holiday happenings


Every Day (except Dec. 25)

The spectacular  Phipps Winter Flower Show and Light Garden has become a Pittsburgh holiday staple. Phipps is a sight to behold at any time of year, but something about the topiary holiday animals, decorated trees, poinsettias like nobody’s business and luminous light garden make this the best time of year for a visit. This exhibit is free with admission.


Miniature Railroad and Village Exhibit— Daily (except Dec. 25)

This exhibit started as a hardcore train enthusiast’s collection in the 1920s, and it is every bit as cool today as it would have been nearly 100 years ago. If you’ve never seen it, the miniature railroad village is like a time capsule, with tiny buildings mimicking Western Pennsylvania landmarks and figurines representing how people lived in days gone by. It’s nostalgic, it’s festive, it’s fun for all ages, and it comes free with admission to the Carnegie Science Center.

Every day through Dec. 23, 5 to 9 p.m.

Amusement parks aren’t for everyone, but Kennywood Holiday Lights offers many festive activities beyond just the rides. The park is decorated with more than a million and a half twinkling lights and Pennsylvania’s tallest Christmas tree. You can enjoy holiday entertainment and all the Kennywood food you know and love. And the best part? Parking is free, and tickets are drastically discounted compared to regular season rates.

Holiday Glass Sale—Dec. 2-4,

If you are looking for a shopping experience that allows you to get hands-on and behind the scenes, this is it. All weekend long, you can buy glass gifts such as wine stoppers, ornaments, wall art and much more, all created by local artists. You can also watch a glass blowing demonstration on Friday night, and then on Saturday, try a Make-It-Now workshop, where you will have the chance to make your own ornament with the help of a professional glass blower.

Dec. 3, 7 and 10, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.,

Everyone loves the candlelight tours at Hartwood acres, but this year, we thought we would call special attention to this event because you get the mansion tour, plus tea time, plus entertainment all in one afternoon. The mansion will be bedecked in all of its usual holiday splendor, and if you are lucky, maybe you will get to see the grounds covered in fluffy white snow. It’s a good idea to call for reservations ahead of time at 412-767-9200.

Dec. 3, 10 and 17, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., National Aviary

For a totally epic holiday card photo this year, grab your camera and head to the aviary to take your picture with Santa and his real-life, festive penguin helpers. While you are there, you can also enjoy the aviary’s free light show, check out feeding times for the birds and visit the new snowy owl exhibit. There is no need to book this event ahead of time. It is open to guests of all ages and is included with the price of admission.

santa-trolleySANTA TROLLEY—Dec. 3-4, 10-11 and 17-18
Pennsylvania Trolley Museum,
Washington Pa.

What kid doesn’t want to ride an antique trolley through the countryside with good old Saint Nick? In addition to the trolley ride, kids can also make holiday crafts, drink hot chocolate, sing carols, ride a Yuletide Shuttle, enjoy the decorated street cars at the museum, and receive a gift from Santa. It’s one of the Trolley Museum’s most popular events, so be sure to purchase your tickets ahead of time. Registration at

12 to 5 p.m., Ligonier.

Ligonier is an adorable historic town about one hour from Pittsburgh, and there is no better time to visit than during the holidays. During its town-wide open house, the quaint business district, boasting more than 60 shops and restaurants, is bustling with activity. Visitors can enjoy horse-drawn sleigh rides, window displays, carolers and a visit from Santa.

Dec 9 and 10, Allegheny West.

When it comes to celebrations, the Victorians did it best—which is why a tour through five historic Pittsburgh Victorian homes decked out in lavish old-style holiday decorations is exactly what the season prescribes. The tour begins at Calvary United Methodist Church, where guests can peruse a Christmas shop, and it ends at one of the world’s largest toy train museums, but be sure to buy your tickets early. They often sell out. Order online.


handmade-arcadeHANDMADE ARCADE—Dec.  3, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
David L. Lawrence Convention Center.

If you like craft fairs, this is the mother of all. In fact, it’s basically like physically going to an Etsy store, with more than 150 local artists and vendors. It is important to note that this event attracts upwards of 9,000 visitors in one day, and it can get pretty crowded. So strongly consider buying the Early Birdie ticket, which allows you to enter the fair one hour early, and be sure to buy it ahead of time, as Early Birdies are limited. Visit to register.

Dec. 4 at
4 p.m., Hollywood Theater, Dormont

Nothing says “bah humbug” like F.W. Murnau’s 1926 adaptation of the legendary story about the battle for Dr. Faust’s soul. The Silents, Please series at the Hollywood is excellent entertainment, and Faust, Murnau’s last (and one of his finest) German films, is sure to meet that standard. To top it off, the film will be accompanied by live music from Richard Nicol and Steve Rightnour as Pittsburgh Modular and Monorocket. Be sure to buy tickets ahead of time at

Monroeville Convention Center

Even if you won’t admit it, you’re a little bit nerdy. Everyone is. And this year’s Steel City Con has a little something for every type of pop culture nerd, with celebrity guests ranging from the actors behind  Ginny Weasley to The Fonz, Prince Humperdinck, Deuce Bigalow, Katana and more (Right: like you don’t know who any of those people are, cause you’re soooo cool). The weekend is packed with vendors, contests and panels, and it’s a perfect way to escape the holiday frenzy for a weekend. Registration at

HIGHLAND PARK POTTERY TOUR—Dec. 10 and 11, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Union Project, 801 N. Negley Avenue

This event has been growing in popularity since it began six years ago, and it’s not difficult to see why. At a basic level, the Highland Park Pottery Tour is an enormous pottery sale that is aptly timed for holiday shoppers. But it also gives guests the opportunity to go into the homes and studios of local potters and artists, taking the “buy local” concept to another level where you actually meet designers, see their workspaces and enjoy their company.

STEELERS HOST THE RAVENS—Dec. 25 at 4:30 p.m.
Heinz Field or on your TV

The Steeler Nation must have been very good this year, because Santa is bringing us the chance to destroy the Baltimore Ravens at home on Christmas Day. The Steelers, who have never played on Christmas Day before, will also be sporting their new Color Rush uniforms for the first time. Whether you are celebrating the holidays or not, this game gives Pittsburghers of all ages another reason to wake up on December 25 with childlike excitement in their hearts and jolly twinkles in their eyes.


FIRST NIGHT—Dec. 31 from 6 p.m.,
Downtown Pittsburgh

Ring in the New Year with the rest of the city by going downtown for a six-hour, 14-block-wide celebration, pictured below, that culminates in the raising of the Future of Pittsburgh ball at midnight. The event also features two Zambelli Fireworks displays, live music, dancers, theater, visual artists, comedy, magic, kids’ activities, a parade and much more. First Night is great fun for children and adults alike, but kids five and under get free admission to the evening’s events.


NOON YEAR’S EVE—Dec. 31 at 11 a.m.
Mt. Lebanon Public Library

If you have kids, you want to stay close to home, or you simply have trouble staying awake until midnight, then this is the New Year’s party for you! Celebrate 2017 12 hours early with stories, songs, kids’ crafts, treats and some bubbly when the clock strikes noon. Then, you will be free to enjoy the rest of the day or even go to another New Year’s party later, if you wish.

NEW YEAR’S EVE BLUES BASH—Dec. 31 at 7 p.m.
Doubletree Hotel- Airport Area

Hosted by The Blues Society of Western Pennsylvania, this event will bring together blues fans from all over the Pittsburgh region in celebration of both music and the coming of 2017. This year, the Blues Bash will feature performances by J.P. Soars and The Red Hots and Pittsburgh-based Bubs McKeg and The Rhythm Aces. There will also be an open bar, dinner and a midnight buffet, and when the night is done, you can book a room at the Doubletree to avoid the New Year’s post-midnight traffic.