First Night

What to Do and See in Pittsburgh This Holiday Season

by Rosa Colucci


November 17, 2023


Light Up Night

The official kick-off to the holiday season launches November 18th with Pittsburgh’s 62nd annual Highmark Light Up Night. The Saturday kick-off spearheads a weekend of festivities that includes the official tree-lighting ceremony, local performances, and the official opening of the People’s Gas Holiday Market in Market Square. Local communities will also be lighting up, with many taking place on Friday, the 17th. Check our your community websites for more information.

Small Business Saturday

(November 25th from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.) 

There’s nothing greener than shopping local and exploring new neighborhoods. Stroll along the main streets of Lawrenceville, Mt. Lebanon, Aspinwall, Lawrenceville, Shadyside, and the Strip District to see what’s new. This year, Millvale is showing off their latest community upgrades with “Shop & Taste” featuring 25 retailers who are bringing out food samples, raffles, and more. 

Pittsburgh Creche at Steel Plaza

Spend the Day Downtown

Visit the Pittsburgh Creche at Steel Plaza. The only authorized replica in the world of the same in St. Peter’s Square, Vatican City. Wander about to see the trees, go ice skating at the PPG Rink, and enjoy some hot cocoa. For a nightlife flair, park around Grant Street, and visit the Union Trust Building (Eddie V’s), Omni William Penn Hotel, and Mellon Square. Enjoy appetizers, take in the architecture, and look up! The view is amazing. 

Holiday Concerts

There is no shortage here. Pittsburgh Symphony Holiday Pops, River City Brass Band, and The Pittsburgh Camerata plan all year for this season. Often overlooked is the slate of inexpensive and high-quality concerts and recitals at the local universities, including Carnegie-Mellon University and University of Pittsburgh.


Holiday Theatre

The list is long and the offerings outstanding. A Musical Christmas Carol, (Pittsburgh CLO, Dec. 15-23); “A Lyrical Christmas Carol”, (Pittsburgh Musical Theater, Dec. 13-17), and farther north “White Christmas” (Comtra Theatre). Lovers of dance may want to check out Pittsburgh Ballet Theater’s “The Nutcracker” — tickets sell fast on that last one.


Pittsburgh Jewels for All

There is no shortage of Pittsburgh Places to check out. These attractions are suitable for family outings and are easily navigated with seniors, children, and wonderfully handicapped accessible. The National Aviary is a great family outing with interactive feeding times a penguin pool, tropical flamingos, and more. If flowers are your thing take a family-friendly visit to Phipps Conservatory & Botanical Garden for the “Holiday Magic: Winter Flower and Light Show.” These timed tickets sell fast and it’s always fun to see family photos being taken throughout the tour — don’t miss the IG Booth! The Heinz History Center is an all-time favorite place to bring visitors with something for everyone from Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood to the Pittsburgh Sports Hall of Fame. 

Just for Kids

Sometimes, you just have to let them run and there is no better place for kids than The Children’s Museum, where kids of all abilities are encouraged to play. Highmark Sportsworks offers interactive displays that are fun and inspire learning between the intersection of sports and the laws of science.


All About Lights

It’s always nice to just load the car and take drive through a holiday light display. Pittsburgh Zoo's annual Zoo Lights is now tradition and benefits local charities. This year, the Zoo is offering walk-through times as well.


Auld Lang Syne

It’s back to the Downtown streets for this one. The family-friendly “First Night Pittsburgh” has a fun parade that you can march in, concerts, and open events throughout the city. Streets are closed and the entire event is alcohol-free. Schedules (TBD) and First Night Button Purchases online at


Rosa Colucci is a regular contributor to The Green Voice