things to do in Pittsburgh

From at-home crafts to free museum admissions, 12 great things to do in Pittsburgh this holiday weekend and next week

Photo above courtesy of Kennywood.

This chilly weekend in Pittsburgh is full of a predicted ice storm, as well as Hannukah and Christmas. There aren’t many scheduled events happening around Pittsburgh for kids, since many people will be home with family. But we’ve rounded up a range of fun things to do in Pittsburgh this weekend and during winter break with kids – including several things you can do from the comfort of home. 

Also, check out our guide to camps and other things to do with kids during the holiday school break.

(One update to this story as you plan your weekend: Because of the snow and dangerously cold temperatures expected on Friday, we’ve gotten an announcement that the Peoples Gas Holiday Market located Downtown at Market Square will be closing for the season on Thursday night and will not be open on Friday. They have expanded hours for Dec. 21 and Dec. 22, staying open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. both days.) 

Friday, Dec. 23: It’s a Beautiful Shabbat in the Neighborhood: 5 p.m.

While Friday is expected to be icy and dicey, “It’s a Beautiful Shabbat in The Neighborhood” is a Facebook Live event – no need to venture out on icy roads! Join Rabbi Ron Symons and other neighborhood guests in lighting Shabbat candles, raising a glass of wine and celebrating Shabbat with the breaking of bread together. This event seeks to help guests reflect on the most pressing issues of the week through the lens of Jewish values. 

Monday, Dec. 26: Sensory Friendly Hours at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m.

For families who need something quiet after the bustle of holidays, this sensory-friendly event is perfect. Tours and quiet rooms will be available at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History for visitors before the museum opens to the general public. Admission is $5.95 for kids and $9.95 for their grownups. Find more information here

Photo courtesy of the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh.

Monday, Dec. 26 through Friday, Dec. 30: Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The Children’s Museum is opening an hour early during winter break. MuseumLab will also be open each of those days from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Check the Children’s Museum website for details on classes and workshops. Admission for non-members is $18 for adults and $16 for kids 2–18 (but the Children’s Museum participates in Museums for All, which offers free or discounted admission for those who qualify).

Saturday, Dec. 31: First Night, Downtown

New Year’s Eve falls on a Saturday this year, and Pittsburgh’s First Night celebration will give families a great way to ring in the new year. Get all the details here for this free event Downtown, which runs from 6 p.m. until midnight on Dec. 31.

Through Dec. 28: “The Nutcracker” at the Benedum Center

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre presents its annual production that draws families year after year to its enchanting story, exquisite costumes and stunning sets. Catch a sensory-friendly performance on Dec. 27. Tickets start at $29, with sensory-friendly tickets priced from $20. (What’s it like to dance in this remarkable show? Get the inside scoop right here!)

the nutcracker
Dancers prepping for “The Nutcracker” at PBT. Photo by Yu-Ling Cheng.

Now through Jan. 1: Dazzling Nights at Pittsburgh Botanical Gardens

This walk-through journey includes interactive lights, a 65-foot tunnel of light and a forest of light and fog that gives the impression of walking through the aurora borealis. Timed tickets are $20 for kids, $22 for their grownups, free for ages 2 and younger. They are open on Christmas Eve and throughout winter break until Jan. 1. Get more info here

dazzling nights
Dazzling Nights photo courtesy of KDKA.

Through Dec. 31: Free Admission at the Fort Pitt Museum

Though it’s part of the Smithsonian family along with the Heinz History Center, a lot of little ‘burghers may not have toured this museum located on the Point. Admission is free for kids 17 and under from now through Jan. 8. It’s an interesting place for kids who can read or enjoy being read to — tons of mini models and neat visuals can be found. This museum also provides a great opportunity to talk about the colonization of the Pittsburgh region and our complicated history. 

Through Dec. 31: Free Admission for Kids at the Sen. John Heinz History Center

Again this year, the History Center is offering free admission for the entire month of December for anyone 17 and younger. So bring the family and spend a day exploring the permanent and visiting exhibits. You’ll find a fantastic showcase of local history with plenty of interactive fun, plus a special area for kids to move and run, and an interactive model of the city with a Liberty Tubes tunnel slide. (We love the name, by the way: Kidsburgh.)  Details here.

Heinz History Center photo courtesy of RAD.

Through Jan. 1: Kennywood Park Holiday Lights, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Christmas is back at Kennywood. You’ll find more than two million twinkling lights this year, along with the tallest Christmas tree in the state, as well as holiday foods and drinks, plus a range of rides open for kids and entertainment for all ages. Santa will be there, along with a model train village and more. While the lights are closed on the 24th, and 25th, the park is open Dec. 23 and Dec. 26 through January 1. Tickets begin at $19.99 if you buy online.

Through Jan. 1: Zoo Lights Drive-Thru, 5:15 p.m. to 9:45 p.m.

The Zoo lights are open on Christmas Eve (though not Christmas Day) and throughout the winter break. The display has grown to include more than 100 animal lights with new displays, festive music, and holiday treats. Follow the guided audio tour filled with Christmas carols. Timed tickets are $40 per vehicle for zoo members or $50 for nonmembers (including all riders in the vehicle). The drive takes about an hour. (Note: The zoo’s drive-thru fundraisers have sold out quickly in the past. Book early to avoid disappointment.)


Joe Wos’ Cartoon Academy: This video series is perfect for keeping kids (and grown-ups) busy during the holiday break. It’s available on WQED’s Youtube channel and a marathon of season one and season two will be airing on WQED-TV from noon-2 p.m. on Jan. 2. Get all the details here.

Maker Monday Activities

Each Monday, Kidsburgh features a craft that is simple and affordable to do at home with the kids in your care – including out-of-town holiday visitors. Grab the supplies for this drawing robot, shaving cream snowman, or marshmallow pops. We also have a roundup of all the past Maker Mondays here, so try a whole bunch if you’re feeling extra creative (or extra bored).

Stay on top of all the fun things to do in Pittsburgh in the new year by signing up for the Kidsburgh newsletter here. Don’t miss our winter guide of all the great cold-weather events in 2023, our and our guide to indoor play places for the days you just don’t want to brave the cold.

The city’s First Night Guide is also available so your family can plan how to ring in the new year.