Holidays & Christmas In Pittsburgh: What To Do

Pittsburgh winter holidays skyline
Pittsburgh winter holidays skyline

Ho ho ho! Here’s my guide to the best holiday and Christmas attractions and events in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania.

Christmas is actually a good time to visit Pittsburgh. The weather isn’t as bitterly cold as other cities on the East Coast. And there are no shortage of places to find Christmas joy.

Pittsburgh is brimming with with festive attractions. There are Christmas trees, lights, ice rinks, and decorations all over the city.

PPG Place, one of the best things to do and see during the holidays in Pittsburgh
Christmas tree and ice rink at PPG Place

Best Holiday & Christmas Attractions In Pittsburgh

Here are my picks for the best spots to find Christmas cheer in Pittsburgh, for your holiday check list.

1. PPG Place

The PPG Palace is the most iconic piece of architecture in the city. In the winter, it looks like a castle of glass.

During the holiday season in Pittsburgh, you can rent a pair of skates and take to the ice skate on a rink in the main plaza.

You slide in circles around a giant Christmas tree.

fireworks above Roberto Clemente Bridge
fireworks above Roberto Clemente Bridge

2. Light Up Night

Pittsburgh’s Light Up Night is the biggest holiday event in Pittsburgh. On Light Up Night, the city trees are lit up for Christmas and fireworks twinkle in the sky.

Light Up Night is held the Friday or Saturday before Thanksgiving (this year it was Saturday). The 2021 celebration marks the event’s 60th anniversary.

Starting at lunchtime, the city shows off its Pittsburgh holiday displays. There are actually three separate fireworks shows. They draw well over 400,000 people into the city.

The first show is at the City-County Building at 5:00 pm. A second short performance is at the Highmark Building at 6:00 pm. Both events occur simultaneously with the buildings’ tree lighting ceremonies.

The final, and official, show is a theatrical presentation that takes place at 9:30 pm on the Allegheny River. There’s also live entertainment, holiday shopping, family fun, and so much more.

3. Christmas Market in Market Square

The Christmas market on Market Square is called the Peoples Gas Holiday Market. It’s a German-style market offering one-of-a-kind gifts and German wares. The Alpine-style stalls feature dozens of vendors who rotate throughout the season.

You can find everything from delicious foods to authentic European Christmas decorations and handmade gifts. You can try some authentic Austrian streusel, bratwurst, pretzels, or hot apple cider.

There’s a Santa House for little ones wanting to visit Santa. There are live performances during the week at lunchtime and throughout the day on weekends.

The holiday market is held from November 19 to December 23 for the 2021 season.

stalls in the Christmas market in Market Square
stalls in the Christmas market in Market Square
gingerbread house of the City-Country Building
gingerbread house replica of the City-Country Building

4. City-County Building

The City-County Building houses one of the best Christmas trees in Pittsburgh. It’s a magnificent decorated 45 foot tall blue spruce donated by Mr. Chris Fuga and Family.

The magnificent tree is displayed in the portico of the City-County Building. This treasured tradition in downtown Pittsburgh has lasted for over 100 years.

For the past 18 years, the City-County Building has also hosted an annual gingerbread house competition. Entries are on display behind windows in the portico.

Schenley ice rink
Schenley ice rink

4. Schenley Park Ice Skating

If a spin around an ice rink gets you in the Christmas spirit, head to Schenley Park.

Schenley Park is a pretty municipal park in Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood. In 2011, the park was named as one of the “America’s Coolest City Parks” by the popular travel magazine, Travel + Leisure. 

In the winter, the action shifts to the Schenley Park Skating Rink. The rink is generally open from late November to late March.

Skate sessions are 90 minutes. There’s also a special skate with Santa night.

Christmas tree at Point Park
Christmas tree at Point Park

5. Tree Of Lights At Point Park

The Point Park Tree is back! Duquesne Light announced last year that 2020 was the final season and that they would retire the 80 foot tree. But there was an outcry and petitions.

In 2021, a similar tree — consisting solely of lights — is back. But this one is a more energy efficient version.

Broderie Room during the Phipps' Winter Flower Show
Broderie Room during the Phipps’ Winter Flower Show

6. Phipps Conservatory Winter Show

The annual Winter Flower Show is one of the top attractions of Pittsburgh’s holiday season. The botanical gardens deliver a sparkling display and potent dose of Christmas cheer.

Each year there’s a different theme. This year’s theme was “Sparkle and Shine.”

The winter show dazzles with gorgeous seasonal flowers, beautifully decorated trees, and thousands of twinkly lights. The trees all have different color and ornament themes.

This year, the Phipps also celebrated the return of the outdoor Winter Light Garden. Guests can wander through luminous orbs, decorated trees, fountains, a tunnel of lights, and an ice castle display

Here’s my complete guide to the Phipps’ Winter Flower Show.

the Pittsburgh Creche on Grant Street
the Pittsburgh Creche on Grant Street

7. Pittsburgh Creche

Pittsburgh is home to the world’s only authorized replica of the Vatican’s Christmas creche.

The Vatican’s version is on display in St. Peter’s Square in Rome. Pittsburgh’s replica is on display on Grant Street in Downtown Pittsburgh. It’s in the plaza in front of Pittsburgh’s tallest building, the U.S. Steel Tower.

There are 20 statues, including some incredibly cute animals both large and small. If you like creches, this is a must see during the holidays in Pittsburgh.

READ: Guide To the Vatican Museums

the Gothic interior of the Cathedral of Learning
Commons Room of the Cathedral of Learning

8. Cathedral of Learning Nationality Rooms

The Cathedral of Learning is one of Pittsburgh’s most iconic landmarks. It was built in a Gothic Revival style. The Neo-Gothic cathedral is over 42 stories high.

It’s a lone skyscraper in the area that houses many of the University of Pittsburgh’s classes. And, in fact, it’s the second tallest university building in the world.

You enter into the stunning Commons Room. It’s a beautiful church-like three story foyer.

The best part of the cathedral is the Nationality Rooms. They are themed class rooms from different time periods around the world. Each room is decorated to honor a specific ethnicity that contributed to Pittsburgh’s development. 

During the holidays, the rooms are usually dressed up in holiday finery. In December, they showcase holiday decorations in the traditional style of the countries they represent.

They’re not open to the public in 2021. Here’s hoping for next year!

9. Carnegie Museum Hall of Architecture

The Carnegie Museum of Art is a great place to visit during the holidays in Pittsburgh. For the last 60 years, the museum is dressed up for the holidays.

Five fancifully decorated 20 foot holiday trees grace the magnificent Hall of Architecture. The trees are decorated with handmade ornaments created by the Ladies Committee.

Each year, there’s a different theme. This year, it was “Bedazzled.” There are also live musical performances in the Hall of Architecture every Saturday from November 27 to December 18.

Carnegio Presepio
Carnegie Presepio

10. Carnegie Presepio

The Carnegie Presepio is an elaborate nativity creche. The Italian word “presipio” means crib or manger.

The Carnegie’s nativity was crafted by artisans in Naples. It’s a combination of sacred and worldly. It contains dozens of figures depicting humans, animals, and angels. These presidios were extremely popular beginning in the 18th century.

Some figures are carrying about their daily business. Others look up in awe at the angels. To give them historical context, the presepio is flanked by two beautiful large paintings by pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones.

If you want to learn more about the Carnegie piece, there’s a live drop in art chat with art experts on Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday through January 9.

11. Frick Winterfest

For the first time ever, Frick Pittsburgh is hosting Winterfest. It’s a festival that runs from 12:00 pm to 7:00 pm December 28 to January 2, 2021

Winterfest will feature an entire week of outdoor family fun. There will be ice skating, carriage rides, story telling, delicious treats, and more.

The gardens of the Clayton House have been lit up since December 1. Clayton is closed for renovations this season. But inside it’s usually decorated with hundreds of poinsettias and other holiday decorations.

You can stroll Frick’s beautiful grounds that are decorated with greenery and beautiful Christmas trees. The winter lights are on display.

The Carnegie is extending its hours to offer some outdoor seasonal cheer. Reservations are recommended for certain activities.

Here’s my complete guide to the Frick Pittsburgh complex.

Penguins on Parade. Image courtesy of the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium
Penguins on Parade. Image courtesy of the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium

12. Penguins on Parade

Every year on weekends from December to February, the Pittsburgh Zoo hosts the famous Penguin Parade.

The penguins waddle and stroll outside on the visitor’s pathways near the PPG Aquarium. In December, you can also grab breakfast or lunch with Santa on December weekends.

Kids can also decorate Christmas cookies, make some holiday crafts, and meet Mr. Claus himself.

the Santa Trolley at the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum
the Santa Trolley

13. Pittsburgh Trolley Museum

The Pennsylvania Trolley Museum is located in Washington PA. The museum was founded in February 1954 with three trolleys.

Today, the museum now boasts a collection of nearly 50 cars. It welcomes over 30,000 visitors each year. 

In the holiday season, the museum hosts a Santa Trolley in November and December. You can board the train, meet Santa, and have hot cocoa.

14. Canonsburg

Just southwest of the city lies the suburb of Canonsburg. The town is a small quaint borough with plenty to do.

Canonsburg is most well known for its Old Fashioned Christmas event. The state pitches it as “Holiday Hallmark Move-esque location.”

It’s a one or two day event, which takes place in early December each year. Festivities include a tree lighting ceremony, Christmas parade, food truck court, and live entertainment. Naturally, you can meet Santa at the North Pole.

Seven Springs Ski Resort

15. Seven Springs

Just an hour outside of Pittsburgh, you can ski or snowboard on some of the best slopes in Pennsylvania. Seven Springs Mountain Resort stays open all winter long and often into the early spring.

Aside from hitting the slopes, you can indulge in at the luxurious Trillium Spa. In the summer, there’s a mountaintop golf course.

Benedum Center
Benedum Center

16. Take In Christmas Show or Concert

Do you like Christmas-y theater or music? If so, head to the Benedum Center to see The Nutcracker. If music is more your jam, you can catch the Holiday Pops at Heinz Hall.

Both these events are popular sold out attractions during the holidays in Pittsburgh

Miracle Pop Up Bar
Miracle Pop Up Bar

17. Miracle Pop Up Bar

Tis the season for miracles and Miracle on Liberty is back for the 2021 holiday season in Pittsburgh. Miracle is a holiday pop up cocktail bar, which helps raise money for charity. You can enjoy holiday-themed drinks, music, and over-the-top decorations. 

Miracle doesn’t have individual igloos this year. But they sell holiday glassware and donate a portion of the proceeds to charity.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my guide to the best things to do and see in Pittsburgh during the holidays. You may enjoy these other United States travel guides and resources:

If you’d like to visit Pittsburgh during the holiday season, pin it for later.

guide to the best things to see and do during the holidays in Pittsburgh
guide to the holiday attractions of Pittsburgh Pennsylvania

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