What To Do: Holiday season goes into high gear

Longwood, Winterthur, Nemours decked out for season

By Denny Dyroff, Staff Writer, The Times


Christmas at Longwood Gardens kicks off Nov. 27.

There is a wide array of holiday attractions in the area each year — small, large, indoor, outdoor, secular, religious — but few can compare to “A Longwood Gardens Christmas.”

The festive holiday display at Longwood Gardens (Route 1, Kennett Square, 610-388-1000, www.longwoodgardens.org), which opens on Thanksgiving Day (November 27) and continues through January 11, features spectacular lights, lavish decorations, holiday music and colorful displays featuring thousands of brilliant poinsettias, brightly decorated trees and fragrant flowers — all inside the heated Conservatory.

A special attraction at the 2014 “A Longwood Christmas” is the botanical tourist site’s bird-inspired display. It features trees adorned with nests and feathered friends, topiary swans in the Exhibition Hall and birdhouses, owls, and bald eagles decorating the tree houses. Longwood Gardens’ Music Room has an exhibit depicting a festive Peacock Masquerade Ball complete with elegant table settings and an 18-foot rotating tree.

The colorful annual event, which appeals to the entire family, also has a lot of outdoor attractions such as fountain shows and nighttime light displays. Longwood’s Christmas celebration also includes a wide array of seasonal music — holiday concerts, organ sing-alongs and carillon performances.

The organ sing-alongs will be featured in the Ballroom either three or six times a day (except December 3, 4 and 31). There will also be performances by choirs and musicians almost every evening throughout December 20. Other special performances will feature Solas on December 2 and the Canadian Brass on December 4.

When darkness arrives at Longwood, a night-blooming garden of more than a half-million lights strung on close to 100 trees with approximately 40 miles of wire comes to life. A carillon with 62 cast bells plays holiday music every half hour during daylight hours. Longwood’s Open Air Theatre fountains dance to holiday music each half hour — temperature permitting.

As always, admission by “Timed Ticket” — tickets issued for specific dates and times. Timed ticketing limits the number of people in the Gardens at any given time and allows guests to enjoy minimal lines and a better viewing experience. There are different prices for “Peak” and “Off Peak” times.

Visitors to “A Longwood Gardens Christmas” can also check out Longwood’s Garden Railway — a whimsical display set into motion with G-scale model trains. This is the 14th year that the railway has delighted visitors with special water features and custom trains traveling in and out of bridges and tunnels.

Admission to Longwood Gardens is $20 (non-peak), $27 (peak) for adults), $17/$24 for seniors (ages 62 and older) and $10/$13; students (ages 5-18).

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Yuletide at Winterthur is now under way.

One of the best holiday events in the area is the annual “Yuletide at Winterthur.” This year’s 36th annual staging of the event, which runs now through January 4 at Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library (Route 52, Wilmington, Delaware,800-448-3883, www.winterthur.org).

This year’s event highlights the winter celebrations of H. F. du Pont and his family at Winterthur in the first half of the 20th century and ties in with Winterthur’s “Costumes of Downton Abbey”exhibition.

Visitors to Yuletide at Winterthur start their journey into the past in the Court where the du Ponts viewed first-run films during the holiday season and will be treated to movie clips from the era. From there, the trip takes guests to the new Christmas tree on the tour this year — one that celebrates our Costumes of Downton Abbey exhibition.

A new display focuses on the Staff Sitting Room, where the people who worked behind the scenes to make the holidays at Winterthur a delightful experience were able to rest and relax and entertain their own guests.

Visitors will be able to view other activities such as the afternoon gift opening in the Marlboro Room, early evening caviar and cocktails, dinner in the glittering du Pont dining room, midnight card games, and dancing. All these activities are set against the backdrop of spectacular decorations and magnificent floral displays, which H. F. du Pont called “the Christmas Show.”

Special family activities include “Downton Afternoon Tea Buffet” (November 22, 23 and 30, December 7 and 28 and January 4), “Family Workshops” (December 7 and 14), “Brunch with Santa” (December 13, 14, 20 and 21) and the “Yuletide Touch-It Room” (Monday–Friday, 2:30-4:30 p.m.; weekends, 12:30-4:30 p.m.).

There will also be a series of four “Yuletide Jazz & Wine Concerts” — Cartoon Christmas Trio (November 26),) Gina Roché (December 3), Tony Smith Trio (December 10) and Ron Cole Trio (December 17). Another special attraction will be a theatrical presentation of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” on December 4 at 1 and 6 p.m.

Timed Yuletide Tour reservations are required. Admission to Yuletide at Winterthur is $25 for adults, $23 for seniors and students and $5 for children.

Nemours Mansion & Gardens (Route 141 South, Alapocas Drive, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-651-6912, www.nemoursmansion.org) is celebrating the Christmas season now through December 31with special three-hour holiday-themed tours.

During the holiday period, the guided tours will include several stories of the house and part of the gardens. Many of the rooms featured in the tour will be decorated as they would have been when DuPont resided there in the early 1900s while some will retain their traditional period decorations. Tickets for the tour at Nemours are $15.

Last week, it was dogs’ time to shine when the National Dog Show was held at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center (100 Station Ave., Oaks, 484-754-3976, http://www.cfaworldshow.org).


The 2014 World Championship Cat Show makes its return to Oaks this weekend.

This weekend, the spotlight shifts to cats when the expo hall hosts the Cat Fanciers Association 2014 World Championship Cat Show. Hours are from 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. on November 22 and from 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. on November 23. Visitors will be able to join Garfield and hundreds of his feline friends at the huge annual CFA World Championship show.

Show attendees can check out the educational exhibits and examine the wares of a variety of cat product vendors. They can even have their photos taken with Garfield, who is the Cat Fanciers Association’s “Spokes Cat.” More than one thousand cats will compete for prizes and world-wide honors with 18 judges providing the individual evaluations.

Another attraction at the show will be the “Agility Ring,” which features cats running a timed course made up of tunnels, stairs, hoops, and other challenges. The cats who make it through the entire course with the fastest times are the winners.

There also will be an “Education Ring” where experts will discuss the varied breeds of cats including the breed’s history, personality and physical appearance. Experts will also include tips on how to train your cat and which breed of cat will best suit your family’s needs.

Grooming demonstrations will be held in the Royal Canin booth. Visitors to the show can learn how to clip their cat’s nails and comb the longhairs to keep them from getting their coat in tangles.

The show will host 40 “Breed Booths” with information on the many, varied breeds of cats available today. These include well-known breeds such as the Maine Coon Cat and the Siamese as well as the lesser-known treasures such as the curly-coated Selkirk Rex and the curly-eared Scottish Fold.

Admission to the show is $11 for adults, $7 for seniors and children (ages 4-12) and free for children (ages 3 and under).

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50 years of toy Hess trucks will be on display in Philadelphia.

In 1964, the Hess Gasoline Company came up with a promotional idea — a toy truck representing one of the models in the company’s fleet of trucks. That year, Hess’ B61 Mack Truck and Trailer was made available for people to purchase at Hess gas stations.

The campaign was a success so Hess repeated it the following year with a different truck. Now, 50 years after that initial offering, Hess is still making a different commemorative toy truck each year.

Hess is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Hess Toy Truck with a first-ever Mobile Museum. On November 22 and 23, the travelling exhibition will visit Please Touch Museum (4231 Avenue of the Republic, Memorial Hall, Philadelphia, 215-581-3181, www.pleasetouchmuseum.org).

The Mobile Museum will showcase the entire collection of holiday Hess Toy Trucks which is the first time they all have been displayed in one location. There will also be never-before-seen artifacts chronicling the history of the iconic toy.

As an added attraction, the Mobile Museum will be accompanied by outdoor activities for children (dependent on weather) including a photo op where guests can choose a custom background, a holiday card coloring area, a prize wheel, a bank of toy truck computer games and a Kids’ Zone featuring puzzles.

Two of Montgomery County’s scenic historic sites are ready to begin celebrating the 2014 Christmas holiday season this weekend


Victorian Holiday Tours are now underway at Pennypacker Mills.

Pennypacker Mills (3 Haldeman Road, Perkiomenville, 610- 287-9349, www.historicsites.montcopa.org) is hosting “Victorian Holiday Tours” now through January 4 while “Twelfth Night Tours at Pottsgrove Manor” (100 West King Street, Pottstown, 610-326-4014, www.historicsites.montcopa.org) are running now through January 11.

For the next seven weeks, Pennypacker Mills will offer free tours of the 18-century mansion used by General George Washington as temporary headquarters during the Revolutionary War. The home will be decorated for an old-fashioned Victorian Christmas and will feature the warm glow of oil lamps, festive decorations and a candy-making demonstration.

The event at Pottsgrove Manor features guided tours through an elegant 18th-century Georgian mansion that is decked out in period holiday decorations. Tour guides will discuss Twelfth Night celebrations and Christmastide traditions.

Visitors will be able to view the parlor and kitchen as it would have been during colonial times when the Potts family prepared for their holiday guests. They will also be able to check out the servants’ quarters and see the rustic holiday celebrations as enjoyed by the household staff.

The Montgomery County Park system will also present a number of other special events now through the end of the month.

On November 22 at 10 a.m., there will be a “Holiday Wall Hanging Workshop” at

Green Lane Park (2144 Snyder Road, Green Lane, 215-234-4528, www.historicsites.montcopa.org). Staff members will help visitors make holiday decorations by using local nuts, seeds and pods. There will also be a “Winsome Woodland Critters Workshop” at Green Lane the same day at 1 p.m.

A special program titled “Thanksgiving Centerpieces” is scheduled to be held at Norristown Farm Park (West Germantown Pike and Barley Sheaf Drive, 2500 Upper Farm Road, Norristown, 610-270-0215, www.historicsites.montcopa.org) on November 23 at 1 p.m. Visitors can learn how to create a Thanksgiving table centerpiece from autumn’s bounty using colorful pressed leaves, acorns and other nuts, grasses, field-dried flowers and berries.

On November 29 at 1 p.m., Lower Perkiomen Valley Park (101 New Mill Road Oaks, 610-666-5371, www.historicsites.montcopa.org) will present “Holiday Crafts.” Event participants will be able to engage in some family-friendly craft making using natural, found objects such as evergreen clippings, twigs and pine cones to build a wreath.

Green Lake Park will host a “Waterfowl Watch” at 1 p.m. Visitors will have the opportunity to get an up-close look at the fall migration of ducks, geese and swans. Participants in recent years have seen White-fronted Goose, Tundra Swans and Canvasbacks among others.

“Holiday Wreaths” is the featured program at Norristown Farm Park on November 30 at 1 p.m. Participants will be able to make a holiday wreath with natural materials such as grapevine, pine cones, nuts and flower pods.

If you think that the area’s amusement parks are just for summertime recreation, think again. Many of the local amusement parks are fun places to visit in November and December because of their special holiday attractions.

From November 22 until December 31, “A Very Furry Christmas” will be presented by

Sesame Place (100 Sesame Place, Langhorne, 215-752-7070, www.sesameplace.com). The event is a one-of-a-kind family-friendly celebration with everyone’s favorite furry friends — Grover, Oscar and the rest of the gang from Sesame Street. Admission is $24.

“A Very Furry Christmas” features an array of special Christmas shows, dry rides (weather permitting), lively music and twinkling lights all around. The main street at Sesame Place will come to life at night with the park’s illuminated “Neighborhood Street Party Christmas Parade.”

“Christmas Candylane,” which is the annual holiday event at Hersheypark (100 West Hersheypark Drive, Hershey, 800-HERSHEY, www.hersheypark.com), is running now through December 31. Tickets are $12 per person.

The popular annual attraction features two million twinkling lights, rides for all ages, festive decorations and Hershey’s “Product Characters” decked out in their holiday best. Guests can sing along at Hersheypark’s Christmas show “A Music Box Christmas: Up on the Rooftop,” browse the park’s quaint village shops and hang out with Santa’s reindeer.

Another entertainment option is “NOEL!” — an awe-inspiring light show that features more than 150,000 dancing lights synchronized to popular Christmas music. There will be four different shows beginning nightly at 5 p.m. with show times every half hour.

“Christmas Candylane” also features over 30 rides — including the family-favorite “AMTRAK Candylane Twilight Express.”

Visitors to Hershey can also experience the winter wonderland called “Hershey Sweet Lights, A Holiday Drive-Thru Spectacular.” The attraction, which has an admission fee of $24.15 on Fridays and Saturdays and $19.15 the rest of the week, is a two-mile drive through wooded trails featuring approximately 600 illuminated, animated displays.

Dutch Wonderland Family Amusement Park (2249 Route 30 East, Lancaster, 866-386-2389, www.dutchwonderland.com) is hosting its “Dutch Winter Wonderland” from November 22 until December 30 on Saturdays, Sundays and select weekdays (November 28, December 26, 29 and 30). Tickets are $12.99.

There will be 23 holiday-themed amusement rides in “Dutch Winter Wonderland” — all-ages rides such as Merry-Go-Round, VR Voyager, Astroliner, Space Shuttle, Wonderland Special Train, Sunoco Turnpike, Sky Fighter, Twister, Wonder Whip and Choo Choo Charlie.

Other special attractions this year are “Storytime with the Princess,” “Royal Friends Meet and Greet,” “Polar Playground,” carnival games, festive entertainment, a miniature train display, visits with Santa Claus, cookie decorating and “The Royal Light Show” (a spectacular light display with thousands of twinkling lights).

When the Christmas season arrives in Europe, it is common to see Christmas villages erected in downtown locations of big cities. These villages are temporary sites that feature live music, a variety of holiday attractions and a large number of specialized vendors.

Philadelphia is keeping pace with the European cities with a Christmas village of its own — a special site that springs to life on November 27 and continues until December 28.

“Christmas Village in Philadelphia” (Broad and Market streets, Philadelphia, 215-391-3017, www.philachristmas.com) is set up each holiday season in Love Park, which is located on the west side of City Hall. The free outdoor holiday market event is modeled after the traditional Christmas Markets in Germany.

Vendors selling traditional European food, sweets and drinks are set up in 60 wooden booths and timber houses that form a medieval village. They will also offer a unique shopping experience with international holiday gifts, ornaments, jewelry and high-quality arts and crafts.

Thousands of lights adorn the booths and trees at Love Park and there is a central stage featuring live performances of local choirs, orchestras and bands. There is also a “Santa’s House” where kids can visit with St. Nick.

Bethlehem is known as the “Christmas City” and one of the places in Bethlehem where the Christmas vibe is most intense is Christkindlmarkt Bethlehem (PNC Plaza at SteelStacks, 645 East First Street, Bethlehem, 610-332-1300, http://www.christmascity.org).

The traditional marketplace is open every Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday now through December 21 (with the exception of Thanksgiving Day on November 27).

Recognized by Travel and Leisure Magazine as one of the top holiday markets in the world, Christkindlmarkt Bethlehem showcases aisles of exquisite handmade works by the nation’s finest artisans. The market also features live performances of Christmas music and vendors with an amazing variety of tasty food items.

One of Christkindlmarkt Bethlehem’s special attractions is the glassblowing booth, where beautiful ornaments and decorations are always being made. Visitors to the exhibit can even try their hand at making their own glass ornament.

The Christmas season has arrived at Peddler’s Village (Routes 202 and 263, Lahaska, 215-794-4000, http://peddlersvillage.com). Village shops will be open until 9 p.m. with a distinctive assortment of merchandise, special promotions and refreshments.

The Grand Illumination Celebration on November 21 will showcase thousands of tiny white lights outlining the Village’s buildings, colorful lights with less-than-common colors (teal, peach, and fuscia) adorning the trees and shrubs and a landscaped backdrop featuring a group of reindeer glowing in white light.

Santa will arrive at 6:15 p.m. on November 21 to turn on the lights and officially mark the beginning of the event. After the lights go on, visitors will be treated to free cider and toasted marshmallows. November 21 also marks the start of Peddler’s Village “Gingerbread House Competition and Display.”

Koziar’s Christmas Village (782 Christmas Village Road, Bernville, 610-488-1110, www.koziarschristmasvillage.com), which is now in its 67th annual season, will be open every night through January 1 — including Christmas Eve, Christmas Night, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Night.

The village is a visual wonderland with a large amount of holiday displays and special attractions such as a huge model train display, a toy shop, a country kitchen, indoor and outdoor Christmas displays. Admission to Christmas Village is $9 for adults, $8 for seniors (65 and older) and $7 for children (ages 4-10).

The Historic Odessa Foundation’s 2014 Christmas Holiday Tour is one that is guaranteed to appeal to kids of all ages. The tours will be presented now through January 4 in Odessa’s historic district (Main Street, Odessa, Delaware, 302-378-4119, www.historicodessa.org).

This year, the Historic Houses of Odessa’s Corbit-Sharp House (c. 1774) will be the focal point for the literature-inspired Christmas Holiday Tours. The exhibit is inspired by the classic fairy tale “Snow White.”

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