Ice, Ice Baby: Winterfest Returns With Ice Skating, More Holiday Activities

The Penn's Landing event will run Nov. 24 through March 4

By Walter Foley

Hmmm... What to do on the day after Thanksgiving: Scramble through long lines and chaos to buy more junk on Black Friday, or go ice skating with friends among a forest of twinkling lights next to the Delaware River? 

Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest will return Nov. 24 through March 4 with a regulation-sized outdoor ice skating rink, a chalet-inspired lodge with treats and beverages, and a kids’ lodge featuring small rides, pinball, air hockey and other arcade games.

Thousands of shimmering lights will be strung across the site, illuminating the rink and holiday tree, and a new canopy of lights at the north end will be outfitted with heaters and a seating area. More fire pits have been added this year, and there will be plenty of food, including pizza, pretzels, funnel cake, fried oreos and other bites from Chickie’s & Pete’s, Garces Group and Franklin Fountain. During peak hours, guests 21 and older can enjoy craft beers and hot cocktails such as spiked hot chocolate, as well as apple cider from Linvilla Orchards.

“The additional Winterfest activities bring an extra element of excitement to the experience, creating a new tradition for everyone who visits,” said Yvette Bright, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Independence Blue Cross, which is sponsoring the 24th installment of this seasonal event at 101 S. Christopher Columbus Blvd.

Admission to Winterfest is free; skate sessions cost $3, but are free for Independence Blue Cross cardholders and employees. Skate rentals are available for $10, but visitors are allowed to bring their own, and skate-sharpening services are offered on-site.

Opening weekend activities include LEGO building, facepainting, claymation, circus arts and photo-ops with a life-sized snow globe. Normal operating hours are Mondays through Thursdays from 1 to 11 p.m.; Fridays from 1 p.m. to 1 a.m.; Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.; and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. 

The full schedule of events at includes extended opening-weekend and holiday hours, as well as transportation options.

Santa Claus will be skating from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays in December through the 17th. Twelve days of Christmas movies—screened inside the cozy lodge—will include “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” “Elf,” “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” and other family favorites. 

Scheduled events also include: storytime sessions hosted by the Free Library on Saturdays; a New Year’s Eve fireworks display on the waterfront; Winterfest Brewfest on Jan. 20 and 21; Snowie Bowie on Jan. 13 (featuring tributes to the late artist with concert footage, facepainting, themed cocktails and a screening of the film “Labyrinth”); and Sweetheart Skate on Valentine’s Day.

From Nov. 30 through Dec. 31, the festival will also participate in Philadelphia’s Historic District HoliDays & Nights, a newly formed seasonal collaboration among the city’s museums, restaurants and shops between the Delaware River and 7th Street and Vine and Lombard Streets. Shuttle services will offer free rides throughout the district Thursdays through Saturdays from 6 to 9 p.m.

The entire skating rink, lodge and warming cabins (outfitted with seasonal décor and electric fireplaces) can also be privately rented during off-peak hours.

Play It Cool

The centerpiece is the Blue Cross RiverRink, a 21-year-old outdoor ice-skating rink. | Photos by Matt Stanley

Embrace the brisk weather by visiting the Delaware River Waterfront for the Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest. The winter respite touts thousands of lights, great food and drinks, comfy rockers and couches, games and more.

Building off of the success of the Spruce Street Harbor Park, the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation worked with Philadelphia partners Garces Group, Groundswell Design Group, and Art Star Gallery & Boutique to transform Penn’s Landing into a seasonal riverfront park.

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