When I was a youngster, pre-internet most cities still had high rise department stores like Macy’s in New York. For me it was Wanamaker’s in Philadelphia. Our annual Christmas trip meant a ride from South Jersey via train into the city. We’d visit Santa, have dinner in their restaurant, grab a seat on the grand court by the Eagle to watch the Christmas light show and listen to the world’s largest operating organ.
Fast forward to today, the organ player and the light show are the same, the eagle is still there but everything else has changed. Wanamaker’s was bought became Strawbridges, then Lord and Taylor, then finally Macy’s. The size of the store shrunk from eight floors to two. The higher floors are reserved for office space now. The toy store with its monorail once profiled in the movie mannequin is probably a break room now.
It takes generations for traditions to run out of steam. I doubt our kids will make a big deal out of the trip when they’re older but then again you never know what strikes a cord. If this is not a tradition in your family you may want to skip it in your visit of Philadelphia. Due to the reduced schedule, it’s very crowded and you’ll need to get a seat very early or hold your kids for a good 30 minutes or so. It’s in a store so they’re are limited viewing areas.
That said, I loved the experience. We took train, hit the Reading Terminal for a bite and enjoyed the show. Philly has its personality quirks but I’d say more than most american cities it holds it’s traditions dear.
Eight years ago, I happened to be in Philly with a camera and recorded the light show. It’s narrated by Julie Andrews.