Winter in Pittsburgh: Weather, What to Pack, and What to See

Sunrise in Pittsburgh from Duquesne Incline

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If you're looking for a winter wonderland vacation without having to endure extremely cold temperatures, then look no further than Pittsburgh. This Western Pennsylvania city gets dusted with winter snow and you can comfortably enjoy a hot cup of cider, but temperatures don't drop as dramatically as in some Midwest cities, such as Chicago or Minneapolis.

As long as you prepare and pack right, you can enjoy the best that Steel City has to offer all season long. Plus, it's the low season for tourism since most travelers are trying to escape to warmer climates, meaning it's the best time of the year to look for airfare and hotel deals (just make sure your room has a good heater).

Pittsburgh Weather in Winter

Winters in Pittsburgh aren't as extreme as many people would expect. Sure, it gets cold, but the temperature rarely ever dips below 20 degrees Fahrenheit (which is cold if you're coming from Florida, but pretty mild if you're coming from states farther north). Sunny days are frequent, so as long as you're bundled up right, you can usually walk around and enjoy the outdoor activities that Pittsburgh has to offer.

  Average High Average Low Average Snowfall 
December  42 F (6 C)  30 F (minus 1 C)  6.9 inches 
January  37 F (3 C)  24 F (minus 4 C)  15.8 inches
February  41 F (5 C)  26 F (minus 3 C) 16.1 inches 

Snowfall tends to come just a few inches at a time (the average annual snowfall coming in at 49.5 inches) and local snow removal departments do a pretty good job of keeping the roads cleared and salted. Blizzards that dump inches of snow on the city are more of the exception rather than the rule, and it's usually warm enough that snow has time to melt between snowfalls.

What to Pack

Whenever you're traveling to a colder climate, it's always wise to bring layers that can be easily removed for when you step inside a heated restaurant, bar, or store. You'll definitely want a heavy winter coat, preferably one that's water-resistant in case your visit coincides with a snowstorm. For under layers, make sure you have thermals underneath your shirt and pants. You'll definitely want at least a couple of sweaters to layer up, as well.

A hat that covers your ears is another essential, as are gloves and scarves. Snow boots may be uncomfortable to walk around in, but it's a good idea to pack some type of sturdy shoe for walking around on ice without slipping around the Steel City.

Winter Events in Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh has all types of wintertime activities to take advantage of. Eat at one of the city's premier foodie events before working off the meal with some arduous winter sports.

  • Ice Skating at PPG Palace: The PPG Palace is the most iconic piece of architecture in the city, and throughout most of the season you can rent a pair of skates and ice skate at the rink in the main plaza. The PPG Ice Rink is open from November 20, 2020, to February 28, 2021.
  • Pittsburgh Restaurant Week: The winter version of the biannual Restaurant Week celebration features special menus at a fixed price—ranging from $20 to $45—at dozens of Pittsburgh's best restaurants. The 2021 version officially lasts from January 11–17, although many participating restaurants have extended their offers until January 24 due to seating capacities. Also, many restaurants in 2021 are offering their same menus for pick-up.
  • Seven Springs Mountain Resort: Just an hour outside of Pittsburgh you can ski or snowboard on some of the best slopes in Western Pennsylvania. Seven Springs Mountain Resort stays open all winter long and often into the spring, as well.

Winter Travel Tips

  • On particularly cold days, take a tour of one of the city's many and eclectic museums. See art at the Frick or Andy Warhol Museum, bring the kids to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, or visit the amusingly named Mattress Factory.
  • To avoid walking in the snow, use the city's light rail system which is known as "the T" by locals. It's only two lines so it's easy to navigate, and you can also use one of the 97 bus routes in case the train doesn't get you to where you need to go.
  • Pittsburgh is a foodie city, and most of the must-try dishes are soul-warming meals perfect for a cold day, such as hot pierogies, french fries drenched in gravy, or hot sandwiches.