Holiday Displays & Tours
Freedom to Decorate
Indoors and out, the holiday season brings a festive overlay to Valley Forge and Montgomery County, Pa., enabling it to shine brighter than at any other time of year. Once visitors' own homes are looking their best, it's the perfect time to take in the strands of colored lights, miles of ribbons, oodles of ornaments and reams of wreaths that are hung county-wide.
- The allure of the lace and lights associated with a Victorian Christmas celebration is hard to resist. Pennypacker Mills brings the charm and beauty of an old-fashioned holiday to life during its seasonal tours that include the refurbished servants' quarters, where the sounds and smells of a bygone December can be indulged. The open house of December 13 is a special event for fans of this era. In addition to the decorations, a bell choir entertains on the front porch, and in the kitchen, visitors can watch clear toy candy being made by hand.
- It's a holiday celebration with a natural twist at the holiday open house at the December 7 event at The John James Audubon Center at Mill Grove. The house and museum will be decorated inside and out, and admission is free. Events for the whole family include owl presentations, live music, a scavenger hunt and light refreshments. Shopping for a nature lover? Browse the unique items in the gift shop.
- Twelfth Night celebrations marked the end of the 12 days of Christmas and the notion that it was time for one more blowout before the decorations and special food exited for another year. Pottsgrove Manor revives the tradition in its December 14 open house and candlelight tour. The homestead's parlor will be hopping with music and dance, and aromas of a festive menu will waft from the hearth. The kids can make a seasonal craft to take home.
- The pathways of Skippack Village glow warmly when lit by dozens of candles on the Wednesday and Friday Illuminaire Nights, through December 19. Walking from shop to shop becomes a magical experience, heightened by the special gifts that can be picked up along the way. A menorah lighting adds a holiday glow to the evening of December 23.
- The 1,000 luminary candles lining the towpath of the Schuylkill Canal Lock 60 are a stunning sight, reflected in the placid waters and gently pushing back the darkness. At the Holiday Luminaire event, December 6, the Locktender's House is open to receive visitors to its night of Dickensian decorations and seasonal music.
- Although they're more practical than decorative, the candles used to illuminate the story of the March-in of the Continental Army at Valley Forge National Historical Park do contribute to a unique atmosphere at this time of year. The 1777 milestone is presented on December 19, the actual date that General George Washington arrived onsite with his troops. As the holiday season continues to unfold, history buffs can enjoy festive trolley tours, December 26-30, at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.
- Many homes include in their decorations a crèche, a small representation of the stable in Bethlehem, complete with shepherds, wise men and angels. Each Christmas season, Glencairn Museum (part of the Bryn Athyn Historic District) displays an array of nativity sets that come from all over the world. The artistry, cultural influences and creative interpretations are as stunning as they are varied, with source material from natural elements like polished stone, clay and even cornhusks. Visitors are welcome to wander the galleries every day until January 11 (except December 15-16 and 24-25).
- The Mennonite Heritage Center revives the Pennsylvania Dutch tradition of the "Christmas Putz," a display of holiday scenes in miniature. The 2014 version is a whimsical farm on display in the first floor galleries through March 1. The accent here is more on fantasy than fact, which explains why several of the animals are depicted as taller than the farmers themselves.
- Twas the Night before Christmas; And out of the station; Rolled a holiday train; Our newest sensation. The Colebrookdale Railroad, newly introduced to the Montgomery County tourism scene, has bedecked its passenger cars with thousands of lights for the Night before Christmas excursions (Friday and Saturday evenings until December 20). As it rolls through the Secret Valley from Boyertown to Pottstown, passengers in pajamas enjoy a reading of the C. Clement Moore poem, along with hot chocolate and cookies. A Santa mailbox ensures that letters containing wishes make it to the North Pole ASAP.
- A railway of slightly smaller proportions is a yearly part of the decorations at Morris Arboretum. The 2014 season brings "Friday Night Lights," scheduled each of the Fridays in December. These special presentations feature the model trains in action, decorated for the holidays with thousands of twinkling lights, zipping around an outdoor quarter-mile track. December 5 brings the opportunity for great pictures, as characters from the Pennsylvania Ballet's production of The Nutcracker will be present in their intricate and detailed costumes.
- At this time of year, Longwood Gardens is a 4-D experience, engaging scents, sights, sounds and even the emotional tug of awe and wonder. The theme for the 2014 display is inspired by birds, and their wide appeal and bright colors make this December soar. Bundle up for a visit; an evening at Longwood is not complete without getting outside for a showing of the dancing fountains and the half-million lights on display.
- In shopping seasons past, department store windows were routinely transformed into colorful, animated displays that caused children to press their noses up to the glass for a better look. The moving elves, Santas, reindeer and snowmen have mostly been retired from their retail service; however, they have been preserved and presented by the curators of the American Treasure Tour, where they join a host of other holiday figures in an impressive collection. Tours of the memorabilia also include vintage music boxes, huge band organs and classic cars.