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by Alison Hogan


If you're planning a holiday break closer to home this year, Philadelphia is going all out to attract visitors with its new Philadelphia Holiday Festival. From now through January 1, when the Mummers Parade, the oldest folk parade in the nation, kicks off at 10am, Mummer's Clubs will be performing on lighted floats throughout the city. These dancers and revelers, dressed in their finery, can be seen every Wednesday through Saturday night, through December 29. From December 28-31, you can even go to the Pennsylvania Convention Center and experience the unique spectacle up close by trying on a Mummer's costume, learning to do the Mummer's Strut, and watching the "brigades" practice their routines.

The entire city of Philadelphia will be aglow during the month of December. City Hall, in Center City, will be illuminated by a color wheel of moving light, a giant lighted tree, and lighted wreaths. As well, 40 city blocks along Broad, Market, Chestnut and Walnut Streets will sparkle with festive lights. Candlelit evening trolley tours will go to three of the historic Fairmount Park mansions. The Pennsylvania ballet will be performing the Nutcracker at the Academy of Music, December 14-31; the acclaimed modern dance troupe, Philadanco, will present Xmas Philes at the Annenberg Center for Performing Arts, December 6-9; and at the newly-opened Kimmel Center for Performing Arts, two weeks of inaugural programming will feature holiday favorites from Peter Nero and the Philly Pops (December 17-18); the Vienna Boys Choir (December 21); the Klezmer Conservatory Band (December 22); and The Philadelphia Orchestra's New Year's Eve Concert on December 31.

During daylight hours, families can keep busy with visits to Philadelphia's numerous museums and historical sites. The must-sees: Independence National Historical Park in Center City, housing the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall; the Franklin Institute Science Museum, where you can walk through a giant human heart; the Academy of Natural Sciences, with its Tyrannosaurus Rex; the U.S. Mint; the new National Liberty Museum, dedicated to our heroes of freedom; the Firemens Hall Museum, a restored fire station in service from 1902; the Mutter Museum with its medical oddities (see following article); the American Helicopter Museum with over 30 helicopters and vintage aircraft; and, as a nearby day trip, Valley Forge National Park.

Several special holiday packages apply this month and for New Year's Eve celebrations. Call 1-877-GO-PHILA, or access www.gophila.com for details.

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