Light Up Night to kick off Christmas season
Pittsburgh is kicking off the holidays with not just the 53rd annual Light Up Night on Nov. 22, but a whole weekend of activities.
There will be singing, dancing, holiday lights, shopping and fireworks. All those favorite old holiday sites are back — the Pittsburgh Creche, the tree at the Point, the Macy's windows — along with a few new venues for celebrating the season.
The Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership is hoping to spread out the crowds among more activities to alleviate some of the packed areas from previous years. The Partnership says that up to 800,000 people typically visit Downtown on the holiday kick-off weekend, which offers a variety of free entertainment.
To help draw people Downtown, parking will be free on Black Friday and Saturdays from Nov. 23 to Dec. 21 at Downtown Pittsburgh Parking Authority garages. For a list of those garages and a complete look at Downtown holiday activities, go to www.downtownpghholidays.com.
Trees, trees everywhere
Evergreens pop up Downtown in November, waiting to be adorned for the holiday season and admired for their illuminated glory starting on Light Up Night.
You can stay busy all day Nov. 22 just watching the lights coming alive on Christmas trees around town.
The tree-lighting ceremonies are at noon at the City County Building; 5:30 p.m. at the Allegheny County Courthouse; 5:30 p.m. at the American Cancer Society's Tribute of Light & PPG Plaza tree lighting; 5:45 p.m. at One Oxford Center; 5:45 p.m. at BNY Mellon, where Santa will turn on the Season of Lights in Market Square; 6 p.m. at PPG Plaza; 7 p.m. at the corner of Penn and Stanwix (the former Horne's store), where the Highmark Unity Tree lighting will feature rooftop fireworks.
The Duquesne Light Tree at the Point will be lit during the evening's Santa Spectacular, which starts at 5 p.m.
The Pittsburgh Creche, which will be dedicated at noon Nov. 22 at the U.S. Steel Tower plaza, was first displayed in 1999 and is the only authorized replica of the Vatican's nativity scene in St. Peter's Square in Rome. It will remain open through Epiphany on Jan. 6.
Let us entertain you
Seeking some live music to make your evening even more merry? There's plenty to be found all over town.
• This year, Light Up Night extends farther into Downtown from the Point and Market Square, giving Pittsburghers a chance to rediscover the iconic space of Mellon Square. Smithfield Street will be shut down for a dance party with laser lights, bubble machines and live music, focusing on a different decade each hour. First, The Elliotts will be playing the music of the '60s, starting at 7 p.m. At 8 p.m., Sputzy will play the music of the '70s. Then, Totally '80s will do their thing at 9 p.m. Hot food will be served at Mellon Square all evening.
• At Market Square, a local celebrity will set the festive mood with song. Penguins' national anthem singer Jeff Jimerson and Airborne will perform a holiday songfest at 5 p.m.; the countdown to the 2013 Season of Lights with Santa follows at 5:45. From 6 to 9:30 p.m., Jimerson will perform a mini-concert to accompany the Season of Lights show every half hour, which lights up the tree in the square and surrounding buildings.
• Jazz is part of every Friday night Downtown, but planners of Light Up Night are taking it to the street. Free performances will be offered from 5 to 9:15 p.m. at the EQT Jazzmasters Stage at the EQT Plaza on Liberty Avenue. Drummer Roger Humphries and his RH Factor, one the area's best-known jazz bands, will kick off the evening. Guests will join the band, including singer Etta Cox and trombonist Al Dowe, who will sit in during the first set. Singer Michele Bensen and saxophonist Kenny Blake will perform at 6:30 p.m., and singer Spanky Wilson, who performs frequently with Humphries, will be there at 8 p.m.
• For the evening, the Roberto Clemente Bridge will be known as the Blues Bridge Stage and Party. Women of the Blues will perform at 5 p.m., followed by The Billy Price Band at 6:30 and Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers at 8 p.m.
Duquesne Light Santa Spectacular
Anyone hoping to spot the Big Man himself can catch him at the Duquesne Light Santa Spectacular, an annual event stuffed with family-friendly entertainment Nov. 22, at Point State Park.
This year, the non-alcoholic celebration will offer more options for food, local celebrities and of course, Santa's special arrival.
Winter Wonderland booths open at 5 p.m. Attendees can pick up a special holiday gift from Duquesne Light, get family photos, visit the GetGo Warm Up Tent for coffee and treats, enjoy cookies from the Wyndham Grand and play games.
Entertainment starts at 7:15 p.m. and includes appearances by Mayor-elect Bill Peduto as well as the East End Kids, North Star Kids, Michele's Dance and West Allegheny Show Choir. “American Idol” semi-finalist Adam Brock of Washington County will appear as a special guest. It all leads up to Santa's magical arrival and a sing-along, followed by a fireworks finale at 8:45 p.m.
PPG Place and Skating Rink
Downtown Pittsburgh's only outdoor skating rink is open until midnight Nov. 22, it's opening day. It will be open through Feb. 17. The festivities begin at 4:45 p.m. with the Robert Morris University Island Sports Figure Skating Academy presenting a holiday show on ice. The CLO Mini-Stars perform from 5 to 5:45 p.m.
Skating rink hours are from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday and noon to 8 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $8 for adults and $7 for children and seniors. Skate rental is $3.
The plaza will glow with 300 individuals carrying hand-held lights for the American Cancer Society's tribute of light, starting at 5:30 p.m. The ceremony culminates with the lighting of the breathtaking 65-foot tree by 5-year-old cancer patient Addy Morrison from Greene County.
There will be entertainment from 5 to 8:30 p.m. in the PPG Place food court by Brigid's Cross.
The Wintergarden will once again be filled with the “Spirits of Giving From Around the World” exhibit of Santas from around the world and the 11th annual Gingerbread House Display. A 32-foot tree is surrounded by a unique train display created by local artist Don Jones. The display will be up through Jan. 7.
Wintergarden hours are from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturdays and 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sundays.
Macy's windows and more
Macy's will unveil its annual holiday window display on Nov. 22. This year's story is about “The Magic of Christmas,” celebrating the holiday spirit and holiday traditions, such as Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and “Yes, Virginia,” the animated special that depicts the story of 8-year-old Virginia O'Hanlan in 1897 asking if there is a Santa Claus. The windows also will have a distinctly local feel as Macy's celebrates iconic Pittsburgh traditions and landmarks, such the Rink at PPG Place, the historic Kaufmann's Clock, the My Macy's Holiday Parade and Light Up Night with a scene of the BNY Mellon fireworks finale.
At 6 p.m., visit the stage on Smithfield Street where the Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts school ensemble kicks off the festivities, followed by special performances by YouTube singer-songwriter Alyssa Bernal and Grammy-award winner Gloria Gaynor, author of the book, “We Will Survive.”
Completing the all-star lineup is Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, a child from the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the man of the hour, Santa Claus. There also will be a meet-and-greet with performers from “The Nutcracker” by Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre.
This year's unveiling of the six windows will be at 6:45 p.m. The display will be up through Jan. 5.
Retail holiday therapy
• Fifth Avenue Place: From 5 to 9 p.m., enjoy Fifth Avenue Freeze ice carvings and family festivities. There will be live music by the Roger Barbour quartet from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. and the Max Leake Trio from 7 and 9 p.m.
• One Oxford Center: The Rick Gallagher Trio will perform from 5:30 to 9 p.m. At 5:45 p.m., look for the arrival of Santa and the annual tree lighting. Free horse-drawn carriage rides will be available from 6 to 8:45 p.m. Visit with Santa's reindeer and enjoy free activities from 6 to 9 p.m.
• Of course, stores throughout Downtown will be open late so you can start on Christmas shopping.
And, of course, there are fireworks
When the fireworks bring Light Up Night to a close, one of the best places to watch them is the Roberto Clemente Bridge. The fireworks are launched from the Andy Warhol Bridge, a block upstream from the Clemente span, so the latter provides some sort of box seat for the event, which kicks off at 9:45 p.m.
Zambelli Bros. of New Castle are providing the show this year, which includes the returning signature Niagara Falls of fireworks. The show will be synchronized to holiday music on 3WS (WWSW-FM 94.5).
There are a couple of other fireworks displays to look out for:
• 7 p.m. from the roof of the Highmark building, Downtown
• 8:45 p.m. as the finale, accompanied by music, of the Santa Spectacular at the Point.
AND THE NEXT DAY
Most of the Light Up Night festivities occur on Nov. 22, but some beginning-of-season celebrations kick off on Nov. 23.
Peoples Gas Holiday Market
After a successful inaugural year in 2012, the Peoples Gas Holiday Market will return to Market Square on Nov. 23 and stay through Dec. 23. All of the original vendors — local, regional and international — are returning to fill the European-style chalets, draped with twinkling holiday lights, and sell their handmade and often one-of-a-kind goods, including authentic German Christmas ornaments, jewelry, clothing and elaborate, hand-carved wooden manger scenes.
Calum Worthy — the star of Disney's hit show “Austin & Ally” and the “Coppertop Flop Show” — will be kicking off the grand opening of the market at 10 a.m. Nov. 23. Worthy, 22, will be doing a question-and-answer session at Market Square, then leading a sing-along to welcome Santa to his Downtown home at Santa's House.
The Holiday Market is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays; the market is closed on Thanksgiving. A donation to the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank will get you admission to Santa's House for a photo with Santa, from noon to 3 p.m. and 4 to 7 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, noon to 3 p.m. and 4 to 8 p.m. Saturdays and noon to 4 p.m. Sundays.
The fourth annual Trib Total Media Candlelight Horse-drawn Carriage Parade begins at 6 p.m. Nov. 23. The parade down Liberty Avenue usually attracts more than 200,000 people and quickly has become a standard part of Downtown Pittsburgh's holiday celebration.
In the parade, area marching bands will lead more than 100 horses pulling 30 decorated carriages, including Cinderella's Pumpkin, an antique horse-drawn bus and covered wagons. The parade also includes antique horse-drawn fire units. The horses in the parade range from giant Clydesdales to miniature horses. The parade raises awareness for Operation Santa Claus, a Trib-supported project that provides holiday dinners for hundreds of needy families in the area.