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Holiday decorations bring out the best in area landmarks

| Thursday, Dec. 20, 2007

You don't have to look far to see that it's Christmastime in the city -- and beyond.

Local museums, historic mansions and galleries are decked out in their holiday finery. They've hauled out the holly and festive decorations, and many of them have become annual traditions for Western Pennsylvania families. Here are some of those favorite places:


Carnegie Museum of Art

"A Celebration of Glass" is the theme of this year's holiday tree display, which features hundreds of glass-themed, hand-crafted ornaments adorning five 20-foot fresh pines decorated by members and friends of the museum's Women's Committee and Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. The display in the Hall of Architecture is open through Jan. 6.

Also in the Hall of Architecture, the museum's 18th-century Neapolitan Presepio Nativity scene, which has been a popular attraction since 1957, features more than 100 modeled figures and accessories. Free docent-led tours of the Presepio are offered from noon to 12:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays through Jan. 4. Meet at the museum store.

Carnegie Museum of Art, 4400 Forbes Ave., Oakland, is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, except for Thursdays, when hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; also open noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. Closed . 24 and 25 and Jan. 1. Admission: $15; $12 for senior citizens; $11 for students and children; free for members and age 2 and younger. Includes admission to Carnegie Museum of Natural History.

Details: 412-622-3131.


Frick Art & Historical Center

Clayton, the late 19th-century mansion of industrialist Henry Clay Frick, showcases turn-of-the-century customs and decor, including lavish greenery, family gifts and an elegant table setting. Upstairs at Clayton, guests may view the nursery and its Christmas stockings and toys from the collection including a doll house and furnishings, and the library and sitting room with family games on display. Docent-led tours are available. Through Jan. 6.

Frick Art & Historical Center, 7227 Reynolds St., Point Breeze. Holiday hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today through Sunday, Dec. 27 through 30, and Jan. 2 through 6; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Dec. 26. Closed Dec. 25 and Jan. 1.

Admission to Clayton: $12; $10 for senior citizens, students, military personnel and group tour participants. Reservations recommended.

Details: 412-371-0600.


Hartwood Mansion

This 16th-century Tudor mansion in Indiana Township that was built in 1929 for John and Mary Flinn Lawrence, daughter of industrialist William Flinn, features traditional English holiday decor. Guided holiday mansion tours are offered by reservation.

Hartwood Mansion is at Hartwood Acres, 215 Saxonburg Blvd., Indiana Township. Open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and noon to 4 p.m. Sundays through Dec. 31. Closed Dec. 25. Admission: $5; $3 for senior citizens and ages 13-17; $2 for ages 6-12; $1 for age 5 and younger.

Details: 412-767-9200 or www.county.allegheny.pa.us/parks .


Kerr Memorial Museum

Victorian decor highlights holiday tours of this Queen Anne-style home that was the residence and office of Dr. Thomas R. Kerr in the late 1890s. Antique ornaments, dolls dressed in festive outfits, and holiday table settings are part of the exhibit. Spokeswoman Joan Stewart says the collectible dolls and two miniature room vignettes are back this year, borrowed from the collection of Anne Genter of Sewickley.

Kerr Memorial Museum, 402 Delaware Ave., Oakmont. Reservations recommended. Admission: $8; $7 for senior citizens; $6 for students. Holiday hours: 10 a.m to 2 p.m. Saturdays and by appointment for group tours.

Details: 412-826-9295.


Nemacolin Castle

Christmas candlelight tours of the historic castle maintained by the Brownsville Historical Society include holiday music and hot wassail and cookies. The tours are Friday through Sunday and Dec. 28-30. Group tours are available.

Nemacolin Castle, Front Street (off Route 40), Brownsville. Tours are from 5 to 9 p.m. Fridays through Sundays. Admission: $7; $4 ages 12 and under.

Details: 724-786-6882.


Old Economy Village

"German Holiday" is the theme of this year's Christmas celebration. Roberta Sunstein, museum educator/supervisor, says the village is decorated in traditional German customs and traditions from the 1800s through 1950. A model railroad exhibit, "Tracks, Trestles and Trustees," is in the Visitors Center. Through Dec. 30.

Old Economy Village, 270 16th St., Ambridge. Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. Closed Dec. 24 and 25. Admission: $7; $6 for senior citizens; $5 for children. AAA discount available.

Details: 724-266-4500.


Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

"Chihuly at Phipps: Gardens & Glass" has been extended until Feb. 24, but Phipps also will offer its traditional Santa visits this weekend, Family Fun Days from Dec. 25 through 31, and Family New Year's Eve celebration at 8 p.m. Dec. 31. The Garden Railroad returns in a new location, outside the Desert Room. Weather permitting, the trains will operate daily during the holidays.

Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, Schenley Park, Oakland. Open 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily and 6 to 10 p.m. daily through Dec. 30. Exhibit admission: $12.50; $11.50 for senior citizens; $7.50 for ages 2-18. Chihuly Nights: $15; $7.50 for members.

Details: 412-622-6915.


Pitt Nationality Rooms

Holiday customs and decorations that celebrate the diverse ethnic heritage of early Pittsburgh families are displayed in 26 Nationality Rooms on the first and third floors. Holiday tours through Jan. 18.

Cathedral of Learning, 4200 Fifth Ave., University of Pittsburgh campus, Oakland. Open 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Sundays. Admission: $3; $1 for ages 8-18; free for age 7 and younger. Closed Dec. 24 through 26 and Jan. 1.

Details: 412-624-6000


Pittsburgh Creche at U.S. Steel Plaza

In its ninth year, this lighted religious display is the only Vatican-authorized replica of the Nativity scene in St. Peter's Square in Rome. The creche features larger-than-life-size renderings of the Holy Family, the magi, an angel, shepherds, animals and a stable. Pietro Simonelli, sculptor of the original Vatican creche, created the figurines from clay and weather-proofed papier-mache placed on a wooden frame.

The display is on view daily through Jan. 7 outside in the U.S. Steel Plaza, 600 Grant St., Downtown.


Westmoreland Museum of American Art

"Let's Play: The Holiday Toy and Train Exhibition" combines fine art, antique and modern toy collections, a holiday marketplace and a train layout. The 32nd annual holiday exhibition is assembled from the museum's collection and private collectors. Through Jan. 13.

Westmoreland Museum of American Art, 221 N. Main St., Greensburg. Open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays, and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursdays. Closed Mondays, Tuesdays and most holidays. Admission: $5; free for age 11 and younger and students with ID.

Details: 724-837-1500.

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