The quintessential image of Pittsburgh—looming factories, awash with industry—doesn't exactly scream "winter wonderland;" however, the bygone brick-row houses and historic towns surrounding the city offer a uniquely Western Pennsylvania charm, especially with a dusting of snow. Early European settlers left their mark on the city, and visitors can still visit old-time Christmas markets that pop up each December. The "Steel City" has also become a hub for culture, hosting holiday expositions at renowned sites like the Carnegie Museum of Art and Phipps Conservatory. Discover what Christmas in Pittsburgh has to offer.
PPG Place, a business complex located in downtown Pittsburgh, looks ready for the holidays all year long. Its glittering glass facade resembles an ice castle worthy of a cameo in "Frozen." It opens for the 2020–21 winter season on November 20 in conjunction with downtown Pittsburgh's Light Up Night, which has been canceled.
The stunning outdoor Rink at PPG Place surrounds a colossal tree. It costs $11 per adult and $10 per kid for admission, and skate rentals are $5 apiece. Afterward, you can warm up in the PPG Wintergarden (closed for the 2020-2021 season) as you enjoy the annual Spirits of Giving From Around the World exhibit. The ice rink is open until February 28, 2021.
Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens
The Phipps Conservatory erupts with holiday decor each winter. Vibrant poinsettias, delicate winter flowers, and fragrant evergreen trees entice visitors to the annual Winter Flower Show, complete with a Winter Light Garden, candlelit pathways, and live music. The garden has extended hours from late November through early January. Plus, Santa Claus makes an appearance each weekend and the full week before Christmas for visits and photos. The Phipps Conservatory will be closed until January 4 this season, but the Winter Flower Show can still be enjoyed virtually.
Pittsburgh is home to the world’s only authorized replica of the Vatican’s Christmas creche, on display in St. Peter’s Square in Rome. The replica returns every year to its seasonal position in front of Pittsburgh's tallest building, the U.S. Steel Tower, usually opening on the evening of Light Up Night, which features several tree lightings, fireworks, live music, food trucks, and a Christmas market. While the Pittsburgh Creche will be on display, as usual, from November 2020 through early January 2021, Light Up Night has been canceled.
A multicultural holiday celebration is held at the University of Pittsburgh's Nationality Rooms every year. This collection of 31 classrooms in the Cathedral of Learning depicts Pittsburgh's diverse ethnic heritage with examples from Eastern and Western Europe, Scandinavia, the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. In December, they showcase holiday decorations in the traditional style of the countries they represent. Guided tours of the rooms allow guests to fully experience and learn about each of these cultures. During the 2020-2021 season, however, all tours have been canceled and the rooms will not be open for viewing.
Miniature Railroad & Village
A Pittsburgh tradition that has enchanted visitors for 100 years, the Miniature Railroad & Village at the Carnegie Science Center features handmade scale replicas of historic sites from around Western Pennsylvania. These replicas started in Brookville on Christmas Eve in 1919, showcasing day-to-day life in Pennsylvania from the 1880s to the 1940s. See how people worked and lived during the turn of the century, in addition to notable landmarks—in miniature form—such as Forbes Field and Fallingwater. It's free with a paid admission to the museum; however, in 2020, the annual exhibit has been canceled.
Carnegie Museum of Art
Each holiday season, five fancifully decorated 20-foot holiday trees grace the Grand Hall of Architecture at the Carnegie Museum of Art. There is sometimes a theme, such as the museum's own famous works in 2019. The museum has also set up a Neapolitan presepio—a nativity scene—with handcrafted figurines from 18th-century Italy every year since 1957. It's one of the most complete and elaborate displays of its kind, but this season, the museum will be closed until January 4.
The Harmony Museum
Christmastime at the Harmony Museum in Butler County is like stepping through a time machine into the early 19th century. The main museum building, the Wagner House annex, the Ziegler log house, and other homes in this restored old German village are beautifully decorated for the holidays. The charming town of Harmony, located about 30 minutes from Pittsburgh, was founded in 1804 by German immigrants and has a long history in Western Pennsylvania.
The museum also hosts a traditional German Christmas Market called WeihnachtsMarkt, where all items are either locally crafted or directly imported from Germany. During the 2020-2021 season, the museum will be closed and the German Christmas Market has been canceled.
Hartwood Acres Mansion
Every room in the lovely 16th-century mansion at Hartwood Acres would normally be decorated to the nines for the annual Hartwood holiday tours that run from mid-November through early January. Guests can choose between two holiday-themed tour options — a candlelight iteration and a Holiday Musical and Tea tour, which features live music, tea, and snacks. However, all tours have been canceled for the 2020-2021 holiday season.
Old Economy Village
Experience the Christmas customs and traditions of Germany circa the early 19th century at Old Economy Village in Ambridge. You'll see the entire village decked out in its finest holiday decor, plus enjoy music, crafts, traditional German food cooked by a local church, and family events. Children can even go and visit Belsnickel, the traditional Pennsylvania Dutch version of Santa Claus. In 2020, the Old Economy Village is closed until further notice.