old!) Mouse King. As I was walking through the lobby during intermission, you could get your picture with a lead ballerina or the Mouse King, and a child tremendously declared, “I don’t want to see the Mouse King again!” But he isn’t so bad close up; even though his Mouse head has several furry pointed faces poking out the back. If you feel like staying overnight, the Omni or the DoubleTree hotels hosts great stay packages, or if you’re hurgary after your adventures, head over to Buca Di Beppo, Buddakan, or Maggaiano’s for after show dinner and drinks. Nutcracker-The Coffee Dance with Meredith Reffner Ballet

The best part about all this is that most of your day is free! The Macy’s Lightshow, Dickens Village display, and the Dilworth Plaza Christmas Village all have free admission. Lunch and the Nutcracker will cost you some money, but it will all be worth it! Head home with some great memories of a wonderful day of landmarks in the City of Brotherly Love. Happy Holidays!

Lightshow picture courtesy of Friends of the Wanamaker Organ

Pennsylvania Ballet pictures of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker. Photos: Alexander Iziliaev, courtesy of Marissa Montenegro at the Academy of Music.



1300 Market Street, Philadelphia

(215) 241-9000


Reading Terminal Market

51 North 12th Street

Philadelphia, PA 19107

(215) 922-2317


Christmas Village: 11/26/2009 - 12/24/2009

Daily 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
(Sunday: to 7 p.m.)

Dilworth Plaza
in front of Philadelphia City Hall


Academy of Music

The corner of Broad and Locust Streets

Philadelphia, PA 19103


Buca Di Beppo

258 South 15th Street

Philadelphia, PA 19102-3812

(215) 545-2818



325 Chestnut Street

Philadelphia, PA 19106

(215) 574-9440


Maggiano's Little Italy

1201 Filbert Street

Philadelphia, PA 19107-2818

(215) 567-2020