Your 2023 Guide to the Holidays in University City

2023 Guide to the Holidays in University City
Nov 13, 2023 6 months ago


West Philadelphia is getting festive during this holiday season, with unique performances, ongoing deals at local small businesses and restaurants, and plenty of opportunities to shop from local vendors. See below for holiday highlights, and check back for updates!


Holiday Performances, Markets, & Events


12/4 Through 12/15 • Shop Penn Day of Deals 

SHOP PENN Days of Deals is 12 days of SALES and GIVEAWAYS from the Shop Penn collection of eclectic stores and restaurants in celebration of the season. Watch for special events, discounts, and contest giveaways.  

Follow SHOP PENN on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter (@shopsatpenn) for more details and a chance to win gift cards to their retail locations throughout the week of December 4! Check out the list of participants here.



12/4 - 12/15 • Shop Penn Holiday Window Decorating Contest

To celebrate the holiday season, businesses throughout the Shop Penn retail community are creating special holiday displays in their storefront windows! The best part is…you get a chance to decide who wins! In addition to two prizes picked by a special judges panel, there is a People’s Choice Award. As you’re doing your holiday shopping, you can check out all of the participating locations and their holiday displays and pick your favorite! 

The contest will run from December 4–15 and voting for the windows will begin on December 6. The businesses that win will get a $300 cash prize and will be announced via social media and on the Shop Penn website. Learn more and cast your vote here starting December 6.  


12/8 and 12/9 • Penn Live Arts presents Dorrance Dance's The Nutcracker Suite

“A virtuoso, both as a dancer and choreographer," (The New York Times) Michelle Dorrance merges tap dance with holiday favorites in the Philadelphia premiere of The Nutcracker Suite, boasting boogies, slides, struts and dives into Duke Ellington’s intoxicating interpretation of the Tchaikovsky classic.  

  • Friday, December 8 @ 8 PM · TICKETS 
  • Saturday, December 9 @ 2 PM · TICKETS 
  • Saturday, December 9 @ 8 PM · TICKETS 


12/8 and 12/9 • uCity Square Holiday Fest at the Lawn

On Friday, December 8th from 4 to 8 PM, and Saturday, December 9th from 2 to 8 PM, join uCity Square at The Lawn and The Square (3701 Filbert Street) for their uCity Square Holiday Fest! Don't miss this weekend of all-ages, holiday fun at West Philadelphia's uCity Square!

The event will feature: crafts, fire pits, vendors, live music, food trucks, a tree lighting, a pop-up ice rink, holiday karaoke, photos with Santa, and adult beverages for sale at the uCity Square Beer Garden, powered by MilkBoy Philly. 


12/9 • Cocoa, Crafts, Holiday Plants, and Photos with the Grinch Presented by UCD 

Join UCD at Trolley Portal Gardens (4000 Baltimore) from 11:30 AM to 1:30 PM to enjoy family-friendly crafting activities, a visit from the Grinch, SEPTA Holiday Trolleys passing through, and complimentary hot chocolate from Renata’s Kitchen.

Want some beautiful plants to celebrate the season? We'll be welcoming Freebird Greenery to the space to help spruce up your homes for the holidays! You can place pre-orders through November 26th for poinsettias or miniature Alberta pine Christmas trees and pick them up between 11:30 AM and 1:30 PM. Freebird will also be holding a pop-up plant sale at the space. 


12/9 and 12/10 • West Craft Fest Holiday Market

The West Craft Fest Holiday Market returns to The Rotunda (4014 Walnut Street, Philadelphia) on Saturday and Sunday, December 9 and 10 from 10 AM to 4 PM each day. Enjoy two DIFFERENT days of local wares handmade with care, like artisan jewelry, ceramics, ornaments, art prints and originals, homewares, clothing, cozy hand knits, natural body care, candles, stationery, toys, and all sorts of unique holiday gifts. Don't miss this amazing shopping extravaganza, happening for one weekend only! Read more.


12/10 • Kol Tzedek Hanukkah

Join Kol Tzedek on Sunday, December 10 from 4 to 6 PM in person at the Calvary Center and on Zoom for the fourth night of Hanukkah! This year they are celebrating Kol Tzedek's 19th year. This will be their final Hanukkah Party at the Calvary Center, and a send-off to the new Kol Tzedek building. Come shmooze, eat, sing and dance with them. Celebrate the sweetness in community and savor the lights of Hanukkah. Learn more.


12/13 • Holiday Sip N' Shop at Garces Trading Company

Looking for a last minute holiday gift? Stop by Garces Trading Company Cira Centre Wednesday, December 13th from 5 to 7 PM to shop their holiday gifts while enjoying festive drinks! Learn more. 


12/14 • Baltimore Avenue Solar Light Celebration 

Baltimore Avenue is about to get a little brighter. Team Panbo, a group of undergraduates from Penn's Wharton School, have installed a "Winter Adornment" lighting plan at the triangle located at the intersections of Baltimore Avenue, 45th, and Springfield Avenue. The display will feature a mixture of "warm white" and "cool white" solar lights that will charge during the day and turn on at night to enliven a well-trafficked stretch of Baltimore.  If you'd like to see the lights yourself and enjoy complimentary hot cocoa, you can join members of Team Panbo for a lighting ceremony on Thursday, December 14th from 5:30 - 7 PM.


12/15 • Penn Live Arts presents The Crossing at Christmas

Conducted by Donald Nally, the “adventurous, fiercely talented” (The New York Times) new music choir, The Crossing, performs the world premiere of poor hymnal by David Lang, exploring if the hymns sung today are truly reflective of a society that feels a responsibility to care for and support one another. Catch one of two performances on Friday evening at the Iron Gate Theatre at 3700 Chestnut. 

  • Friday, December 15 @ 6 PM · TICKETS 
  • Friday, December 15 @ 8:30 PM · TICKETS 


12/16 • A Festival of Lights Presented by Gwendolyn Bye Dance Company

Join Dancefusion as it presents A Festival of Lights along with students from the Gwendolyn Bye Dance Center in a magical holiday dance production at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre 480 S. Broad St. on December 16 at 7 PM.  A medley of choreography by Bye and her faculty will depict dances from the holiday season celebrating Christmas, Chanukah, and Kwanzaa. The performance will feature excerpts from Dancefusion wondrous holiday show The Night Before Christmas with a guest appearance from Santa Claus himself, along with excerpts from The Nutcracker Suite and much more! Tickets.


12/17 • Hair Vyce Studio Holiday Pop-Up 

Hair Vyce Studio is thrilled to announce the return of its annual Holiday Pop-Up Shop from 11 AM to 3 PM. They will feature six premier, local businesses offering jewelry, candles, clothing, and much more. All guests (21+) will receive complimentary champagne and light bites. RSVP here.


12/17 • Clark Park Christmas Caroling

Join the Friends of Clark Park for Christmas Caroling in Clark Park on Sunday, December 17th at 5 PM.  This annual event will be meeting at the maintenance/gardening shed by 45th Street and Regents Square. This wonderful, longstanding event draws many neighbors each year as a hushed winter night falls. Sing traditional Christmas favorites by candlelight with your neighbors, and then enjoy hot cider and cookies, thanks to the Friends of Clark Park. Watch their Facebook page for any last-minute weather notices, if necessary.


12/21 • Blue Christmas Service

Join Calvary Church on Thursday, December 21st from 7 to 8 PM for a Blue Christmas Service. This is a quiet, contemplative service of healing and hope on the longest night of the year, holding sacred space for the grief and heaviness that so many carry during the holiday season. Learn more.


12/22 • Winter Solstice Bird Walk at the Woodlands

Toribird is back for a Winter Solstice Bird Walk at The Woodlands on Friday, December 22nd from 3 to 4:30 PM. Join her for a walk to seek out year-round residents and special cold-weather visitors. You will also discuss the winter finches and other irruptive species making an appearance in the area this year and cover potential strategies for finding these frosty feathered friends. This event is free, but pre-registration is required. Register here!


12/24 • Christmas Eve Candlelight Service of Lessons & Carols

On Sunday, December 24th from 7 to 8 PM, enjoy a Christmas Eve Candlelight Service of Lessons & Carols. Join Calvary Church and West Philadelphia Mennonite Fellowship for a simple service of lessons and carols, concluding with candlelight to celebrate the hope and joy of Christmas! Learn more.


12/29 • 40th Annual Kwanzaa Children's Festival

The 40th Annual Kwanzaa Children’s Festival returns to Penn Museum on Friday, December 29th from 12 to 5 PM. Celebrate the magic of Kwanzaa with holiday activities for the whole family, including a traditional candle ceremony, stilt ballet performances, games, and food. Admission is free. Activities include Libation Ancestors Tribute with Ekoye Drum Assemble, Fashion Show, Children’s Dance and Zawadi gifts and games, Gumbo the Clown, and performances by the African American Stilt Ballet. Kwanzaa is a time of learning, family and celebration. During the week of Kwanzaa, families and communities come together to share a feast, to honor the ancestors, affirm the bonds between them, and to celebrate African and African American culture.


Throughout December • Holiday Events at World Cafe Live

World Cafe Live, the premier multi-level music venue and restaurant at 3025 Walnut Street, has a busy month of holiday events planned. Explore holiday events below, or see their entire schedule by clicking here.  

12/2: Work Drugs Holiday Spectacle - World Cafe Live at 8 PM 

Work Drugs specialize in cocktails-compatible indie pop inspired by the soft rock era of artists like Christopher Cross and Donald Fagen, but with a lo-fi spark. The group was formed in Philadelphia by singer/multi-instrumentalists Thomas Crystal and Benjamin Louisiana. Work Drugs have supported Peter, Bjorn, and John, Two Door Cinema Club, Umphreys McGee, Battles, and Electric Guest, to name a few. 

12/6: Dan Rouse presents The Holiday Jawn at 8 PM 

Philly's own Dan Rouse is an instrumentalist, producer, composer, and musical director who has worked with celebrities such as Jennifer Hudson, Patti Labelle, Lauryn Hill, and more. He's back with a special holiday edition of “Philly’s Hottest Jam Session” The Jawn. 

12/5: Chelsea Reed & the Fair Weather Nine - Christmas Swing at 8 PM 

Chelsea Reed and the Fair Weather Five are at home at swing dances, jazz clubs, and concert halls alike. They have played renowned Philadelphia venues and travel the country year-round to perform at music festivals and Lindy and Blues exchanges and workshops. Chelsea Reed and the Fair Weather Five draw upon the intensity of powerhouse vocalists, the ingenuity of 20th-century composers, and the soul of the dance floor. They are silly, passionate people who love playing this music.

12/16: York Street Hustle Holiday Spectacular w/ Tanqueray Hayward at 8 PM 

York Street Hustle is back by popular demand and bringing their 11th annual Holiday Spectacular to World Cafe Live! Stomp your feet, shake your hips, and catch the spirit of the season with a special mix of Motown & Stax holiday classics, 60s soul hits, and B-sides by Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, The Supremes, Otis Redding, Nina Simone, Al Green, Gladys Knight, the Jackson Five, and many more. 

12/22: Come Together - A Trip Down Abbey Road at 8 PM 

For the fourth consecutive year, a spectacular group of Philadelphia’s finest musicians is ready to weave the timeless magic of The Beatles into the heart of the City of Brotherly Love! This year, the ensemble embarks on a musical journey, bringing the iconic “Abbey Road” album to life in its entirety, and as a bonus, they’ll present an extra set filled with more beloved Beatles classics. Get ready to be enthralled by the harmonious melodies and captivating arrangements that have defined generations. 

12/23: Rev TJ McGlinchey & Friends: Jim Henson Holiday Extravaganza at 7 PM 

Rev. TJ McGlinchey & Friends are paying a special Holiday Concert Tribute to Jim Henson & Company. This very special event features over a dozen of Philadelphia’s most-Muppety singers, songwriters, musicians, and puppeteers to celebrate togetherness, traditions, and families of all types. Philly finest will serenade you with their favorite tunes from The Muppet universe (The Muppetverse?) including but not limited to; the Muppet Show, Sesame Street, Muppet Movies, Muppet TV Specials, etc. Join up for a warm night of holiday cheer with your favorite songs from The Muppets played by Philly’s favorite musicians! 

12/30: The Hype!'s Happy Holidays Special - World Cafe Live at 8:30 PM 

The Holiday Season is upon us and the HYPE!’s got the perfect (late) present fo,r you in the form of the HYPE!’s Holiday Special, a show so spectacular it will reignite your feelings of goodwill and Holiday Cheer. Featuring: BoyWonder, Ariel Skye, E-Hos, Chago IV, and Devon Sierra. Take a break from packing your decorations up and picking out the perfect New Years Outfit and come on down to the World Cafe Live! If you have to pick one last show for 2023 pick this one! It’s going to be a great time so come by and put a little HYPE! in your life. 

12/31: The Nude Party New Year's Eve with Old Lady at 9 PM

The New York-based band has released a pair of well-received albums, an EP, and played countless shows. They count Jack White, Arctic Monkeys, and Orville Peck as vocal supporters, which led to support slots for each. Soon, incredible live appearances at Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, Newport Folk Festival, and Shaky Knees became the norm. See them with supporters Old Lady as they say goodbye to 2023 and welcome the new year! 


12/31/23 • New Year's Eve at Walnut Street Cafe 

Celebrate New Year's Eve at Walnut Street Cafe on December 31st, from 4 to 10 PM.  Enjoy a four course, pre-fixe menu, with seatings at 4, 6, and 8 PM. 


12/31 • Celebrate New Year's Eve at Booker's Restaurant and Bar!

Celebrate New Year's Eve at Booker's Restaurant and Bar! Enjoy a prix-fixe dinner menu all evening long, a perfect way to say goodbye to 2023 and usher in the new year. Get your reservations here.


12/31/23 • Y2K New Year's Eve at The Post 

Celebrate Y2K New Year's Eve at The Post (129 South 39th Street) on December 31st from 9 PM to 2 AM.  A Y2K-themed New Years Eve Party with a fully decorated space, 2000s themed music and DJ, and Y2K dress code encouraged. Themed cocktail list and Open Bar packages available at the here, otherwise free entry is welcome.


1/1/2024 • New Year's Day Brunch at White Dog Cafe

The New Year welcomes the 35th anniversary of White Dog Cafe and three decades plus of their annual New Year’s Day Pajama Brunch from 9 AM to 3 PM! Even the team members at the White Dog Cafe will be adorned in pajamas as they serve you your first meal of the New Year. The a la carte brunch menu is the perfect place for your post-New Year’s Eve celebration whether you are enjoying the Hair of the Dog, one of our handcrafted seasonal mocktails, or a classic cage-free white omelet or avocado BLT. The best part is, you don’t have to get dressed to enjoy brunch! Reservations are encouraged for the New Year’s Day Brunch. 



Ongoing Holiday Events, Drives, & Deals



Now through 12/8 • Drexel University Toy Drive

Presented by the Office of the President and the Office of Government and Community Relations, Drexel University’s Annual Toy Drive supports over 50 community organizations, including public housing developments, churches and ministries, homeless shelters, youth centers, social service agencies, and more. Donate new, unwrapped toys now through December 8th. Click here for more information and a list of drop off locations. 


Ronald McDonald House Holiday Light Display & Charity Drive

In December, stop by the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House (3925 Chestnut) to see their festive lights, meant to thank the community and bring cheer to the neighborhood.

Interested in supporting families staying at the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House this holiday season?  Check out their 2023 Holiday Wish List for items that can be shipped directly to the house to provide care for their families. While toys are the traditional item to donate during this time of year, their highest needs are the items on this page


Councilmember Jamie Gauthier's Third District Toy Drive through 12/17

Councilmember Jamie Gauthier is running a holiday toy drive to benefit children within the Third District. Purchase gifts through the Councilmember's Target Wishlist  and Amazon Wishlist. You may also donate new, unwrapped toys for youths at the Councilmember’s District office, 606 South 52nd Street, Mondays through Thursdays from 9am - 5pm. If you have questions, contact [email protected] or 215.686.0460.  



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