Holiday Planner: Philadelphia

Getting ready for the holidays? Here are some annual favorites (including the Holiday Garden Railway, left), along with more than a few new or different activities that might bring you some indie holiday cred. (Photo courtesy of Morton Arboretum)

Updated: December 02, 2009

Old Faves

Fairmount Park

4231 North Concourse Dr, Philadelphia, PA 19131

Architecture geeks will love meandering through six fully furnished historic houses scattered around Fairmount Park as they're all bedecked in their finest holiday attire. Considered to be some of the most significant examples of 18th and 19th century homes in the nation, Laurel Hill, Lemon Hill, Sweetbriar and Woodford will be open for public tours from Dec. 2 through Dec. 13; Cedar Grove and Mount Pleasant will welcome guests through Dec. 20.

Morris Arboretum

100 Northwestern Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19128

Even the most hardened Scrooge will likely be amazed during a trip to the University of Pennsylvania's arboretum through Jan. 3, when it becomes home to the uber-tricked out Holiday Garden Railway. This train lover's fantasy consists of a quarter mile of model track outfitted with seven loops and tunnels, 15 rail lines, two cable cars, nine bridges and scaled replicas of Philadelphia landmarks. And get this: every last piece of it is made from natural materials like branches and pine cones. Unfortunately, there's no hopping aboard.

Washington Crossing Historic Park

1112 River Rd, Washington Crossing, PA 18977

If you've never been able to quite remember how the whole Revolutionary War thing went down, forever emblazon it in your mind at the elaborate (and free!) Washington Crossing the Delaware River reenactment and festival. It happens at 1pm on Christmas day, with a full dress rehearsal taking place on Dec. 13 at 1pm. For a full dose of reality, follow it up with a tour of Valley Forge National Historic Park, where Washington and his troops spent a wretched winter after their famous crossing from Jersey into PA.

Traditions in the Making

Swann Lounge

1 Logan Sq, Philadelphia, PA 19103

Trip out your little nieces with modern interpretations of the already surreal Alice in Wonderland and The Nutcracker. On certain Saturdays in December, the lounge at the fancy Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia transforms itself into a stage for performance art soundtracked and danced by students from the Rock School for Dance Education. Oh yeah, and Alice comes to life to give treats to the wide-eyed little `uns. No word yet on whether the caterpillar will accompany her with treats for the grown-ups.

Please Touch Museum

4231 Avenue of the Republic Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19131

Although this isn't necessarily a new event, the Enchanted Colonial Village takes on new life in the kids? museum's new digs. Through Jan. 1, tots can learn about Colonial times by exploring the laboriously restored miniature Bakery, Blacksmith Shop, Toymaker, Tailor Shop and Watchmaker that were first displayed at the Lit Brothers department store from 1962 until 1975. If they have a vivid imagination, they may even encounter Tiny Tim or the Ghost of Christmas Past.