Monday, November 29 2021 9:00

Happy Holidays at Home

Written by Lauren Durante & Gabriella Ruggirello
West Chester Photos Credit: West Chester Views

Your guide to celebrating locally

West Chester Lights Up with 5 Enchanting Weekends of Holiday Fun

It’s no secret that West Chester’s Christmas Parade is a beloved tradition. But when COVID cancelled it last year, and delayed planning for this year, organizers knew they must reimagine holiday celebrations for 2021. The result: Chester County Hospital Lights Up Holiday Weekends in West Chester… five weekends packed with holiday fun – and thousands of holiday lights – to bring joy to visitors across the region, and much-needed business to the one-of-a-kind shops and restaurants that are the heart of West Chester’s charm.

“We’re all feeling it – the need to strengthen community connections safely while also experiencing real joy again. We’re making it our mission to deliver that to visitors as only West Chester can, while supporting our local shops and restaurants for an entire month,” says Katie Walker, President of the Greater West Chester Chamber of Commerce, the organizer of Chester County Hospital Lights Up Holiday Weekends in West Chester.

Thanks to support from more than 50 businesses, the streets of historic West Chester will come alive with the glow of thousands of holiday lights every evening from November 26 to January 1, with each weekend featuring unique holiday experiences, shopping and dining.

11/26 – 28: It all kicks off during Shop Small Business Weekend on Black Friday, when the borough illuminates for the first time and visitors enjoy free parking all weekend long. The Making Spirits Bright Holiday Music Series launches outdoors, Santa makes his first weekly tour of the borough on a fire truck on Saturday, and on Sunday evening a Menorah Lighting captures the spirit of the season.

12/03 – 05: Those who make it a tradition to visit West Chester every holiday season will look forward to an Old-Fashioned Holiday Weekend. It begins Friday evening with the traditional tree lighting ceremony on the steps of West Chester’s Historic Courthouse on December 3, featuring surprise guests and live music from the West Chester University Gospel Choir, West Chester University Marching Band, a cappella group Under A Rest, and West Chester Area School District Elementary Honors Chorus. A professional gingerbread house competition will be in full swing, with delectable displays by Cakes & Candies by Maryellen, Carlino’s Market, John Serock Catering, The Master’s Baker and Yori’s Bakery. Did we mention Breakfast with Santa and a Holiday Bazaar at the History Center?

12/10 – 12: A very special weekend is devoted to First Responders and Health Care Heroes. Throughout the season and during this weekend, 100% of QR code donations will go to local fire departments, police departments, EMS and health care workers. Enjoy roaming carolers and free hot chocolate, then explore Holidays Around the World. Meet real firefighters during a Touch a Truck event, where your family can sign a thank-you banner to let local heroes know how much their service is appreciated.

12/17 – 19: ‘Twas the Weekend Before Christmas offers a rare chance for last-minute shopping during Parents Night Out on Friday evening. Drop off the kids at Oscar Lasko YMCA. (Registration required and there is a fee.) That’s all followed by gingerbread cookie decorating and family fun on Saturday, more live music and Santa delighting children as he waves to them from a fire truck.

12/31 – 01/01: The fun pauses for Christmas weekend, but starts back up on New Year’s Weekend with your last chance to take a glowing stroll through the borough’s historic streets, and enjoy signature drinks and appetizers from your favorite West Chester restaurants.

“As title sponsor, Chester County Hospital is thrilled to draw visitors from throughout the region to enjoy our businesses, culture and people in downtown West Chester. We know everyone is eager to support local business during this time,” says Michael J. Duncan, President & CEO, Chester County Hospital. “Throughout the pandemic, our team has been so touched by the generosity and support from our local businesses and community. It is an honor to join the Greater West Chester Chamber of Commerce in this event as a way to show our sincere gratitude. We look forward to sharing the festivities with our friends, families and neighbors this holiday season!”

For details on daily events, visitors should be sure to check an updated schedule at

More Holiday Towns

There’s plenty of holiday cheer in the Brandywine Valley! With holiday traditions and celebrations—Christmas tree lightings that light up the sky, frosty horse-drawn carriage rides, guest appearances from Santa himself and so much more. You can’t be a grinch this year.

Many of our local towns recommend staying ho ho home for the holidays, with so much to see and do in our own backyard.

Enjoy these holiday happenings. And may your days feel merry and bright.

A Comeback Christmas in Coatesville

The Coatesville Christmas Parade is bouncing back, returning joyful times after too long a hiatus. On Saturday, December 4th, Coatesville will once again be marking the season with captivating performances and festive floats along the parade route (Lincoln Highway (Business Route 30) at Strode Ave. to 11th Ave.). Watch the parade cruise through town, as floats compete to win the title for the most holiday spirit. Feel free to rank your own favorites along with the judges.

Decking Out Downingtown

This year’s Christmas Tree Lighting will brighten the night on November 27th. Enjoy refreshments, live music, crafts, games and plenty of family fun before Santa arrives at 6:45 p.m. to light the tree.

On Saturday, December 11th, the Good Neighbor Christmas Parade will dash down an almost two-mile route from Gable to Whiteland Avenues. Holiday floats bring Christmas cheer to the crowds that line the streets awaiting appearances from Mr. and Mrs. Claus.

The trees aren’t the only things getting the holiday look. Stores in Downingtown will be dressed up in their best Christmas decor to vie for recognition in the Storefront Decorating Contest. Details and updates on the website.

A Kennett Christmas

Holiday cheer fills the air in Kennett Square this season. Nearby Longwood Gardens features fire and ice as towering flame-decorated trees and icy-hued sights delight visitors who warm themselves by firepits as they ooh and aah at half-a-million glittering lights. Through January 9th, enjoy the magical beauty this Winter Wonderland has to offer. Timed tickets online ($16–$30).

Mark your calendar for a visit to Kennett’s Holiday Village Market at The Creamery on December 4th, 5th, 11th and 12th. Stroll the outdoor Christmas Market, complete with ice sculptures, food trucks, Santa and so much more! Make progress on your Christmas list as you visit Market vendors there, as well as at the charming downtown Kennett shops. Take a free shuttle during the Market (11 a.m to 6 p.m.) from Birch to Broad Street where you can see tree lights “Light Up the Square” again this year, plus “Tinsel on the Town” strolling on State Street on December  

Christmas Magic in Malvern

Prepare for the jolly man with the big bag of toys in Malvern and celebrate Christmas on King. Kick off the holidays on November 26th, in Burke Park with the Tree Lighting Ceremony at 6 p.m. Let the holiday spirit decorate your day on December 4th, by shopping locally on King Street. Enjoy Santa, music, food trucks, balloon artists and more as you shop small on King throughout the afternoon.

Merry Times in Media

So many merry things to do in Media! Start with the Santa parade on November 28th, and see performers, classic cars and fire engines along the four-mile route (starting at State & Monroe Streets).

Continue in the Christmas spirit with carols, hot chocolate and the Christmas Tree Lighting, December 5th, at the Rose Valley Museum. Register online.

Make merry all through the month of December as you sing along to the Media Theatre’s production of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer Jr. Featuring all your holiday favorites, this musical takes you on jolly adventures to learn how our differences make us special. Runs weekends plus additional nights during Christmas week. Tickets $17–$22.

Noel in Nottingham and Oxford

Herr’s Foods (our local snack food company) illuminates the holidays with their annual Christmas Light Display. Head to southern Chester County to see 600,000 lights set the night sky aglow, from November to January. Take a drive around the grounds with the company of the reindeer, led by Rudolph, as you cruise through the light show from the comfort of your car.

Join a jolly celebration at the First Friday Country Christmas in downtown Oxford, for a not-so-silent night on December 3rd. Join Santa at the Oxford Mainstreet headquarters on Third Street for photos plus kid-friendly fun. Enjoy an enchanted evening with horse-drawn carriages, hayrides and music to set the tone for the holidays.

Oaks’ New Holiday Spectacular

Holiday traditions old and new—the perfect combination. New this year is the Tinseltown Holiday Spectacular! From November 26th to January 2nd, the Fairgrounds at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center are transformed. Stroll through a Winter Wonderland of lights that create whimsical sculptures. Check off your holiday shopping list, enjoy festive holiday treats (adult beverages included), and skate across the synthetic ice surface. Remember to say hi to Santa and Mrs. Claus before you leave! Tickets $14–$20. Special pet and sensory-friendly nights.

Fiery Festivities in Phoenixville

Find local crafts that put Santa’s elves to shame at the Christmas Craft Show on December 4th at the Grace Crossing Community Church. If you can’t hit all the shops then, head to town again on December 8th for the 3rd annual Luminaria Shopping Night, when local shops offer special holiday activities and sales.

Phoenixville’s fiery Firebird Festival always delights. Paying homage to the town’s namesake and building community this holiday season, the Phoenix illuminates the night as it’s set ablaze, December 11th, from 5 to 8 p.m., in Veterans Memorial Park.

Whimsical in Wayne

Celebrate Christmas in Wayne with family fun on the weekend of December 3rd. Start with a Christmas Tree Lighting at 6:30 p.m. on North Wayne Ave., featuring carriage rides and a visit from Santa. On December 4th, Santa returns to town to visit the firehouse at 10 a.m. The weekend wraps up with Christmas caroling, hot cocoa and Santa at the Radnor Historical Society at the Finley House, Dec. 5th. Radnor Historical Society, 113 W. Beechtree Ln., Wayne.

Winter in Wilmington

Searching for festive fun for the kiddos? Check out the Grand Opera House’s December 5th performance of Santa Saves Christmas Live Show, the story about Santa running out of gas and crashing in Wilmington. Join the singing and bring your Christmas spirit to help fuel Santa’s sleigh to save Christmas! Enjoy more holiday fun at the Grand Opera House with Jane Lynch’s A Swingin’ Little Christmas, December 3rd, performances of The Nutcracker, and the holiday rock event, Wizards of Winter on December 17th at 8 p.m.

And don’t be a Scrooge. The Candlelight Theatre is performing A Christmas Carol from November 20th to December 22nd.

Have a holly jolly Hagley Christmas and walk the decked-out halls of the former du Pont home for Holidays at Hagley. Santa visits December 4th, and Twilight Tours are available throughout the month on select days.

Keep the spirit strong through January 2nd by celebrating Yuletide at Winterthur, another former du Pont home, where they lavishly decorate the mansion in its holiday best for the season. Tickets online.

And finally, see St. Nick at the zoo. Santa will visit the Brandywine Zoo, December 11th, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., ready to greet all the creatures (and kids) who were naughty and nice this year.