10 Reasons to Visit Pittsburgh in December – Holiday Time

Published by Jeremy. Last Updated on November 16, 2023.

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While Pittsburgh in December marks the start of winter, the city itself is in holiday mode more than anything. We have just come off the heels of Light Up Night, and our Christmas markets, numerous Christmas events, and other festivities are at their peak.

Of course, as with all of our other monthly recommendations list, we also have a few great places to drink and museums to explore on the exceptionally cold days that are coming into the city because, let's face it, winter is coming and sometimes you just want to be inside.

So if you are looking for things to do in Pittsburgh in December, check out the following options.

Handmade Arcade

Handmade arcade

If shopping from a Pittsburgh artisan is on your agenda for the holiday season, a trip to the convention center for Handmade Arcade is a must. This annual event features hundreds of local artists showcasing their products and is truly a sight to see. While not every product is Pittsburgh specific (many are), it is a great time seeing and supporting local art!

In 2023, Handmade Arcade takes place on Friday December 1st (paid preview night) and Saturday December 2nd (early admission paid but otherwise free with pre-scheduled entry time). Get to this one early if driving into Pittsburgh as downtown garages fill up fast!

While in downtown Pittsburgh, be sure to stay a while and have a great meal. Check the previous link for some of our favorite spots!

Christmas Open House at the Cathedral of Learning

Cathedral of Learning Christmas

The Cathedral of Learning's Nationality Rooms at Christmas is a treat. These themed rooms get added decorations to showcase Christmas traditions from around the world, and is a nice touch on an already impressive scene.

Early in December each year the Nationality Rooms open for a free open house with international foods, dances, songs, and more and adds even more to the fun!

In 2023, the Open House at the Cathedral of Learning will take place on Sunday, December 3rd, from 12 to 4 pm.

Hit Up a Christmas Bar

Christmas Bars

Pop up bars are all the rage these days, and while we personally do not visit these bars most of the year, we make an exception at Christmas. To put it simply, Christmas bars in Pittsburgh must be seen to be believed. 

The most famous bar that you can visit is Miracle on 6th. This is an international pop-up bar that is designed to raised money for local charities and is decorated top-to-bottom with Christmas paraphernalia. You won't find a boring surface here!

The Nutcracker by the Pittsburgh Ballet

Nutcracker Pittsburgh

The Nutcracker is one of the world's most cherished ballets, and the Pittsburgh ballet's rendition is an annual tradition in the Cultural District. Guests of all ages will be delighted by the stellar dancers in this one as they perform popular songs like the Arabian Dance and the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy!

In 2023, The Nutcracker will run from December 8th to 28th at the Benedum Center.

AllClad Seconds Sale

AllClad Seconds Sale

The AllClad Seconds Sale is returning to the Washington County Fairgrounds in 2023 to offer steep discounts on the prized (and locally made) dishware.

Seconds, for those who don't know, are any production line items that are not absolutely perfect. In the case of AllClad pots and pans, these could be small scuff marks, misprints on a handle, or other minor aesthetic issues that cause the producer not to want to sell them at full price. So for those who do not mind these, you can often find deals at upwards of 50-70% off! We've personally bought all our AllClad from these sales, and honestly can't even tell you where the imperfection is in any item we own!

In 2023, the AllClad Seconds Sale will be at the Washington County Fairgrounds on December 1st and 2nd.

Christmas Markets

Christmas Market

We return downtown to focus entirely on the Pittsburgh Christmas Market– the annual holiday tradition that turns Market Square into a beautiful marketplace full of handcrafted wares, festive cuisine, live music, and even a place to meet Santa Claus at Heinz Hall's courtyard nearby- truly a highlight of the holiday season.

While exploring the Christmas Market in Market Square, Grab dinner at Pizzaiolo Primo or the Original Oyster House!

A Musical Christmas Carol by the Pittsburgh CLO

A Musical Christmas Carol

We have a second-holiday show in the Cultural District to highlight, and this one is the Pittsburgh CLO's rendition of A Christmas Carol! Follow along on a musical take on this iconic story with Scrooge, Bob Cratchit, Tiny Tim, and the rest of the cast as they tell this timeless tale- through song!

In 2023, A Musical Christmas Carol runs from December 15th to 23rd at the Byham Theater.

The Model Railroad Museum

Model Railroad Museum

The Western Pennsylvania Model Railroad Museum is an attraction well worth the visit during its brief operation from mid-November to early-January. This museum in Gibsonia is home to one of the largest model train exhibits in the region, which features the train journey from Pittsburgh to Cumberland, Maryland, as it was in the 1950s. Head over to this one to check it all out and see how many landmarks you can spot!

On your way back in to Pittsburgh be sure to stop at Casa Narcisi for a glass or two of wine!

Phipps Winter Flower Show – Holiday Magic!

Phipps Winter flower Show

We featured Phipps early on in this guide for their Spring Flower Show, and they get a rare second listing during the Christmas season as the conservatory goes all out with their annual Holiday Magic! Winter Flower Show which even includes a nighttime light display in their outdoor gardens!

We recommend getting to this one a bit before the outdoor gardens open at 5pm in order to enjoy the stellar lighting of dusk before heading out to the courtyard when dark. After spending time in the garden, return inside to see your favorite rooms at night!

The Phipps Winter Flower Show runs throughout the month of December but closes early on Christmas Eve and is closed on Christmas Day.

Before visiting Phipps, head to Squirrel Hill for a coffee at Commonplace Coffee or lunch at Chengdu Gourmet!

Ice Skating

Ice Skating Downtown

Is there any better way to wind down a year than by ice skating? Winter has just begun, the city is getting colder, and Christmas is still in the air. So head out to one of the many Pittsburgh ice skating rinks, such as Schenley Park or the rink at PPG Place, to enjoy the winter season before ringing in the new year!

If you go ice skating in Schenley Park, stick around for lunch at The Porch.

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