by Janet Jonus
There is so much to do and see in and around Pittsburgh for the Holiday Season. From Places to Go, Things to Do, Theater Performances, and of course Christmas Light Displays, there is plenty of FamilyFun.
Places to Go for the Holidays
1.) Gingerbread House Display & Competition November 22 – January
The popular Gingerbread House Display & Competition (formerly in the PPG Wintergarden) has a new home – the Grand Lobby of the City-County Building on Grant Street. See hundreds of Gingerbread creations from local kids, families, and professionals as a miniature railroad winds its way through the display. The houses range from the whimsical to the truly amazing.
The Gingerbread House Display & Competition is open November 22nd through January 3rd from 1000AM-800PM. The display closes early at 600PM on November 27, December 24, and December 31. The Display is closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Years Day. All guests must pass through a security screening to enter the Building. Entry after normal business hours is through the Ross Street entrance. A valid ID will be required for after-hours entry. FREE https://pittsburghpa.gov/gingerbread/
2.) PPG Place November 22nd through January 1st
PPG Place dresses up for the Holidays with The Spirit of Giving From Around the World in the lobbies of One PPG Place and Two PPG Place. Browse through the displays to discover Christmas traditions from around the world. FREE. (Note: This display is no longer in the Wintergarden at PPG Place. The Gingerbread Houses have moved to the lobby of the City – County Building.)
PPG Place also has FREE carriage rides on Saturdays from November 23rd through December 21st from 1100AM until 300PM and 430-830PM. Rides depart from the Fourth avenue side of PPG Place. Rides are first come, first served and fill up quickly so arrive early!
PPG Place is also home the the MassMutual Pittsburgh Ice Rink at PPG Place. The Rink is open November 22 through March 1. Skate rentals are available for $4. Admission is $10 for ages 13-49 and $9 for ages 12 and under, 50 and over, and those with a military ID. Hours through January 1st are Sundays through Thursdays 1100AM-1000PM and Fridays and Saturdays (and New Year’s Eve) 1100AM-Midnight. http://www.ppgplace.com/events/
3.) Nationality Rooms University of Pittsburgh Cathedral of Learning November 10th – January 12th
The Nationality Rooms in the Cathedral of Learning at the University of Pittsburgh are decorated for the holidays November 10th through January 12th. The Nationality Rooms are special rooms within the Cathedral of Learning. Each room represents the art and architecture of the represented country. The Rooms are decorated in traditional style for the holiday season. The spectacular architecture of the Great Room is adorned with holiday decorations as well. Self-guided tours of the rooms are available on Saturdays and Sundays from November 10th through January 12th from 900AM-230PM on Saturdays and 1100AM-230PM on Sundays. (Closed December 29th and 30th.) Tours are $2-4. https://www.nationalityrooms.pitt.edu/directions
On Sunday December 8th the Nationality Rooms will host their annual Holiday Open House. Costumed guides give free tours of the Nationality Rooms. Shop the international holiday shop for unique, international gifts plus live performances, baked goods, food, and beverages. From 1200-400PM. This event is FREE.
4.) Beaver County Christmas Extravaganza November 28th –December 15th
The Beaver County Christmas Extravaganza is in its 29th year. Have your picture taken with Santa, see the miniature train and village display, shop at shop at the Candy Lane Gift Shop, and have a snack at the North Pole Café. There are kid’s activities and crafts and special guests including The Grinch, Rudolph, Snoopy, and Frosty. $4-7. At the Lodge at Brady’s Run. Fridays through Sundays November 28th through December 15th. http://www.beavercountyfestivaloftrees.org/public-viewing-hours.html
5.) Holiday Magic!Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens November 29th-January 12th
Phipps Conservatory is decked out for the holidays with Christmas displays, decorated trees, and over 2000 Poinsettias. Experience the magic of the Winter Light Garden with thousands of lights, the Tunnel of Lights, fountains, and new ice towers. November 29th through January 12th until 1100PM. $17.95 per adult on non-peak days, $19.95 on peak days, reservations recommended. https://www.phipps.conservatory.org/holidaymagic
6.) Santa’s Christmasland at Kraynak’s
Kraynak’s Christmasland has a 300 foot long indoor Holiday display with decorated themed trees and life-size animated characters. Get some of your holiday shopping down at Kraynak’s well-stocked store. Buy toys, gifts, and decorations. http://www.kraynaks.com/christmas.html
Things to Do for the Holidays
7.) Make Laser-Cut Holiday Ornaments at the Carnegie Science Center November 23 & 30, December 7, 14, & 21
Create your own, one-of-a-kind laser cut, wood holiday ornament at the Carnegie Science Center’s Fab Lab every Saturday through Christmas. Learn how to create a design on a computer and then send your design over to the Fab Lab’s Laser cutter. Watch as the laser etches and cuts your design onto a piece of wood. Family+FunPittsburgh highly recommends this activity for everyone 8+. (Kids under 12 must be accompanied by a paying adult.) This is a true Family+Fun Holiday activity for the entire family. $10 per ornament. Reservations required. (Note: The Fab Lab is in the Highmark Sports Center building, in the way back, near the racing activity. The $10 fee DOES NOT INCLUDE SCIENCE CENTER ADMISSION! If you want to stay and play at the Science Center, you must pay for separate admission. However, you DO NOT have to pay for Science Center admission to make an ornament.) There are three times every Saturday – 1100AM, 1215PM, & 130PM. http://www.carnegiesciencecenter.org/programs/fablab-public-workshops-holiday/
8.) Holiday Kidsplay – Weekends November 23rd-December 22nd, November 29th, and December 26th-31st
The Heinz Hall Courtyard at 600 Penn Avenue hosts Holiday Kidsplay. Celebrate Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood and community partners with free, hands-on activities. Color a paper tree ornament, take a selfie with Peg + Cat and help them solve math puzzles and collect moon rocks with Daniel Tiger, explore a kid-size gingerbread house, and more! All activities are FREE. Space is limited and on a first come, first served basis. Every Saturday and Sunday November 23rd through December 22nd plus November 29th (Black Friday) from 1100AM-600PM and daily from December 26th through December 31st from 1100AM-600PM with a late closing at 1000PM on December 31st. Bring a sweater and drop it off at The Children’s Museum Mister Roger’s Sweater Drive during Kidsplay hours. All sweaters are distributed through charities in the Pittsburgh Community. https://downtownpittsburghholidays.com/kidsplay/
9.) Santa Trolley at the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum November 23rd – December 16th
Ride on a decorated trolley along the rail lines in Washington County PA, have a photo taken with Santa, see the extensive miniature train display and the LEGO layout, enjoy complementary hot chocolate and cookies, plus crafts and activities for children. Saturdays and Sundays November 23rd through December 16th from 1000AM-500PM. $10-12. Reservations required and sell out fast! https://pa-trolley.org/santatrolley/
10.) The WPXI Holiday Parade presented by Your Neighborhood Ford Store November 30th
Welcome in the Holiday Season with this FamilyFun event. Head downtown for the parade with floats, marching bands, local and national celebrities, and giant balloons. November 30th 900-1100AM. FREE! https://www.wpxi.com/station/parade/wpxi-holiday-parade-presented-by-neighborhood-ford-store-to-be-held-on-saturday-nov-30/942828312
11.) Polar PJ Parties at the Carnegie Science Center November 29th – December 22nd
The Carnegie Science Center is hosting Polar PJ parties. Kids and their parents or guardians can enjoy hot chocolate with frozen nitrogen marshmallows and a light snack, arts and activities, a special star show in the Buhl Planetarium, visits from Santa, and a viewing of The Polar Express.
Polar PJ Parties are on Friday November November 29th 830AM-1200PM and December 20 530-900PM, Saturdays December 7 & 21 830AM-1200PM, and Sunday December 22 830AM-1200PM. $19 per person 3+, $5 for kids 2 and under. http://www.carnegiesciencecenter.org/programs/science-sleepovers/
There are two special Sensory Friendly Polar PJ Parties for anyone on the autism spectrum or with Sensory Processing Disorder. Accommodations include a 2D showing of the movie, reduced sounds, and low level lighting during the movie. Sensory Friendly Polar PJ Parties are on November 30 and December 14 830AM-1200PM. $19 per person 3+, kids 2 and under $5.00. http://www.carnegiesciencecenter.org/programs/science-sleepovers/
12.) Lawrenceville Cookie Tour December 6, 7, & 8
For a holiday treat, head to Lawrenceville for the annual Joy of Cookies Tour 2019. Follow the Joy of Cookies map on this Holiday Cookie Scavenger Hunt. The Joy of Cookies Tour takes place on December 6, 7, & 8. This FREE event is held in Lawrenceville, mostly along Butler Street. Forty-five local businesses offer free, sample-sized cookies. Pick up a map or download one here: http://lvpgh.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/2019-cookie-tour-map-mailer-final.pdf Hours are 1000AM-600PM on Friday and Saturday and 1000AM-500PM Sunday (but individual businesses can set their own hours, see the map). Also on Saturday December 7th shop at the Cookie Mall at 4600 Butler Street from 300-700PM and visit with Santa from 300-600PM. Stay for Lawrenceville’s Light Up Night and Tree Lighting at 630PM at the Allegheny Cemetery entrance on Butler Street. A FREE trolley operates on Saturday December 7th with stops near many of the cookie businesses. http://lvpgh.com/cookietour2019/
13.) Cookies with Santa at Round Hill Park on December 7th and Boyce Park on December 14th
Enjoy cookies with Santa himself plus crafts and activities. This is FREE event.
At Round Hill Park on December 7th from 1000AM-1200PM.
At Boyce Park on December 14th from 1000AM-1200PM
14.)Skate with Santa at South Park December 8th & North Park December 15th
Lace up your skates and head out onto the ice for a Skate with Santa.
South Park Ice Rink December 8th and North Park Ice Rink December 15th. $3.00-$6.00. https://www.alleghenycounty.us/special-events/skate-with-santa.aspx
15.) FunForeAll MiniGolf November 16th- January 2nd
For a unique holiday tradition, head to FunForeAll for their Holiday Lights MiniGolf. Play two Christmas-themed courses, the Holly Jolly Cave Course and the Very Merry Lighthouse course. Each 18-hole course is decorated for the holidays, and there are special theme nights to add to the holiday fun. Open daily November 15th through January 7th. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day. 500-1000PM. $10 per person for one course, $15 per person for both courses. https://funforeall.com/holidaylights
Theater Performances for the Holidays
16.) Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer at the UPMC Events Center November 30th
The beloved TV classic comes to life in this musical theater production. Join Rudolph as he grows up and learns important lessons and life and love. See Hermey, Yukon Cornelius, the Island of Misfit Toys, and the Abominable Snow Monster.
Saturday November 30th at 200PM & 500PM. Tickets are $28.00-58.00. https://www.upmceventscenter.com/events/2019/rudolph-the-red-nosed-reindeer-the-musical2
17.)A Musical Christmas Carol at the Byham December 6th – December 22nd
The Pittsburgh CLO presents the Charles Dickens’ holiday classic set to music with dazzling special effects. Watch as Scrooge finds his heart and the spirit of Christmas in A Musical Christmas Carol.
There are numerous performances on various Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays December 6th through December 22nd. Tickets are $17-62. https://www.pittsburghclo.org/shows/a-musical-christmas-carol?gclid=CjwKCAiAzanuBRAZEiwA5yf4uk524rdGFZYAwSTgKgtoYxh61MPDCtsH8So61G_5fAgLJaZ0mQl0MxoCeTMQAvD_BwE
18.) The Christmas Lake Effect at Little Lake Theater November 29-December 14
Can the cast of a small theater company overcome disaster followed by even more disasters to present the holiday classic, A Christmas Carol, and save the theater and the spirit of Christmas? For kids 12+ and adults due to some adult language. Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 800 PM, November 29 through December 14. $12-$20.50. https://www.littlelake.org/the
Note: Elf Jr. at Little Lake Theater is sold out.
19.) The Velveteen Rabbit at Gemini Theater December 7th – December 22nd
A young boy gets a Velveteen Rabbit for the Holidays. Through love and some special magic, the Velveteen Rabbit becomes real. Saturdays and Sundays December 7th through December 22nd at 100PM and 330PM. $12.00 per ticket. https://geminitheater.org/velveteen-rabbit/
20.) The Nutcracker by the Pittsburgh Ballet Theater at the Benedum December 6th through December 29th
A mysterious gift opens up a world of magic and wonder for all ages. The Pittsburgh Ballet Theater presents the classic ballet, The Nutcracker, with performances on select nights and matinees on select days December 6th through December 29th. Tickets are $28-112. (Note: There is no Sensory-Friendly Performance of the Nutcracker this year.) https://www.pbt.org/performances/the-nutcracker/
21.) Holiday Movies at the Rangos Giant Cinema
The Rangos Giant Cinema presents holiday-themed movies from November 29th through December 19th. See The Polar Express on November 29th, December 8th, 13th, and 19th. Shakespeare’s The Winters Tale has showings on December 4th and December 8th. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation – 30th Anniversary Edition plays on December 5th. See Elf on December 7th. It’s a Wonderful Life is showing on December 14th. Holiday Classic White Christmas plays on December 21st and 23rd. All movies are $9.95 plus fees and taxes. http://www.carnegiesciencecenter.org/rangos-giant-cinema/
Watch Elf at a Elf Sleepover (advanced reservations required) on December 7th. http://www.carnegiesciencecenter.org/programs/science-sleepovers/
22.) Handel’s Messiah Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra at Heinz Hall December 7th
Experience the soaring music of Handel’s Messiah, a seasonal favorite, at Heinz Hall on December 7th at 800PM. Tickets are $21-98. https://pittsburghsymphony.org/production/62664/handels-messiah
23.) A Charlie Brown Christmas at the Byham December 28th
Join Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and their Friends as he discovers the True Meaning of Christmas. Performances are at 500PM & 730PM. Tickets are $35-96. https://trustarts.org/production/66217/a-charlie-brown-christmas-live-on-stage
Light Displays for the Holidays
24.) Downtown Pittsburgh
The Holiday Season in downtown Pittsburgh starts on November 22nd with Light Up Night.
There is a tree and Outdoor Ice Skating at PPG Place Plaza. The ice rink is open from 1100AM-1000PM Sunday through Thursday and 1100AM-Midnight Fridays and Saturdays. Cost is $10 ages 13-49 and $9 12 and under and 50 and up. Skate rentals are $4
The Iconic Highmark Christmas Tree is lit up nightly. Corner of Stanwix and Penn Avenue. The Creche at the US Steel Tower is open daily. One Oxford Center has a tree and lights every night too.
The Sphere Tree and Holiday Lights are lit up every night in Market Square. Shop the Peoples Gas Holiday Market while you enjoy the beauty of the season. The Marketplace features unique arts and crafts handmade by craftspeople locally and nationally. Visit Santa’s House to get a picture with Santa. Pictures are free with a donation to the Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank. (Family+FunPittsburgh will be at Santa’s House volunteering to aid the Food Bank during the Holiday Season. Come out and support a worthy cause.)
There is a spectacular Duquesne Light Holiday Tree near the Fountain at Point State Park. This Tree is lit nightly. https://familyfunpittsburgh.com/holidayfun-top-seven-christmas-light-displays-around-pittsburgh/
25.) Kennywood Park’s Holiday Lights November 22nd – December 30th
Kennywood Park celebrates the season with over two million twinkling light and the tallest Christmas Tree in Pennsylvania.
The Park is open for Holiday Lights every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday November 22nd through December 22nd and daily December 26th-30th from 500-900PM. There are holiday activities, limited rides, special holiday meals and treats, Santa, entertainment, and amazing light shows. Tickets are $20.99 plus taxes at the Gate with many discounts available. For more information and a discount on admission: https://familyfunpittsburgh.com/holiday-lights-at-kennywood-park/
26.) Overly’s Country Christmas November 22nd – December 30th
Overly’s Country Christmas is a drive-through attraction plus a delightful walk-through Christmas Village. With over one million lights, Overly’s is truly stunning. Once you have enjoyed the drive-through light display, park and walk around the Christmas Village with more lights, a bonfire, Christmas carols, pictures with Santa, horse-drawn sleigh rides, holiday treats, shopping, and more! At the Westmoreland County Fairgrounds. $5 per person or $20 per car CASH only, some activities have extra fees. Open November 22-December 30 most nights at 530PM. https://familyfunpittsburgh.com/holidayfun-top-seven-christmas-light-displays-around-pittsburgh/
27.) Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland November 15th-January 5th
Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland is a 3-mile long drive-through display in Butler County featuring The North Pole. Santa’s Village features a kid-sized train ride games, activities, a snack bar, a Letters to Santa writing area, and of course pictures with Santa himself. $25 per car. Open nightly from 600-1000PM November 15th through January 5th. https://familyfunpittsburgh.com/holidayfun-top-seven-christmas-light-displays-around-pittsburgh/
28.) Oglebay’s Festival of Lights November 7th- January 5th
Oglebay Park in Wheeling West Virginia hosts the annual Festival of Lights with six-miles of drive-through lights and over 90 light displays and new this year, 3D glasses. Oglebay also has the Gardens of Light and Nativity display, holiday lights and reindeer at the Good Zoo, the Winter Carnival with a kid’s train ride and Family Wagon Rides, pictures with Santa, and overnight stays at the Lodge. $25 per car, other activities have additional charges. Opens at dusk daily November 7th through January 5. https://familyfunpittsburgh.com/holidayfun-top-seven-christmas-light-displays-around-pittsburgh/
29.) Christmas Light-Up Clinton PA November 23rd – January 5th
Enjoy the drive-through light display in Clinton PA. Open November 23rd through January 5th from 500-1000PM. (Clinton is near the Pittsburgh International Airport). https://familyfunpittsburgh.com/holidayfun-top-seven-christmas-light-displays-around-pittsburgh/
30.) Christmas in the Park Grove City, PA November 29th – January 2nd
Drive-through Memorial Park in Grove City and enjoy the many Christmas Displays set up by local businesses and charities. Nightly from November 29th through January 2nd. Free with donations “gladly accepted”. https://familyfunpittsburgh.com/holidayfun-top-seven-christmas-light-displays-around-pittsburgh/
31.) Lumaze November 22nd- December 31st
Lumaze is a new indoor holiday light show with a walk-through light display, snack bar, a kids train, visits with Santa, and more.
Tickets are limited. $15-$23. November 22 through December 31. Hours vary. https://familyfunpittsburgh.com/holidayfun-top-seven-christmas-light-displays-around-pittsburgh/