What To Do (New Year’s Eve Edition): Mushroom Drop, fireworks and more to ring in 2024

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Mushroom Drop

The year 2023 is speeding toward its end – and it’s going out with a bang. This weekend features a wide array of New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day events. And there are many Christmas activities in their final or penultimate weekends.

The primary focus this weekend will be on New Year’s Eve.

New Year’s Eve is about partying – dining, drinking, welcoming the new year and, well, partying.

On New Year’s Eve, Kennett Square will be partying in style when the Mushroom Festival and Kennett Area Restaurant & Merchant Association are again hosting the annual Mushroom Drop.

Kennett Square gears up for its New Years Eve celebration like no other – Midnight in the Square, famously known as The Mushroom Drop. It is an evening filled with laughter, music, and the iconic lowering of the light-encrusted 500-pound stainless steel mushroom.

The Mushroom, adorned with twinkling lights, is lifted several stories high and suspended in anticipation above Kennett Square. Come midnight, it gracefully descends, casting its radiant glow and ushering in the New Year in style.

The party kicks off at 7:30 p.m. at the intersection of State and Union streets with an entertainment lineup featuring Kevin Pierce, the KMC Dancers and School of Rock. Topping the bill will be Fred McCarthy and Syde Two, led by the incredible Leon Spencer. They’ll keep the place rocking until 12:30 a.m.

Bob’s Crane takes center stage between 8:50-9 p.m., lifting the Mushroom in preparation for its grand descent. It’s a moment of anticipation and wonder perfect for the younger kids who can’t quite make it till midnight.

This year’s entertainment also includes a brand-new laser show that will paint the night sky with bursts of color. Other attractions are the Photo Booth and the Mushroomed 50/50 Raffle. Food and beverage will be available from Savannas Tender Love & Fries, Good Time Mushroom Coffee, and Robyn’s Catering.

In the spirit of giving, your admission is simple –bring along non-perishable food items for KACS and drop them off at The Mushroom Cap.

Parking is available at Kennett High School and the 600 South Broad Street lot.

The most famous New Year’s Eve “drops” are the extravagant Waterford Crystal Ball in Times Square in New York City, the peach in Atlanta and the orange in Miami Beach.

There are quite a few “drops” worth checking out that are within a short drive from Chester County including Yuengling Beer bottle in Pottsville, strawberry in Harrisburg, Pac-Man in Hanover, Lebanon Bologna in Lebanon, Marshmallow Peep in Bethlehem, Hershey’s Kiss in Hershey and sled in Duncannon.

Other distinctive area drops include pickle in Dillsburg, button in Carlisle, white rose in York, anchor in Shippensburg, Bucky the Beaver in Beavertown, PEEPS in Bethlehem, light bulb in Sunbury, wrench in Mechanicsburg, kettle in McClure, coal in Shamokin, and duck decoy in Havre de Grace (Maryland).

Many “drops” around the country have vibes of their own – key lime pie in Key West, Florida; carp in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin; a doughnut in Hagerstown, Maryland; a chunk of cheese in Plymouth, Wisconsin; walleye fish in Port Clinton, Ohio; a bunch of grapes in Temecula, California; watermelon in Vincennes, Indiana; a live possum in Brasstown, North Carolina; eight-foot-tall glittering flip flops in Folly Beach, South Carolina; and a wooden flea in Eastover, North Carolina.

Philadelphia doesn’t drop anything on New Year’s Eve – even though it has great options like the Liberty Bell, a Rocky statue or a cheesesteak. Instead of dropping something down, Philly sends something up. Every New Year’s Eve, it sends a massive barrage of fireworks into the sky.

When evening arrives in the Philadelphia area on New Year’s Eve, it means that it is time for the Rivers Casino New Year’s Eve Fireworks on the Waterfront — a gala pyrotechnics display that explodes over the Delaware River.

Rivers Casino New Year’s Eve Fireworks

The Rivers Casino New Year’s Eve Fireworks on the Waterfront features two major pyrotechnics displays over the Delaware River.

The fireworks can be viewed from either Penn’s Landing on Delaware Avenue or Wiggins Park on the Camden side of the river. Traditionally, the aerial fireworks extravaganza took place at midnight. This year, there will again be a show at midnight and another fireworks display at 6 p.m. on December 31.

Both fireworks displays, which last approximately 15 minutes each, will be launched from a barge in the middle of the Delaware River and will be choreographed to music played through speakers at the Great Plaza at Penn’s Landing and at the riverfront area in Wiggins Park.

Rivers Casino will also be hosting “The Golden Gala” starting at 10 p.m.

Rivers Casino New Year’s Eve Fireworks

A popular New Year’s Eve destination along the Delaware River to watch the fireworks is RiverRink (Market Street and Delaware Avenue, 215-925-RINK, www.riverrink.com).

The rink will host its “Annual New Year’s Eve Party on Ice” not once but twice – from 5-8 p.m. and from 10 p.m.-1 a.m. The festive, non-alcoholic party with food, Mummers, party favors and live entertainment costs $40 for skaters and $30 for spectators.

Other good riverside locations to watch the show in the sky over the Delaware River are Cherry Street Pier, 121 North Delaware Avenue; Moshulu, 401 South Delaware Avenue; Liberty Point, 211 South Delaware Avenue; and Battleship New Jersey, 100 Clinton Street, Camden, New Jersey.

The Philadelphia Orchestra (Kimmel Center, 300 South, Broad Street, Philadelphia, www.philorch.org) is having a special New Year’s Eve concert starting at 7 p.m.

Baritone Paulo Szot will join conductor Thomas Wilkins for an evening of memorable songs.

The set list includes: J. Strauss, Jr. Overture to Die Fledermaus; Tchaikovsky Polonaise, from Eugene Onegin; Leigh “I, Don Quixote,” from Man of La Mancha; Rodgers “Some Enchanted Evening,” from South Pacific; Rodgers “This Nearly Was Mine,” from South Pacific; Josef Strauss “Ohne Sorgen” Polka; Suppé Overture to The Beautiful Galatea; Offenbach La Vie parisienne, Overture on Themes of Offenbach; Loewe Suite from Gigi; Schönberg “Stars,” from Les Misérables; Leigh “The Impossible Dream,” from Man of La Mancha; Abreu “Tico-Tico no Fubá”, and Bernstein Three Dance Episodes from On the Town.

There are annual New Year’s Eve events in the area that begin long before the evening arrives.

The Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia and the Brandywine Zoo in Wilmington offer special family-oriented matinee events on December 31 every year to celebrate the start of a new year.

The Please Touch Museum (Memorial Hall, Fairmount Park, 4231 Avenue of the Republic, Philadelphia, 215-581-3181, www.pleasetouchmuseum.org) is known for its traditional “Countdown to Noon”.

Please Touch Museum has reimagined its New Year’s Eve event this year as it celebrates with shows celebrations from 9:30-11:30 a.m. and 1-3:30 p.m.

Guests are invited to join the museum staff for a morning or afternoon timed ticket session that includes two-and-a-half hours of play at the Museum, art workshops, New Year’s Eve party hats and glasses, a visit from Squiggles, and a dance party in Hamilton Hall.

Tickets are $25. Please Touch Museum will close at 3:30 p.m. following this event.

The event in Wilmington, which is officially called “Noon Year’s Eve Celebration at Brandywine Zoo”, is a popular all-ages celebration that runs from 11 a.m. until 12:15 p.m. at the Brandywine Zoo (1001 North Park Drive, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-571-7747, www.brandywinezoo.org).
The mid-day party features a celebration with games, crafts and a countdown to 12 o’clock as noon approaches.

Hot chocolate will be available for purchase at the snack bar. Some animals may not be out because of the cold weather

Admission is $5, and the gates open at 10 a.m. with check-in at the main admission gate. Most festivities will take place outdoors, so visitors are advised to dress for winter weather.

Other New Year’s Eve festivities in Delaware can be found at Delaware Children’s Museum (550 Justison Street, Wilmington, http://www.delawarechildrensmuseum.org/) at 11 a.m. and Delaware Museum of Nature & Science (4840 Kennett Pike, Wilmington, https://delmns.org/) at noon.

“Betsy’s Birthday Celebration” at the Betsy Ross House (239 Arch Street, Philadelphia, http://historicphiladelphia.org) is scheduled for December 31 from 11 a.m.-4 p.m.

Betsy Ross was born on New Year’s Day all the way back in 1752.

The Betsy Ross House will celebrate her birthday with storytelling and free cupcakes for all guests of her historic home.

The Betsy Ross House receives state arts funding support through a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

New Year’s Day in Philadelphia is all about the Mummers Parade (215-336-3050, www.phillymummers.com) — a festive celebration featuring string bands, comic units and fancy divisions all strutting their stuff on Broad Street.

The event is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year. The parade is always televised but you need to see it live if you want to really appreciate the sights and sounds of the annual extravaganza.

The Mummers tradition dates back to 400 B.C. and the Roman Festival of Saturnalias when laborers marched in masks throughout the day. Reports of rowdy groups “parading” on New Year’s Day in Philadelphia date back before the revolution.

The practice of awarding prizes was initiated in the late 1800’s and the first “official” event was held in 1901. The Mummers Parade has grown in size and stature and currently features approximately 15,000 participants.
The 2024 Parade will begin at 9 a.m. with the Fancy Division, followed by the Comic Division, Comic Wench Division and then the String Band Division.

The Mummers have a little bit for everyone. There are more than 10,000 Mummers broken up into five divisions — the Fancies, the Comics, the Wench Brigades, the String Bands and the Fancy Brigades.
Because it is an outdoor event, inclement weather could come into play. The outdoor parade was postponed in 2003, the first time in 13 years. There have been 22 weather-related postponements since 1922.

For a unique way to kick off 2024, head south to Middletown, Delaware on New Year’s Day to celebrate town’s 52ndt annual Hummers Parade (Main Street, Middletown, Delaware, 302-378-7545).

Every year on New Year’s Day, Middletown’s Hummers Parade slowly but not very methodically moves down Main Street. The parade, which is intended as a spoof of Philadelphia’s Mummers, is a loosely organized event that welcomes everyone to join in the fun.

On January 1, floats and groups will assemble in the parking lot in Middletown. The parade of spoofs is scheduled to get underway at 1 p.m.

The parade route starts at South Cass Street and onto Park Place, exits Park Place onto South Broad Street, travels down Broad Street and makes a left onto West Main Street, ending back at its starting point.

Participants in the parade arrive around noon to put the floats together. The floats should be put together on site and are spoofs of national and local events. All are welcome to join in the parade. The parade is not sponsored by the Town of Middletown or any specific group.

Trophies will be awarded in categories that have yet to be determined. No registration or sign up is required and there are no rules. Actually, there are two basic unwritten rules — taste doesn’t matter, and no-one is permitted to work on a float or a costume any earlier than the morning of the event (and, if they do, they must lie and say they didn’t).

Delaware also has some New Year’s Day events that are more conventional — and definitely more on the healthy side. Delaware State Parks are celebrating the first day of the New Year with hikes in the park.
Parks around Delaware will host a “First State, First Day, First Hike” program to celebrate the national movement sponsored by America’s State Parks to have all 50 states offer First Day Hikes. Designed to promote both healthy lifestyles throughout the year and year-round recreation at state parks, all 50 state park systems joined together to sponsor First Day Hikes for the first time in 2012.

Nearby participating Delaware State Parks are Alapocas Run State Park, Auburn Valley State Park, Brandywine Creek State Park, Bellevue State Park, Brandywine Zoo and White Clay Creek State Park.

A participating state park in Chester County will be Marsh Creek State Park (675 Park Road, Downingtown, 610-458-5119).

The Marsh Creek First Day Hike will take place on January 1 at 9 a.m.

Participants can join park staff for a three-mile moderate hike from the West Boat Launch to the dam and back. Registration is not required. Leashed well behaved dogs are welcome to join.

Laurel Hill Cemetery (3822 Ridge Avenue, Philadelphia, laurelhillphl.com) is hosting General Meade’s Birthday Celebration on December 31 from 11 a.m-2 p.m.

The annual General Meade Birthday Celebration will mark the anniversary of the birth of General George G. Meade, commander of the Union Army at the Battle of Gettysburg.

A parade of Civil War re-enactors, civilians in period attire, special dignitaries, heritage groups, and participants will advance to Meade’s final resting place and memorialize his services to his nation. A 21-gun salute and toast will cap off the program at the graveside.

Admission is free, but donations of any size are appreciated. Contributions will support the work of the Friends of Laurel Hill.

“Winter Encampment” (Fort Mifflin, Fort Mifflin and Hog Island roads, Philadelphia, 215-685-4167, http://fortmifflin.us) is scheduled for December 30 at 10 a.m.

Visitors to the Fort can discover the hardships of wintertime in General Washington’s army when they “join the troops” and send 2023 out with a blast at Fort Mifflin’s annual Winter Encampment.

They can step inside a “wedge tent” to experience for yourself the accommodations afforded soldiers encamped at Valley Forge during the winter of 1777-78 and enjoy friendly fireside activities with the garrison to learn how they passed the time without cell phones, video games or streaming services when there were no battles to be fought.

Participants will be able to learn to drill with wooden muskets, check out the camp kitchen preparing meals for the garrison with only limited supplies, learn how the soldiers cared for their muskets and uniforms and enjoy blacksmithing and black powder demonstrations.

The Fort will wrap up the afternoon with a simultaneous blast from three cannons.

Activities are located in the (heated) Soldiers Barracks and adjacent fire pit.

General admission is $10.

Here is a look at some of the other non-holiday events around the area this weekend.

An interesting and educational special event will be presented at the Ephrata Cloister (632 West Main Street, Ephrata, 717-733-6600, www.ephratacloister.org) through December 30 – the 2023 edition of the Cloister’s annual “Lantern Tours.”

The Ephrata Cloister or Ephrata Community was a religious community, established in 1732 by Johann Conrad Beissel at Ephrata. The grounds of the community are now administered by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.

The tours take guests back in time to visit the Cloister as it may have appeared in the 1700s. Each year’s story offers a cast of junior and senior high school students playing the roles that bring history to life. A different story is presented each year.

This year’s tours will lead visitors through four of the historic buildings on site as the story unfolds to offer differing views of Conrad Beissel.  Refreshments and a chance for conversation will end the evening.  Each of the one-hour tours is limited in attendance, and begins each half-hour starting at 6 p.m.

Reservations are required and can be made by calling (717) 733-6600. Tours will depart the visitor center every 30 minutes from 6 p.m.-8:30 p.m. The cost is $12 for adults, $10 for seniors, $8 for students (ages 6-17) and free for children (ages 3-5).

“TreeTrails Adventures Trevose” (301 West Bristol Pike, Trevose, treetrails.com/trevose-pa) is an adventure park full of fun challenges for outdoor adventurers of all ages.

Participants can experience the rush of TreeTrails Adventures as they swing through the trees of the new adventure park. They will be able to discover the excitement of climbing and zip lining above the forest floor with family, friends, co-workers, or teammates.

The park, which is based at Phoenix Sport Club in Bucks County, offers two ways to experience climbing – TreeTrails Adventure Park and KidTrails Park. Young explorers can enjoy miniaturized courses in the adjacent KidTrails Park.

General Park Admission prices are: Main Park Adult Tickets (Ages 12+), $59; Main Park Youth Tickets (Ages 7–11), $51; KidTrails Tickets (Ages 4–7), $12.

Wonderspaces at the Fashion District (27 North 11th Street, Philadelphia, philadelphia.wonderspaces.com) is an experiential, interactive arts venue.

Building on the success of annual pop-up shows in San Diego, and its first permanent location in Scottsdale, Arizona, Wonderspaces opened a 24,000 square foot gallery space in Philly two years ago.

Wonderspaces features 14 art installations that all play with the idea of perspective.  The artwork ranges from award-winning virtual reality short film about a dinner party-turned-alien abduction, to a room where visitors digitally paint the walls with the movement of their bodies.

New artworks rotate in and out every few months, creating an ever-evolving, year-round show.

Tickets are for entry at a specific date and time. Visitors are welcome to stay as long as they please during operating hours. The average time spent experiencing the show is 90 minutes.

A few installations contain flashing lights, images, and patterns that may trigger seizures for people with photosensitive epilepsy. All visitors must sign a waiver prior to being admitted into the space. Adult supervision is required for visitors under 16.

Grim Philly’s “Dark Philly History Tour” (www.grimphilly.com) will be held every evening throughout the fall.

Participants can walk with tour guides from the grounds of America’s first White House, Congress, and Liberty Bell to homes and sites of Hamilton, Washington, Franklin, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, and more than 10 other Founding-Fathers. The surprising dirt of espionage, murder, sexual license and blackmail highlight the secrets of 1776 with a ghost story or two along the way. This tour is highly researched. And your guide is a historian.

Tickets are $35.

Ghost Tour of Philadelphia (215-413-1997, www.ghosttour.com), Ghost Tour of Lancaster (717-687-6687, www.ghosttour.com) and Ghost Tour of Strasburg (717-687-6687, www.ghosttour.com) operate throughout the winter and offer an eerily entertaining evening of true ghost stories and real haunted houses.

The Ghost Tour of Philadelphia, which is based on the book, “Ghost Stories of Philadelphia, PA.,” is a candlelight walking tour along the back streets and secret gardens of Independence Park, Society Hill, and Old City, where ghostly spirits, haunted houses, and eerie graveyards abound.

Participants can discover the ghost lore of America’s most historic and most haunted city with stories from the founding of William Penn’s colony to present-day hauntings.

The activity is open year-round – weekends, December-February; every night, March-November. Tickets are $24.

The Ghost Tour of Lancaster and the Ghost Tour of Strasburg are based on the book, “Ghost Stories of Lancaster, PA.”

Participants in the Ghost Tour of Lancaster explore the long-forgotten mysteries of one of America’s oldest cities, with haunting tales of otherworldly vigils, fatal curses, and star-crossed lovers. The tour provides the opportunity to experience 300 years of haunted history from the Red Rose City’s thorny past. Tickets are $20.

The Ghost Tour of Strasburg is a candlelight walking tour of the quaint and historic town of Strasburg in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch Country. Visitors will experience an entertaining evening with a costumed tour guide spinning tales of haunted mansions, eerie graveyards, and spirits that roam the night … in a town lost in time. Tickets are $20.

   Send article as PDF   

Share this post:

Related Posts

Leave a Comment