12 Sleeps to Christmas: Special ornaments

Some people theme trees with colors, patterns or styles.

While themed trees look beautiful, I prefer trees that truly represent a person or family through the ornament choices.

My family’s main tree is filled with a number of handcrafted and store bought ornaments — many of which tell the stories of our lives.

Whether it’s an ornament showcasing the Pittsburgh skyline, Myrtle Beach or “baby’s first Christmas,” they all tell a story.

It’s difficult to pick a favorite ornament. I love all of the ornaments depicting Kaufmann’s Clock and the Horne’s tree. My Kennywood Park ornaments (especially the wooden pieces of coaster track) are great, too.

But the ornaments I love most are the ones from my grandparent’s tree.

They are simple glass balls with designs.

Most are in OK shape with some obvious signs that they’re old.

I don’t put all of these special ones on the tree. Some remain in the containers so to try to protect some of them.

They sit near the top to avoid being swatted by a dog’s tail.

I wish I knew more about their origin — what store they’re from, who designed them, if they’re part of a larger collection.

I know nothing about them except that they were part of my grandparents’ tree for decades.

As a kid I remember helping my grandma hang them on her tree.

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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.

Listen to WESA radio on Nov. 30!

Pittsburgh’s NPR station WESA 90.5 FM has graciously asked me back to share all things Pittsburgh and the holidays!

I’ll be part of a three-person panel during the station’s “Confluence” show that will air live at 9 a.m. Nov. 30. The segment will air sometime in the 9:30 half hour.

You can listen to 90.5 FM in Pittsburgh and from anywhere online . Once you open the website, click/tap the “listen live” option.

Among the topics I hope to talk about include Kennywood Park’s Holiday Lights, Port Authority’s decorated buses and Ts, and all of the sights Downtown!

Kennywood’s Holiday Lights is Pittsburgh’s newest tradition

Kennywood Park’s Holiday Lights

Bobby Cherry

You’ve soared high on the Phantom, splashed down on the Log Jammer (RIP!) and rode the Thunderbolt at night.

But if you haven’t visited Kennywood Park’s Holiday Lights event, you’re missing one of Pittsburgh’s best new holiday traditions!

Kennywood is open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from Nov. 23 through Dec. 23. And, Holiday Lights will be open Dec. 26 through Dec. 30. Operating hours for each night are 5-9 p.m. They also offer dinner with Santa on Dec. 1, 2, 8, 9, 15, 16, 22 and 23. Dinner is a separate cost and held before the park opens.

Cost for Holiday Lights is $19.99 at the gate (plus a $1 West Mifflin amusement tax). Children under 3 are free. But purchase your tickets online and save a few dollars. There’s a Holiday Lights season pass for less than the cost of two tickets.

And certain summer season passes are eligible for free entry on some nights. Check the park website for details.

The park celebrates the holidays with more than 2 million (!!) lights, including a dazzling twinkling lights show synchronized to a great holiday music playlist.

Santa is available for photos at the Racer station. You actually sit with Santa in a roller coaster car with a festive background! I purchased the photo with me and Kenny Kangaroo a few years back, and it hangs on my tree every year!

You’ll also find a massive train display inside the Penny Arcade, along with a small display from the Jimmy Stewart Museum. Parkside Cafe features an area for kids to decorate cookies, and they also sell soups and desserts.

Yes, there are rides open.  The park’s website says that, weather depending, guests can find these rides likely operating: 4-D Theater, showing The Polar Express 4-D Experience; Auto Race; Journey with Thomas (it’s the Olde Kennywood Railroad ride); Ghostwood Estate (turned Christmassy); Kangaroo; Merry-Go-Round; Noah’s Ark; Paratrooper; Pirate; and up to 10 rides in Kiddieland.

Every night at 5:45 p.m., they light Pennsylvania’s tallest artificial Christmas tree.

Kennyville Stage activities include a magic show, Parker’s Dance Party (Parker is Kennywood’s arrow mascot, and it’s joined by mascots from sister parks: Sandcastle, Idlewild’s Ricky Raccoon and Duke from Dutch Wonderland).

Plus, most nights, the park has a celebrity guest read “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.” Here’s the list. Rick Sebak is scheduled to be there Dec. 21.

At the Garden Stage (where the old Mon Monster used to be, and near the Pagoda), the park offers local performing groups (mostly schools). Here is the list through Dec. 8, and here is the list from Dec. 9-23.

Holiday Lights is sure to become a tradition for you and your family and friends!

And as a stocking stuffer … you get to see construction of the park’s new Steel Curtain coaster!

There’s no place like … Pittsburgh for the holidays

Have yourself a very Pittsburgh Christmas.

There’s so much to do around the Pittsburgh region during the holidays.

Here are some of my favorites … and some of the things still on my Pittsburgh Christmas Bucket List (which isn’t officially a thing yet, but totally should be).

Handmade Arcade: This is said to be Pittsburgh’s largest independent craft fair. It’s set for Dec. 2.

Kennywood Park’s Holiday Lights: It’s a Pittsburgh tradition your family and friends will love! What can beat Potato Patch fries inside Kennywood at the holiday season?

Steubenville Nutcracker Village: Walk through a village of hand-painted nutcracker! Plus, there is a holiday market. It’s not far from Pittsburgh at all.

Holiday Market at Market Square: This festive Downtown Pittsburgh public square turns into Christkindlmarkts. Vendors, food, music, plus a lot of lights fill the area.

PPG Place: From gingerbread houses to a display of Santas from around the world, you’ll want to add this to your Downtown Pittsburgh trip to Market Square. There’s live music and horse-drawn carriage rides, too. Oh, and did I mention the ice rink at PPG Place is much larger (maybe twice the size?) of Rockefeller Center in NYC.

Carnegie Trees and Presepio: Ever been to the Carnegie Museum of Art’s “exquisite Italian nativity scene” and Christmas Tree display? The 18th-century Neapolitan nativity scene is a rare piece in the United States. And this year’s tree display theme is “Beloved Children’s Books” and features trees inspired by “The Cat in the Hat,” “Alice in Wonderland,” “The Wizard of Oz,” “The Jungle Book,” and “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.”

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s ‘The Nutcracker’: This version of “The Nutcracker” offers some Pittsburgh landmarks. It runs through most of the month.

Have a favorite thing to do each holiday season around the Pittsburgh region? Share it in the comments (and be sure to provide a link if one is available).

Kennywood Park’s Holiday Lights event sparkles

Kennywood Park’s Holiday Lights

Bobby Cherry

You’ve soared high on the Phantom, splashed down on the Log Jammer (RIP!) and rode the Thunderbolt at night. But if you haven’t visited Kennywood Park’s Holiday Lights event, you’re missing out!

It’s open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from Nov. 24 through Dec. 23. And new for 2017, Holiday Lights will be open Dec. 26 through Dec. 30. Operating hours for each night are 5-9 p.m. They also offer dinner with Santa on Dec. 2, 3, 9, 10, 16, 17 and 23. Dinner is a separate cost and held before the park opens.

Cost for Holiday Lights is $18.99 at the gate (plus a $1 West Mifflin amusement tax). Children under 3 are free. But purchase your tickets at Giant Eagle because it’s $16.99 each, or online where it’s $15.99 (plus the West Mifflin $1 tax). There’s a $25 Holiday Lights season pass. That’s an excellent deal!

And certain summer season passes are eligible for free entry on some nights. Check the park website for details.

Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from November 24 through December 23. Holiday Lights is also open Tuesday, December 26 through Saturday, December 30. Operating hours are 5 p.m. – 9 p.m.

The park celebrates the holidays with more than 2 million (!!) lights throughout the park, including a dazzling twinkling lights show synchronized to a great holiday music playlist.

Santa and Kenny Kangaroo are available for photos at the Racer station. You actually sit with Santa in a roller coaster car with a festive background! I purchased the photo with me and Kenny Kangaroo a few years back, and it hangs on my tree every year!

You’ll also find a massive train display inside the Parkside Cafe, along with a small display from the Jimmy Stewart Museum (which also shows clips from “It’s a Wonderful Life”), and an area for kids to decorate cookies.

Yes, there are rides open.  The park’s website says that, weather depending, guests can find these rides likely operating: 4-D Theater, showing The Polar Express 4-D Experience; Auto Race; Gingerbread Express (it’s the Olde Kennywood Railroad ride!); Ghostwood Estate (turned Christmassy); Kangaroo; Merry-Go-Round; Noah’s Ark; Paratrooper; Pirate; and up to 10 rides in Kiddieland.

Every night at 5:45 p.m., they light Pennsylvania’s tallest artificial Christmas tree.

Kennyville Stage activities include a magic show, Parker’s Dance Party (Parker is Kennywood’s arrow mascot, and it’s joined by mascots from sister parks: Sandcastle, Idlewild’s Ricky Raccoon, Duke from Dutch Wonderland and a few others I think).

Plus, most nights, the park has a celebrity guest read “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.” Here’s the list. Rick Sebak is scheduled to be there Dec. 16.

At the Garden Stage (where the old Mon Monster used to be, and near the Pagoda), the park offers local performing groups (mostly schools). Here is the list through Dec. 10, and here is the list from Dec. 15-23.

Holiday Lights is sure to become a tradition for you and your family and friends!