Get “charmed” by Fairmount Park gems

Each year, groups of hardy volunteers make sure the Charms of Fairmount Park are decked out in seasonal swag for two festive weeks. Decorated by various interior designers and garden clubs (PlanPhilly spent Sunday with the Community Garden Club at Wayne while the group worked on Laurel Hill),  the historic houses get spruced up inside and out before they welcome visitors from Dec. 5 to Dec. 15.

This is a perfect historical way to share the season with friends and family.  There are plenty of ways to visit these significant homes this holiday season.

Here’s the official lowdown:

Visit the houses at your own pace during open house hours, take a guided trolley tour on select dates, or reserve a group tour through the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  Each of the Charms has free parking on site and is decorated with a featured theme. 

Philadelphia Parks & Recreation is the city agency charged with ownership of the properties.  The homes are managed in partnership with the dedicated stewardship of the organizations listed below.

  • Cedar Grove and Mount Pleasant are managed by the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
  • Lemon Hill is managed by Colonial Dames of America and the Friends of Lemon Hill. 
  • Laurel Hill is managed by Women for Greater Philadelphia. 
  • Strawberry Mansion is managed by the Committee of 1926.
  • Sweetbriar is managed by the Modern Club.
  • Woodford is managed by the Naomi Wood Trust.

    2013 THEMES

    Cedar Grove – “Simple Gifts” 
    Delight in the naturalistic holiday designs at newly-restored Cedar Grove, an early American home occupied through five generations.  They will also have the opportunity to make a vintage ornament to take home.  Cedar Grove is open Thursday – Sunday, through December 29 and Monday – Wednesday, December 30 – January 1.

    Lemon Hill – “Holiday Entertaining” 
    Step into Henry Pratt’s parlor and see how Philadelphians entertained during the holidays.  Enjoy a special display featuring rarely-seen pieces from Lemon Hill’s collection and fantastic views of Center City Philadelphia through the Oval Room’s floor-to-ceiling windows. 

    Mount Pleasant – “Visions of Twelfth Night” 
    Holiday merry-making in colonial homes often featured a Twelfth Night celebration.  Enjoy these visions and craft your own signature holiday card to take home at Mount Pleasant. Mount Pleasant is open to visitors Thursday – Sunday, through December 29, and Monday – Wednesday, December 30 – January 1.

    Laurel Hill Mansion – “Angels at Laurel Hill” 
    Take in angel decorations from the Community Garden Club at Wayne incorporated into the sights and sounds of your visit.  During your visit enjoy music on the historic pianoforte and partake in complimentary tea and purchase gingerbread men, women and angels baked by students from the Culinary Arts Institute of Montgomery Community College. 

    Strawberry Mansion – “Home for the Holidays” 
    For the first time in five years, Strawberry Mansion will be open for the Holiday Tours. Decorations will highlight the beautifully restored rooms, and will welcome friends and guests “home” to Strawberry Mansion. Don’t miss the newly installed mural in the Banquet Room. Purchase fresh greens and gifts at the 6th annual Greens Sale on Strawberry Mansion’s grounds throughout the Holiday Tours.

    Woodford Mansion – “Wassailing at Woodford” 
    Celebrate the holidays from the British perspective with one of Philadelphia’s most prominent Loyalist socialites from the American Revolution!  Meet Rebecca Franks, daughter of Woodford’s former owner and a darling of the British occupiers, who will greet visitors and share holiday stories from 11 am to 2 pm, December 6, 7, 13, 14 and 15.  Woodford is open Tuesday – Sunday, 10 am – 4 pm, year-round.  



    Fairmount Park’s historic mansions will, once again, be decked out for the holidays during the annual Historic Houses of Fairmount Park Holiday Tours. Take in the houses by trolley on a guided trolley tour this season!  Each guided trolley tour includes a stop in three of the six houses (Cedar Grove, Laurel Hill, Lemon Hill, Mount Pleasant, Strawberry Mansion and Woodford); the morning and afternoon tours feature different houses – make a day of it and see all six houses!  Trolley Tours are booked through the Philadelphia Museum of Art and depart from the West Entrance of the Museum. Paid tickets are required ($40; $32 for members of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Fairmount Park Conservancy)


    2013 Trolley Tour Dates:

    • Thursday, December 5     10:30 am – 12:30 pm & 1:30 pm – 3:30 pm
    • Friday, December 6          10:30 am – 12:30 pm & 1:30 pm. – 3:30 pm
    • Saturday, December 7     10:30 am – 12:30 pm & 1:30 pm – 3:30 pm
    • Sunday, December 8       10:30 am – 12:30 pm & 1:30 pm. – 3:30 pm
    • Thursday, December 12   10:30 am – 12:30 pm & 1:30 pm – 3:30 pm
    • Friday, December 13        10:30 am – 12:30 pm & 1:30 pm – 3:30 pm
    • Saturday, December 14   10:30 am – 12:30 pm & 1:30 pm – 3:30 pm
    • Sunday, December 15     10:30 am – 12:30 pm & 1:30 pm – 3:30 pm



    Admission: $5 per person per house; children 12 and under free.

    Thursday through Sunday, December 5 – 8 and 12 – 15, 10 am – 4 pm daily.

    Enjoy the Historic Houses at your own pace during their Open Houses this season.  Hosts are available at each house to answer questions and highlight the uniqueness of each of these gems.  Enjoy collectible recipe cards featuring historically inspired recipes at each house – visit all six houses to complete your set!  Reservations are not required. Free parking is available at all of the houses.  Reservations are not required.

    Some of the houses will also be open to the public throughout December. Please check the operating hours for a particular house to confirm the exact operating dates and times it will be open for visitation this holiday season. 



    Available December 4 – 15

    Admission: $8 per person per house

    Groups of 15 or more who would like to provide their own bus transportation can reserve Philadelphia Museum of Art trained step-on guides. Cedar Grove, Mount Pleasant and Woodford will be open to groups through December 29.

    Reservations required: (215) 684-7863 or

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