Walking tours showcase Pittsburgh’s holiday scenes

Pittsburgh is a beautiful city.

Every day. Every type of weather.

But Pittsburgh at the holidays is quite a magical experience.

And while there no longer are grand department stores, Downtown Pittsburgh still offers a lot of holiday fun with lights, gingerbread houses, shopping, trees and more!

It might seem overwhelming to see every tree and holiday display.

Fear not! We’ve got you.

There are two excellent options to discovering all the holiday things in Downtown Pittsburgh.

The Incline’s ‘merry and bright, 9-stop Downtown Pittsburgh holiday walking tour’

First thing’s first: This tour is free.

Rossilynne at The Incline created this perfect holiday walking guide in 2017 to hit up all of the  great stops. She’s updated it for 2018 to reflect changes.

Among the stops she lists includes the Horne’s Tree, PPG Place and the large ornament at the K&L Gates building.

Walk the Burgh’s Holiday Lights Tour

If you want more of a detailed tour that includes history and architecture information, you have to check out the Walk the Burgh Tours daily Holiday Lights Tour.

The roughly two-hour tour takes guests on a holiday loop, checking out lights, decorations and ending with gingerbread houses at PPG Place and Market Square.

Cost is $25 for adults and $20 for children ages 6 to 13. Reservations are requested at least 24 hours in advance as the group cannot guarantee late requests. You’ll also receive a free appetizer coupon to a Downtown restaurant.

The tour meets at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center (1049 Penn Ave, Downtown Pittsburgh, PA 15222).

It’s offered daily at 4 p.m. and will continue through Jan. 13.

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It’s not the holidays until we see the Eat’n Park tree!

The little star that could!

Eat’n Park’s popular Christmas commercial has warmed our hearts since 1982.

And every year, Pittsburghers await the first viewing of the iconic ad.

Usually, the commercial first airs during the live telecast of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on WPXI.

Thanks to the internet and social media, we don’t have to wait to watch the spot.

In a 2012 Post-Gazette story celebrating the 30th anniversary of the ad, an Eat’n Park leader said the company receives many emails from people telling them the spot marks the official start of their holiday season.

“When the Eat’n Park commercial comes on the TV and the Horne’s tree goes up, those are the two starting points of Christmas,” Graham Small told the PG.

Read more from Eat’n Park about the story of the popular commercial.

Only 364 days to go

Christmas night always is filled with mixed emotions as it begins the end of the holiday season. Though I’ll openly celebrate through mid-January (when the tree comes down), much of the pizazz begins to simmer now. The TV shows slowly end, the radio stations go back to their regular programming. And a neighbor likely will have his decorations down by noon Dec. 26.

Last Christmas I was introduced to Brad Paisley’s “364 Days to Go.” It’s a great song to remember to cherish every moment of the season before it ends.

Wrapping paper everywhere

Stacked up dishes, but who cares

They can wait until tomorrow now

It’s you and me, and this old couch

The Christmas tree in our living room

Fills the room with pine perfume

And colored lights dancing on the walls

While Nat King Cole sings “Deck The Halls”

Don’t you get the sense tonight

That for now the world is right

And as another Christmas ends

My mind drifts and once again

I’m thinking like a six year old

Only 364 days to go

Ultimate Downtown Pittsburgh holiday tour

There are so many sights and sounds of the holiday season in Downtown Pittsburgh.

It all might seem overwhelming. But fear not, Rossilynne Culgan at The Incline has detailed a fantastic walking tour of twinkling lights, trees, shops and all sorts of holiday magic.

Rossilynne’s tour takes you to nine different stops in Pittsburgh, including some of my favorites: the Horne’s tree and the PPG Place ice rink. Check out below the Incline’s post to see a few bonus stops I added.

  • S.W. Randall Toyes and Giftes, 630 Smithfield St. — take a look at the windows or hop inside for the ultimate toy story.
  • Kaufmann’s Clock, Fifth Ave. and Smithfield St. — The windows once dazzled Downtown shoppers. Though the store is closed, attempts at keeping the holiday window tradition continue.

Rossilynne’s tour is perfect for today and Dec. 23 as you welcome long lost Pittsburghers back home.

But remember: the Christmas market at Market Square closes Dec. 23! But the tree and Miracle bar remain a little bit after Christmas.

That’s Christmas to me

I’m often asked why I love the holiday season so much. It could be 90 degrees outside in August or 45 degrees on Easter weekend in March and there is a good chance I could be listening to Christmas music. July slowly is becoming a mini-December for me!

Nov. 1 has become my official start of the holiday season with a run up to that being the Hallmark Channel holiday movie kickoff the weekend around Halloween. As people head out to costume parties and kids stroll the streets for candy, I’m nestled under a blanket on the couch watching Christmas romances on Hallmark Channel and playing holiday tunes from iTunes or iHeartRadio.

I find myself defending my love of the holidays against people who demand that I don’t even think about Christmas until the last slice of pumpkin pie is gone after Thanksgiving.

And putting up the tree before Thanksgiving? Blasphemy, they say!

Meanwhile, the first Christmas commercial or product or glimpse of anything anywhere and I’m all…

So what is it about Christmas that I love so much? Christmas is magical. It’s a time to reflect on the year that was, think about the year to be and enjoy the moment right now with friends and family.

My grandmother loved the holidays. I remember helping her decorate her house in November (many years while watching the old Kaufmann’s Celebrate the Season Parade in Pittsburgh on TV). The cookies, the gifts, the crafts, the fun, the memories.

That love of the holidays continued through to my mother, whose feelings about this time of year are comparable to mine.

Traditions have continued and morphed and been added, and each holiday season becomes a special chapter in my life.

The welcoming twinkle of lights strung around homes, or seeing a decorated tree in a window helps me to think that no matter what’s going on in the world, we’re able to come together.

As Kris Kringle said in the famous 1947 “Miracle on 34th Street” film, “Christmas isn’t just a day, it’s a frame of mind.” Being thoughtful, giving, welcoming and loving are traits we should carry with us throughout the year.

So, please, come along for the ride.