Nine Totally Free Things to do in Philly for New Year’s
In Philadelphia, it’s easy to celebrate New Year’s without breaking the bank. The city’s beloved fireworks show pulls double duty this year, with an early performance for the kids plus the traditional midnight celebration. During the day, you can do your own countdown as you check out museums, historic sites, and the last opportunity for free holiday shows before the grand party gets underway.
1. Comcast Holiday Spectacular
Screened on one of the world’s highest resolution LED displays, the Comcast Holiday Spectacular dazzles crowds with dancers from the Pennsylvania Ballet, music from The Nutcracker, and actors from the historic Walnut Street Theatre. Shows run at the top of each hour in the building lobby.
2. Macy’s Light Show
New Year’s Eve marks the final day of the Christmas Light Show at Macy’s in Center City, a Philadelphia tradition since 1956. The show—featuring 100,000 LED lights, narration by Julie Andrews, and sounds from the largest musical instrument in the world, the Wanamaker Organ—takes place every two hours.
3. Franklin Square
Philly’s most family-friendly park hosts a free Kids’ New Year’s Eve Countdown from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. Music, crafts, and rides on the Lightning Bolt Express train lead up to the Square drop at 6 p.m. A dance party in the Pavilion follows. The holiday light show Electrical Spectacle runs every 30 minutes, and features a giant lit kite and a display of 50,000 lights choreographed to holiday music.
4. Tour the U.S. Mint
Tours are always free at this government facility that creates U.S. currency and is open on New Year’s Eve. You’ll see the live coining operation from 40 feet above the factory floor, the key to the first Mint, and the Mint deed signed by President Andrew Jackson.
5. Reading Terminal Market Holiday Railroad
The last day of Reading Terminal Market’s Holiday Railroad Display is New Year’s Eve. The 500-square-foot model railroad includes 14 working train lines throughout a miniature Philadelphia and its countryside. The famous indoor farmers market is also the perfect spot for an affordable lunch.
6. Chemical Heritage Foundation Museum
The always-free Chemical Heritage Foundation’s museum, open on New Year’s Eve, explores the ways in which chemistry shapes the world—in both historical and modern contexts. Even science novices will appreciate this world-class collection of instruments and apparatus, rare books, fine art, and the personal papers of prominent scientists.
7. Historic Sites
Philadelphia’s top historic sites offer free or cheap admission year ‘round. Bundle up on New Year’s Eve to see the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, Benjamin Franklin Museum, Philosophical Hall, Elfreth’s Alley, and The Betsy Ross House, which hosts Betsy’s Birthday Bash from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., featuring family-friendly activities and free cupcakes from the historic City Tavern.
8. Mummers Parade
It’s on New Year’s Day, not Eve, but it’s a Philadelphia classic (and a popular but underrated attraction): the annual New Year’s Day Mummers Parade on Broad Street. This 115th anniversary event starts at City Hall and struts its way with 10,000 costumed men, women, and children to South Philly.
9. City Fireworks
Not just one, but two huge fireworks shows over the Delaware River on New Year’s Eve ring in 2016 for families at 6 p.m. and revelers at midnight. The SugarHouse New Year’s Eve Fireworks on the Waterfront show is visible from many spots throughout Philadelphia and New Jersey.
Sarah Maiellano is on the Philadelphia beat for Travel + Leisure. You can follow her on Twitter at @SarahMaiellano.