Face it: Pittsburgh in the wintertime is not exactly pleasant. To distract from the harshness of winter’s chill, Pittsburghers have created their own traditions and customs, making the season more bearable, and the landscape more colorful.
What would a holiday kickoff be in Pittsburgh without fireworks, night markets, performances, and ice sculptures? This year’s Light-Up Night, on Nov. 16, promises all the above as the holiday lights of Pittsburgh are set aglow for the first time this season. Weather permitting, Downtown is always abuzz on Light-Up Night, so allow for extra commuting time.
No list of quintessentially Pittsburgh holiday stops would be complete without the Rink at PPG Place. The rink is open from mid-November through late February, weather permitting, and delights skaters young and old. Consider visiting ($9-14) on a weekday evening as the plaza comes alive without having to wait to skate.
Those seeking refuge from the chill can step inside the PPG Wintergarden, where local musicians perform throughout the season. The Wintergarden is also home to a perennial display of Santa statues from around the world.
A newer tradition, the Holiday Market, transforms Market Square into a village of vendors and offers visits with Santa for younger market-goers. This marks the market’s seventh year and is open from Light-Up Night through late December. Saturdays tend to be busy, but much like any Saturday in the Strip District, the wares on display are always diverse.
Phipps Conservatory’s annual winter flower and light show is a dazzling display of color both inside and outside of the Conservatory. On display from the end of November through the start of January, the rooms are each decorated with a different holiday-inspired style. Consider visiting (about $18/adults, $17 for seniors, free for some students) a little before the sun goes down as one of Phipps’ major highlights is the light display in the backyard garden. The wait will be worth it.
If a trek outside seems less-than-ideal, consider visiting the Nationality Rooms at the Cathedral of Learning in Oakland. The classrooms are transformed into winter wonderlands corresponding with the cultures of each room. The rooms on the first floor are free to visit, however visiting the rooms on the third floor of Cathy require either a self-guided audio tour ($4) or a group tour with a guide.
Across the lawn from Cathy is another mercifully indoor holiday space: the Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s Tree Display. With museum admission ($11.95-19.95), visitors can view themed trees spread about the museum’s Hall of Architecture.
While impossible to provide a definitive list, these holiday destinations are uniquely Pittsburgh and are sure to elicit the spirit of the season.