When you think about winter and the holidays it is hard to not think about the state of Pennsylvania with its traditions and history from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh and everywhere in between. It offers many winter activities and events that almost anyone could find something they would enjoy. There are so many events that happen throughout winter and the holidays in Pennsylvania that it would be hard to name them all. However, here is a list of seven events that anyone should check out if they have the opportunity. What is even better is that some of these offer free admission!
# 7 KOZIAR’S CHRISTMAS VILLAGE
Who does not like taking the family out for a drive and checking out all the houses that are decorated for the holiday season? If you are looking for a whole village that is decorated for the holiday season then this is the place you have to check out. Koziar’s Christmas Village is located in Central Pennsylvania and is set in a valley that has more than one million Christmas lights strung on buildings, barns, and many more decorations throughout the tour. It has become something of a tradition for locals to take their families each holiday season to drive through the village and check out all the amazing lights and displays. Koziar’s Christmas Village celebrated its 75th season in 2022 and the season officially started on November 4 this year.
Koziar’s Christmas Village is open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from the first Saturday in November to Thanksgiving. After that, it is open every night and holidays until January, 1. Prices for children ages 3 and under are free, children ages 4 to 10 are $11.00, people ages 11 to 64 are $13.00, and seniors are $12.00.
#6 DOG SLEDDING
#5 LONGWOOD GARDENS
If you love botanical gardens and Christmas decorations then Longwood Gardens is a must-see for anyone this winter. The huge facility is located in Kennett Square which is about an hour west of Philadelphia. Longwood Gardens is open year-round and has indoor and outdoor displays, but turns into a winter wonderland in November when it switches gears to decorate for the holidays. The very retro Christmas display will bring all the memories and nostalgia of past winters for adults and dazzle children with the amazing displays throughout the facility. The Christmas display can be seen from November 17 to January 7, 2024, and is open daily from 10 am to 11 pm. Admission prices range from $5-30 depending on age and children ages 4 and younger are free.
#4 MACY’S CHRISTMAS LIGHT SHOW
If being outside in the cold is not your thing, but you still want to check something out for the winter, then the Christmas Light Show at Macy’s Center City in Philadelphia is the place you want to go. It is a tradition that dates back more than half a century and brings back that nostalgic feeling of holidays of the past. What is even better is that the cost of admission is free which makes it great for families on a budget. It takes place in the Grand Court at Macy’s and features a light show of sparkling snowflakes, dancing snowmen, and more, with classic songs backed by the famed Wanamaker Organ. The Macy’s Christmas Light Show runs from November 24 to December 31, 2023. Mondays through Saturdays from 10:30 am, noon, 2 pm, 4 pm, and 6 pm and Sundays from 12 pm, 2 pm, and 4 pm.
#3 LITITZ FIRE AND ICE FESTIVAL
Nestled in the rural country of Pennsylvania is the little town of Lititz which is about 15 minutes north of Lancaster. Here is where you will find the Lititz Fire & Ice Festival which is typically held during the last two weeks in February. The festival features ice sculptures, food trucks, live entertainment, a scavenger hunt, and a Fire and Ice-themed pub crawl. For the kids, the festival has the Winter FUNderland event which offers bouncy attractions. The town of Lititz is full of great shops, restaurants, and bars and the festival features enough events that the whole family will enjoy.
#2 GROUNDHOG DAY
Groundhog Day is something that is celebrated around the country when we all wait to see if Punxsutawney Phil will see his shadow or not. It is held in the town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania on February 2 every year and brings out crowds of over 30,000 people to see the most famous groundhog in the world. It all began when a group of groundhog hunters formed a group and called themselves “The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club” in 1886. A member of the group who worked for the local newspaper proclaimed that Punxsutawney Phil was the only weather-prognosticating groundhog.
The event is free admission and takes place at Gobbler’s Knob which is just outside the town of Punxsutawney and the doors open at 3 am. That may seem extremely early for many, but this famous groundhog showtime is at 7:30 am and it would be very intelligent not to wait until 6 or 7 am to attend this event. It is typical for crowds in the thousands to start forming as early as 5 am to get the chance to see Phil.
It is one big “party” and although alcohol is not permitted or sold at the event, people still have a good time and the event has a very fun and positive vibe to it. There are plenty of other places to visit while there like the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club Headquarters, The Punxsutawney Historical Society Museum, and attractions featured around Punxsutawney Phil.
A tip for anyone planning on attending the event is to dress appropriately for that cold Western Pennsylvania weather that often has lake-effect weather conditions coming off Lake Erie in February.
Pennsylvania ski culture is rich in history and has deep roots in the early days of skiing in the United States. Ski resorts stretch from the Northeastern part of the state where the Pocono Mountains where resorts like Camelback Resort, Montage Mountain, and Elk Mountain are located. The Western part of the state where the Allegheny Mountains are located is where resorts like Seven Springs, Hidden Valley, and Laurel Mountain call home. Throughout the central part of Pennsylvania, you will see Liberty Mountain Resort, Whitetail Resort, and Tussey Mountain. Pennsylvania is home to 25 ski resorts ranking it eight on the list of states with the most ski resorts in the country according to the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA).
Winter in Pennsylvania has become a struggle over the last few seasons with Mother Nature not being too kind to the “Keystone State.” Warmer and milder temperatures have pushed ski resorts to develop their snowmaking capabilities and offer off-season attractions on the mountain to survive. This is not anything new to the resorts that are used to being in a state that constantly rises above freezing during the day and drops down below freezing at night during the winter. Ski resorts in the state have truly become mega-resorts that have indoor and outdoor water parks, rope courses, zip line courses, mountain biking, huge snow tubing courses, and much more. The term, “Winter Cruise Ships” has come up lately around Pennsylvania when describing these resorts because you do not ever have to leave the resort to find everything you need.
The state is known for its smaller and independently owned ski resorts, however, Vail Resorts acquired eight ski resorts in Pennsylvania over the last few years. KSL Properties also acquired Camelback Resort in 2018 and Blue Mountain Resort in 2021. Although some of the resorts have been taken over by larger conglomerates, the charm and feel of that traditional Pennsylvania ski vibe remains.
If you are looking for skiing for the whole family you will not have to look too far when picking out a ski resort in Pennsylvania. Most resorts are geared towards beginner to intermediate-level skiers/riders and few have the vertical or terrain to put a double diamond ranking to any of its resort’s trail maps. However, some resorts have that one steep run with about 500-1,000 feet of vertical that is covered in ice from top to bottom, that will scare just about anyone. If you are looking for some great East Coast skiing that features that great local ski vibe than Pennsylvania is the state you have to check out.