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11.06.2022

PA Holiday Bucket List: 25+ Must-See Holiday Destinations in Pennsylvania

 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. This is the list of our favorite things to do and places to experience during the holidays. 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.  
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. November 18th will be the start of festivities, with bands including Joan Jett, and on November 19th they will do the fireworks. The celebration marks the kick off to the holiday season with special events, beautiful decorations, and a wild fireworks display.  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) Miracle on South 13th Street: Philadelphia and 7) Smedley Street Christmas Spectacular: Philadelphia


The Miracle on South 13th Street is an entire stretch of street in Philadelphia in which all of the houses go all out on decorating for the holidays. Same with the Smedley Street Christmas Spectacular. People come from all over the place to drive through these stretches of the city, which just look so incredible with all of their holiday decorations across the board. There is also a homegrown energy with these attractions with them being more of an organic and and spirited affair when compared to many of the other places on our list. Seeing the results of hundreds of people in Philly row homes having a collective effort put together is really pretty incredible. It is great seeing a collective effort like this of people in the entire community coming together and doing something great. 

8) Knoebels Joy Through The Grove Holiday Drive Through Event Website
Last year we got the chance to check out the awesome Joy Through the Grove Holiday Drive Through Event, and it really delivered. Knoebels does the best with everything they do, and this is no exception. They have decked out the park and campground areas with a ridiculous amount of lights, through a really long route. To top it all off, they have an area with more festivities at their nearby Nickel Plate Grill, where the kiddos can meet up with Santa. I was really shocked with how great they did. Probably my favorite thing of the whole tour was how decked out the covered bridge was. Simply incredible and we highly recommend going out of your way to check it out. 
This ornate building is one of my favorite overall skyscrapers. It is the world's tallest building without a steel superstructure and it, along with the surrounding plazas of Dilworth Park, are always cool and lively to explore. During the holidays, the grounds are festive with the Dilworth Park Ice Skating Rink, craft, gifts, and food vendors, and lots of beautiful decor. The driving tour of Broad Street and Ben Franklin Parkway in general offers views and access to lots of holiday decor and fun. 

10) Boathouse Row in Philadelphia:

One of the most famous sight filled sites of Philly is Boathouse Row along the Schuylkill River. While you cannot walk around the houses to get the awesome view, you can get cool views from the area of the Fairmount Water Works, Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, and the Schuylkill Expressway. The color changing LED lights celebrate holidays year round, in addition to rooting on the local sports teams. Fitting to the city of Brotherly Love, Boathouse Row reflects all of the winter solstice holidays for the many groups of people that call this fine city home. Each house is decorated for each of the individual holidays, including Christmas, blue and white lights for Chanukah, traditional African colors for Kwanzaa. Seeing Philadelphia in general over the holidays is something that is really special. 

11) Old City Philadelphia
Betsy Ross House
Dubbed the "most historic square mile in America," Old City Philadelphia is where the American experiment began. The place where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were crafted is an awesome place to visit during the holidays. The Betsy Ross House and Elfreth's Alley are beautifully decorated during the holidays. Strolling around Independence Mall is pretty cool as well, especially at night, for it is basically silent. You can appreciate the sacrifices that have created the tapestry of this country with reverence. 

Horse drawn carriage rides are done through the cobblestone streets of the historic district as well. 

12) Allentown PA and Lights in the Parkway Website
Every year, Allentown closes its Little Lehigh Parkway and creates a drive through holiday display.  
Lights in the Parkway is awesome!
13) 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. 

14) 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
15) Lakemont Park: Altoona, PA: Holiday Lights on the Lake
Website
While the park's legendary coasters are in winter hibernation, including the world's oldest operating roller coaster, Leap the Dips, and the Skyliner, Altoona, PA's Lakemont Park, the park is perfectly decorated with a delightful drive-through holiday display. If you are in the area, definitely spend an evening at Lakemont Park.


16) 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. 


18) 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. 

19) Clinton Christmas Light Up Celebration Holiday Drive Through, Western Allegheny County
Clinton's Christmas Light Up Celebration is a nice community effort to transform a community park into a small drive through display. Visiting the drive through has become a tradition for us in the Pittsburgh area. Always fun to check out. Definitely recommend it if you are in the Pittsburgh/Southwest PA area. 

20) Gettysburg:

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

21) 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.  

22) Kennywood's Holiday Lights
Kennywood Park near Pittsburgh always decks itself out for the holidays and offers great holiday fun. The carousel is always especially beautiful when it is all decked out for the holidays. 

23) Sunbury's Town Square


Unlike most of these spots, which I would define as more destination sorts of places, I just had to include Sunbury's Town Square as something you need to check out if you are in the area. They have on of the most bucolic town square areas in the state, and it is especially done up beautifully for the holidays. Be sure to check it out. 
24) 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. 
25) 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 2023 Interesting Pennsylvania Calendar

Our 2023 Pennsylvania Calendar is available now through the drop down menu at the top of the page! The proceeds help to keep the lights on here.


Our 2023 Pennsylvania Wall Calendar features scenes from across the state, including views of:
-The Schuylkill River, Philadelphia Museum of Art, and Fairmount Water Works 
-Knoebels Amusement Resort 
-Buckhorn Covered Bridge in Lycoming County 
-Campus of the University of Pittsburgh and Cathedral of Learning 
-PA's Elk Herd 
-Strasburg Railroad 
-Twin Covered Bridges in Columbia County 
-Seven Tubs Natural Area Waterfall near Wilkes Barre 
-Bilger's Rocks in Clearfield County 
-Rimrock above the Allegheny Reservoir 
-Fireworks in Downtown Pittsburgh 
-Lakemont Park in Altoona 
The calendars open up to be 17 inches tall by 11 inches wide (8.5 by 11 pages) and all photos have been taken by us, and the calendars are produced in the USA. The proceeds help us to continue what we do to highlight and bring attention to the many great adventures that this state has to offer. 

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.

Also available is our book on Pennsylvania's historic amusement parks, Great Pennsylvania Amusement Parks Road Trip. It features Knoebels, Kennywood Park, Hersheypark, Dorney Park, Waldameer, DelGrosso's, Lakemont, Dutch Wonderland, Idlewild, and the sadly former, Conneaut Lake Park.

Thanks for your ongoing support over the years! 

2023 PA Calendar and PA Amusement Parks Book Purchase Options
 


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