Philly’s Best Winter Bars, Ranked By Christmas Spirit
photo credit: Craftsman Row Saloon
Boathouse Row is glowing red and green, people with good balance are showing off at the City Hall ice rink, and Miracle on 13th Street is currently the biggest attraction in town. In other words, it's December in Philly and many of the city's normal bars have transformed into dens of ugly sweaters and hot chocolate that's 80% bourbon.
If you want to lean hard into the Christmas thing, you may as well drink somewhere that has eggnog Jell-O shots and a stranger saying, “When you consider the booby traps, Home Alone is actually Saw for kids." These are Philly’s most festive winter bars, ranked by how likely you are to hear “All I Want For Christmas Is You” every hour.
THE CHRISTMAS SPOTS
Whether you like it or not, this is Philly’s hottest club right now. The first time we tried to go to Craftsman Row Saloon in Center City, we were turned away for not having a reservation. (And it's hard to get one.) They’re serving 13 holiday-themed cocktails, including a shockingly drinkable cranberry margarita, as well as milkshakes that look like they were designed by Buddy The Elf. If you’re the kind of person who wishes it was Christmas 365 days a year, come here to live out your Santa fantasies and sit in a pine cone-lined booth while everyone sings along to Ariana Grande Christmas bops.
Think of this as the bar manifestation of your drunk uncle who rocks a Christmas lights sweater at the dinner table—it's a festive sh*t show. Someone might be passed out in the holiday throne. You'll wait 10 minutes for a drink that contains more sugar than alcohol. Club rats and retirees from Charleston rip shots of butterscotch schnapps and orange juice before posing with a seven-foot Santa. Just know nobody will be dancing, since the music consists of sleigh bell sounds over air horns. Bring cash for the $10 cover charge or use the ATM next door at Finn McCools.
Uptown Beer Garden is pretty much the open-air Tinsel. They share the same Santa boot and canned soup mugs, neon Grinch signs, and the sneaking feeling that, at any moment, someone might mount a giant candy cane. This outdoor spot makes spiked hot chocolate and cocktails named after movie quotes, like the vodka-heavy Ya Filthy Animal. There’s technically food for sale, but you don’t come to Uptown for the wings and fish tacos. You’re here to drink peppermint-topped drinks and take a sloppy prom-pose picture with an inflated reindeer.
Just like the rest of the year, a December night at this Midtown Village bar will feel crowded and sticky-floored. Except, during the Christmas season, you’ll hear Kelly Clarkson Christmas tracks and see a sign that says “Don’t Get Your Tinsel In A Tangle.” Order an eggnog martini or a mistletoe mule from the separate holiday cocktail menu (which has drinks that cost around $12). These are strong enough that you might spend several minutes accidentally talking to a poster of Kevin McCallister instead of your date.
This Center City bar is named after the game where you never end up with an iPad. Everything in the joint—from the walls and fuzzy chairs to the Christmas trees and faux fireplaces—is rose colored. The only thing keeping White Elephant from ranking higher is their non-Christmas playlist (it’s a lot of Barry White and Rick James). But this is still a fun place to drink cider sangria and imagine what it might be like to visit Paris Hilton’s cabin in the woods.
During December, Fairmount’s Urban Saloon fills with trees, wreaths, string lights, and Sixers fans yelling at the TV between sips of spiked apple cider. There’s plenty of seating, so it works for a Happy Hour with half of your department or a last-minute group spot after everyone agrees on matching sweaters but not where to go. Expect a crowd of families ordering chicken tenders and people drinking winter sangria after purchasing a set of butter knives that are sure to be re-gifted.
Countless beer gardens slap gift wrap on the walls and stick a tree in the corner, but how many have Santa stopping by for meet-and-greets? Fishtown’s Frankford Hall does. Fire pits and logs make the place look more like a Poconos destination than a bar in the part of the city where nothing is open on Mondays (Frankford Hall is). And the tables are spread out and large enough for you to bring your whole family or friend group.
The back of Center City’s Butcher Bar technically has wooden logs, Christmas lights, and mini pine trees. But since the festive theme is confined to only one corner, it feels a little like a holiday playpen. Come drink whiskey from a moose-shaped glass while a group next to you does bourbon ski shots. The theme of the bar is meat, which explains why their Old Fashioned arrives with jerky. Bring the Ron Swanson of your life.
Dilworth Park’s Christmas Village has people falling on the ice and light shows that turn City Hall into a castle, but there’s also a bar decorated like a cabin. The entire area is loud and alarmingly chaotic. Hot toddies flow, lights flicker, and everyone who can’t skate sits around a fire pit with a winter ale. Important: they blast Christmas music nonstop.
This outdoor beer garden near Rittenhouse Square opened in the summer of 2023, and they’re sticking around to be a refuge for people who are holiday shopping or waiting to get into Parc. The festive draw here is that there are a bunch of Christmas decorations. Rely on the heaters to warm you up, in case the s’mores hot chocolate with vodka isn’t enough.
Ah, a Christmas bar without mayhem. Dock Street in Fishtown doesn’t have a ton of decorations, but they are showing holiday movies every night through December 31st. Drinking peppermint espresso martinis while Love Actually plays could sell anyone on the fact that this is truly the best time of year. Walk into the brewery with a few friends (you don’t need a reservation), have a winter lager, and do the FreeFrom 25 Days of Christmas thing.
When the temperature drops, you need a place that’s both physically and emotionally warm. That place is Friday Saturday Sunday. Sure, this Rittenhouse bar doesn’t have bells and a Christmas tree, but there are multi-colored holiday lights and incredible cocktails (our favorite is the slightly spicy Assassin's Handbook made with cognac, Jamaican rum, and a mulled wine shrub). Come when you’re sick of back-to-back months of family gatherings, and order some food at the bar. That way, even if your winter date turns into a nightmare, you can still eat gnocchi topped with crunchy pork skin.