15 Reasons to Visit Pittsburgh in December – Embracing the Holidays

Last Updated on by Jeremy

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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 2019, Handmade Arcade takes place on Friday December 6th (ticketed preview event) and Saturday December 7th (free but early admission is ticketed). 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

Christmas at the Cathedral

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 2019, the holiday open house occurs on Sunday December 8th from 12pm to 4pm.

Maggie's Farm Rum

Maggie's Farm Rum

You likely know about Wigle Whiskey, Pittsburgh's award-winning whiskey distillery, but do you know we have a rum distillery that has been racking up the medals in national contests? Maggie's Farm Rum is located just a few blocks away from Wigle in the Strip District, and is doing for rum what Wigle has done for whiskey.

Even better? The cocktails that Maggie's makes are mostly what we would call boat drinks, and are some of the most delicious we've had in the city. A winning combo if we've ever seen one.

Want to grab a bite to eat after your visit to Maggie's? Check out Kaya or Gaucho Parrilla Argentina– two of our favorites in the Strip District!

Hit Up a Christmas Bar

Miracle Bar

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 Liberty (and its sister bar Miracle on Carson- new for 2019). 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!

National Aviary

Aviary

Pittsburgh's National Aviary is one of the best in the country, and was recognized by Congress as the country's national aviary in 1993. This non-profit features several walk-through biospheres where you can get up-close-and-personal to the birds in their own natural habitat.

In December, the Aviary hosts a holiday Winged Wonderland event with holiday lights and late-night hours on Wednesdays.

Want to grab lunch after your visit to the Aviary? Check out El Burro, Max's Allegheny Tavern, or head over to Allegheny City Brewing for a beer!.

The Nutcracker by the Pittsburgh Ballet

The Nutcrakcer at the Benedum

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 2019, The Nutcracker will run from December 6th to 29th at the Benedum Center.

Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall

Soldiers and Sailors Hall

Oakland's Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall is often appreciated on the outside for its beautiful architecture. But did you know the inside contains a museum focusing on some of the unique aspects of war such as the development of technology and the effects of war on society? Do yourself a favor and check this one out soon!

Looking for more in Oakland? Head to Phipps Conservatory for their Winter Flower Show or grab a meal at Stack'd or Legume!

Christmas Markets

Pittsburgh's 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- truly a highlight of the holiday season.

While exploring the Christmas Market in Market Square, Grab dinner at il Pizzaiolo 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 2019, A Musical Christmas Carol runs from December 6th to 22nd at the Byham Theater.

The Model Railroad Museum

Western PA 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!

Voodoo Brewery

Voodoo Brewery

Voodoo Brewery in Homestead has an amazing beer lineup including White Magick of the Sun (a spiced Belgian wheat) and KillaPilz (a hoppy lager) as well as numerous rotating seasonal selections, making this brewery one you'll want to return to many times throughout the year!

Phipps Winter Flower Show – Holiday Magic!

Phipps Christmas 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 and is closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

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

Roundabout Brewery

Roundabout Brewery

Centrally located in Lawrenceville, Roundabout Brewery is the perfect spot for beer lovers as you can easily pop in for a drink, stay a while if you like, and have the thriving neighborhood of Lawrenceville right at your fingertips. But if you're like us, you'll probably get lost in the beer on your first visit!

Want to grab a meal while in Lawrenceville? Check out Tram's Kitchen or The Vandal!

New Hazlett Theater

Hazlett Theater

The New Hazlett Theater is all about the community-supported arts, hearkening back to the days of Andrew Carnegie when this building was his flagship theater and also the location of one of the first of many Carnegie libraries. For some reason we have to think Carnegie would approve of the independent theater that goes on here, and we think you should check out this gem of a location for an upcoming show!

In 2019, the New Hazlett Theater will have The Secret Life of Gym Girls from December 5th and 6th, the Antonio Hart Sextet on December 7th, A Lyrical Christmas Carol on December 12th through 15th, and Amahl and the Night Visitors performed on December 20th and 22nd.

After seeing a show, walk over to Federal Galley for a meal!

Ice Skating

Things to Do in Pittsburgh - Ice Skating

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, Nu Bistro, or grab a snack at 61c Cafe.

Are you visiting Pittsburgh in December? What are you looking forward to experiencing the most? Comment below to share!

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