I love this time of year! Everything about it – shopping for gifts, wrapping said gifts, baking my family’s favorite cookies, preparing special holiday meals, listening to Mariah Carey sing about what she wants for Christmas for the 98th time – all of it. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, Winter Solstice, or some other wintry holiday, the idea of gathering around the hearth with the ones you love is, to me, the definition of cozy. And happy.
There’s just one problem: there are so many fun things to do during the holidays, especially here in Pittsburgh, it can be hard to find time for all of them! So, this year I’m making a list of all the just-at-the-holidays Burgh activities that we want to do. I’m a little obsessed with my lists. To the point where I’ll add an unplanned chore to the tally after I’ve accomplished it just so I can cross it out. Crazy, I know. My point being, creating this “Pittsburgh Holiday Bucket List” makes it much more likely that we will actually get around to having all this seasonal fun!
1. Light Up Night! Okay, so right off the bat I’m cheating with my list because this took place on November 22 and we already did it. I’m counting it anyway because it was awesome and we are totally adding it to our annual holiday traditions. Beautiful lights and decorations in all directions, live music, and people wearing Santa hats everywhere. We missed Adam Lambert, but we caught Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers, the Kaufmans tree, the ice skating rink, free hot chocolate, and a guy creating ice sculptures with a chain saw – so, you know, your typical Friday night in the Burgh;). Pittsburgh’s Light Up Night takes place every year on the Friday before Thanksgiving. Be sure to put it on your 2020 calendar – you’ll thank me next year!
2. Go to a holiday-themed bar – or three! Miracle on Liberty and Miracle on Carson are part of a nationwide series of seasonal pop-up bars that serve holiday-themed cocktails in specialty glassware and donate a portion of the proceeds to local food banks. A friend who went last year described the decor as “looking like Christmas exploded inside.” I’ve heard there are long lines to get in on the weekends, so maybe we’ll try this midweek.
A new pop-up this year is located in Bakery Square – Chrismukkah Galley is the brainchild of the bartenders at Federal Galley and Smallman Galley. This bar is super charitable – they’ll be serving drinks with both Christmas and Hanukkah themes served in holiday glassware purchased at local Goodwill stores and half of the proceeds from drink sales will be donated to the Tree of Life Synagogue and East Liberty Presbyterian charities.
Lastly, we want to check out Bob’s Garage in Blawnox. Though not a pop-up bar, Bob’s Garage is apparently the original Pittsburgh holiday bar. Mostly, we have to go because a friend who lives in the area once jokingly asked when we were going to blog about Blawnox. Here you go, Brian!
3. Take a cookie tour in Lawrenceville! The Joy of Cookies: Cookie Tour 2019 takes place this year from December 6-8. This event started in 1997 at Jay Design Soaps and Gifts and has grown in scope each year. Judging from the map on their website, it looks like over 40 shops are taking part this year. I’m hoping if I find a new favorite cookie, I’ll be able to finagle the recipe out of the shop owner!
4. Make a trip to Phipps Conservatory’s Holiday Magic! Winter Flower Show and Light Garden. We’ve done this before, but the show is different every year thanks to Phipps talented garden designers. This is another activity that promises to have long lines on weekend nights, so if possible, plan to visit mid-week and book tickets ahead of time.
5. Attend the Messiah sing-along at Calvary United Methodist Church in the Northside. This is the ninth year a full orchestra and community choir have performed Handel’s Messiah at Calvary, a Victorian-era cathedral featuring Tiffany stained glass windows. The event is so popular, they’ve added a second show for the past two years. The 9th Annual Handel’s Messiah Sing-Along takes place on Saturday, December 7 and Sunday, December 8. Both shows start at 4 p.m. http://calvarypgh.com/music/messiah-choir.php
6. Shop Local! There are so many opportunities to buy unique gifts from local shops and vendors this time of year. I visited the “I Made It! Market” in Bethel Park last weekend and got some great stuff. Additional “I Made It! Markets” are being held December 14th At The Block Northway and every weekend until January 4 at Lumaze in the strip. There’s also some great shopping downtown at Market Square’s alpine-themed Holiday Market. There’s something about shopping outdoors in the cold surrounded by Christmas lights and live holiday music that really makes me a seasonally jolly consumer.
7. Check out Lumaze Lights in the Strip. Along with the “I Made It! Market,” Lumaze Lights Pittsburgh features an immense indoor holiday light display, live music, food and beverages.
8. Take a trip to Randyland to see what Randy Wilson does to transform his always quirky, colorful property for the holidays. https://randy.land.com
9. Take our grandsons to the Western Pennsylvania Model Railroad Museum in Gibsonia. This isn’t necessarily a holiday-themed activity. Rather than featuring Santa, elves, reindeer, and snowmen, the museum recreates the railroad that runs from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Cumberland, Maryland in minute detail. But, there is something about model trains themselves that just evoke the feeling of an old-fashioned holiday with an engine chugging around a Christmas tree. And the museum itself is only open annually for holiday showings on weekends from November 9 until January 12. https://wpmrm.org
10. Go on a holiday house tour! There are a few options you can consider for a Victorian-themed house tour in the Pittsburgh area. We’re considering Hartwood Acres Mansion, which has multiple dates available for candlelight tours, the Old Allegheny Victorian Christmas House Tour, which takes place Friday, December 13 and Saturday, December 14, or the Clayton Mansion’s A Gilded Age Christmas tour with multiple dates available from November 21 until January 5. https://www.alleghenycounty.us/parks/hartwood/index.aspx
So that’s our list for 2019. I’m not sure we’ll be able to get to everything, but it will be fun trying! We’ll be posting about each place we visit on Instagram, so follow @steelcitysecondact (just click on the Instagram icon below) if you want to keep up with our progress:)
What are your favorite holiday things-to-do here in the Burgh? Shoot us a line in the comments section and let us know if we’re missing out on something!