holiday events Pittsburgh

Holiday fun guide: 50-plus family events for the ultimate Pittsburgh holiday season

Photo above courtesy of Allegheny County Parks.

The coming weeks are filled with all kinds of fun ways to celebrate the winter holidays around the Pittsburgh area, from free events and sparkling light displays to stage shows, film screenings, kids’ classes and educational events, and so much more for folks of all ages.

Scroll down for more than 50 ways to enjoy the holiday season with kids in the Pittsburgh region:

Photo courtesy of the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh.

Through Dec. 15: Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood Sweater Drive, Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh. Doing good deeds is a wonderful way to help kids understand the spirit of Fred Rogers and the holiday season. Gather new and gently worn sweaters in adult and children’s sizes, then drop them into the bins at the museum from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. daily or at any of these participating businesses.

Through Dec. 23: Holiday Selfie Garden, Heinz Hall Courtyard. Families can explore the space at their own pace, stopping to snap selfies with some of their favorite characters. Characters and cutouts include favorites from “Odd Squad,” “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” and “Donkey Hodie.” Free.

Through Dec. 23: Holiday KidsPlay, Sixth St. and Liberty Ave. Hands-on craft stations include decorating a holiday pickle ornament and a Mister Rogers’ sweater ornament. A beanbag toss engages math skills and story time will be held on Sundays. Free.

Through Dec. 23: Santa’s House, Heinz Hall Courtyard. Kids can chat with Santa and get a keepsake photo with a $10 donation to the Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. Families are welcome to request a visit with a white or Black Santa.

Photo by Sally Quinn.

Through Dec. 24: Peoples Gas Holiday Market, Market Square. The Peoples Gas Holiday Market transforms Market Square into a European shopping district, filled with chalets and vendors. It’s a fun place to window shop and savor tasty treats. Live entertainment is planned: Look for lunchtime concerts, happy hour merriment and all-day music on the weekends.

Photo courtesy of Carnegie Science Center.

Through Dec. 24: Santa Cruises, Gateway Clipper Fleet. These weekend cruises include special meet-and-greets with Santa, a DJ dance party and a special gift. Tickers are $22 for kids, $32 for grownups.

Through Dec. 24: “Polar Express,” Carnegie Science Center. Catch a screening at the Rangos Giant Cinema for a festive experience. Tickets are $12.

Through Dec. 30: Zoo Lights, Pittsburgh Zoo. Take a slow cruise through the zoo in your family car and admire the 80-some lighted animals at the Zoo Lights Drive-Thru. Your drive is accompanied by a podcast of animal facts and entertaining holiday music. Timed drive-thru tickets are priced at $45 per vehicle. Prefer to walk? Walk-thru sessions will be held on Dec. 15, 16, 22 and 23. Timed walk-thru tickets are $15 kids, and $18 for grownups.

Through Dec. 31: A Very Merry Pittsburgh, Heinz History Center. This holiday exhibition is filled with nostalgia with artifacts, retro toys and gifts that date back 150 years. Santa Claus will be available on select dates. Kids are free, adult admission is $20, $18 for seniors.

Photos courtesy of PPG Place.

Through Jan. 1: The Spirit of Giving from Around the World, Two PPG Place and One PPG Place lobbies. This annual Pittsburgh tradition of life-size Santas from folklore and ethnic traditions represents 16 countries. Consider your family’s ancestry and learn about the customs of others. Free.

Through Jan. 1: Holiday Lights, Kennywood Park. More than 2 million lights surround Pennsylvania’s tallest Christmas tree. Live entertainment is planned and more than 20 amusement rides will be operating. Kids can make reservations for dinner with St. Nick, check out the model trains and send letters to Santa. Holiday Lights runs through Jan. 1. Tickets start at $19.99 with online promotion.

Through Jan. 1: Laser Holiday Magic, Carnegie Science Center. The laser shows at the Buhl Planetarium takes a seasonal turn with Laser Holiday Magic. The laser action is choreographed to classic and contemporary Christmas music. Tickets are $7.

Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Botanical Garden.

Through Jan. 1: Dazzling Lights, Pittsburgh Botanic Garden. Explore the garden’s immersive winter light experience featuring dazzling lights, shining forests, magical displays, music and beautiful sculptures. Tickets start at $22.

Through Jan. 7: Carnegie Trees: Wintry Days & Frosty Nights, Carnegie Museum of Art. Each year, since 1961, the trees are decorated with ornaments handmade by the Women’s Committee, celebrating a different theme. Included with museum admission.

Through Jan. 7: Holiday Magic! Winter Flower Show, Phipps Conservancy and Botanical Gardens. Prepare to be dazzled by this year’s theme, Seasons Greetings, which is fully realized in glowing gardens inside and out. Look for whimsical gnomes, a 7-foot talking Christmas tree and the Garden Railroad, which presents Pennsylvania through the four seasons. Timed tickets start at $13.95 for kids, $19.95 for seniors and $21.95 for adults.

Photo courtesy of Carnegie Museum of Art.

Through Jan. 7: Neapolitan Presepio, Carnegie Museum of Art. This centuries-old tradition from southern Italy is an elaborate nativity scene with miniature figures depicting life in 18th-century Naples. The figurines were handmade by artists between 1700 and 1830. Included with museum admission.

Through Jan. 8: The Pittsburgh Creche, U.S. Steel Tower Plaza. The Pittsburgh Creche displays 19 larger-than-life figures on view through the Epiphany, Jan. 8. A holiday tradition since 1999, the Pittsburgh Crèche is the only authorized replica of the Crèche in St. Peter’s Square, Rome. Free.

Photo courtesy of the UPMC Rink at PPG Place.

Through Jan. 15: UPMC Ultimate Holiday Tree Experience, UPMC Rink at PPG Place. Skate around a 66-foot-tall, dazzling, technological wonder of a holiday tree. High-resolution LED lights provides a kaleidoscope of colors, images and scenes synchronized with musical choreography. Watching this sound and sight extravaganza is free. Get the details on skating prices and reservations here.

Nov. 25: Christmas in Guyasuta, Sharpsburg. This camp session includes a zipline for ages 11 and older, horse-drawn carriages, a climbing wall, crafts and a bonfire. Admission is $20 at the door.

Photo courtesy of the National Aviary.

Nov. 25, Dec. 2, 9, 16 and 23: Season’s Greetings Saturdays, National Aviary. The National Aviary is all dolled up for the season and is offering special holiday programming. Season’s Greetings Saturdays include meeting and getting a photo with Santa and a penguin. Free with aviary admission.

Nov. 25-Dec. 17: “Miss Bennett: Christmas at Pemberly,” City Theatre. This story picks up two years after Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.” All those familiar characters gather together for Christmas when a surprise guest shows up. Can it be a new love? This production is best for kids ages 10 and older. Tickets start at $20 for those younger than 30, $40 for adults and $25 for senior rush tickets. Pick-your-price preview tickets start at $20.

Nov. 27: Mark Milovats in Concert: Winter Wonderland, Byham Theater. This family Christmas show includes the Santa Belle Dancers, a Holiday Pops Orchestra, live penguins and special celebrity guests. Tickets start at $42.25.

Dec. 1-16: “Amahl and the Night Visitors” and “The Gift of the Magi,” Margaret Partee Performing Arts Center. The Pittsburgh Savoyards present a double bill of two classic one-act holiday stories. Tickets are $20.

Image courtesy of Allegheny County Parks.

Dec. 2 and 3: Cookies with Santa. To many kids, sharing Christmas cookies with Santa is a pretty cool experience. This visit with the jolly old elf includes making holiday crafts along with refreshments. The Dec. 2 session will be held at Boyce Park, with the Dec. 3 session at Round Hill Park. Admission is free with registration.

Dec. 2: “Gremlins,” Carnegie Science Center. It’s an ’80s classic. This PG-rated Christmas horror flick includes a fair amount of dark humor. Catch it at the Rangos Giant Cinema. Tickets are $12.

Dec. 2: Handel’s Messiah, Heinz Hall. Manfred Honeck conducts the Pittsburgh Symphony and the Mendelssohn Choir in this traditional holiday masterpiece. Tickets start at $25.

Dec. 2-17: “A Special Toy,” Gemini Children’s Theater. Fidget and Gidget the Elves are excited to invite kids to an exclusive visit to their workshop to see their brand new, super-duper, electronic toy machine. Pretty cool – but what happens when the machine breaks down? Tickets start at $5.

Dec. 2-23: Breakfast or Lunch with Santa, Pittsburgh Zoo. Kids will enjoy breakfast or lunch buffet, meet ambassador animals, write a letter to Santa, and deliver it to him in person. Tickets are $40, $10 for ages 2 and younger.

Image courtesy of Chabad South Hills.

Dec. 3: Pre-Chanukah Legoland, Chabad of South Hills. Family fun includes building light-up Lego menorahs, a mystery Maccabee quest, a mega dreidel showdown and a hot dinner. Registration is $13.

Dec. 5: Mariah Carey: Merry Christmas One and All, PPG Paints Arena. It wouldn’t be the holidays without hearing: “All I want for Christmas is you-who-wooo!” Tickets start at $95.20.

Dec. 5: Celtic Women Christmas, Heinz Hall. The all-female ensemble and full orchestra will perform their favorite Yuletide songs. Tickets start at $40.

Dec. 7: Menorah Parade and Lights Chanukah Festival, South Hills. The car parade will leave from Chabad of the South Hills and travel across Mt Lebanon, leading to the annual South Hills Lights Festival where fun includes music, a photo booth, latkes and doughnuts. Free.

Image courtesy of Pittsburgh Public Theater.

Dec. 7-23: “A Christmas Story,” O’Reilly Theater. Pittsburgh Public Theater brings a live theatrical production of this crazy family story of a Christmas past. Poor Ralphie – all he wants for Christmas is a Red Ryder BB Gun. Tickets start at $35.

Dec. 8-23: Holiday Laser Show, North Park. This one-of-a-kind drive-in laser show returns with a beautiful 40-minute light show synchronized with holiday music. Tickets are $30 per vehicle, with a discount available until Nov. 28.

Nutcracker Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre
Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre.

Dec. 8-28: “The Nutcracker,” Benedum Center. Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre returns with its annual tradition of “The Nutcracker,” presented with spectacular costumes, set and amazing dancers. Tickets start at $29.

Dec. 9: Here Comes Santa Paws: Art Fur Animals, Trust Education Center. At this family workshop, participants will learn to make pet toys to take home or donate to Animal Friends. Registration is $25 for up to six family members.

Dec. 9: “The Muppets Christmas Carol” in Concert, Heinz Hall. The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra will present a screening of the film with the musical score performed live. Michael Caine stars as Ebeneezer Scrooge and Kermit the Frog plays Bob Cratchit. Tickets start at $50.

Image courtesy of Carnegie Science Center.

Dec. 9: “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” Carnegie Science Center. Clark Griswold tries his best, but his family gets in the way of his merry Christmas. Enjoy the big laughs at the Rangos Giant Cinema. Tickets are $12.

Dec. 12: Chanukah Menorah Parade. Celebrate the sixth day of Chanukah with the annual Grand Menorah Parade. Vehicles topped with giant menorahs will cruise through Shadyside and Squirrel Hill.

Dec. 13-17: “A Lyrical Christmas Carol,” Gargaro Theater. Pittsburgh Musical Theater presents the story of Scrooge and his bah-humbug ways. This Young Artist Production features PMT Conservatory students alongside professional guest artists. Tickets start at $16.

Dec. 14: Sing! An Irish Christmas, Benedum Center. This year’s Christmas tour will feature brand-new songs from Keith and Kristyn Getty, along with many traditional Christmas carols. Tickets start at $36.25.

Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera.

Dec. 15-23: “A Musical Christmas Carol,” Byham Theater. Two-time Tony Award-winning Michael Cerveris returns to play Ebeneezer Scrooge in Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera’s annual production. Tickets start at $48. Tickets for a Sensory-Friendly performance on Dec. 23 start at $15.

Dec. 15-23: Highmark Holiday Pops, Heinz Hall. Pittsburgh Symphony’s annual Holiday Pops concerts are a family favorite with carols, classic tunes and singalongs. Tickets start at $25. A sensory-friendly concert is planned for Dec. 16 for $15.

Dec 16: Tran-Siberian Orchestra, PPG Paints Arena. This annual stop of  TSO offers two mind-blowing shows covering The Ghosts of Christmas Eve and the best of TSO. Tickets start at $49.

Image courtesy of the August Wilson Center.

Dec. 16: AWCommunity Day: Holiday Edition, August Wilson African American Cultural Center. The lineup of family-focused activities includes vendors selling jewelry, art and clothing. Enjoy live performances from Alumni Theater Company, Flow Band and Kwanzaa dancers and drummers. Families will be able to learn about Kwanzaa, engage in hands-on activities, and take pictures with Santa and Mrs. Claus. Registration is free.

Dec. 16: “Home Alone,” Carnegie Science Center. When 8-year-old Kevin gets accidentally left behind on his family’s trip, he becomes a self-reliant wonder. Watch this perennial favorite at the Rangos Giant Cinema. Tickets are $12.

Dec. 16 and 17: Skate with Santa. Zip around the ice with Santa on Dec. 16 at South Park Ice Rink and Dec. 17 at North Park Ice Rink. Regular admission fees apply.

Dec. 18: Christmas From Notre Dame, Heinz Hall. The University of Notre Dame Glee Club and Symphony Orchestra will present their holiday program with more than 100 student instrumentalists and singers along with alumni performers. The concert will be a benefit for Feeding America, with all proceeds from a collection and merchandise sales to be directed to a local food bank. Tickets are $6.25-$15.

Dec. 19: Holiday Brass Spectacular, Heinz Hall. The Pittsburgh Symphony Brass section celebrates the season with traditional Baroque favorites to new arrangements of your most-loved holiday tunes. Tickets start at $10.

Dec. 26-29: Holiday Late Nights, National Aviary. Explore tropical habitats after dark, where birds roost in lush tree canopies. Take in holiday décor while taking part in family-friendly activities and programming. Free with aviary admission.

Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

Dec. 29-30: A Magical Cirque Christmas, Benedum Center. This variety show is full of nostalgia, charm, and awe-inspiring performances for all ages. Tickets start at $49.

Dec. 31: First Night, Downtown Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh Cultural Trust pulls out all the stops for an exciting First Night celebration of free concerts, crafts, performances and fireworks to usher in the New Year. Details are still in the works.

Looking for more? These 11 Pittsburgh-area light displays offer drive-thru and walk-thru options.