family events Pittsburgh

11 family events, from Thanksgiving acts of kindness to photo ops with live reindeer, make this a very merry weekend in Pittsburgh

Photo above of Light Up Night fireworks by Renee Rosensteel.

It’s finally Light Up Night weekend in Pittsburgh, which ushers in the start of the holiday season. There are also new exhibits, family events, and performances for everyone to enjoy. It’s the most wonderful time of the year in Pittsburgh! And in addition to all these family events in Pittsburgh, don’t miss our daily events calendar for a full listing of community-submitted events. 

Check out some of the family events on tap for this weekend:

Friday and Saturday, Nov. 18-19: Light Up Night, 4:30 p.m. – 10:30 p.m.

This annual celebration is the official kickoff of Pittsburgh’s Holiday celebration. Experience a full night of vibrant activities and events, including concerts from national (looking at you, Joan Jett!) and local artists, extraordinary firework displays, family activities, the seasonal opening of Pittsburgh’s winter attractions, the illumination of the Golden Triangle and more! There are also events Friday night including the PPG tree lighting and opening of the People’s Gas Holiday Market. You’ll find all the details right here in our Light Up Night guide

things to do with kids in Pittsburgh
Photo courtesy Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership.

Friday and Saturday, Nov. 18-19: Holiday lights at Kennywood, 4:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. 

Beginning Friday night for season passholders and Saturday night for the general public,  the 10th anniversary of Kennywood’s Holiday Lights will be on display. Bring your family and celebrate the return of this Pittsburgh classic. Take a stroll among more than two million twinkling lights and marvel at the tallest Christmas tree in the state while enjoying festive foods and holiday drinks. Rides will be open for the kids and entertainment will be happening throughout the park for all. Tickets are $20. 

Friday-Sunday, Nov. 18-20: “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Jr.” at Lincoln Park, various times

“It’s a Holly Jolly Christmas!” See all your favorite holiday characters including Santa and Mrs. Claus, Hermey the Elf, Bumble the Abominable Snow Monster and Rudolph soar off the screen and onto the Lincoln Park stage. Rudolph and his fellow misfits come together and find that their differences make them special – and might even help save Christmas! This adaption of the 1964 television special promises to get you into the holiday spirit. A special treat: There will be real live reindeer at the Sunday performances from 12 p.m. – 2 p.m.! This play runs through December 4. Check out their website for more details and tickets, which begin at $18. 

Saturday, Nov. 19: Light Up Northside, 3 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.

This year, the light up festivities aren’t just happening Downtown. Head over to Allegheny Commons for ornament-making, vendors, music, and more. This event is free to both Northsiders and visitors. Check out their Facebook page for more details. 

Saturday, Nov. 19: grand opening of Mars: The Next Giant Leap at CSC, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. 

It’s finally time for the Carnegie Science Center to unveil the largest and most complex new exhibit they’ve added since opening over two decades ago. The Mars exhibit, which is located next to the planetarium and train room, is included with admission to the museum. Come explore what a human settlement might look like on Mars.  Don’t forget that the Science Center participates on Museums for All, which will lower the cost of general admission, and also offers reduced memberships to families with financial barriers. (Stay tuned for further coverage from KDKA’s Kristine Sorensen, coming soon to Kidsburgh.)

Saturday, Nov. 19: I Made It! Market at The Block at Northway, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. 

It’s time for the holiday I Made It! Market. Come check out over 100 craft vendors selling a variety of handmade goods. The skill and ingenuity of local Pittsburgh crafters and creators is impressive and inspiring.  There are also small-batch food vendors, distilleries, and more. While you’re at The Block, stop by Dave and Buster’s for some bowling or games. 

Saturday, Nov. 19: Family Adventures at the Carnegie Science Center, 3:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. 

There’s more than just Mars happening this weekend at the Carnegie Science Center. Follow CSC staff on a special tour of exhibits followed by hands-on activities and experiments for the whole family as you explore this new adventure at a local favorite. The price is $12 for members and $14 for nonmembers, and Family Adventures are most appropriate for kids ages 6 and up.

Saturday, Nov. 19: Gingerbread Contest at City-County Building, 5 p.m. 

It’s back!! After two years of virtual gingerbread houses and a change of venue, the gingerbread house competition is back and in person. Come to the City-County building for their annual tree lighting and view the creative displays. There’s even a gingerbread bus suspended over a collapsed gingerbread Fern Hollow Bridge. As a note, the Santa display from around the world is now located in a different location in PPG place, as well. The old favorites we grew up with are still around –- they’ve just found some new homes. 

Saturday, Nov. 19, and Sunday, Nov. 20: Packing Thanksgiving Boxes with Voluntots, various times and locations

As they did last year, VolunTOTS welcomes families to help pack boxes of donated food (get all the details here) this Thanksgiving season at several locations. On Saturday they are packing at Temple Emanuel of South Hills, beginning at 10 a.m. There are no participation limits this year, but registration is required. Click here to register for Temple Emanuel packing. They are also packing in the north on Saturday at: Discovery Christian Church, beginning at 10:30 a.m. The goal is to pack 200 boxes of food for the Lighthouse Foundation. Click here to register for Discovery Christian Church packing. On Sunday, VolunTOTS is packing at 1620 Murray Avenue in Squirrel Hill, beginning at 9 a.m. Click here to register for the Sunday event. 

Saturday, Nov. 19, and Sunday, Nov. 20: Free Holiday Lights Drive-Through at Alameda Park, 6 p.m. – 10 p.m.

Take a drive through the holiday light celebration at Alameda Park in Butler. There is no need to get out of your car (or your pajamas!). The park asks that guests please be respectful of other cars: The speed limit in the park is 15 mph, but the speed around the lights is kept to 5 mph. There is no fee and no registration required. 

Sunday, Nov. 20: An Afternoon of Enchantment from the PBT School, 12 p.m. – 4 p.m.

This event includes ballet class samplings, performance excerpts, crafts, photo opportunities, and more. Over the course of the afternoon, children can learn ballet basics, take home a “magical” craft project and get into the holiday spirit as they watch pre-professional students perform excerpts from Act II of “The Nutcracker.” These activities and performances are inclusive for all audiences, including those with sensory sensitivities and individualized needs. Two sessions are offered. Get details and register here. And learn more about all the upcoming Nutcracker-related events right here

Nutcracker Pittsburgh
Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre.

Want more things to do in Pittsburgh with kids? Check out our big fall events guide and lineup of 18 awesome November events. And don’t forget to sign up for the Kidsburgh newsletter here, if you haven’t already – it’s the best way to make sure you don’t miss a thing!