The Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest at Penns Landing officially opens today at 11AM and, frankly, we are smitten with the place. A post-Thanksgiving tradition since 1993, for the second year in a row, the riverside ice skating rink features a brilliant, cold weather pop-up forest courtesy of the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation. Not resting on their heels after the sweeping success of Spruce Street Harbor Park this summer—reviewed HERE by HC Daily Co-editor Nathaniel Popkin–the DRWC’s Winterfest addition to the rink delivers above and beyond in design, amenities, and flair. There are roaring chiminea fires (and a squad of staff feeding the flames), a pleasant holiday light show every 30 minutes, a Distro Cantina food truck and Jose Garces catering inside, two outdoor craft beer stations and a bar with hot beverages and cocktails, a mini arcade and indoor bier garden, a swanky ski lodge with cushy couches and fireplace mantles salvaged from the Divine Lorraine, shipping containers filled with Art Star handmades and crafts, blankets made from recycled sweaters strewn across almost every chair, and, of course, ice skating. Unlike the rink’s drab old days when you almost wanted to leave as soon as you arrived, the DRWC and designer David Fierabend–the mind behind Spruce Street Harbor Park whom we interviewed in July–are dead set on wooing Winterfest visitors, making sure they pull up to the fire pit and stay a while. If the Anthropologie-meets-LL Bean aesthetic and the long list of flattering attractions is any indication, they will succeed.
We attended their preview this past Tuesday night and, even after three hours, were hesitant to leave. With the Ben Franklin Bridge elegantly glowing in the background, the peaceful, nighttime serenity of the Delaware River lumbering by, and Old City peeking up from behind I-95, you could not trump it’s visual appeal. The symphony of portside landmarks converging with the garden’s glimmering string-lighting, rustic cabin embellishments, and blazing outdoor hearths was truly enchanting. It’s hard to believe that nine months out of the year this spot serves as a lifeless parking lot. Aside from being exquisitely forward-thinking in design and execution, the pop-up forest is a pitch-perfect balance of family friendliness and adult appeal (see: fire, food, style, and beer). We’re gushing, and unrepentantly so, but until you see it up close you will have to trust us on this. Winterfest is bound to keep the city in warm spirits all winter long.
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