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11.15.2020

PA Holiday Bucket List: 17+ Awesome Places to Check Out

 The brightest time of the winter season is coming up, the holiday season. I hope that all of you have done some or all of the activities on this list, but if you have not, try to plan some time to enjoy them in the future. Christmas would just not be the same without them for us. While we do not get to all of these places each year due to time constraints, we try to do as many as possible. This is the list of our favorite things to do and places to experience during the holidays. With it being 2020, this list is going to look way different than a typical year, with some of our typical favorites having different operations or not running this year.  If you are looking for gift ideas, be sure to check out our gift guide.


1) Koziar's Christmas Village in Bernville, PA:
Article and Koziar's Website
Bar none, one of the quirkiest and most awesome places to visit in the country is Koziar's Christmas Village in Bernville, PA, just south of Interstate 78 in Berks County. This is a special place where family memories are made as brightly as the 500,000 old style, large bulb, Christmas lights that Koziar's uses. Some of my earliest memories were made here. There is nothing like sipping a cup of hot chocolate and walking around this attraction that has been family run and owned since 1948.  For 2020, they have changed to reservation times on prime evenings, so be sure to go to their website to reserve.

2) Bethlehem: The entire city that goes all out for the holidays.
First Moravian Church and the Holiday Craft Market
While we live in Pittsburgh, I (Dave) am originally from the Lehigh Valley. I consider Bethlehem to be my home city. No other city in the entire state decks itself out as great as Bethlehem, the Christmas City. The city was founded on Christmas Eve in 1741 by a group of the pacifist Moravians, led by David Nitschmann and Count Zinzendorf. 
Bethlehem's Advent Candle sculptures
Bethlehem's Advent Candles and the Star of Bethlehem out in the distance. 
Throughout the holiday season, lights are wrapped around many trees, actual Christmas trees are placed upon every light pole and every streetlight post, giant steel advent wreathes are placed around the city, christmas trees are decorated, and so much more. The Star of Bethlehem, visible for up to twenty miles away, shines as it always does on top of South Mountain looking over the city. The former Bethlehem Steel Blast Furnaces, known as SteelStacks and the Hoover-Mason Trestle, are especially neat to see with holiday lighting. 
Bethlehem's festivities include two German style Christmas craft marts, including Christkindlmarkt and Huts on Main Craft Vendors. Other things include the awesome Live Advent Calendar, which happens every night at 5:30 from December 1st-23rd, staying overnight or dining at the historic Hotel Bethlehem, browsing at the famous Moravian Book Shop, and so much more. Bethlehem is a place to spend a weekend at if you have the opportunity, especially during the Christmas season. Walking around outside with the family and taking in the festivities outside is a great way to get the family together this year as opposed to typical indoor house gatherings. 
3) Pittsburgh Light Up Night and Holiday Market. Pittsburgh usually kicks off the holiday season in the way it knows best, by running a huge fireworks display. This year will not involve the typical fireworks display, but the city is still going all out with beautiful decorations.  It is always a treat taking in the many holiday displays throughout the season.
4) Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens Winter Flower Show: Pittsburgh, PA.
Article and Website
Phipps Conservatory is a world class horticultural display garden that really comes alive in the holiday season. Lights and displays are set up throughout the sprawling indoor gardens complex, and outside on the grounds of the facility. This facility is stunning and constantly growing and improving, and dates back to 1893 when it was built by steel and real estate magnate, Henry Phipps. Any time of the year is awesome to visit this place, but one of the best times is during the Winter Flower Show. Be sure to arrange a reservation time to visit. 
5) Longwood Gardens: A Longwood Christmas: Kennett Square, PA
Article and Website
Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, PA, is another one of the world's premier horticultural display places. Similar to Phipps, this stunning facility was created by a gilded age industrialist. Pierre DuPont founded the facility, of which many of the buildings within the campus were a part of his mansion. The tract of property dates back to William Penn in 1700 who sold it to the Peirce family. In 1798 they started an arboretum and opened the land for public viewing. Pierre DuPont purchased the land in 1906 to prevent it from getting logged, and he made it his private mansion, of which he kept open for tours of the old arboretum and the new plant specimens that he added to the gardens. In 1946 he founded the Longwood Foundation, an organization that has kept the facility open in his honor ever since. The complex gets intricately decorated for the holiday season each year, with many displays, the thousands of plant and tree specimens throughout the complex, the famous fountains, and the sound of the famous 10,010 pipe organ still entertains visitors as it has since 1929. Longwood is an awesome place to visit any time of the year, but especially during Christmas. If you are going to visit, be sure to contact the gardens to reserve a time to visit.

6) Allentown PA and Lights in the Parkway
Every year, Allentown closes its Little Lehigh Parkway and creates a drive through holiday display.  
Lights in the Parkway is awesome!
7) Lancaster: The Strasburg Railroad
Strasburg Railroad Website


Similar to Bethlehem, Lancaster is another awesome area to visit over the holidays.

While perennial favorite, the National Christmas Center, recently closed, it will be reopening in a few years with a newly rebuilt building.

Photo from the Strasburg Railroad
The Strasburg Railroad is an absolutely awesome place to visit. Cited by many as the best preserved steam train attraction, Strasburg is a must-see attraction for anyone that loves trains and beautiful Amish farm scenery. In addition to the scenic ride you get on their classic trains, the trains and route are elegantly decorated for Christmas, and they even run themed holiday train rides.

8) Indiana, PA: Jimmy Stewart Museum,  It's a Wonderful Life Festival, and the Christmas Tree Capital of the World.

If you were unaware, one of the best actors of all time, Jimmy Stewart, grew up in Indiana, PA. The city is home to the Jimmy Stewart Museum in his honor, which celebrates the career of the legend that brought us one of the best Christmas movies of all time, It's a Wonderful Life. Indiana also celebrates a festival in his honor, with the It's a Wonderful Life Festival, which will be celebrated each weekend from the weekend of November 18th-Christmas. Be sure to come and visit the museum anyways and maybe even cut down a Christmas tree in the area nicknamed the "Christmas Tree Capital of the World."
Photo from It's a Wonderful Life
9) Lakemont Park: Altoona, PA: Holiday Lights on the Lake
Website
With the park's legendary coasters, the winter hibernation of the world's oldest operating roller coaster, Leap the Dips, and the Skyliner, Altoona, PA's Lakemont Park has a delightful drive-through holiday display. If you are in the area, definitely spend an evening at Lakemont Park.
10) Overly's Country Christmas: Mt. Pleasant, PA, Westmoreland County
Overly's has a great drive through display, along with a village with displays, food, hot chocolate, wagon rides, and even a bonfire to warm you up! Overly's is a great place to enjoy during the holidays.

Going to Wanamaker's (now known as Macy's) has been a Christmas shopping destination for Philadelphians over a century. The store is decked out with the focal point being the Wanamaker's organ, the world's largest playable musical instrument, which is played and followed with a coordinated holiday light show. While the light shows will be virtual this year, the decor can still be seen. It is not hard to find this beautiful place when you are in Center City, for it is located right across the street from the city's stunning City Hall and Dilworth Park, where they have another light show and an ice skating rink. 

12) Knoebels Joy Through The Grove Holiday Drive Through Event Website

Knoebels Amusement Resort is starting a new drive through holiday event this year. I do not often include things on our page that we have not personally experienced, but Knoebels Amusement Resort is nothing short of a treasure and they go all out with everything they do. The event should be awesome and it runs nightly from November 27th through January 3rd

13) Easton's Peace Candle

The 106 foot stature of this structure is pretty amazing. Since 1951, the city of Easton has built this landmark One of the neatest aspects of this landmark that it was created with a vision of peace, something that is the true meaning of the holiday season. This tradition was started in the midst of the Korean War and the idea behind the creation of this landmark is something that I have not seen with any other holiday decoration. It is a special tradition that you should definitely check out if you find yourself in the Lehigh Valley. Several of Easton's cool attractions are located near this landmark, including the Crayola Experience, celebrating how Easton brought us Crayola Crayons, and Weyerbacher Brewing, one of the finest craft breweries that we have ever experienced. 

14) Gettysburg:

Between the cute shops, decorations, and more, Gettysburg is a beautiful place to visit over the holidays.

15) Hersheypark's Candylane: Website
I have lots of early memories of Hersheypark's Candylane from when I was very little and the event was just beginning. It was a wonderful time. Candylane has since grown considerably, with the addition of a gate admission fee. With a few coasters open for the event now, including the brand new Candymonium Roller Coaster, Wildcat and several others, we now believe that the admission fee of $39.95 is more justifiable than before.  

16) While you are driving around the state, be sure to keep your eye out for some beautifully decked out houses, including Leechburg Lights, perhaps the most decked out house in the history of human civilization. 

Epic holiday decorations at a house in Ambridge, PA. 
17) Go out and cut down a Christmas Tree! Quakertown, PA's Wata Christmas Tree Farm and Bobwhite Acres Orchard, is our Christmas Tree farm of choice in the eastern part of the state, but there are many awesome places to choose from across the state. This photo was taken a few years ago, so I assume that the trees in this photo are probably ready for this year!
Indiana County

For a list of the many Christmas Tree Farms in Pennsylvania, check out this website

Get started planning! If you are looking for a gift for anyone, our book about Pennsylvania Amusement Parks "Great Pennsylvania Amusement Parks Road Trip," is available through the drop down menu at the top of the page, or through this link, along with our 2021 Interesting Pennsylvania Calendar.

It is that time of year again and we have now released our 2021 Interesting Pennsylvania Calendar!

Our 2021 Pennsylvania Wall Calendar features scenes from across the state, including views of Center City Philadelphia, Downtown Pittsburgh, the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, Starrucca Viaduct in northeastern PA, Sullivan Falls in the Endless Mountains Region, the Grand Carousel at Knoebels Amusement Park, the Kennerdell Overlook above the Allegheny River in Venango County, the Big Mountain Overlook in Franklin County, a holiday scene from Bethlehem, Trillium in Gallitzin State Forest, and the Boulder Field in the Poconos at Hickory Run State Park. The calendars open up to be 17 inches tall by 11 inches wide (8.5 by 11 pages)

It makes for a great gift for someone or for yourself. It is available for purchase through the PayPal dropdown menus at the top of the page and the bottom of this article.

2021 Pennsylvania Calendar and PA Amusement Parks Book Options
 

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