first night pittsburgh

First Night guide: All the details about the Downtown fun on Dec. 31

All photos courtesy of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

Got plans for New Year’s Eve? For the 30th year, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust will host First Night, a family-friendly celebration that’s free and open to all ages. We’ve got all the details right here for families who might want to ring in the new year amid the glittering lights of Downtown.

Photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.
Young visitors celebrating at last year’s First Night.

When: The fun begins at 6 p.m. with an early fireworks show and goes until the Future of Pittsburgh ball drops at midnight and ushers in 2024 under a sky filled with an even bigger fireworks display.

Where: Downtown Pittsburgh’s 14-block “cultural district” will be filled with live music, dance and theater performances, visual arts, magic shows, kids’ activities, a community parade and more. See below for all the details.

First Night performers Zuzu African Acrobats.

What: You’ll find more than 30 attractions at this year’s First Night celebration.

Check out this lineup…

Performances include a concert by the formerly Pittsburgh-based singer Lyndsey Smith, known as “The Goddaughter of Soul.” Smith will be the headlining performer on the Highmark Stage (located at the intersection of Penn Ave. and Stanwix St.) beginning at 10:45 p.m. Pittsburgh’s reggae-rockers The Flow Band and the Zuzu African Acrobats will warm up the stage earlier in the evening.

Photo of the First Night “Fire Tree” courtesy of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

Jazz artist Dwayne Dolphin will perform at the renovated Greer Cabaret Theater and Lounge (all are welcome — no need to purchase food or drinks) and tarot card readers will be in the theater to give guests a forecast for 2024.

Outdoors, you’ll find a new public art premiere called The Firetree Project. This 24-foot-tall steel sculpture that looks like it was lifted from a fairytale will be located at the Backyard at 8th St. and Penn Ave., where you’ll also find entertainment from School of Rock and performances by finalists of the annual SING-OFF Competition.

(Does your child want to compete? This year students in grades 6-12 were invited to submit audition videos through midnight on Dec. 3 to be considered by a panel of judges. The winner of the annual PRIME SING-OFF will perform on the Highmark Stage. And following in the footsteps of Gabby Barrett, Trinity Wiseman, Dejah Monea and others, the winner earns a $500 cash prize and a $1,000 school music department donation.)

Along with hosting the Firetree Project, the Backyard at 8th and Penn is also a good spot to get warm and refuel. You’ll find outdoor heaters and food for sale from several of Pittsburgh’s top food trucks.

Another warm option: Indoors at Fifth Avenue Place, a long-time staple venue during Highmark First Night Pittsburgh, you’ll find caricaturists and family-friendly entertainment from Giggles the Clown and O’Ryan the O’Mazing, plus fun hosted by the Cultural Trust’s Arts Education department.

Hands-on, kid-focused fun will also be happening outdoors at the Highmark Holiday Block Party & AHN Family Zone (at the intersection of Penn Ave. and 7th St., across from the Benedum Center). Look for activities hosted by Citiparks, Pittsburgh Center for Arts & Media, the Cultural Trust, Highmark, AHN and more local organizations.

Families can also check out more outdoor public art around the cultural district and indoor exhibitions at Wood Street Galleries, 707 Penn Gallery and 820 Liberty Gallery.

And don’t miss the annual arts-focused New Year’s Eve Parade, which includes performances and artistic surprises. As usual, giant puppets from Studio Capezzuti will be the stars of the show. Catch a glimpse of the parade along Penn Avenue between the David L. Lawrence Convention Center and 6th St., between 8 and 8:30 p.m.

The parade then meets up with elected officials and special guests for a ribbon cutting during the Clemente Bridge & Sister Bridges Celebration from 8:45-9 pm at Fort Duquesne Blvd. and 6th St., which will mark the reopening of the Clemente Bridge and the launch of a new lighting project on the three Downtown bridges.

Teams of volunteers met earlier in December to help build giant puppets during a hands-on workshop led by Pittsburgh artist and teacher Cheryl Capezzuti at the Braddock Battlefield History Center. Those who attended the workshop are invited to march in the parade with their creations. They’ll meet under the David L. Lawrence Convention Center on 10th St at 7:15 p.m. during the First Night festivities.

And as is tradition, First Night ends with the Countdown to Midnight & Future of Pittsburgh Grand Finale on the Highmark Stage. Above the stage, the Future of Pittsburgh Ball will rise nearly 75 feet as fireworks fill the sky and the band and audience join in harmony to sing “Auld Lang Syne.” Then the ball will drop and 2024 will begin.

All these events are free and open to everyone, but the Cultural Trust does offer a “First Night Friends VIP Experience,” including access to the First Night Friends Lounge inside the O’Reilly Theater lobby. Visitors there will find complimentary food, beverages and entertainment. VIP packages start at $50.