When it comes to celebrating the holidays, Pittsburgh is one of the best places to be.
When the cold weather hits, it doesn’t slow the social calendar down at all-- in fact quite the opposite occurs-- it fills up! Once Thanksgiving passes, there’s a whole schedule packed full of shows, exhibits, and winter activities you just have to experience.
Pittsburghers are quick to get into the holiday spirit, and like to attend as many events as they can. We’ve put together a list of some can’t-miss activities and experiences available only in in Pittsburgh. So whether you’re visiting from out of town-- or a seasoned local-- you’ll want to check some of these out next holiday season!
Giving the gift of a GiftYa electronic gift card is a great way to ring in the holiday-- whether you live in Pittsburgh or not. What better way to treat those you care about most to some of their favorite activities, restaurants, or exhibits? When you give the gift of GiftYa, you’ll never have to worry about your gift getting lost in the holiday shuffle. Because it connects right to their debit account they’ll be able to use it anytime, anywhere.
Tree Lighting at 7pm
Fireworks at 10pm
Light Up Night is truly something to behold in downtown Pittsburgh. Pittsburghers patiently wait all year long for the day in November that officially kicks off the holiday season. Making the trip to downtown Pittsburgh is a must, regardless of the weather!
People from all over the area flock downtown the Friday before Thanksgiving and anticipate the light of the Christmas trees all over the city-- from Market Square, to the Allegheny County Building, to the Highmark Building-- it truly is a festival of lights!
But that’s not all, after the lights go on there’s plenty of music and dancing to complete the joyous beginning to the Pittsburgh holiday season. Perhaps most anticipated of all is the Zambelli fireworks display at the end of the night. Pittsburghers love their fireworks, and this occasion is no different!
One Schenley Park
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
Runs November thru January
Each year, Phipps Conservatory outdoes itself and puts on a stunning Winter Flower Show. Each room is a different theme, and the combination of lights and colors is more than enough to get anyone into the holiday spirit.
The use of beautiful tropic plants seems to add to the experience-- as most Pittsburghers are unfamiliar with them. Be sure to head outside to see the outdoor display of lights.
You can wind your way along the path and see what the garden that’s in bloom in the summer looks like dressed up in winter lights. This is is on every Pittsburgher’s list of must-see events during the holiday season.
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
November 16 - December 23
After the official Light Up Night has ended, the Holiday Market opens up for business in Market Square. Installed each year are vendors stalls that are meant to mimic the famous Winter Markets of Germany. You’ll definitely get that holiday feeling as your peruse all the items available.
There are leather gifts, ornaments, jewelry, clothing, and glass collectibles-- you’re sure to find something for everyone on your Christmas list. Most are handmade by the vendors and a one of a kind gift-- so you can be sure you’re not only purchasing something from an artist, but it’s also local!
Nationality Rooms, Cathedral of Learning
4200 Fifth Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
Tours November through January
Every winter, the Nationality Rooms at the Cathedral of Learning are decked out in their winter finest.
The rooms draw visitors from all over the country to them throughout the year-- but it seems they become even more popular as the cold weather arrives in Pittsburgh.
Each nationality room is decorated in the style appropriate to its country. There are guided tours as well, which help visitors understand the Christmas/Holiday traditions of each county. Be sure to stop by the gift shop at the end of your tour and pick up some unique gifts for those on your Christmas list!
803 Liberty Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
Various showtimes from November to December
For Pittsburghers, it just wouldn’t be the holiday season with a viewing of The Nutcracker. Each year the Benedum Center puts on a dazzling performance-- enjoyed by people of all ages.
You can’t help but get into the holiday spirit once you hear the stirring music and see the beautiful live Christmas tree on stage. Everyone knows the story, but it’s still a beautiful holiday ballet to watch. It’s so popular in Pittsburgh that the production runs for an entire whole month!
Oglebay Winter Festival of Lights
465 Lodge Drive
Wheeling, WV 26003
Shows nightly November through January
About an hour and half south of Pittsburgh is the Oglebay Resort, in Wheeling, WV.
Each year the resort puts on the Oglebay Winter Festival of Lights, and viewers come to see the dazzling displays from all over the area.
This is a drive through show-- so no matter the weather-- families can see the beautiful array of lights. It is a tradition among a lot of Pittsburgh families to check out the lights each year, and note what’s new.
This past year Oglebay added a 3-D aspect to the show, much to the delight of everyone. While you’re there, be sure to check out the Good Zoo and pet the reindeer in residence there to really get into the holiday spirit.
Two PPG Place
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
Runs November through January
Another popular holiday tradition for lots of Pittsburghers is the yearly visit to the Wintergarden displays at PPG Plaza.
The beautiful room-- surrounded by windows-- transforms each year into a winter wonderland.
Not only are all the beautiful plants there year-round decorated in for the holidays-- but the Santas from Around the World and the gingerbread contest are set up for holiday viewing. You can follow the path and see each life-size representation of Santa Claus in various cultures-- and also learn about that country’s holiday traditions.
There is also a huge display of holiday gingerbread houses spread throughout the room-- made by people from all over Pittsburgh. Prizes are awarded to the best ones!
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
Open November through March
After viewing the Wintergarden, why not head over to the Pittsburgh Ice Rink at PPG Place?
This is a popular spot for ice skating throughout the Pittsburgh holiday-- and even afterwards!
There is a magnificent Christmas tree right in the center, and the holiday songs fill the air as the skaters whisk by. You can easily spend an afternoon here skating-- then people watching-- while sipping on some hot chocolate. Pittsburghers love that you can skate outdoors as well, as most rinks in the area are indoor only.
4800 Kennywood Blvd.
West Mifflin, PA 15122
Open November through December
Long after the park closes for the summer, the staff at Kennywood Park are preparing for the Kennywood Holiday Lights display.
Pittsburghers wait all year until they can view their favorite park-- not only after dark-- but all dressed up for the holidays.
This is a holiday traditional for many local Pittsburgh families, one that they like to visit each year. The transformation is truly beautiful, and it’s a great experience to stroll by your favorite rides-- that are normally only seen the summer-- all lit up.
If you’re looking for something to do during the Pittsburgh holiday season, make sure to check out a few of the activities on this list-- of pick up a GiftYa card for your friends or family! You’re sure to get into the holiday spirit-- Pittsburgh style.
What’s your favorite Pittsburgh holiday event and why? Let us know in the comments!