What To Do: Santa hits area for local parades

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

The Coatesville Christmas Parade

The Coatesville Christmas Parade is a cherished area holiday tradition. The event, which is Chester County’s largest hometown parade, will be held on December 1 in downtown Coatesville.

The festive annual parade (http://coatesvillechristmasparade.com) will get underway at 10 a.m. with Strode Avenue and Lincoln Highway as its starting point. The parade will conclude at the performing and judging area at 11th Avenue and Lincoln Highway.

Originally a community project in the 1960s, the parade was taken up by the Jaycees back in the 1970s. Its popularity started to wane in the 1980s but then the community parade experienced a resurgence in interest in the 1990s. It has been going strong ever since.

This year, more than over 125 entries will entertain spectators along the Lincoln Highway. Featured attractions will include everything from dancers swirling their batons to local contractors showing off their custom-crafted floats.

Churches will participate by marching in the parade and by singing Christmas carols on Lincoln Highway prior to the start of the parade. There will also be dance academies, cheerleading groups, hip-hop dancers, baton twirlers and larger-than-life cartoon characters.

An automotive competition featuring Antique, Classic and Modified autos will be competing for prizes. Other competitions will include Best Appearing Fire Apparatus, Best Appearing Police Vehicle, Best Appearing Float sponsored by a non-profit organization, Best Appearing Float sponsored by a for-profit organization and Best Appearing Group.

The Best Appearing Personality always goes to Santa Claus. At this year’s parade, Santa will bring up the rear – waving to the crowd while riding on a Coatesville Fire Department truck.

QVC West Chester Christmas Parade

On December 1, it will be time for the QVC West Chester Christmas Parade on Market Street (610- 696-4046, http://www.downtownwestchester.com).

The 39th Annual Christmas Parade which is scheduled to get underway at 7:15 p.m. with the lighting of the borough’s Christmas tree. Runners in the Jingle Elf Run will take off at 6:30 p.m. The parade will highlight the arrival of Santa in his sleigh.

As an added attraction, there will be a “Holiday Village” from 5-9 p.m. on High Street between Gay and Market streets.

The Greater West Chester Chamber of Commerce’s 38th Annual Christmas Parade is presented by QVC and will be televised on Christmas Day.

Claymont Christmas Parade and Holiday Happenings (www.claymontchristmasparade.com) are slated for December 1 in nearby Claymont, Delaware from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

Visitors can see Santa arrive on a fire truck, hear high school bands, see Mounted Police horses, and look at lots of fire trucks, floats and more. And, they are invited to help decorate the infamous “Claymont Christmas Weed.”
The parade route is along Philadelphia Pike from Maple Lane to Darley Road in Claymont.

The Christmas Weed Ceremony

Ascension Church (3717 Philadelphia Pike, Claymont) will host “The Christmas Weed Ceremony” after the parade.

Hot chocolate and cookies will be served, and craft items will be for sale. From 11 a.m-12:30 p.m., the 12th annual Gingerbread House Contest will be held at Claymont Stone School (3611 Philadelphia Pike, Claymont).

The “Post Parade Celebration” will be held from noon-2 p.m. at Claymont Library (400 Lenape Way, Claymont). After watching the Claymont Christmas Parade, guests can cast their votes for the Stone School Gingerbread House Contest and enjoy light refreshments, a visit from Santa and the festive holiday sounds of the Sinerjé Clarinet Quartet.

Kennett Square (historickennettsquare.com) will swing into full holiday mode with a variety of activities this weekend.

The 2018 Kennett Square Holiday Village Market will be held at The Creamery of Kennett Square (401 Birch Street, Kennett Square) on December 1, 2, 8 and 9 from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. each day.

Visitors will be able to shop from 80 artisan and vintage vendors at the market. In addition to finding gifts for the holiday, they also can make a Christmas tree purchase from fresh tree vendors at the market. And, they can quench their thirst with mulled wine and hot cider as well as enjoy food from three participating food trucks.

Other special activities include an ice sculptor on Saturdays, photos with Santa on Sundays, wreath-making workshops, live reindeer on Sundays and live music by 11 different acts over the four-day run.

The Kennett Holiday Village Market was initiated by Kennett Township supervisor Whitney Hoffman who wanted to bring the essence of vibrant European Christmas Market to the Kennett area.  The goal of the Holiday Village Market to give local and regional artisans an opportunity to sell their wares, to provide visitors another great reason to visit Kennett Square and to highlight the revitalization of the Birch Street corridor.

Another way to get in the holiday spirit in Kennett Square is by taking a special seasonal ride. Horse-drawn carriage rides will be offered in downtown Kennett Square on December 2, 9, 16 and 23 from noon-3 p.m.

Carriages rides leave from the northeast corner of State and Union Street (in front of Genesis HealthCare Building) and cost $5 per person (children 5 and under are free). The carriage ride is about 15 minutes.  Last carriage ride leaves around 2:45pm.

Carriage rides are weather dependent (temperature, wind and precipitation). The health and safety of the horses are the top priority for carriage ride provider – Lisa Knox of Fox Meadow Farms.

On December 1, the Kennett Symphony will present “Pops Goes the Holidays” at West Christer East High School (450 Ellis Lane, West Chester,  www.kennettsymphony.org).

The show will feature Kennett Symphony Music Director Michael Hall, the Kennett Symphony Children’s Chorus and soprano Kara Mulder.

Patrons are invited to celebrate the season with the Kennett Symphony when it performs a variety of holiday music favorites.

Mulder, a rising star in the vocal world, will serenade the audience with beautiful renditions of timeless carols. Fresh off its joint performance with the Philadelphia Boys Choir, the Kennett Symphony Children’s Chorus will add its voices to the festivities.

The program includes “A Christmas Overture” (Hoffheins), “March of the Toys” (Herbert), “Messiah: I know my Redeemer Liveth; Rejoice Greatly” (Handel), “Nutcracker” selections (Tchaikovsky), “Ave Maria” (Schubert), “Most Wonderful Christmas” (Sheldon), “Somewhere in My Memory” (Williams), “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (Brubaker), “A Celtic Nativity” (Wendel), “I Saw Three Ships/Jeanette Isabella” (Stephenson), “Sleigh Ride” (Anderson), “What Child Is This” (Tysik), and “Sing A Long” (Finnegan).

The show at West Chester East High School auditorium will start at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $53 and $58 for adults and $10 for students (18 and under).

Longwood Gardens (Route 1, Kennett Square, 610-388-1000, www.longwoodgardens.org) is now in full holiday mode with the arrival of “A Longwood Gardens Christmas.”

Longwood Gardens

The festive holiday display at Longwood Gardens, which opened on Thanksgiving Day and is continuing through January 6, 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.

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. There will also be performances by choirs and musicians almost every evening throughout December.

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 16th 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 $23 (non-peak), $30 (peak) for adults, $20/$27 for seniors (ages 62 and older) and $12/$16 for students (ages 5-18).

A Brandywine Christmas

“A Brandywine Christmas”, which runs from November 23-January 6 at the Brandywine River Museum (Route 1, Chadds Ford 610-388-2700, www.brandywinemuseum.org), is an annual event that is fun for the entire family.

The museum’s ever-popular “critter” ornaments will be used to decorate holiday trees, wreaths and diorama settings throughout the museum. The intricately designed ornaments are made from all-natural materials by museum volunteers and have found homes on trees at the White House and the Smithsonian Institution.

The well-attended annual “Critter Sale” is scheduled to be held now through December 2.

The critter volunteers have been creating all year long using their imaginations and unique talents making thousands of ornaments for the sale.  Prices will range from $5 to $35, with specialty items from $50 to $250. These mission-aligned, handcrafted and environmentally friendly ornaments make distinctive gifts and benefit the Volunteers’ Purchase Fund, and Art Education and Programming.

“A Brandywine Christmas” also features an extensive O-gauge model. Five moving trains operate at all times and include a 60-car freight train winding past a village, stone quarry, oil refinery, mountains, Herr Foods plant, running waterfall and animated skating scene.

Special events include “Carols Concerts” throughout December, “Museum Store Sunday” on November 25, “The Polar Express Read-Aloud Pajama Night” on November 29, “Children’s Christmas Party” on December 5, “Breakfast with the Trains” on December 8 and 15, and “Terrific Trains Family Program” on January 5.

Admission is $18 for adults, $15 for seniors (65 and older) and $6 for children.

Candlelight Christmas in Chadds Ford

For years, a popular traditional holiday event has been Candlelight Christmas in Chadds Ford presented by the Chadds Ford Historical Society (www.chaddsfordhistory.org). For more than three decades, it has been one of the area’s highly anticipated holiday events.

This year, the Chadds Ford Historical Society is presenting “Candlelight Christmas — Symbols of the Season” on December 1 at the Society’s Barn Visitor Center (1736 Creek Road, Chadds Ford) and the Barns-Brinton House (630 Baltimore Pike, Chadds Ford).

Visitors can join the Heritage Dancers as they make merry at the Barn Visitors Center and partake of some desserts before heading next door to the Springhouse to look at Christmas books from past and present. There will be a celebration at the John Chads House (c. 1725) with rooms of live greens and symbols of the season including arks, creche sets and toys. Taste treats at the venue include Portugal cakes, Stolen and spiced tea cooked on the open hearth.

The merriment continues at the Barns-Brinton House where visitors can grab a glass of wine and toast to the season in this tavern dating back to 1714. As a fiddler entertains colonial revelers, visitors can warm up by the hearth and sample homemade soup, bread and Spritz cookies. They can also tour the historic rooms which are decorated with Santas, gingerbread, wreaths and handmade ornaments.

Holiday Home Tour

On December 1, the West Chester Public Library will hold its Eighth Annual Holiday Home Tour, featuring nine homes in the borough, along with a special addition. These homes, all new to the tour, will be beautifully decorated for the holidays.

For the first time, Holiday Home Tour guests in 2018 will have two tour options to choose from: The Standard Tour (tickets $40 in advance, $50 day of tour) offers a peek into nine beautiful homes as well as the Chester County Art Association and the Antique Ice Tool Museum. The VIP Tour includes all of the above plus a tour of two floors of a very special home on Marshall Square and a small box of Éclat Chocolate.   There are a limited number of VIP tickets available to see this West Chester Preservation Award winner, which was previously featured on the 2017 Chester County Day Tour.

Built in the 19th and 20th centuries, the houses on the 2018 Holiday Home Tour show the different ways the owners’ personal styles fuse historical architectural features with their collections, artwork, and furnishings, be they modern or antique. Architectural styles include Victorian, Cape Cod, and Colonial Revival, and most of the homes feature original millwork, floors, and fireplaces.

From November 30-December 2, Hibernia Mansion (Hibernia County Park, off route 340, Wagontown, 610-383-3812, http://dsf.chesco.org/ccparks) will host its annual Candlelight Tours. The tours will be presented from 6:30-9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 2-4 p.m. on Sunday.

The event at Hibernia Mansion features costumed tour guides portraying former mansion owners and their families. The 19th-century mansion will be decked out for the holidays. Live music will be performed in the Ballroom and Santa will entertaining friends each day.

The mansion, as seen today, reflects the changes of lifestyle and social status of its various owners over the past two hundred years. At the turn of the 20th century, Hibernia became the country estate of Colonel Franklin Swayne, a wealthy Philadelphia lawyer, who added extensive renovations and lavish entertainment for his personal pleasure. Among those pleasures was his love of fox hunting.

This year’s theme is “Christmas Sweets and Good Things to Eat.”

The tour includes a stop in the Mansion’s Ballroom, where the Friends of Hibernia will provide holiday cheer and refreshments. Admission is $5 per person with children under 12 admitted free.

Philadelphia Sportscard & Memorabilia Show

If your list of holiday gift recipients includes someone who collects sports cards or sports-related memorabilia, then you should definitely check out this weekend’s Philadelphia Sportscard & Memorabilia Show, which is running November 30-December 2 at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center (100 Station Ave., Oaks, 484-754-3976, http://www.phillyshow.com).

The show will feature dealers from all over the country who will be selling a wide array of sports-related items such as game-used equipment, autographed balls, posters, magazine, game programs and autographed pictures. Visitors can also find a huge selection of collectors’ supplies including protective sheets, binders, ball protectors and display cases.

A major focus of the show will be trading cards — especially baseball cards. Show attendees will be able to find everything from ultra-rare vintage Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle cards to the latest releases. All sports will be represented, including football, soccer, ice hockey, basketball, wrestling, Olympics and UFC.

The show will also have a large number of live guests — autograph-signing guests including Mike Schmidt, Larry Holmes and Tony Dorsett.

Admission to the show is $8 per day or $18 for a weekend pass.

Bitter is not better. No matter how hard some national coffee shop chains try to convince you otherwise, there is no truth to the statement “bitter is better” when referring to fresh-brewed coffee. Bitter coffee is the result of a pot of coffee sitting on a burner too long, brewing the coffee using beans that are too finely ground or making the brew with oil-covered, dark-roasted beans.

When beans are roasted dark, oils rise to the surface. The taste gets bitter and the true flavor of the beans used is no longer in play. It’s like taking a prime piece of filet mignon and cooking it to a charred, well-done state. No matter how good the cut of beef was, all you taste is dry, overcooked meat.

If you want to experience good coffee brewed from properly-roasted, freshly-ground beans, there is an event this weekend that you should check out. On December 1 and 2, the Sixth Annual Coffee & Tea Festival Philly will be held at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center (100 Station Avenue, Oaks, 631-940-7290, http://www.coffeeandteafestival.com).

More than 50 exhibitors from around the country will be offering tastings of their finest coffees and teas and introducing visitors to new products. Industry professionals will talk about the coffees and discuss pairings with food. The exhibit hall will feature a wide array of sweet and savory foods to compliment the spectacular collection of local and national coffees and teas.

As an added attraction, the first 500 attendees to walk through the doors each day will be handed a free gift bag. The festival will be open from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is $20.

On December 2, Fort Mifflin (Fort Mifflin and Hog Island roads, Philadelphia, 215-685-4167, www.fortmifflin.us) will host a special event called “World War II: The Battle for St. Vith.”

The special one-day event will explore the Western Front of World War II and visit with Axis and Allied armies.

Activities through the day include two exciting battles, living history, vintage gear, live medical demonstrations on “wounded” soldiers at the Red Cross Field Hospital, weapons and vehicles.

Fort Mifflin, which was originally called Fort Island Battery, was commissioned in 1771. It was also known as Mud Island Fort because it sits on Mud Island (also known as Deep Water Island) on the Delaware River near the Philadelphia International Airport. During the American Revolutionary War, the British Army bombarded and captured the fort as part of their conquest of Philadelphia in autumn 1777.

During the siege, 400 American soldiers held off more than 2,000 British troops and over 250 ships that had been responsible for launching an endless barrage of cannonballs into the fort. After five days of holding off the British, the American troops evacuated the fort after having successfully denied the British Navy free use of the Delaware River.

“World War II: The Battle for Schmidt At the Fort” will run from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and veterans and $6 for children (ages 6-12).

From November 2-December 1, visitors to Joanna Furnace (1250 Furnace Road, Geigertown, 610-286-0388, www.haycreek.org) will be transported back to the Christmas season of 150 years ago — back to the joyous celebration of the Christmas of 1866 with the iron master’s family and village residents.

1866 was a great year at Joanna Furnace, Ironmaster Levi Bull Smith’s sons and other village young men have returned home from the War and have had almost a year to renew their lives. Joanna Furnace Iron Works is running at full capacity and producing almost 1400 tons of iron. And, there is talk that a new railroad is going to be built and bring even more prosperity through the area. Times are great at Joanna Furnace and the villagers want to share their excitement.

At “Christmas at Johanna,” visitors are invited to join with the village residents as they prepare for their Christmas.   Live music and Christmas carols will be heard throughout the village to delight the guests. A reverent look at 19th-century Christmas spirit, bonfires, caroling, food, gift ideas, post-Civil War dancing, a salute to Civil War veterans make your family’s visit a memorable experience.

The iron works village has been decked out with greenery and period decorations to capture the mid-19th century holiday spirit. Actoivity will take place all around the 26 acres of the furnace site and a large portion will be illuminated by candlelight and bonfires. More than 1,000 glowing luminaries will illuminate various furnace walkways. Visitors are encouraged to explore the furnace complex by following these clearly defined pathways.

Attendees will be able to browse among holiday crafts items sold by dozens of vendors in the annual Christmas Craft Market. Guests will find one of-a-kind gifts such as hand-carved items, various handcrafted fiber and woven items, unique Christmas craft items, baked goods, cookies, candy and additional sought-after food gift items.

Live entertainment will be provided throughout the weekend by the Joanna Furnace Carolers. Another special attraction will be an old-fashioned wagon ride with the tractor slowly weaving through the light-painted historic site along the luminary-lit pathways.

Admission is $7 with children (under 12) admitted free.

The “Deck the Alley Open House” could only take place at one location — Elfreth’s Alley (Elfreth’s Alley and Elfreth’s Alley Museum, 126 Elfreth’s Alley,http://www.elfrethsalley.org).

Elfreth’s Alley is America’s oldest continuously occupied residential street. On December 1 from 3-7 p.m., its residents will once open their doors and welcome holiday visitors.

The small alley was a nice place to live in 18th-century colonial Philadelphia. It is still a nice place with preserved architectural details such as bond brickwork and cedar shingle roofs. The homes also have impressive interiors, which are open to the public only twice a year.

Admission to “Deck the Alley” is $25 for adults, $10 for children (under 16) and $60 for families. All proceeds support the education and preservation programs of the Elfreth’s Alley Museum.

Included with admission are seasonal refreshments, a display of a Pennsylvania Dutch upside-down Christmas tree, performances by colonial carolers, an appearance by Belsnickel and visits from Benjamin Franklin and Dolly Madison.

This weekend is also time for several similar theatrical presentations — not on stages but rather in churches and in a museum. Every year, this is the weekend that Saint Lucia Day festivities begin.

The American Swedish Historical Museum (1900 Pattison Avenue, Philadelphia, 215-389-1776, www.americanswedish.org) has the first.

Lucia is a Swedish festival that began in 17th century Sweden as a festival of light in the midst of the darkest days of winter. In America’s Swedish communities, the popular annual event features a Lucia procession with traditional songs and dances. Lucia, wearing a white gown and a crown of candles, leads the procession, followed by girls dressed in gowns who act as her attendants. Boys also join the festivities as starboys.

The American Swedish Historical Museum will present its Lucia Celebration and Julmarknad (Christmas Bazaar) on December 1 from 11:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. The Lucia Processions will begin at 1 and 3:15 p.m. Swedish needlecrafts, pastries and other delicacies will be for sale in the Julmarknad, while imported gifts, crafts and Christmas decorations will be featured in the Museum Gift Shop.

Admission is $12 for adults, $4 for children (ages 4-12) and free for children (under 4).

Reservations are not required, but tickets may be purchased online in advance.

The primary travel plans for Santa Claus include riding in parades and traveling by sleigh. But, these are far from the jolly old guy’s only means of transportation. He also makes visits using a variety of modes such as helicopters, horse-drawn carriages, fire trucks, open-air convertibles, speed boats, hot air balloons and trains.

One of the best train rides with Santa Claus is the one presented by the West Chester Railroad (Market Street Station, West Chester, 610-430-2233 or www.westchesterrr.net).

The special “Santa’s Express” trains (which feature heated cars decorated for the holidays) will run on December 1, 2, 8, 9, 15, 16, 22 and 23 at 11 a.m., 1 and 3 p.m. There will be additional departures at 5 p.m. on December 1, 2, 8, 9, 15, 16, 22 and 23.

The 90-minute journey on the trail line’s heated decorated train travels through the Chester Creek Valley. Santa Claus will be greeting everyone at Market Street Station and then going along for the ride to Glen Mills. Once at Glen Mills, passengers can disembark, explore the historic station and take advantage of photo opportunities on Santa’s lap inside the station. Live music will be provided by Greg Wright.

Adult fare for the West Chester Railroad trips is $25. Tickets for children (ages 2-12) are $18 while toddlers (ages 9-23 months) get to ride for $8.

The Wilmington & Western Railroad (2201 Newport Gap Pike, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-998-193, www.wwrr.com) will run its “Santa Claus Express” on Saturdays and Sundays between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Santa and Mrs. Claus will be riding along with passengers on the steam-powered 90-minute round trip to Ashland Station. They will be greeting everyone on board and offering chocolate treats to the youngsters. Santa will also be posing for pictures with his fans.

Steam locomotion will return to the Wilmington & Western for its annual Santa Claus Express. The rail line’s 0-6-0 switcher No. 58 has returned to service after a multi-year restoration and will power Santa’s train through the Red Clay Valley this season.

Tickets for these trains, which run now through December 23, are $19 for adults, $18 for senior citizens and $17 for children.

The tourist rail line will also be running special “Holiday Night Express Trains,” featuring a peaceful evening ride in the railroad’s 1929 Doodlebug rail car. Tickets for these trains, which are running now through December 30, are $13 for adults, $12 for senior citizens and $11 for children.

The Strasburg Rail Road (Route 741, Strasburg, 717-687-7522, www.strasburgrailroad.com) is running its “Santa’s Paradise Express” from November 24 until December 17. Santa will be the featured guest on each ride from Strasburg to Paradise and back.

The rotund guy in the red suit will be greeting passengers, shaking hands, posing for photos and giving a treat to each child. After the train ride, children are treated to storybook readings of holiday classics. Visitors of all ages can also enjoy a ride aboard the Tinsel Trolley, a self-propelled motor car.

Tickets are $19.50 for adults, $13.50 for children (ages 2-11) and $4 for infants.

The Strasburg Railroad will also be running its “Night Before Christmas” train on December 1, 7, 8, 14, 15, 21 and 22.

This very special train recreates the excitement and anticipation of Christmas Eve. A reader dressed in a Victorian nightshirt and cap will read Clement Clarke Moore’s classic poem “The Night Before Christmas” as the train rolls along. After the poem is read, passengers can enjoy a treat of milk and cookies.

Children are also treated to storybook readings of holiday classics aboard the stationary heated caboose and visitors of all ages can enjoy a ride aboard the Tinsel Trolley, a self-propelled motor car. In the spirit of the season, kids may come dressed in pajamas.

Tickets for these rides on the Strasburg Railroad are $19.50 for adults, $13.50 for children (ages 3-11) and $4 for toddlers (under age 3).

The New Hope & Ivyland Railroad (32 Bridge Street, New Hope, 215-862-2332, www.newhoperailroad.com) is operating its “North Pole Express” now through December 31. Tickets are $94.98 for adults, $84.98 for children (ages 3-11) and $15.95 for infants (ages 0-2).

Passengers can ride the rails with Santa, Mrs. Claus and a group of holiday revelers. Children and adults of all ages can sip hot cocoa and enjoy cookies while Santa visits with each child and presents them with a special gift. Local musicians will be on board to play and sing Christmas carols.

Christmas trains also come in a smaller variety. Model railroad displays and the Christmas holiday season have been linked together since a time before even your parents were even kids.

One of the most elaborate model train layouts in the Delaware Valley can be found at the Morris Arboretum (100 Northwestern Avenue, Chestnut Hill, 215-247-5777,http://www.morrisarboretum.org). The popular Garden Railway Display that has become a summer fixture at The Gardens at Morris Arboretum returns again for a special holiday display.

The display, which is open to the public now through December 31 in the winter garden of the Morris Arboretum, has a quarter-mile of track featuring seven loops and tunnels with 15 different rail lines and two cable cars, nine bridges (including a trestle bridge you can walk under) and bustling model trains.

The buildings and the display are all made of natural materials — bark, leaves, twigs, hollow logs, mosses, acorns, dried flowers, seeds and stones — to form a perfectly proportioned miniature landscape complete with miniature rivers. Philadelphia-area landmarks are all meticulously decorated for the holidays with lights that twinkle.

Admission to the Morris Arboretum is $19 for adults, $17 for seniors (65 and older) and $10 for students and military.

There are plenty of reasons to take the short drive to Delaware this holiday season with tax-free shopping on everything at the top of the list. Other activities also serve as lures to “The First State.”

On November 30 and December 1, Rockwood Park (4651 Washington Street Extension, North Wilmington) is hosting its 17th annual Holiday Open House with live entertainment, fun festive children’s crafts, costumed characters, refreshments, food trucks and free photos with Santa.
The free event, which runs from 5-9 p.m. both nights, also includes the site’s Youth Entrepreneur’s Secret Santa Shoppe selling gifts for the whole family, tours of the holiday display in the museum and a joyous light display in the gardens surrounding the Mansion and Carriage House.

Another major reason is the annual staging of “Holidays at Hagley” — an event that is always one of the most eagerly anticipated holiday attractions in this area every year.

The popular Brandywine Valley exhibit, which is included with regular admission, opens today and continues through January 1 at Hagley Museum and Library (Route 141, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-658-2400, www.hagley.org).

This year’s edition of “Holidays at Hagley” features tours of Eleutherian Mills, which is the first du Pont family home built in America. The tours, which will be presented each day from 10a.m.-4:30 p.m., feature decorations in a combination of styles from both the 19th and 20th centuries.

During the Victorian years when candle-lit tabletop Christmas trees were the norm, hand-made gifts were attached to tree branches, and winter scenes were displayed underneath the tree. The upstairs Victorian Library shows how magical that looked with its mid- to late-nineteenth-century toys, games and dolls. The upstairs Parlor features a case filled with small ceramic animals well-loved by some of the du Pont family children.

Early du Pont family French holiday traditions are remembered with a display of gifts that were given to E. I. du Pont’s children on New Year’s Day as well as the Twelfth Night party illustrated by the ornate French dessert service in the Dining Room.

Well-loved displays returning include the elaborate Twelfth Night celebration in the dining room and the Victorian library’s Christmas for children with its table-top tree surrounded by toys and games. Of course, there will be warm glowing lights and poinsettias.

Admission is $15 for adults, $11 for seniors and students and $6 for children (ages 6-14).

One of the best holiday events in the area is the annual “Yuletide at Winterthur.” This year’s 40th annual staging of the event, which runs from November 17 through January 6 at Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library (Route 52, Wilmington, Delaware,800-448-3883, www.winterthur.org).

Revel in the beauty and warmth of the holidays as we explore treasures of Christmases past with displays of holiday traditions from the 1800s to the early 20th century, including displays of: the earliest types of colorful lights decorating house exteriors; a full-room scene of Clement Moore’s Christmas classic A Visit from St. Nicholas; the du Pont family holiday celebrations; and the evolution of Christmas trees over the decades from the 1880s to 1960s.
One of visitors’ favorites every year is the 18-room dollhouse mansion created by designer and philanthropist Nancy McDaniel over a period of 30 years. It features amazing intricate details in each room and is even decorated for the holidays! A tree decorated with 458 needlework ornaments, all crafted by Nancy McDaniel will also be on display.

As always, the rooms will be enhanced with the floral displays so essential to du Pont’s decorating, and with special Christmas trees inspired by the beauty of the Winterthur garden – including the popular Dried Flower Tree in the Conservatory.

Timed Yuletide Tour reservations are required. Admission to Yuletide at Winterthur is $22 for adults, $20 for seniors (age 62 and older) and $5 for children (ages 2-11).

Nemours Mansion & Gardens (Route 141 South, Alapocas Drive, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-651-6912, www.nemoursmansion.org) is welcoming visitors for the Christmas holidays with “Holidays at the Estate.”

Originally constructed more than a century ago, Nemours Mansion is one of Delaware’s grandest buildings and includes the largest formal French garden in North America.

Ever since 1910, when Mr. and Mrs. duPont began living in their newly built mansion, the holiday season has been a festive time at Nemours. The Christmas decorations at the Nemours Mansion are often inspired by the architecture of the home, the customs of the duPonts or the French influence. The Mansion is also decorated by some of the duPonts’ original decorations, including a German crèche, which dates from the late 19th century. The figures are soft ceramic, unglazed and hand-colored.

Visitors can enjoy Christmas trees, wreaths, and hundreds of feet of garland on grand display in the Visitor Center, Chauffer’s Garage, Mansion and grounds. New this year, the mechanical wing of the basement will feature holiday displays made from metal, glass and industrial elements sure to inspire any inventor or engineer.

The Historic Odessa Foundation’s 2018 Christmas Holiday Tour is an event with an appeal that spans generations. The tours will be presented now through December 30 in Odessa’s historic district (Main Street, Odessa, Delaware, 302-378-4119, www.historicodessa.org).

This holiday season the Historic Odessa Foundation (HOF) is celebrating the 31st anniversary of the Historic Houses of Odessa’s annual Christmas Holiday Tours and Exhibits inspired by works of classic children’s literature.

This holiday season the Historic Odessa Foundation will be having a Dickens of a Christmas as it celebrates the 175th anniversary of Charles Dickens’ indelible classic “A Christmas Carol, In Prose, Being a Ghost Story of Christmas,” first published in 1843.

Visitors will be transported into Charles Dickens’ powerful Christmas tale of redemption as the 244-year old Corbit-Sharp House is transformed into the world of the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge with vignettes to include depictions of his counting house, his lodgings, the festive Mr. Fezziwig’s ball, the austere house of Tiny Tim, the parlor of Scrooge’s nephew Fred, and the cemetery.

All of the Historic Houses of Odessa are open and on full festive display for the 2018 Holiday Season, including special school and family tours and events celebrating “A Christmas Carol, In Prose, Being a Ghost Story of Christmas” and special exhibit in the National Historic Landmark Corbit-Sharp House (c. 1774), and the Storybook Trees exhibit in the Wilson-Warner House (1769).

Special events and tours will be held throughout the holiday season including “Candlelight Tours” at 7 p.m. on December 4, 6, 11, 13, 18, and 27; “Christmas in Odessa” on December 1 from 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; “Storybook Time” on December 5 at 11 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.; “Festive Foods/Hearth Cooking Demonstration” on December 8, 15, and 29 from 10 a.m.-3 p.m.; “Children’s Holiday Tea Party” on December 9 at 2 p.m.; and “Curator Candlelight Tour” on December 20 at 5 and 7 p.m.

The Historic Houses of Odessa are open Tuesday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Sunday from 1 to 4:30 p.m. The last full tour of the Historic Houses starts at 3 p.m. The Houses will be closed on December 24 and 25.

Admission to the Historic Odessa Foundation holiday tour is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors, and students and free for children (under 6).

A popular Philadelphia attraction is the Center City Parks District’s Rothman Institute Ice Rink at Dilworth Park along with the Rothman Institute Cabin.

The Rothman Institute Ice Rink at Dilworth Park is an unparalleled entertainment experience on Philadelphia’s center stage in a wonderfully urban and unique setting. Open seven days a week, the rink offers wintry fun for all ages, with a full slate of programs.

Now that Christmas activities have begun, Peddler’s Village (Routes 202 and 263, Lahaska, 215-794-4000, http://peddlersvillage.com) is starting its celebration and that means there will be a lot of activity at the site over the next few weeks.

Visitors to the Village can join special guest Mrs. Claus for festive fun and mini-lightings in a different Village neighborhood each night leading up to the Village-wide Grand Illumination Celebration. Village shops will be open until 9 p.m. with a distinctive assortment of merchandise, special promotions and refreshments.

The Grand Illumination 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 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.

The 2018 Franklin Square Holiday Festival (200 North Sixth Street, Philadelphia, http://www.historicphiladelphia.org/franklin-square/holidays-in-franklin-square/) opens its season this weekend and it will run until December 31.

The Electrical Spectacle Holiday Light Show will be open from 4-8 p.m. daily and 4-9 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays and will be closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.

Visitors are invited to experience the magic of the holidays and celebrate traditions new and old at the Franklin Square Holiday Festival.

Inspired by Benjamin Franklin’s electrifying genius, the free Electrical Spectacle Holiday Light Show presented by PECO is the key to holiday fun in Franklin Square.

Attendees can marvel at more than 50,000 lights as they shimmer, dance, and illuminate the Square to a soundtrack of holiday classics, some of which are performed by The Philly POPS in two alternating shows every 30 minutes. Every evening, one lucky audience member will be selected to “ignite’ the 4:30 p.m. show.

Additionally, visitors can enjoy comfort foods, seasonal snacks, and hot beverages at Ben’s Sweets & Treats and SquareBurger, festive beers and cocktails presented by Cooperage at the Winter Beer Garden, special holiday events on #FranklinSquareFridays, Santa Saturdays, and Seasonal Sounds on Sundays.

Now that Christmas activities have begun, Peddler’s Village (Routes 202 and 263, Lahaska, 215-794-4000, http://peddlersvillage.com) is starting its celebration and that means there will be a lot of activity at the site over the next few weeks.

Visitors to the Village can join special guest Mrs. Claus for festive fun and mini-lightings in a different Village neighborhood each night leading up to the Village-wide Grand Illumination Celebration. Village shops will be open until 9 p.m. with a distinctive assortment of merchandise, special promotions and refreshments.

The Grand Illumination Celebration showcases 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 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.

Peddler’s Village “Gingerbread House Competition and Display” is slated to run through January 5. The “Gingerbread House Competition” features over $2,000 in cash prizes in such categories as Traditional and Authentic Reproduction of a Significant Building.

Two historic sites in Montgomery County have their own holiday celebrations.

Pennypacker Mills (3 Haldeman Road, Perkiomenville, 610- 287-9349, www.historicsites.montcopa.org) is hosting “Victorian Holiday Tours” now through January 6 while “Twelfth Night Tours at Pottsgrove Manor” (100 West King Street, Pottstown, 610-326-4014, www.historicsites.montcopa.org) are running now through January 6.

For the next six 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.

Suggested donations for these events are $2.

If you really want to get into a Christmas mood in a big way, visit Koziar’s Christmas Village (782 Christmas Village Road, Bernville, 610-488-1110,www.koziarschristmasvillage.com) which begins its 71st season on November 3.

Koziar’s Christmas Village is truly a holiday wonderland — a wintertime spectacle that delights young and old alike with a huge amount of holiday displays and special attractions. It will remain open every night through January 1 — including Christmas Eve, Christmas Night, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Night.

The tours of “Christmas Village” feature visits to a variety of displays and exhibits, including “Santa’s Post Office,” “Christmas in the Jungle,” “Manger Scene,” “Christmas Beneath the Sea,” “’Twas the Night Before Christmas,” “Olde Fashioned Bakery Shop,” “Toy Maker and his Toy Shop,” “Christmas in Other Lands” and “The Olde Church”.

Other attractions at Koziar’s Christmas Village include a huge model train display, a toy shop, a country kitchen, indoor and outdoor Christmas displays and a place to visit with Santa and even get pictures taken with the old guy in the red suit. Admission to Christmas Village is $12 for adults, $11 for seniors (65 and older) and $10 for children (ages 4-10).

The American Music Theatre (2425 Lincoln Highway East, Lancaster, 800-648-4102, www.AMTshows.com) has its holiday show running now through December 30.

The AMT’s 2018 show “The First Noel” is an all-new presentation of favorite sacred and secular holiday songs performed by professional artists from across the country. The show will feature spectacular vocal harmonies, lively musical arrangements, impressive dancing and the music of the AMT Orchestra.

Also featured will be elaborate scenery, elegant costumes and a theater decked out with holiday decorations.

The Rainbow Comedy Playhouse (3065 Lincoln Highway East, Paradise, 800-292-4301www.Rainbowcomedy.com) is presenting its holiday production “Christmas in Paradise” now through December 29.

Matinee performances are every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and selected Saturdays with an 11:30 a.m. lunch and a 1 p.m. curtain. Evening performances are every Friday, Saturday and selected Thursdays with dinner at 6:30 p.m. and the show following at 8 p.m. There will also be “Twilight Performances” on selected Sundays with dinner at 2:30 p.m. and the show at 4 p.m. Ticket prices range from $27-$63.

“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.

Visitors to Hershey can also experience the winter wonderland called “Hershey Sweet Lights, A Holiday Drive-Thru Spectacular.” The attraction is a two-mile drive through wooded trails featuring approximately 600 illuminated, animated displays.

Admission to “Christmas Candylane” is $26.95.

Dutch Wonderland Family Amusement Park (2249 Route 30 East, Lancaster, 866-386-2389, www.dutchwonderland.com) is hosting its “Dutch Winter Wonderland” from Now through December 30 on Saturdays, Sundays and select weekdays.

Visitors are invited to celebrate the magic of the season at Dutch Winter Wonderland with rides, entertainment, and the Royal Light Show, a spectacular display of thousands of twinkling lights dancing to music.

Tickets are $11.99 in advance and $13.99 at the gate. Children age two and under are admitted free.

“A Very Furry Christmas at Sesame Place” (100 Sesame Road, Langhorne, www.sesameplace.com) is a festive, family-friendly celebration with everyone’s favorite Sesame Street friends live and in-person at the amusement park in Langhorne.

The annual event, which runs through January 1, offers a wide array of family holiday activities.

Visitors to the park can sing along at three special Christmas shows and a spectacular music and light show at our giant 1-2-3 Christmas Tree, take a train ride tour through the Twiddlebugs’ Gingerbread Cookie Factory on the Sesame Place Furry Express, take part in the Neighborhood Street Party Christmas Parade, and have the opportunity to meet Lightning, the adorable reindeer from the movie “Elmo Saves Christmas.”

As an added attraction this year, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is spending the holiday season at Sesame Place. The lovable reindeer along with his friends Clarice and Bumble, will be available for photos with guests.

Tickets for “A Very Furry Christmas” are $34.99.

Bethlehem, which is known as the “Christmas City,” presents Christkindlmarkt Bethlehem (PNC Plaza at SteelStacks, 645 East First Street, Bethlehem, 610-332-1300,http://www.christmascity.org) every Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday now through December 23.

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.

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