There are so many wonderful things to do around the holidays, but if you’re looking for a traditional Christmas, Pennsylvania’s small towns are a great place to find it.
Tuba players will converge on historic Lincoln Square in Gettysburg to play Christmas carols during the 21st annual Holiday Tuba Carol Fest on Dec. 9. The next day, the 20th annual Holiday House Tour is your ticket to see the town’s most historic properties decorated for the holidays.
Calling all night owls! Christmas has begun the same way in Glen Rock, Pa., since 1848 — with a group of caped carolers trekking through the small York County borough singing Christmas carols, followed by a crowd. It all begins at midnight on Dec. 25.
Through Dec. 4, ride the rails through a winter wonderland on Steam Into History’s Tannenbaum Christmas Tree Train in New Freedom, then hop into a horse-drawn carriage to go to the Bricker Tree Farm. There, you can pick a tree that will be waiting for you back at the station.
Step back in time during Bellefonte’s Victorian Christmas, Dec. 9–11, and you might even get a chance to meet Charles Dickens or some the characters right out of his books.
If you’d like a close-up visit with Dickens himself, plan on attending Dinner with Dickens on Saturday, Dec. 10, to enjoy fine food, games, and merry skits.
If you’re a big Dickens’ fan, don’t miss the 33rd annual Dickens of a Christmas on Dec. 3 in Wellsboro. It includes craft and food vendors lining the streets, strolling musicians, dancers, actors, Santa and Mrs. Claus, and Scrooge himself. Victorian costumes are welcome.
Franklin County celebrates the season with the Cocoa Crawl in Downtown Chambersburg on Dec. 2 and recommends the Tiny World miniature town in Shippensburg that features 20 different decorated homes and is open through early January.
You can experience Christmas as it would have been in the 1800s at the historic Renfrew Museum and Park, Dec. 2–4, and enjoy horse-and-buggy rides through downtown Greencastle on Dec. 2, 9, and 16.
Ring in the holiday season with the 37th annual QVC West Chester Christmas Parade on Friday, Dec. 2. Not your typical small-town parade, this one features hundreds of participants and was named USA Today’s “One of 10 Best Places to See Santa.”
Indiana, the hometown of actor Jimmy Stewart, has something going on every weekend Nov. 18–Dec. 23, including photos with Santa and live reindeer, a Christmas home tour and sing-along, and the chance to pick out your tree in the Christmas Tree Capital of the World.
There’s also a 24-hour It’s a Wonderful Life movie marathon for those hard-core Clarence fans who can’t wait to see him get his wings.
Magic lantern shows transport you back in time
One truly unique holiday experience takes place at the Plain & Fancy Farm east of Lancaster, Pa. Using a wood and brass “magic lantern,” hand-painted images are projected onto a big screen, with tales narrated by a master storyteller who transports his audience back in time.
“Magic lantern shows are just something that you don’t seen anymore,” said Brad Igou, of the Amish Experience, about the early technology that served as a precursor to movies. “Magic lanterns provided a way to project images to large numbers of people for entertainment as well as education.”
The farm boasts the only permanent magic lantern theater in the world. The show runs Nov. 25–Dec. 31 (see website for dates) and includes The Night Before Christmas, A Christmas Carol, and the very unique Gabriel Grub and the Goblins tale, a little-known Charles Dickens’ story.