Top Christmas Destinations in Central PA
(DESTINATIONS WITH A STAR NEXT TO THE NAME HAS A SEPARATE BLOG POST I HAVE PREVIOUSLY WRITTEN. YOU CAN SEARCH MY BLOG FOR A MORE DETAILED REVIEW!)
LIGHTS-Probably close to the top of most people’s list of beloved Christmas traditions, there is definitely something special about little glowing and twinkling lights against the dark and chilly night air. Bundle up the family, and visit one of these classic destinations . Of course, every town has one or two homeowners that go “all out” on their homes making it a popular spot for locals to drive by. Some even collect donations for a charitable cause. We have one in Millersville that is pretty spectacular and right down the street from me. An easy and affordable idea is to just drive around in the evenings checking out the various neighborhoods.
- Longwood Gardens*–If you are looking for classy and romantic, there is no topping this perennial favorite. Prepare to be amazed at the sheer beauty of these famous gardens at Christmas time. Of course the biggest downside is the crowds and the expense. Try to attend on a non-peak day (Monday through Thursdays) for an optimal experience and a lower price.
- Koziar’s Christmas Village*–This internationally acclaimed lights display has plenty of Christmas charm and whimsy to delight kids and adults alike. Started as a family tradition, this private home has become a beloved holiday destination for locals and travelers.
- Rocky Ridge Christmas Lights*–Take a peaceful walk in the woods aglow with millions of lights. Get a break from the cold and warm up by the fire, grab a tasty bite, visit with Santa, or see the trains display. This is one of our family’s traditions.
- Hershey Park Candy Lane–Experience the thrill of the rides under the 4 million twinkling lights, see a choreographed light show or live performance, or visit with Santa and his real reindeer. Another option is a drive through Christmas light display called “Hershey Sweet Lights.”
- Dutch Winter Wonderland-Similar to HersheyPark but on a smaller scale, younger children will find their Christmas thrill here.
GENERAL AND SHOPPING
- PA Christmas and Gift Show at the Farm Show Complex–one of the largest holiday shows in the country, you will find a broad range of crafts and gifts for sale. Just walking around taking in the sights, sounds, and smells will be an immersive Christmas experience.
- Gifts That Give Hope Alternative Gift Fair*–Take a fresh approach to the holidays with meaningful charitable gift-giving which supports non-profits and social enterprises in a festive, fun, family-oriented environment. I have the privilege of serving on the planning committee!
- National Christmas Center* (LAST YEAR!!)–Explore the rich history of Christmas in America as well as traditions from countries around the world. Many themed rooms capture the magic and beauty of Christmas nostalgia for visitors young and old. Make sure to visit because unfortunately this is the last year for this notable destination!
- Christmas City-Bethlehem, PA–Take a trip to the aptly named city which loves to celebrate Christmas. From the lights, the history, the arts, and the shopping at the famous “Christkindlmarkt” you will find your fill of Christmas fun in this quaint town.
- Old Time Christmas in Jim Thorpe, PA–Another wonderful town to visit during the Christmas season, the Victorian-themed décor and activities make for a lovely old-fashioned feel that will captivate your imagination.
- Strasburg, PA–Trains and Christmas go hand-in-hand and there are plenty of trained-themed activities and displays for the holidays in this lovely historic town.
Huge train layout decked out for Christmas (one of my favorites!)…
https://www.choochoobarn.com/rates-and-hours/ (Check out their “Canned Food Fridays!”)
- RLPS Architects-Gingerbread House display–Every year this firm puts on an elaborate and very delicious-looking gingerbread house display in their lobby, free and open to the public. Be prepared for long lines, but worthwhile according to past visitors.
HISTORY-Another wonderful idea during the holidays is to visit a house museum and participate in their seasonal programming. Almost all house museums have some kind of Christmas celebration and it is a fantastic way to learn about customs from times past while creating warm holiday memories. Even sites you may consider boring during the rest of the year come alive with many lovely sights and smells during the holidays. You can’t argue with candlelight and warm cider!
- Wheatland–Residence of the 15th president James Buchanan and built in 1828, the house is decked out for a Victorian Christmas with the costumed actors to accompany it.
- Landis Valley Museum*–Experience the 18th and 19th century village life of Pennsylvanian Germans during a wonderful free event for the family, which includes a bonfire, hayrides, and carols.
- Johannes Mueller House*–Tour the 1792 house by candlelight and learn how Christmas was celebrated centuries ago.
- Rockford Plantation Yuletide Tours*–Revolutionary War General Edward Hand owned this Georgian mansion built in 1794. After December 25th, participate in a candlelight yuletide tour which details this colonial precursor to our modern Christmas celebration.
- Ephrata Cloister*–A unique monastic settlement started in 1732 by Ephrata’s founder Conrad Beissel. Seasonal readings and holiday music along with quiet reflection bring a little peace and joy to your busy holiday schedule.
- Hans Herr House*–This 1719 simple German home is the oldest existing dwelling in Lancaster. Participants can tour the home by candlelight, learning about the Native American art of weaving, listening to the Christmas story in German, and enjoying hot chocolate and popcorn by the fire.
SHOWS AND MUSIC
- Millersville University-“Glorious Sounds of the Season” SOLD OUT this year
- Franklin and Marshall-Holiday Choral Concert–Soak in the holiday music sung by the college’s chorus and chamber singers.
- Lancaster Bible College-“Olde World Christmas”–the Worship & Performing Arts Department takes you on a nostalgic Christmas journey highlighting classic stories and carols. (Only one performance still has FREE tickets available!)
- Mount Hope Estate and Winery–Traditional Christmas tales and carols blend with a refined four-course dining experience in their annual Holidays at Mount Hope Dinner Theatre.
- Magic Lantern Show-at Amish Experience*–A totally unparalleled chance to hear the old familiar stories of Christmas through the rare medium of a magic lantern combined with distinctive storytelling.
- American Music Theatre-“Home for the Holidays”–High-quality, Broadway-caliber performances characterize this high-spirited show with appeal for the whole family.
- Dutch Apple Dinner Theater-“White Christmas”–A lively rendition based on the beloved movie by Irving Berlin, combined with a satisfying meal.
- Fulton-“A Christmas Story”–An energetic presentation of a story the whole family treasures filled with plenty of dance.
- Sight and Sound-“Miracle of Christmas”*–Focus on the reason for the season with this dramatic presentation complete with live animals and spectacular special effects.
Not to mention oodles of churches putting on pageants, concerts, and live nativities. Check out one in your town. I know this list is not comprehensive. If you have other ideas to add, let me know!