You’re going to want to bookmark, print or take notes because this is going to be one epic post to help you get through a Pittsburgh Light Up Night that’s merry and bright.
First thing’s first: Light Up Night is an amazing way to kick off the holiday season. Do not let traffic, crowds or other factors prohibit you from heading Dahntahn for the fun!
Light Up Night is my ultimate favorite night of the year in Pittsburgh. (If you want the history of Light Up Night, go here.) I miss the Kaufmann’s windows and walking around the various floors to see what’s happening. But there still is a lot to enjoy.
So… how do you have a fun and happy experience at Light Up Night?
Plan ahead. You’ll want a plan for Light Up Night because there literally is so much going on that if you decide on the fly, you’ll waste more time! Read on for how to make the most of your time!
Bundle up. It’s going to be festive out, so you’ll want the scarves and gloves, hats and heavy coats for Friday night.
Be merry. It’s going to be crowded. Other people do exist.
And now, here are some ways to take it all in on Light Up Night:
The first official ceremony takes place at noon with the creche at the U.S. Steel Tower. You probably won’t be around for that, but I needed to give you the heads up if it’s something you want to see.
As for the evenings where everything else happens:
Get the most out of Light Up Night!
With so much going on at Light Up Night, it’s difficult to figure out what to check out. Here are my suggestions to help you have a great Light Up Night experience.
Everything I know about is bulleted here. But the bolded ones are my suggestions. See below the bullets for descriptions, timelines, etc.
- 4:45 p.m. – Allegheny County Courthouse Trees and Tower Lighting
- 5:15 p.m. – City-County Building Tree Lighting
- 5:30 p.m. – PPG Plaza Tree Lighting and American Cancer Society Tribute of Light ceremony
- 5:45 p.m. – One Oxford Centre Tree Lighting
- 5:45 p.m. – Market Square’s Season of Lights Countdown
- 6 p.m. (to 9:45 p.m.) – Celebrating the Music of Fred Rogers + appearances by Daniel Tiger (EQT Plaza – 625 Liberty Avenue)6 p.m. – The Nox Boys (Main Stage, Ft. Duquense Boulevard and Stanwix Street)
- 6 p.m. – Beauty Slap (New Music Stage, Penn Avenue & Stanwix Street)
- 6 p.m. (to 9 p.m.) – Santa Spectacular features the Entercom (former CBS Radio) stations helping to light the tree at Point State Park. Event includes Farkleberry Cookies, glimpse of the Mckeesport Model Train Display, food vendors, music, light show. [this event is not officially part of Light Up Night]
- 7 p.m. – Highmark (Horne’s) Tree lighting and rooftop fireworks plus a Jumbotron show
- 7 p.m. – Joe Grushecky & the Houserockers (Main Stage, Ft. Duquense Boulevard and Stanwix Street)
- 7:30 p.m. – Tribe Eternal (New Music Stage, Penn Avenue & Stanwix Street)
- 7:45 p.m. – Santa Spectacular fireworks (Point State Park) [this event is not officially part of Light Up Night]
- 8:30 p.m. – Adam Lambert (Main Stage, Ft. Duquense Boulevard and Stanwix Street)
- 8:30 p.m. – Krunk Movement (New Music Stage, Penn Avenue & Stanwix Street)
- 9:30 p.m. – Fireworks Finale (Ft. Duquesne Boulevard between 6th Street and Stanwix Street)
If you’re able to kick off Light Up Night at 5 p.m., your first stop should be to the City-County Building’s tree lighting at 5:15 p.m. This tree is beautiful, the lighting is amazing and – NEW THIS YEAR – the City-County Building is home to the gingerbread display (PPG Place booted it for private rentals in the Wintergarden, boo!).
After the lighting, I’d recommend not going in to see the gingerbread displays since they’ll be there through the holiday season. You can visit them any day, so why do it when it’s co crowded!
After that, you should make your way to PPG Place to watch the American Cancer Society’s Tribute of Light ceremony. The East End Kids actually begin performing at 5 p.m., but the tree lighting usually is between 5:30 and 5:45 p.m. (By the way, at 4:45 p.m., the RMU Island Sports Center Skaters will perform “Rockin’ Christmas” on the ice rink. That’s always a fun show.)
I’ll note (for full disclosure) that for several years, I helped on stage with the tree lighting and have been a long-time volunteer with the American Cancer Society.
OK, so after that, you have some time to quickly stroll the vendors at Market Square and get a quick bite to eat. There usually are food trucks at Gateway Center. I don’t recommend a sit-down place because they’ll be busy and you’ll waste time! YOU CAN EAT WHEN YOU LEAVE!
You also could stop by Steel City to see Eat’n Park’s Smiley!
So after PPG Place, make your way to Fifth Avenue Place, where there is entertainment and Mr. McFeely! Plus, it’s a great spot to warm up, look at the few stores there and maybe head to the food court upstairs for a quick bite to eat.
Then you can head outside to watch the Horne’s Tree light up. This lighting does happen pretty quickly, so make sure you’re there on time!
Afterward, head over to Point State Park for the Entercom Radio’s Santa Spectacular. It is not affiliated with Light Up Night, but still offers festive fun!
They’ve got music (obv) and a light show, plus the big tree lighting and fireworks!
The overall event typically ends around 8 p.m., which leaves you time to make your way to the Main Stage on Fort Duquesne for the Adam Lambert show.
Now, I’m not a huge fan of non-holiday music at LIGHT UP NIGHT. But, it is what it is, and it has to be part of the draw to get people to town now without the major department stores that once brought crowds.
The area for the stage gets very crowded. But there are screens set up along the road so you still can get in on the stage action.
So your best bet is to find a good spot for the fireworks, which kick off at 9:30 p.m.
Now, you’re probably wondering about the other events, like the vendors at Market Square and the gingerbread displays.
You’ll need to come back to experience the holidays even more! There are plenty of events happening at the Holiday Market at Market Square throughout the season. Plus, the City-County Building will have the gingerbread displays. There are several theater shows and concerts that are holiday-related.
There’s so much to do in Downtown Pittsburgh for the holidays. Subscribe to the It’s Christmas 365 newsletter for more holiday events and tips for enjoying them!
If you got this far and want more info, hit me up on Twitter or Instagram! And do let me know if you’re Downtown so we can say hi!