The holidays offer plenty of opportunities to explore the charming boroughs and towns of Pennsylvania and all the seasonal cheer they have to offer. One of our favorite places to soak up all of the Christmas sparkle is in York County and the surrounding region. Right in the heart of the state, York County is easy enough to get to from points east and west, and every nook of the county is aglow with Yuletide spirit.
Whether you want to start new traditions for your children or grandchildren, or you seek to recapture a bit of that childlike wonder for yourself, here are our top picks for ways to enjoy the holidays in York and its neighboring counties!
Christmas Magic (through Dec. 31)
Perhaps the most iconic Christmas celebration in York County, Christmas Magic is a captivating light display along a half-mile walking trail at Rocky Ridge County Park. Bundle up and explore the dazzling experience of nearly 600,000 lights and animated scenes set against the serene backdrop of a wooded hilltop.
Christmas Magic runs from November 23 to December 31 (closed on December 24 and 25), Monday through Thursdays from 6–9 p.m., and Friday through Sunday from 5–9 p.m. Tickets are $10 for adults, $9 for seniors and $5 for children. Children age 4 and under are free. Please purchase tickets in advance for Friday through Sunday dates. New this year is an online ticket ordering system, making it easier than ever to enjoy this wonderful York County tradition. 3699 Deininger Rd., York; (717) 840-7440.
Holiday Train Rides
All aboard! There’s no shortage of festive train rides to take in York County! Here are a few that you — and your train-obsessed little ones — can’t miss:
- Christmas City Express at the Ma & Pa Railroad: On weekends, from Dec. 1–16, guests at this exciting event can hear the story of a young girl and the train crew who once saved Christmas for everyone aboard a train. After the story, enjoy a visit with Santa, then board an antique motorcar train at the station platform for a ride through the Muddy Creek Valley. Find tickets here. 1258 Muddy Creek Forks Rd., Airville; (717) 862-3259.
- Santa Sing-Along Caroling on the Glen Rock Express: At Steam Into History, climb aboard a coach pulled by a vintage diesel locomotive to enjoy Christmas music sing-alongs and a visit from Santa, who will be handing out small gifts and stopping for photos. Hot chocolate, cookies and music will be provided in the station prior to departure. Train rides are on weekends between Dec. 8 and 23. Find tickets here. 2 W. Main St., New Freedom; (717) 942-2370.
- Santa’s Paradise Express: The Strasburg Rail Road offers a visit with Santa on the rails during this annual holiday ride. The engine takes passengers on a 45-minute ride to Paradise, PA and back. Along the way, Santa will visit passengers with a special treat (for children ages 11 and under). Try a fun ride aboard the Tinsel Trolley (a self-propelled motor car) and snuggle up for readings of holiday stories on the heated, stationary caboose. Dates run between December 1 and 22, and tickets can be purchased here. 301 Gap Rd., Ronks; (866) 725-9666.
- Train Rides with Santa at the Stewartstown Railroad Co.: On weekends throughout December, experience a fun ride through the Deer Creek Valley with Santa Claus. A 1943 gasoline-powered locomotive “Mighty Mo” pulls an authentic 1920s passenger coach that’s all decked out for the season. Pose for photos with Santa, who will have small gifts for all the children. Order tickets here. 21 W Pennsylvania Ave., Stewartstown; (201) 594-1422.
Add some arts and culture to your holiday season with a live performance by some of the most talented companies and troupes in the area!
- A Seussified Christmas Carol: Dickens’ classic gets a fun remake with a touch of whimsy inspired by the works of Dr. Seuss. This comedy, by Peter Bloedel and guest-directed by Amanda Nowell, is running at the DreamWrights Center for the Community Arts between December 7 and 23. The show is recommended for children in grades 3 and up; find performance dates, times and tickets here. 100 Carlisle Ave., York; (717) 848-8623.
- The Hip Nut at the Appell Center: If you love the classic holiday story of The Nutcracker, but something a little offbeat is more your style, check out The Hip Nut on December 15. This multicultural world dance production reimagines the Nutcrackers story as a series of modern day scenes. Find tickets here. 50 N. George St., York; (717) 846-1111.
Of course, the holidays aren’t complete without some sweet treats and perhaps an adult beverage or two.
- Holiday Cookie Pairing Flights at Adams County Winery: What wine goes best with your favorite Christmas cookies? Let the wine experts at Adams County Winery school you in cookie and wine pairings during the weekend of December 15 and 16 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. On December 15, get a little shopping done with the vendors set up in the Pavilion. Cookie flights are $11.99 per person, and no reservations are required. 251 Peach Tree Rd., Orrtanna; (717) 334-4631.
- Gifts and Good Times at Spring Gate Vineyards and Brewery: Get your last-minute shopping done and indulge in some seasonal sips during the last two weekends before Christmas at Spring Gate Vineyard and Brewery! On December 15, 16, 22 and 23, Spring Gate is offering a $99 whole-case special on select wines. While you’re there, enjoy snacks from food trucks, like 717tacos and Philadelphia Hoagie Co., and also enjoy live music. 5790 Devonshire Rd., Harrisburg; (717) 857-5544.
- Cookies with Santa and Trains at Flinchbaugh’s Orchard and Farm Market: On weekends through December 15, indulge the kids in a gingerbread-cookie-decorating activity at the Farm Market at Flinchbaugh’s. Santa will be on site for visits, and kids young and old will love the Model Toy Trains running in the Market, as well. 110 Ducktown Rd., Hellam; (717) 252-2540.
There is so much holiday fun waiting for you in York County and beyond! Why not turn your excursion into a whimsical weekend getaway and take advantage of packages and special offers at one of York County’s premier hotels or bed and breakfasts? Stop into one of the Visitor Information Centers or call (888) 858-YORK.
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- Adams County Wine photo: Alexandra Whitney Photography
- All other photos: York County Convention & Visitors Bureau