The Great Downtown Pittsburgh Holiday Walking Journey!

Thousands of steps and a soaked hoodie later, I saw all of the holiday things in Downtown Pittsburgh.

Inspired by The Incline’s nine-stop holiday walking tour, two friends and I set out on our adventure on Dec. 1.

Light blue highlights walking. We also went to the Penguins game.

A constant rain and tickets to the Pens game changed our walking course, which, according to my Google Maps timeline, looks more like a wayward drunk than a holiday decoration seeker!

But we saw it all and then some!

We started our tour with a quick stop into Prantl’s Bakery on Market Street for some classic Pittsburgh thumbprints and some free smells of delicious treats.

Fifth Avenue Place

From there, we headed into Fifth Avenue Place to check out the Arcade Shops.

This site once was home of Jenkins Arcade, which, along with the Horne’s Department Store, helped to anchor one end of Pittsburgh’s then-vibrant retail corridor.

The multi-level center connected to Horne’s and had a myriad of shops and eateries over the years. Jenkins was torn down in 1984 and replaced with Fifth Avenue Place.

The retail portion of Fifth Avenue Place offers a few stores, including Dave DiCello’s photography gallery, Katie’s Kandy, a Hallmark store and food court.

But the headliner is the Welcome Pittsburgh store, which doubles as a visitor information center and retail shop.

The place has a plethora of Pittsburgh gifts — from local artisans to DVDs, games, books and so much more. The staff is extremely help (and also very knowledgeable about the city and region).

If you’re looking for a Pittsburgh gift, go there!

We spotted our first tree of the day inside Fifth Avenue Place.

The tree isn’t particularly wide, but its height allows for a great view from the second floor.

 

 

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While you’re in Fifth Avenue Place, check out the couple of great window displays. This is Pittsburgh’s first holiday season without any storefront holiday windows. So finding a few in Fifth Avenue Place was a special treat!

Point State Park

After walking through Fifth Avenue Place, we went toward the confluence to take a selfie with the tree at Point State Park. I’d already figured the view wouldn’t be terrific since it was daylight and raining.

But because of the weather and the muddy field, we opted to not get close to the tree.

The dumpster at the tree doesn’t necessarily make for a good daytime view, but nonetheless, we checked off this tree!

The views of this tree from Heinz Field, Mount Washington and parts of the South Side are great. It also makes for some great selfies up close and personal.

Horne’s Tree

Next up, we took a stroll to the old Horne’s building to take in the beautiful sights of what I think is Pittsburgh’s most iconic tree.

Now referred to as the Unity tree, the Horne’s Tree was part of the department store’s holiday tradition for decades until Horne’s closed its iconic location in the early 1990s. Highmark has continued this special Pittsburgh tradition.

The tree is part of this website’s banner image, and also makes appearances in at least one Hallmark Channel Christmas movie.

Market Square

After the Horne’s tree, we diverted to Market Square to check out the Holiday Market at Market Square. The square offers a variety of artisans and vendors — many of which are from the Pittsburgh region.

The 2018 market includes artisans such as Pittsburgh artist Linda Barnicott, local photographer J.P. Driscoll, Monmade, Pittsburgh Pottery and many others.

Along with the open-air shops, the event offers music and entertainment, too. The event is open daily through Dec. 23. It is not open Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

And, of course, there is a tree at Market Square!

PPG Place

Following our trip through Market Square, we took a stroll over to PPG Place to see the tree, rink and gingerbread houses inside the Wintergarden.

The rink at PPG Place is actually larger than the one at Rockefeller Center in New York City. Pretty cool, eh?

Inside, gingerbread houses created mostly by students in area schools dot the Wintergarden. Winning creations typically are placed in the center underneath a large tree.

A collection of life-size Santas from around the world also are part of this magical wonderland.

 

 

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Local musicians perform throughout the holiday season inside the Wintergarden as well.

The Giant Red Ornament

After PPG Place, our journey took us to the giant ornament outside of K&L Gates Center.

I’m not sure how long this ornament has been here, but it’s certainly fun! (There are giant clusters of similar ornaments in NYC, and also giant Christmas lights, that I want to see one day!)

Smithfield Street

After our trek for a quick photo with the giant ornament, we set our sights toward Smithfield Street. At one time, Pittsburgh’s retail mecca included a massive corridor along Smithfield Street.

The days of a vibrant Downtown shopping district are long gone, but there still are great local shops — new and old — to explore.

The first stop we made was to Steel City Clothing (625 Smithfield St). Check them out for some pretty rad Pittsburgh designs, including my current favorite T-shirt: “Wish Yinz a Merry Christmas.”

After, Steel City Clothing, we walked over to S.W. Randall Toyes and Giftes (630 Smithfield St).

The classic store bills itself as Pittsburgh’s “largest and oldest speciality toy store.” And with three floors of toys, it’s safe to say that’s accurate.

My friends seemed a little skeptical at first, but after a few minutes inside, I think they began to enjoy it.

If you’ve never been, take a gander inside. The store certainly has that classic locally-owned shop feel — from the display cases to the steps up to each floor.

While the shop doesn’t seem to sell video game systems, it’s full of popular toys such as Lego sets, Barbie dolls, new board games and more. Plus, there is a very great collection of trinkets, gifts, collectibles, Funko pops, Christmas village sets, trains, dolls and so much more.

There were several things I found that I’d like to buy for the holidays and afterward. Also, if you’re someone who enjoys model trains, they’ve got so many items to choose from!

By the way, S.W. Randall has three brick and mortar locations — Downtown Pittsburgh, Shadyside and Squirrel Hill — and an expansive online store.

PPG Paints Arena

From there, our holiday excursion paused so that a friend and I could get to the Penguins game.

And, yes, we found trees!

Creche

But after the Pens game, we walked to the to the creche at Steel Plaza (600 Grant St). It is the only authorized replica of the creche at St. Peter’s Square in Rome, Italy.

It has been on display each holiday season since the late 1990s in Pittsburgh. A smaller nativity scene was displayed on public property. But local government leaders sought to find a permanent and private space for it.

There also is a menorah on site.

City-County Building Tree

This gigantic tree was our last official stop on the day of Downtown Pittsburgh holiday decorations journey!

There is so much to love about this tree.

The black and gold bridge ornaments that celebrate Pittsburgh’s 200th anniversary of the city’s founding. They identify each of the 90 neighborhoods.

 

 

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There are the Wendell August ornaments.

There is good ol’ David Lawrence keeping watch on the tree.

But. The best part is the illuminated portico with music playing around the tree. It’s such a serene setting.

I like going at night, when it’s dark and mostly empty.

There’s also a menorah on display.

But wait! There’s more!

Oxford Centre

There is a beautifully lit tree in the atrium of Oxford Centre. We took a quick stroll over to view it from above before walking back to where we parked near Market Square.

There’s not much in the retail area of Oxford Centre these days, but if you get a chance, swing by the tree to see it in person!

 

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Holiday TV for Dec. 3: ‘Home Alone,’ ‘Krampus,’ ‘Prancer’

Here’s a look at the holiday specials, reruns, classics and more on TV today!

  • 9 a.m. — “The Little Drummer Boy,” the 1968 Rankin/Bass animated cartoon, Freeform
  • 11:04 a.m. — “Home Alone,” Starz Encore Classic
  • 12:49 p.m. — “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York,” Starz Encore Classic
  • 4 p.m. — “Christmas at Graceland,” the 2018 movie with Kellie Pickler, Hallmark
  • 4 p.m. — “The Spirit of Christmas,” the 2015 movie with Jen Lilley, Lifetime
  • 6 p.m. — “Jingle All the Way,” the 1996 movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger, AMC
  • 6 p.m. —  “Amy Grant’s Tennessee Christmas,” Hallmark
  • 7 p.m. — “Meet the Peetes,” Hallmark
  • 7 p.m. — “Return to Christmas Creek,” the 2018 movie with Steven Weber, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries
  • 7:25 p.m. — “The Santa Clause,” the 1994 movie with Tim Allen, Freeform
  • 7:45 p.m. — “Krampus,” the 2015 horror flick, FXM
  • 8 p.m. — “The Great Christmas Light Fight,” ABC
  • 8 p.m. — “Christmas in Evergreen: Letters to Santa,” the 2018 movie with Holly Robinson Peete, Hallmark
  • 8:46 p.m. — “Home Alone,” Starz Encore Classic
  • 8:55 p.m. — “Muppet Babies, Disney Jr
  • 11 p.m. — “The Cast of A Christmas Story: Where Are They Now,” Pop
  • 3:30 a.m. — “Prancer,” the 1989 movie with Sam Elliott, AMC

Find more holiday shows tonight and throughout the season at christmastvschedule.com.

A Pittsburgh suburb is the latest to be seen in a Hallmark Christmas movie

While watching a new Hallmark Channel Christmas movie, I stumbled upon a very familiar townscape.

The little town of Sewickley, Pa., was used in a quick scene during “Mingle All the Way.”

And later, while watching “Christmas Cupid’s Arrow” on ION, I spotted the same view!

Pittsburgh is very familiar with being used as a backdrop in Hallmark movies.

I’ve spotted the PPG Place tree, Horne’s tree and the cute little town of Beaver.

Holiday TV for Dec. 2: The Brady Bunch, Seuss, Kranks, Griswolds

Here’s a look at the holiday specials, reruns, classics and more on TV today!

  • 6 p.m. — “Mingle All the Way” (2018) with “Days of our Lives” star Jen Lilley (Hallmark)
  • 6 p.m. — “A Very Brady Christmas” (1988), MeTV
  • 6:20 p.m. — “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (2000) with Jim Carrey, Freeform
  • 7:30pm – “Christmas With the Kranks,” FXM
  • 8 p.m. — “A Majestic Christmas” (2018) with Jerrika Hinton, Hallmark
  • 8 p.m. — “The Shop Around the Corner” (1940) with James Stewart, TCM
  • 8:15 p.m. — “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” AMC
  • 9 p.m. — “Once Upon a Christmas Miracle” (2018), Hallmark Movies & Mysteries
  • 10 p.m. — “The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show Holiday Special,” ABC
  • 10 p.m. — “Finding Santa” with Jodie Sweetin, Hallmark
  • 10 p.m. — “National Christmas Tree Lighting,” Ovation and Reelz
  • 10:30 p.m. — “Jingle All the Way,” with Arnold Schwarzenegger, AMC
  • 2:30 a.m. —  “Ernest Saves Christmas,” AMC
  • 4 a.m. — “Every Christmas Has a Story,” with Lori Loughlin, Hallmark

Find more holiday shows tonight and throughout the season at christmastvschedule.com.

Festival of Lights: Hanukkah begins Dec. 2

Heat up the latkes! Spin the dreidels!

It’s time for Hanukkah!

The eight-day holiday known as the Festival of Lights begins at sundown Dec. 2. Hanukkah ends at night on Dec. 10.

Hanukkah begins on the 25th day of the third month of the Jewish calendar. The date changes each year.

As the story goes … after Judah Maccabee’s revolt to drive the Syrians out of Jerusalem in 168 B.C., he asked for a menorah to be lit.

But only a night’s worth of oil was left. The menorah was lit anyway, and ended up lasting eight nights.

Each year, those who observe the Jewish faith light one candle of their menorah each night. The menorah usually it displayed where all can see — in a window, for example.

Of course, Hanukkah is not the most important Jewish holiday. Those include Passover, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

The ‘Confluence’: Where Pittsburgh and the holidays come together

photo by WESAI was graciously invited to return to 90.5 WESA’s “The Confluence” program to share my love of Pittsburgh and the holiday season with listeners.

We talked PPG Place gingerbread houses, local artisan markets, walking tours, and, of course Kennywood Park’s Holiday Lights.

I joined Rossilynne Culgan, at The Incline and Katie Blackley, of WESA.

Tune in around the 24-minute mark to hear the interview.

Holiday TV for Dec. 1: Freeform’s 25 Days begins, animated classics, original ‘Miracle,’ ‘Elf’

Here’s a look at the holiday specials, reruns, classics and more on TV today!

  • “25 Days of Christmas” begins on Freeform!
  • Rankin/Bass animated classics have shifted from Freeform to AMC.

Shows:

  • 11 a.m. — “The Little Drummer Boy: Book II (1976, Rankin/Bass), AMC
  • 11:10 a.m. — “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” with Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Freeform
  • 11:30 a.m. — “The Story of the First Christmas Snow (1975, Rankin/Bass), AMC
  • Noon — “The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus (1985, Rankin/Bass), AMC
  • Noon — “Christmas Everlasting” with Tatyana Ali and Patti LaBelle, Hallmark
  • 1:15 p.m. — “The Leprechauns’ Christmas Gold” (1981, Rankin/Bass), AMC
  • 1:45 p.m. — “Nestor, the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey” (1977, Rankin/Bass), AMC
  • 2 p.m. — “The Sweetest Christmas (2017) with Lacey Chabert, Hallmark
  • 2 p.m. — “Christmas Perfection (2018), Lifetime
  • 2:15 p.m. — “Jack Frost” (1979, Rankin/Bass), AMC
  • 3:20 p.m. — “Christmas With the Kranks,” Freeform
  • 3:30 p.m. — “Frosty’s Winter Wonderland (1976, Rankin/Bass), AMC
  • 4 p.m. “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas (1974, Rankin/Bass), AMC
  • 4 p.m. — “It’s Christmas, Eve” (2018) with LeAnn Rimes, Hallmark
  • 4 p.m. — “Poinsettias for Christmas” (2018), Lifetime
  • 4:30 p.m. — “Rudolph’s Shiny New Year (1976, Rankin/Bass), AMC
  • 5 p.m. — “Romance at Reindeer Lodge,” Hallmark Movies & Mysteries
  • 5:45 p.m. — “The Year Without a Santa Claus (1974, Rankin/Bass), AMC
  • 7:35 p.m. — “The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), Freeform
  • 8 p.m. — “Disney Parks Presents a 25 Days of Christmas Holiday Party,” Disney
  • 8 p.m. — “Mingle All the Way (2018), Hallmark
  • 8 p.m. — “A Twist of Christmas (2018), Lifetime
  • 8:55 p.m. — “Muppet Babies, Disney Jr.
  • 9 p.m. — “Elf,” AMC
  • 9 p.m. — “Christmas Wonderland” (2018), Hallmark Movies & Mysteries
  • 9 p.m. — “Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas,” USA
  • 9:15 p.m. — “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas” 2000) with Jim Carrey, Freeform
  • 9:45 p.m. — “The Bishop’s Wife” (1947) with Cary Grant, TCM
  • 10 p.m. — “Pride, Prejudice, and Mistletoe (2018) with Lacey Chabert, Hallmark
  • 11 p.m. — “The Year Without a Santa Claus (1974, Rankin/Bass), AMC
  • 12:15 a.m. — “Rudolph’s Shiny New Year” (1976, Rankin/Bass) (AMC)
  • 1:30 a.m. — “Miracle on 34th Street (1947) with Natalie Wood, AMC