Outdoor spaces

Where Outdoor Fun and Holiday Lights Collide (Beautifully)

The temperature is dropping and holiday events are starting to fill everyone’s calendar. These facts conspire to keep people indoors, but there are still plenty of opportunities to spend time outdoors. These local attractions featuring holiday lights are sure to bring smiles while providing an opportunity to spend time walking outside.

A Longwood Christmas at Longwood Gardens

From November 22 to January 6, Longwood Gardens welcomes visitors to explore their grounds while a half million lights sparkle in a winter wonderland. Christmas carols can be heard at the Open Air Theatre fountains where 750 jets of water dance in time to the music. Fire pits and indoor gardens provide the opportunity to warm up before venturing on to see more displays. The outdoor lights begin at 3:30 pm and go through 10:00 pm; on-site eateries are open for lunch and dinner hours.

Holiday Garden Railway at Morris Arboretum

Starting November 23, train aficionados can delight in the sight of a quarter mile of miniature train tracks that allow 15 rail lines and two cable cars to travel over and through nine bridges (one you can walk under!) and seven loops and tunnels. The display is constructed of natural materials, such as bark, leaves, mosses, dried flowers and stones, and includes authentic features such as small streams. During the day, the Holiday Garden Railway is included with admission to Morris Arboretum and can be seen through Dec 31.

Friday Night Lights at Morris Arboretum

Holiday Garden Railway Nights runs from 4:30 to 7:30 Fridays and Saturdays from Dec 1 to 22. Yes, these are the same trains that run during daytime visits, but are set on a background of twinkling lights at night (note: separate tickets are needed for night visits). Though the rest of the arboretum is closed, visitors may also visit the treehouse canopy walk, Out on a Limb. Since the display is entirely outside, call ahead or check the website in the event of inclement weather as it may be closed.

Franklin Square Holiday Festival

From November 15 to December 31, the Electrical Spectacle Holiday Light Show will light up one of the most family-friendly squares in Philadelphia. The free light show consists of more than 75,000 lights that move in time to holiday classics in two alternating shows on the hour and half hour from 4 to 8 pm (9 pm on Fridays and Saturdays). In addition to the permanent fixtures in the park, there will also be fire pits and a heated tent where visitors can purchase refreshments.

Wild Lights at Elmwood Park Zoo

Norristown’s Elmwood Park Zoo will transform into a sparkling winter wonderland as millions of lights illuminate the zoo’s 16 acres. In addition to the animals, visitors can also see animated installations and themed attractions. As would be expected, live reindeer will be in residence and ready for photo ops. Treetop Adventures will also be open and those “zipping” over the bison enclosure will have an additional opportunity to interact with light installations. Wild Lights operates on select days from mid-November through December 31.