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Philly: Skip the Corporate Light Shows, Check Out Community-created Displays for Free Instead

December 6, 2020

After publishing an op-Ed for the Philadelphia Inquirer last week in which I criticized the organizers of the public spaces around City Hall for building holiday-themed tourist attractions aimed at attracting visitors from across the Philadelphia region while we’re being told by the people inside City Hall that we are “Safer at Home” because of rising COVID-19 cases, yet another tourist attraction opened up in South Philly. Let’s talk about the Wells Fargo Center’s wildly underwhelming yet weirdly expensive Winter on Broad Street: A Holiday Light Spectacular, as well as some free alternatives for you and your family!

Yes, it’s $143.50 for a family of four (two adults and two kids) to see in the parking lot of the Wells Fargo Center what they could easily see in the holiday aisle of their local Home Depot. Don’t fall for it, y’all.

I want to emphasize that generally speaking I take a don’t yuck anybody’s yum approach to most things, that’s why in criticizing these mid-pandemic tourist attractions my focus is solely on the organizers not the people visiting. And thankfully many organizers around the city have done the right thing this winter as we experience the long-expected second wave of the Coronavirus pandemic: the Philadelphia Zoo has canceled their annual LumiNature light show and instead decorated a few of the trees at their front entrance with blue lights to honor Philly’s frontline workers; Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens has closed their popular outdoor attraction until at least April 2021; even South Philly’s Bok Building has transformed their regular holiday market into a virtual one.

Look, I get why people want to leave their home and enjoy the public space with other folks, especially nine months into various phases of lockdowns. It’s human nature to want to be together. But we are at the height of this virus and social distancing is one of the best things we can do to help prevent more spread. And as our COVID numbers continue to spike, our city’s leaders should be working hard to encourage Philadelphians that want to get out of their home safely to engage in public spaces closer to where they live, limiting travel and ultimately preventing larger gatherings. It won’t be this way forever, but this is one of the best thing we can do right now. And while in all their marketing each of these bigger holiday tourist attractions mention how they’re taking social distancing seriously, the experience on the ground can be much different. Here’s just a couple of examples from Dilworth Park.

If you are one of the lucky ones that has the ability to drop $100+ down right now to see a corny corporate light display like Wells Fargo’s Winter on Broad Street, then please consider this advice: skip these kinds of paid tourist attraction displays and go check out one of the much better holiday displays created by neighbors on blocks all around Philly and our suburbs. Then donate that $100+ to a local charity!

Below I’ve got two lists. First, a list of local light shows created by Philly neighbors, sourced from this growing Twitter thread. And second, a list of local charities that I’m sure could use your dollars this holiday season, sourced namely from this Twitter thread. If you have any additions to either list, leave it in the comments below.

Neighbor-created Holiday Displays Around Philly (all obviously free to check out):

  • Miracle on 13th Street, duh (Map)
  • Christmas on Kimball, this is the block pictured throughout this article (Map)
  • 5800 Baltimore, “Three houses in a row that go nuts for every holiday!” (Map) –@LenniBug
  • Smedley Christmas Display, “South Smedley Street off Oregon Avenue does a great winter wonderland!” (Map) –@gumball_eyes
  • Moyamensing and Oregon, “All the little blocks south of Oregon Avenue and north of Moyamensing Avenue on the west side of Broad Street!” (Map) –@JGitto
  • Addison Street, while not holiday specific these two streets are perfect for this time of year (Map)
  • Lastly, you can check out Mike Kane’s ChristmasPrism app, which allows you to find local houses with extra special Christmas light displays!

Local Charities to Donate to this Holiday Season:

The end of this pandemic is in site, y’all. We got this. But we need to hold tight for a little while longer.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Schuylkillsarah permalink
    December 7, 2020 2:21 am

    Hi Conrad,

    We have a virtual bike ride tour of South Philly holiday lights….

    Have a safe holiday!


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