Pittsburgh’s First Night is almost here! Check out our guide
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. Here’s what’s planned for this free event Downtown, which runs from 6 p.m. until midnight on Dec. 31:
The Highmark Holiday Block Party, a joint project of the Cultural Trust, Allegheny County Parks and local arts organizations, kicks off at 6 p.m. with entertainment, story readings, prizes and family-focused creative activities (plus a chance to warm up). It’s happening at the AHN Family Zone, located at 7th Street and Penn Avenue.
Family Zone events at Pittsburgh’s First Night will include a craft project where kids can make a wearable button featuring some of their favorite characters who will appear in the upcoming Children’s Theater and Bridge series festival (details on that here). O’Ryan the O’Mazing will be there to wow littles ones with his juggling and stilt-walking skills. And kids can take a selfie with the beloved Gruffalo.
Meanwhile at the Dollar Bank Stage, you’ll find the Dollar Bank Children’s Fireworks kicking off at 6 p.m., along with a performance by the winner (still a mystery!) of the Williams SING-OFF Competition, which awards one local student (grades 6-12) with the title “voice of the year” and the chance to perform in front of the First Night crowd. The finalists’ audition videos were ranked by this year’s celebrity judge, Pittsburgh native and “Hairspray” cast member Nick Cortazzo. After that, the reggae band 4-YAADI will take the stage from 6:30 to 8 p.m.
Also, don’t miss the giant puppet parade, a popular tradition at Pittsburgh’s First Night, which begins at 8 p.m. at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center and travels through the Cultural District. You can view it from either side of Penn Avenue. (Check out our December events guide to find out how you can help build the giant puppets on Dec. 8 or Dec. 18!)
Nearby at 819 Penn Avenue, you can explore a fully immersive, five-foot-high ice maze by master ice carver Rich Bubin of Ice Creations, open from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m.
The night will also be filled with art: At 820 Liberty Avenue, you’ll find the Black on Black Love art exhibit by BOOM Concepts, where eight artists will be displaying works identifying different expressions of Black love and how its force is shared, extended, created, embraced, honored, interpreted, and protected within and amongst the Black Community.
The 707 Gallery will also be open to display landscape paintings by Pittsburgh artist Rick Landesberg and you’ll find Rising Voices 2: The Bennett Prize, a display of realist figurative paintings by 11 women who were all finalists for the Bennett Prize, at 937 Liberty Avenue. SPACE (812 Liberty Avenue) will host a retrospective exhibit by #notwhite collective connecting to their identities, families, and bodies. And graffiti walls by seven Pittsburgh artists celebrating the 50th anniversary of hip hop music will be on display at Trust Oasis (133 7th Street), where Pittsburgh artist Sire will be doing live graffiti painting from 6:30 to 8 p.m.
And along with seeing incredible art, families can create their own art with help from teaching artist Emily McMahon. She’ll be hosting an all-ages art-making event at the Benedum Center (7th and Penn). At the same time and place, you can also join the Pittsburgh Center for Arts and Media to create a decorative necklace. And the Benedum will be hosting behind-the-scenes tours.
And also from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., Steel City LUG invites you to create your own fireworks display out of LEGO bricks at the Byham Theater (6th Avenue between Penn and Ft. Duquesne), where the region’s top makeup artists will be doing festive face painting. The Byham will also be hosting backstage tours.
If you get hungry during all of this fun, the First Night Food Court will be open at Penn Avenue and 8th Street until 11 p.m.
For a VIP experience, you can warm up inside the First Night Friends lounge inside the O’Reilly Theater, where refreshments will be available from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. Find details here on becoming a First Night Friend.
And at midnight, the Future of Pittsburgh Ball will drop, marking the arrival of 2023. This 1,000-pound ball is a sustainable sculpture created from recycled material and more than 1,000 high-efficiency LED lights arranged in the shape of Pittsburgh’s three rivers. It takes two minutes for the ball to climb 75 feet in the air, as its light show increases in intensity until it drops to usher in the new year.