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Fun Things to Do This December in Pennsylvania
Kick-off the Christmas season (and check-off items on your shopping list) at Christmas Village in Philadelphia, where you can sample authentic German food as well as find rare crafts, jewelry, and art work. With more than 80 vendors and a visitation by the original Christkind from Germany, this is a German Christmas market worth the trip into Center City Philadelphia. If the lights, old-fashioned wooden booths, and one-of-a-kind Christmas ornaments don’t put you in a Christmas mood, the smell of gingerbread and mulled wine is guaranteed to evoke the richness of tradition and Christmases long ago. Located in LOVE Park (1500 Arch St), Christmas Village is open from Thanksgiving Day through Christmas Eve, running 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekends. Please note the Market’s special hours on Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve. Due to its popularity, try to plan to visit on a weekday to make the most of this experience.
In Mifflinburg, the oldest authentic Christkindl Market in the United States offers festive entertainment—from choral concerts to international dancers to the popular Skinny German Juggle Boy—as well as treats and unique gifts celebrating the city’s German heritage. In addition to browsing the displays of the more than 100 huts, you may partake in other long-running German traditions such as the Lantern Parade and the creation of Zwetschgenmännla, or “prune men.” Open just one weekend (December 12-14), Mifflinburg’s Christkindl Market is a highly-anticipated, highly-concentrated dose of all-things Christmas, so be sure to plan accordingly. Parking is scarce, and you may want to take advantage of the shuttle service offered at two separate pick-up locations every 15 minutes during Christkindl Market Hours. The Market hours are Thursday from 4 p.m. to 9:30 p.m, Friday from 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
In Schnecksville, a more modern Christmas experience may be had at the Winter Light Spectacular in the Lehigh Valley Zoo, where visitors will enjoy walking through winter landscapes adorned with themed light-and-musical displays. This tradition allows guests to enjoy the lights at their own pace, sipping hot chocolate and taking photos at their leisure. It is also wheelchair accessible to accommodate all guests. The Winter Light Spectacular is open between November 15th and December 29th on Wednesdays through Sundays from 5:30 p.m to 10 p.m. and on Fridays and Saturdays from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Admission for adults is $13 on weekdays and $15 on weekends.
For a nostalgic Christmas outing, don’t miss the “Railroad Journey in Miniature” at the Western Pennsylvania Model Railroad Museum, running from mid-November through mid-January in Gibsonia (5507 Lakeside Drive). While the Annual Holiday Train Show is open from Friday to Sunday, as well as the six days after Christmas, try to plan your visit for a Friday night to watch “Steam at Twilight,” a show exhibiting historic steam engines before the dawn of diesel-powered trains. The suggested donation is $10 per visitor. Please review the detailed Holiday Display Hours when planning your trip.
The Peoples Gas Holiday Market in Pittsburgh's Market Square runs from November 22 through December 23, and it will provide sought-after opportunities for unique Christmas shopping, entertainment, and fare. Among other festivities, you can take that iconic photo with Santa, participate in the Holiday Karaoke contest, or enter a raffle for two tickets to London. The Market is open daily—except on Thanksgiving—from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays and from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday (and closes early, at 6 p.m., on Sundays).
For an indoor outing, visit Santa’s Christmas Land, a Christmas Display at Kraynak’s main store in Hermitage. Here you can walk through a 300-foot, starlight avenue of themed Christmas trees, replete with scenery and supporting cast of characters. The store is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Mondays through Saturdays, and it is open on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Note that it is closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
A taste of a Victorian-era Christmas can be had in the southern Poconos at Jim Thorpe’s 38th Annual Olde Time Christmas. Visit on December 7-8, 14-15, and 21-22 to take in sights and sounds that will reanimate your preferred cinematic rendering of A Christmas Carol as well as your personal experience of the holidays. In addition to the picturesque architecture and mountainous backdrop, photos with Santa, horse-drawn carriage rides, festive community events, and live entertainment will put you in the spirit of Christmas Present.
If during the Holidays you enjoy driving around to admire the Christmas lights, in Hershey the appropriately-named Sweet Lights will allow you to take in a spectacle that far surpasses your neighborhood light displays. At this Hershey favorite, visitors may enjoy the almost 600 lighted displays without leaving the warmth of their own vehicles. It costs $19.15 per car on weekdays and $26.15 per car on weekends, while vehicles that seat more than 9 people will be charged $34.15. Located at 11 Boathouse Road in Hershey, it runs through January 1st and is open daily from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.