Families all bundled up whirling their way around a giant Christmas tree surrounded by the clippity-clop of horse hooves. Kids staring at the sky, mouths gaped open in awe of the tens of thousands of Christmas lights. A German Market and fireworks lighting up the night. Can you picture it? Every holiday season, Pittsburgh goes all out and sets this picturesque scene for its visitors and residents. Beginning November 17th and spanning from Point State Park to Kennywood Park, Pittsburgh holiday events are not to be missed! Check out our 11 favorite reasons to head into the city for the holiday fun this year for our Pittsburgh Holiday Guide 2017.
Comcast Light-up Night
Comcast Light-up Night officially kicks off the start of the holiday season, and the fun doesn’t wait until the sun goes down. Starting at lunch time on Friday, November 17th, the city shows off its gorgeous twinkling displays and outdoor musical shows, ice sculpting, and a huge fireworks display by the famous Zambelli Fireworks that draw well over 400,000 people into the city.
There are holiday parties, including Blast VIP Party by Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership. Free horse-drawn carriage rides are offered or families can stroll through the streets checking out pretty Christmas displays. Molly’s Holly Trolley’s free service during the holidays runs every 15 minutes making stops at popular downtown holiday spots.
Peoples Gas Holiday Market
Designed to look and feel like a traditional outdoor German Market, the Peoples Gas Holiday Market in Market Square offers one-of-a-kind gifts and German wares. Local artists and musical groups add to the holiday fun on the performance stage. Kids wanting to tell Santa their Christmas lists and take a photo on his lap can bring a non-perishable donation and visit Santa’s House, helping the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. The Market fun begins on November 17th.
PPG Place in Downtown Pittsburgh
Not only is PPG Place in Downtown Pittsburgh one of the most iconic skyscrapers that defines the city’s skyline, but the holiday happenings in and around the all-glass building draw thousands of families each Christmas season. The MassMutual Pittsburgh Ice Rink has been a childhood favorite since 2001, and not only can ice skaters of all levels have a blast whirling and twirling around the giant Christmas tree in the center of the ice, but special skating events, including skating with a Pittsburgh mascot, put giant smiles on the faces of the skaters from mid-November through early March.
Need to head indoors? Check out Wintergarden for the annual Spirits of Giving Around the World. You’ll see life-sized Santas depicted in their traditional garb who tell the story of each country’s jolly old elf. Also on display is the Gingerbread House Display, a city-wide competition showing off tasty skills from hundreds of competitors.
Cathedral of Learning Nationality Rooms
Learning about holidays around the world is a snap with a visit to the Cathedral of Learning’s Nationality Rooms. 29 rooms, each lavishly decorated in that particular country’s traditions will have you hard-pressed to pick a favorite. From mid-November through Martin Luther King Day, winter holidays are celebrated with decorations from Christmas trees to New Year celebrations. Timed guided tours are available and jam-packed with information.
Carnegie Science Center
Kids (and big kids!) love miniature trains, and the Miniature Railroad & Village at Carnegie Science Center is sure to get your family in the Christmas spirit. Free with paid admission, the miniature train display room showcases the four seasons of Western Pennsylvania including the smallest of details that make the area so popular.
Breakfast Express is a fun annual Saturday tradition at the Center, with a showing of The Polar Express and some fun in the train room it is always a blast for Santa fans. Kids from ages 4-10 can participate in science day camps during Christmas vacation, and educational camps featuring age appropriate themes and activities.
The train room will be closed until November 20th when it opens with a brand new display to show off – Primanti Bros. in The Strip District!
Erected in 1999, the Pittsburgh Crèche is the world’s only authorized creche outside of the Vatican in Saint Peter’s Basilica. Beginning on Pittsburgh Light-up Night, the life-sized Nativity is available for viewing at the USX Tower Plaza on Grant Street, and has 20 statues including detailed animals. There is no cost for visiting the gorgeous nativity and photos are encouraged.
Kennywood Park’s Holiday Lights
Bundle up and get ready for over one million twinkling lights at Kennywood Park‘s Holiday Lights! Families can walk around the park at night listening to local choirs sing Christmas carols or hop on the Gingerbread Express for a beautiful view of the park. Kids can whisper in Santa’s ear what is on the top of their Christmas list during the event. Open on weekends, Kennywood Park’s Holiday Lights is a favorite annual draw for locals. Plus, the outdoor fun is even prettier when it’s snowing.
Holiday Lights returns on Friday, November 24th this year and runs on weekends through December 30th.
Penguins on Parade at Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium
In December, Penguins on Parade lets families see the fun that Pittsburgh Zoo’s penguins have in the snow. The feathered waddlers walk on the visitor’s pathway during the fun, and the parades are held starting the first weekend in December, weather permitting at 11:30 a.m. outside PPG Aquarium. We love that breakfast or lunch with Santa is also held on December weekends.
Not only can kids have some one-on-one time with the man in red, but they can check out some fun zoo animals, decorate Christmas cookies, make some holiday crafts, and enjoy a tasty meal.
Carnegie Museum of National History
Beginning December 1st, The Hall of Architecture in The Carnegie Museum of Natural History is home to five giant Christmas trees and the beautiful Neapolitan Presepio. A miniature nativity decorated annually by The Museum of Art Women’s Committee, but by miniature it’s anything but! Celebrating holidays around the world, the themed Christmas trees are on display during regular museum hours. Don’t forget to take your camera as the wide-eyed, opened mouth gazes from your wee ones will make a fun photo op.
Through January 2nd, The National Aviary on the North Shore hosts Wings in Winter from November through early January. Each day, the Aviary’s Holiday Show will have you singing along to avian-themed Christmas carols. The fun birds soar over the crowd showing off their pretty plumage, too. Must do: take a walk through the Southside Pole. The sweet penguins are even cuter surrounded by Christmas trees!
Photos with Santa and his Penguin Helpers take place on Saturdays in December. Holiday Penguin Camps let kids and adults get up close to the popular penguins.
This year, Phipps Conservatory in Oakland will host “Holiday Magic!”. Built around the magic that only winter holidays can provide, the dazzling displays of this year’s Winter Flower Show will feature heartwarming vignettes including an extravagant winter feast, Santa’s workshop and a sparkling New Year’s Eve celebration.
You can expect tons of Christmas lights on fir trees & poinsettias as far as the eye can see. Candlelight Evenings make the Winter Flower Show even more magical. Several rooms have added holiday flowers, trees, and plants.
At night, visits to Phipps are a must for families that love the magic that falling snow creates in the outdoor gardens. Children’s activities and hands-on tables throughout will provide some learning over the school break and may just instill a love of horticulture in your child.
The Garden beauty begins Friday, November 24th and the Winter Light Garden is open evenings from 5-11pm. The fun runs through January 7th. New for this year is the ability to purchase timed tickets for peak times when the Conservatory is packed.
What are you looking forward to most in this year’s Pittsburgh Holiday Guide? Let us know in the comment section below!