Peddler's Village - Gingerbread home builders compete for cash prizes for the Gingerbread House Competition and Display (November 21, 2008-January 8, 2009); Santa switches on the Christmas lights during the Grand Illumination Celebration (November 21); and the man in red makes a grand appearance on a horse-drawn carriage for the annual Christmas Festival (December 6-7). Route 263 & Street Road, Lahaska, (215) 794-4000, www.peddlersvillage.com.
Penneypacker Mills- From November 25, 2008 through January 4, 2009, visitors can take to guided tours of Penneypacker's richly decorated mansion. A free Victorian Christmas Open House on December 13 features live music and sing-alongs around a Christmas tree. Demonstrations of toy candy making, visits with Santa and holiday music from the Estey Pump Organ round out the day. 5 Haldeman Road, Schwenksville, (610) 287-9349, www.montcopa.org/historicsites.
Longwood Gardens The holidays go red, white and green at Longwood Gardens during A Longwood Gardens Christmas, November 27, 2008-January 11, 2009. Hundreds of thousands of lights, strolling carolers, daily concerts, ice skating performances and other festivities brighten the gardens' vast grounds and conservatory. 1001 Longwood Road, Kennett Square, (610) 388-1000, www.longwoodgardens.org .
Macy's Although the beloved Wanamaker Building is now home to Macy's, the annual Holiday Light Show remains a Philadelphia tradition. Since 1956, the department store building has welcomed winter with the Grand Court's historic organ and a dazzling light spectacle. Brighter than ever since a 2007 update with LED lighting, the show will expand to include a new Magic Christmas Tree with LED lights for 2008. Julie Andrews narrates the show, which runs daily, on the hour, from November 28 through December 31, 2008. 1300 Market Street, (215) 241-9000.
Please Touch Museum? Museum Celebrating its first holiday season in its new Memorial Hall location, Please Touch Museum? presents Enchanted Colonial Village, November 28, 2008-January 1, 2009. This year marks the first time Please Touch can showcase all nine of the remaining scenes, along with their moving figures and mechanical displays, formerly displayed in Lit Brothers department store from 1962 through 1975. 4231 Avenue of the Republic, (215) 963-0667, www.pleasetouchmuseum.org.
Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania From November 28, 2008 through January 4, 2009, it's a miniature winter wonderland amid the evergreens at the Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania's Holiday Garden Railway display, a quarter mile of model-train track featuring seven loops and tunnels with 15 different rail lines, two cable cars, nine bridges and bustling trains that cruise past scaled replicas of historic monuments. Philadelphia-area landmarks, such as a replica of Independence Hall, are made using pine cone seeds for shingles, acorns as finials and twigs as downspouts. 100 Northwestern Avenue, (215) 247-5777, www. morrisarboretum.org.
Brandywine River Museum A Brandywine Christmas takes center stage from November 28, 2008 through January 11, 2009, at the Brandywine River Museum, home to a large collection of Wyeth family paintings. You'll see a display of trees featuring "critters" and all things natural, a Victorian dollhouse and a model railroad with more than 2,000 feet of track. U.S. Route 1, Chadds Ford, (610) 388-2700, www.brandywinemuseum.org.
Four Seasons Hotel - Swann Lounge On select weekend days from November 29 through December 30, 2008, the Swann Lounge at the Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia presents Tea in Wonderland. Young attendees can visit with Alice herself and watch excerpts from The Nutcracker ballet performed by students from the Rock School for Dance Education. 1 Logan Square, (215) 963-1500, www.fourseasons.com/philadelphia.
Historic Fairmount Park Houses Step back in time to experience the splendor of Christmas during the holiday tours of the Historic Fairmount Park Houses. Cedar Grove, Lemon Hill, Strawberry Mansion, Mount Pleasant, Laurel Hill and Woodford will be decorated for the season, December 3-14, 2008. (215) 684-7863, www.fairmountparkhouses.org.
The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts & the Academy of Music This year's holiday calendar at The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts and the Academy of Music is features old-fashioned favorites, including Holiday POPS! with Peter Nero and the Philly Pops, the Soweto Gospel Choir, George Balanchine's The Nutcracker and The Philadelphia Orchestra's version of Handel's Messiah and annual New Year's Eve Concert. Various dates from December 5-31, 2008. Kimmel, Broad & Spruce Streets; Academy, Broad & Locust Streets, (215) 893-1999, www.kimmelcenter.org.
The Chester County Historical Society will celebrate the holiday season with an open house on December 5-6, 2008. Exhibitions Discovering Dollhouses and West Chester Railroad 150th Anniversary continue through January 10, 2009. And the 5th Annual Menorah Lighting and Hanukkah Celebration by the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia's Kehillah of Chester County takes place December 23 at 7:00 p.m. 225 N. High Street, West Chester, (610) 692-4800, www.cchs-pa.org .
On December 20, 2008, visitors to The African American Museum in Philadelphia can explore African-American history and the meaning of Kwanzaa during the Sharing the Heritage Annual Holiday and Pre-Kwanzaa Celebration, featuring tours, performances, discussions of the holiday and a screening of the film The Black Candle: The Story of Kwanzaa. Just after Christmas, December 26-28, 2008, the museum presents Celebrate Kwanzaa, a children's event full of storytelling, face painting and lessons about the holiday. 701 Arch Street, (215) 574-0380, www.aampmuseum.org.
On December 25, 2008, the holiday spirit goes beyond Christmas at the National Museum of American Jewish History, which presents its annual Being Jewish at Christmas program, a family event that includes music, refreshments and children's activities. 55 N. 5th Street, (215) 923-3811, www.nmajh.org.
RING IN THE NEW YEAR
Please Touch Museum? Museum will celebrate 2009 early with Countdown to Noon on December 31, 2008. The museum opens at 9:00 a.m. and holds "Noon Year" activities throughout the day, including a visit by some of Philadelphia's famous Mummers leading up to the big countdown. Memorial Hall, 4231 Avenue of the Republic, (215) 963-0667, www.pleasetouchmuseum.org.
Glide into the New Year at the Blue Cross RiverRink's New Year's Eve Party on Ice, a family-friendly affair that gives a great outdoor view of the city's spectacular midnight fireworks display over the Delaware River. Columbus Boulevard & Market Street, (215) 925-RINK, www.riverrink.com.
THE PHILADELPHIA MUMMERS PARADE begins at 9:00 a.m. on New Year's day at the intersection of Broad Street and Snyder Avenue and proceeds to City Hall, followed by a ticketed competition at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. Spectators should purchase tickets ahead of time to sit in the judging stand or get there early to find a spot along the parade route. Convention Center, 12th & Arch Streets, www.mummers.com; ticket locations posted at www.phila.gov/recreation/mummers/mummers_parade.html.