The Comcast Holiday Spectacular In HD - A Must-See At Christmas

Update – October 2011 - The Comcast Holiday Spectacular Has Announced Its Christmas 2011 Schedule

For those of you already planning for the 2011 Christmas season, the Comcast Holiday Spectacular has just announced its schedule for this year. Note that this is a free Christmas event...

The official announcement:

"THE COMCAST HOLIDAY SPECTACULAR 2011" AT COMCAST CENTER" Comcast Center, 1701 John F. Kennedy Blvd., Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day - New Year's Day Daily, 10:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m. 15-minute shows at the top of each hour (Shows are not presented on weekdays at 5:00 p.m.)

In just its fourth year, "The Comcast Holiday Spectacular" has become a must-see holiday tradition in Philadelphia, entertaining thousands of people of all ages and spreading holiday cheer.

Full of captivating original holiday imagery and music, this year's 15-minute show dazzles with new and enchanting scenes from The Nutcracker, beautifully performed by the renowned Pennsylvania Ballet, a magical sleigh ride through the snow covered Pennsylvania countryside, the majestic sounds of a 64-piece orchestra, and the harmony of the Commonwealth Youth Choir's Keystone State Boychoir and Pennsylvania Girlchoir, and more.

Shown on The Comcast Experience video wall - the world's largest 4mm LED video display - it can be seen at the top of each hour at Comcast Center from Thanksgiving Day through New Year's Day. In the spirit of the season, The Comcast Holiday Spectacular 2011 welcomes all to share in celebrating the holidays in this free, unique, and family-friendly tradition.

The Comcast Holiday Spectacular is Philadelphia's newest Christmas event and tradition, compared to the other two major traditions at Christmas time.

First, there is the far more traditional Macy's Holiday Light Show - which dates all the way back to 1956. The original occupant of Macy's Philadelphia location, at 13th and Market Streets - was the iconic John Wanamakers Department Store, a National Historic Landmark first opened in 1911.

And on another floor at Macy's (the third floor) - the Macy's Dickens Village - A Christmas Carol goes back to 1985, and began as a Christmas attraction at the regrettably shuttered archrival to Wanamakers, Strawbridge & Clothier, at 8th and Market Streets.

(After Strawbridge's closed its doors forever in 2006, Macy's accepted the idea of relocating the Dickens Village five blocks up Market Street to its own building. They have now both been under the same roof, since Christmas season 2006.)

Compared to the other two, the Comcast Holiday Spectacular is brand-new - it debuted in 2008. But in 2010, the HD Christmas spectacle is back - and bigger than ever.

It must be said, that as much as we enjoy the Macy's Holiday Light Show, that the Comcast Holiday Spectacular is in fact, for lack of a better term, spectacular. It's not just hyperbole. It's true. (And it's a free Christmas event.)

The Comcast Holiday Spectacular Is Burgeoning in Popularity, As Tens of Thousands of Visitors See It Each Christmas Season

Despite the fact that 2010 marks only its third season, its popularity continues to increase exponentially. Tens of thousands of visitors are flocking to see it each season, and it has catapulted itself into one of the most popular Christmas things to do in Philadelphia, particularly for families with children.

The Comcast Holiday Spectacular - Schedule

The high-definition show begins its run on November 26, 2010 - Black Friday - and will run until New Year's, 2011.

The show lasts for about 16 minutes. It will take place at the top of the hour, every hour, from 10:00 AM - 8:00 PM, every day (except Christmas Day and New Year's Day). However, there is one major exception - there will be no show at 5:00 PM on weekdays, at the peak of the PM rush hour.

Even If You've Previously Seen It In 2008 Or 2009 - The Comcast Holiday Spectacular Has New Scenes and Elements For 2010 - It's A Different Show Than What You've Previously Seen

The high-definition show has even more in store for you this year, in 2010- as there are new scenes and elements, that did not exist during the first two years.

Some of the new elements include "Jingle Bell Rock", presented in 1940s Swing style, performed by Broadway stars; an improved light show, and ice sculptures that spontaneously come to life.

The Comcast Holiday Spectacular - Some Fascinating Facts

The Comcast Holiday Spectacular can be found in the Winter Garden (i.e., the lobby) of the Comcast Building, which is located at the northwest corner of 17th and Arch Streets. (This is a recent addition to the Philadelphia skyline.)

The cutting-edge Christmas show works its magic, by means of the 21st-century artist's canvas of the Comcast Experience Video Wall. Its dimensions are staggering. The Comcast Experience Video Wall measures in at 25.4 feet high, and is 83.3 feet wide (over 25 yards, a quarter of a football field). It is the largest 4-mm LED screen, to be found in the entire globe.

There are 10 million pixels of clarity - which means that the Comcast Experience Video Wall offers viewers an image, of about five times greater clarity, as your high-definition television set.

The Comcast Experience Video Wall provides entertainment to all comers, 18 hours a day. But it's during the holiday season that the Comcast Holiday Spectacular - its signature event - comes to life.

Taking SEPTA to the Comcast Holiday Spectacular

Located in the heart of Center City Philadelphia, this highly entertaining, ongoing Christmas event, is very easy to reach, with multiple SEPTA options available.

SEPTA Regional Rail is - by far - our recommended option for seeing the Comcast Holiday Spectacular. One of the three major SEPTA Regional Rail Stations - Suburban Station - is located at 16th Street and John F. Kennedy Boulevard. This is literally adjacent to the Comcast Building, requiring just a short, one-block walk.

But best of all, you can make that one-block walk, without even going outside. You can enter the Comcast Building from Suburban Station, directly to the lobby where the Holiday Spectacular is playing. Here's how:

How To See the Comcast Holiday Spectacular, By Getting Off the Train At Suburban Station, and Walking Through the Market and Shops at Comcast Center - Without Having to Go Outside

When you ascend from your Suburban Station train platform, you want to head west within the Concourse - i.e., you want numbers that are higher, not lower. You want to follow signs for "17th" and "18th Streets. (Basically, if you start seeing signs for the Broad Street Line and the Market Frankford Line, you're going the wrong way! Turn around and head back in the opposite direction.)

But most importantly, after you've determined that you've headed west-

Look for signs reading "To Comcast Center", with a directional arrow. You'll have to walk down a ways, but just keep following those signs.

You'll then arrive at the sleek new, silver plated, Market and Shops at Comcast Center. (You can also enter the Market and Shops from street level, but since we're trying to get you to the Comcast Holiday Spectacular via Suburban Station, let's leave that aside, for a moment.)

When you walk in, you'll see Termini Bros., the purveyors of the best cannoli in the city of Philadelphia, and DiBruno's, the master cheesemakers, just beyond them - both will be on your left. As you walk forward, you'll see some flat-screen TVs, and you'll see a very wide, flattened staircase, heading to to your right.

Just go up that flat, wide staircase. And once you've done that - awesome! Congratulations, you've just made it to the lobby of the Comcast Center for the Comcast Holiday Spectacular - and you've done so quickly, easily, and warmly. Enjoy the show!

The Comcast Holiday Spectacular - Getting There By Other SEPTA Lines

However, you can also use SEPTA Blue Line service - also known as the Market-Frankford Line, and "the el" - to get to the Comcast Center.

If taking this SEPTA this line, you need to wind up at the Blue Line's 15th Street Station, which is located at 15th and Market Streets. From there, you just walk to 17th and Arch Streets - a three-block walk.

You can also take the Broad Street Subway - also known as the SEPTA Orange Line and the Broad Street Line. In this case, you want to end up at the City Hall Station on the Orange Line, located at Broad and Market Streets.

After you ascend from City Hall Station, you just head west to 17th and Arch Streets, a four-block walk.

Advice on Attending the Comcast Holiday Spectacular, Based On Our Firsthand Experience Doing So

Go To the Comcast Holiday Spectacular, On a Weekday, During the Day, If You Can

We would recommend that - if at all possible - that you visit the Comcast Holiday Spectacular during the week, during the day. It will be far less crowded, and more enjoyable.

Regardless of When You Go, Get There Early

There are a small number of cushioned benches to sit on, in the lobby. The earlier you get there, the better your chances are of securing one. Many people just sit on the floor, but you’ll be more comfortable on a bench.

After the Comcast Holiday Spectacular, Head to the Food Court at the Market and Shops at Comcast Center, Right Down the Steps

Right down the steps from the lobby, the aforementioned Market and Shops at Comcast Center are a great place to get a snack. The seating area is sleek and silver, and it’s a cool place to hang out, after the show. (You can, of course, get there really early and go to the Market and Shops, but we’d recommend that you stake out a position for the show first, and get your snack after it’s over.)

Within the food court, we particularly recommend the aforementioned Termini’s Bakery, which also has a pastry shop in Reading Terminal Market, several blocks away, on the other side of Broad Street, at 12th and Arch Streets.

Although all of the stuff at Termini's is great, we especially like the pumpkin cheesecake (although you should split it, you can’t possibly eat the entire piece at one sitting; it’s the best $4.00 slice of cheesecake you’ll find), as well as the cannoli (you can get ricotta, vanilla, or chocolate filling, for $3.25 each), made on the spot for you.

The Aforementioned Scenes In the Comcast Holiday Spectacular

Warmup Between Shows

The wall is constantly changing, so it’s entertaining, even while you’re waiting. A scene that we particularly like during the intermission, is one of silver-gray trees in a winter background. Another is that of the cast laboriously trying to open doors to the show, on the wall…

The Scenes in the 2010 Comcast Holiday Spectacular

An organist performs, while the cast pile up Christmas gifts, white packages with red ribbons…

A conductor arises from the bottom of the wall, while “The Christmas Song” is performed…

The walls fills with pictures of incandescent light bulbs, while “The Carol of the Bells” is performed (one of our favorite Christmas carols)

The Nutcracker…

The 12 Days of Christmas… accompanied by the song

Ice Skating – “Christmas Time Is Here”

The most spectacular scene – a sleigh ride, over a snowy landscape, where the camera angle shifts so that you are provided the illusion that you are actually in the sleigh itself – the best analogy is a roller coaster ride, except that you’re not actually on one!

The Philadelphia skyline… with 1940s swing dancing by the cast, to “Jingle Bell Rock”, and illuminated by multicolor fountains (a parallel to what used to be seen at the Macy’s Holiday Light Show, back in the day…)

The camera pans out to the city skyline, with “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” playing… and eventually makes its way to outer space, with a choir singing…

The conductor signs off, and waves…

The show ends with “Happy Holidays from Comcast”, handwritten in snow…

And the entire show takes about 16 minutes or so….

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