Last Updated on by Jeremy
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What do you get when you pack a large warehouse in Pittsburgh's Strip District with over 1,000,000 holiday lights, arranged in unique designs, and set to an overall theme?
You get Lumaze Pittsburgh. This international holiday show made its local debut in 2019 with lights, music, and a whole lot of holiday cheer.
But is this one worth attending? For us, it really depends on how much you love Christmas lights!
Enjoying Christmas Lights Indoors at Lumaze
From the moment you walk into Lumaze, you know you're going to get a full holiday light experience and that the boast of 1,000,000 lights just might be true. Within feet of arriving you are greeted by massive Christmas trees, all made of lights, and the experience continues on from there.
Each Lumaze exhibit follows a theme, which in 2019 for Pittsburgh was “A Fairytale Christmas,” and many of the light designs offer a playful (if perhaps a bit minimal) take on the theme itself.
Most all of the light displays at Lumaze are static in nature such that lights are wrapped around decorative frames and shapes. It is worth noting this in case you are expecting choreographed light displays (per more conventional drive-through shows) as this is simply not the case here. Instead, they simply present some beautifully lit scenes with many great photo-ops around every bend.
Lumaze makes up for that by having numerous interactive features including lighted hopscotch, a jumbo Lite-Brite, color-changing swings, Santa Clause (naturally), and a field of dangling white icicles you can run through to name a few. The latter of which was perhaps the most enjoyable of all, and we found ourselves having way more fun in this section than we thought we would.
While most of Lumaze is designed to be photo-op worthy, which is perhaps a bit cliched, there is something to be said about taking in Christmas lights in a warm building on a cold day. And if you can ignore the fact that this one is in a large warehouse, which is very obvious whenever you look more than about six-to-eight feet in the air, then the Christmas illusion will be maintained throughout your visit.
For us, this was a bit hard to overlook- although our friends quite enjoyed the juxtaposition.
In addition to the light displays, Lumaze features a craft market section full of local vendors (including libations producers with samples!), an assortment of food on-site from popular Pittsburgh food trucks (rotating nightly), live music, and of course, several bars.
The bars offer a mix of beer, wine, and a few cocktails at relatively decent prices ($5-$10 depending on what you order) with the option to purchase a souvenir light-up ornament bulb for an additional $8. We were able to sample the Candy Cane Old Fashioned which was listed as a barrel-aged cocktail with mint simple syrup and orange bitters and ended up tasting like two shots of bourbon with a bit of sweetness added.
While we certainly would not complain about a healthy shot of bourbon with Christmas lights, the intended flavors of mint and orange bitters and barrel-aged components were lost in the shuffle. In any case, the potent alcohol certainly made the rest of the night more enjoyable (especially the hanging lights)!
Overall, we think there are select people who would love Lumaze- namely those who love everything Christmas and those with young kids who enjoy holiday lights and other interactive exhibits. If you are on the fence on those two points, this one may not be for you. But if you are planning on visiting, we have a few tips for how to get the most out of this one!
A Few Tips for Visiting Lumaze (and Dealing With the Crowds)
Like most Christmas attractions in Pittsburgh, Lumaze is crowded. Very crowded. While 31st Street Studios is quite large and spacious, the estimated crowds of 2,000-3,000 make this one quite busy- so some strategy should be involved in visiting.
It is worth noting that the following tips are based on our visit on opening night, which we always have to admit will have some inherent bugs. So some of the below will likely be improved upon as the season goes on. In any case, these tips should help you out with a visit tremendously.
First, do not attempt to park anywhere near 31st Street Studios. We arrived right at opening and the line to get to the paid lot was >20 minutes long. By the time we got up to the gate, they were turning cars away for being full. Since this lot charges a $20 fee, the added wait just doesn't make it worth it unless you absolutely require being close. In fact, unless you get there before opening of the very first time slot, you probably won't have great odds of getting a spot nearby at all.
There is an overflow lot available in the Strip District (paid) with a free shuttle, but we also think it may be easier to park at the Hub at 3 Crossings lot near Cinderlands Warehouse and simply walk the five blocks over if the weather is nice. Or, if you live nearby, a bus or Uber may also be your best bet.
Second, if you want a drink you may want to pre-game. The bar lines were long and the service was disjointed (a large part likely due to being opening night, we'll admit). It took about 20 minutes to order a cocktail and when we got to a counter the employees abruptly closed a line to make it pick-up only, much to the dismay of the ~20 people waiting who then had to merge.
We were told from a friend later that people still were waiting in that line and only found when they got closer to the counter it wasn't a line at all. We are hopeful more signage would go into this effect as the season goes on, but expect long lines for drinks all the same at the three on-site bars (and perhaps find your way to the one in the back corner for the shortest line).
Finally, this is a rather kid-friendly event. If you are a couple who wishes to enjoy this one with minimal children, you may want to check out one of their 9 pm – 11 pm date night slots. While the website indicates that all ages are welcome for this timeslot, the organizers are promoting it as likely having fewer children. We cannot guarantee this one way or another, but we can imagine this would be the case for the later hours.
If you follow the above tips, your Lumaze experience will get off right from the start. Then you can head inside to enjoy the lights and designs of this holiday show. It may be a bit disjointed at times, and the theme doesn't come across quite as much as we'd like, but those who love Christmas lights (or are taking kids who do) will enjoy the experience all the same.
Lumaze is located at 31st Street Studios at 77 31st Street in the Strip District and runs through early January. We were hosted by Lumaze during our visit during a media night. Tickets should be purchased in advance as dates will sell out fast (and many prime dates were completely sold out before the event even debuted). Hourly timeslots are available for entry; however, note that if you arrive later than your slot priority may be given to those who have tickets for the correct hour. Please keep in mind the above tips to have the best experience in dealing with the crowds.
Looking for more things to do during Christmas in Pittsburgh? Click the previous link to find all of the best options!