Philadelphia's December Bucket List: 10 Must-Do Adventures Before 2016

The Boulder Field in Hickory Run State Park in winter
The Boulder Field in Hickory Run State Park in winter Nicholas A. Tonelli
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The New Year may be fast approaching, but that doesn't mean you need to resign yourself to a lazy month in December while you wait for January 1st to make your resolutions. Instead, if you're looking for a great way to send out 2015 with a bang, try out some of these must-do Philadelphia adventures before the ball drops. Whether its sipping seasonal ciders, or signing up for a holiday 5k, or even visiting one of the most unique boulder fields in the Mid-Atlantic, there's no shortage of fun things to do in Philly this holiday season.

1. Bicycle Through Valley Forge National Historic Park

Riding on the Schuylkill River Trail near Valley Forge National Historic Park
Riding on the Schuylkill River Trail near Valley Forge National Historic Park Montgomery County Planning Commission

In late December 1777, General George Washington led a Continental Army of 12,000 soldiers into the heavily-forested hollow of Valley Forge. Exhausted, underfed, and ill-prepared for a fierce Philadelphia winter, roughly 2,000 of these men died by February 1778. Today, Valley Forge is the site of a National Historical Park, where visitors can explore the old military camp and reminisce on how grim things might have been. Perhaps the best way to experience the park is by cycling along the Joseph Plumb Trail —a beautiful, rolling 6-mile loop that circles the park with many scenic stops along the way. If you take this ride in late December, it might be hard not to think back on what things must have been like roughly 240 years earlier.

2. Ice Skating and Holiday Markets at Dilworth Park

Last year Philadelphia exploded with new winter and holiday activities, like the Rothman ice skating rink in Dilworth Park right outside City Hall. This year, Dilworth Park is also home to Made in Philadelphia Holiday Market , where you can find tons of local, handmade gifts. After skating and shopping, hit Rosa Blanca Cafe in Dilworth Park for refreshments.

3. Check out Christmas Village at LOVE Park

Love Park gets a Christmas makeover each holiday season.
Love Park gets a Christmas makeover each holiday season. Katilin

Just across the street from Dilworth Park is Dilworth Plaza, which is transformed into a winter wonderland each December when it becomes Christmas Village. Take photos in front of the tree, explore a variety of gift shops, sip hot chocolate, and eat winter treats at one of the city's most iconic landmarks.

4. Combine Yoga + Brunch at Paperbox

On December 5th, take care of you  by attending a yoga class followed by brunch at Paper Box Studio in South Kensington. For just $35, you'll practice Iyengar yoga for 45 minutes, then will be treated to an expertly prepared vegan brunch. Enjoy the refreshing calmness of this tiny, minimalist yoga studio and leave with a full belly and warm heart. Contact Gabrielle Sigal to register. 

5. Sign up for the Ugly Sweater Run

Don your best holiday gear at the Ugly Sweater 5k this December.
Don your best holiday gear at the Ugly Sweater 5k this December. Michael Dorausch

If you're looking for a fun and active way to celebrate the holiday season, head to West Philly on December 19th, and don your grandma's finest knits for the Ugly Sweater Run 5k!  Grab a few friends to run through the hills of west Fairmount Park, then enjoy unlimited hot chocolate and a Sam Adams beer post-race. Participants will also receive a knit hat to match their sweater.   

6. Visit the Boulder Field at Hickory Run State Park

The Boulder Field in Hickory Run State Park in winter
The Boulder Field in Hickory Run State Park in winter Nicholas A. Tonelli

Located in the Pocono Mountains near White Haven, Pennsylvania, Hickory Run State Park is one of the largest and closest state parks to Philadelphia. Encompassing roughly 16,000 acres of sprawling forests and mountains, and crisscrossed by no less than 44 miles of hiking trails, it's no surprise that this park was listed as one of Pennsylvania’s must-see parks by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources . While the park is home to cascading waterfalls and abandoned fire towers, its biggest attraction is the gigantic, 16-acre scree field filled with small sandstone and conglomerate boulders. This field is so geologically unique, in fact, it's been named a "National Natural Landmark."

7. Attend the Valley Forge Beer and Cider Festival

If you're in the mood to try more than 150 beers and ciders, head to the Valley Forge Beer and Cider Festival , taking place December 5th at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center in Oaks, PA. More than 75 breweries and cideries will be in attendance, so be sure to bring your drinking shoes and a designated driver.

8. Visit Eastern State Penitentiary

Eastern State Penitentiary is a favorite for history buffs and photographers alike.
Eastern State Penitentiary is a favorite for history buffs and photographers alike. See-ming Lee

While  Eastern State Penitentiary , located in the Fairmount section of the city, may be best known for its annual haunted house, December is still a great time to visit. Visitors can walk the halls of the old prison with a self-guided audio tour narrated by Steve Buscemi. Be sure to bring your camera and your bravery as you wander around this crumbling piece of Philadelphia's history.

9. Climb at Philadelphia's Closest (and Best) Bouldering Area

Bouldering at Haycock Mountain
Bouldering at Haycock Mountain Scott Grayson

Roughly an hour from downtown Philadelphia, Haycock Mountain is one of the most unique bouldering destinations in New England. The diabase rock there only exists in a few areas in the world. Diabase is an igneous rock that forms rounded boulders with high friction texture and minimal features for hand and footholds. The result? A wide variety of seriously fun bouldering problems ranging from V0 all the way up to V11. If you like to boulder, you'll love Haycock.

10. Party at the Mummer's Parade

The Mummers' Parade is one of the longest running traditions in Philadelphia.
The Mummers' Parade is one of the longest running traditions in Philadelphia. Vladimir

Technically, the Mummers' Parade takes place on New Year's Day, not in December. However, it's worth mentioning on our bucket list because it is an absolute must for every Philadelphian. Head down to Broad Street with friends and some beers, and enjoy watching the constant stream of costumed Mummers (clubs of costumed performers) as they walk proudly and perform raucously.

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