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The ultimate guide to Pittsburgh Light Up Night 2021

Pittsburgh Light Up Night 2021 marks 60 years since Pittsburgh first held a holiday-themed light up event. (In 1959, the city held its first light up event to celebrate the Pirates.)

Light Up Night quite literally is my absolute favorite day of the year. Read more about that here.

This is your ultimate guide to doing ALL THE THINGS for Pittsburgh Light Up Night 2021! SHARE and BOOKMARK this page. Scroll down for my ULTIMATE GUIDE to having a merry and bright Light Up Night!

Remember: Pittsburgh Light Up Night is on Saturday, Nov. 20, this year. Unless otherwise noted, the events listed below are for Saturday.

Of note: It’s currently not known whether the separate Santa Spectacular event, hosted by the CBS Radio (now Audacy), will be held this year. This event had been held at Point State Park and ushered in the lighting of the tree at The Point.

Also: It seems there might not be activities inside Fifth Avenue Place, which is currently undergoing construction.

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»» Complete, chronological list of Light Up Night 2021 events/activities

11 a.m. — “World’s Largest Pickle Ornament”

It’s kind of a big dill, ’n at. This pickle ornament is more than 35 feet tall! Open until 9 p.m. daily beginning Nov. 20.

EQT Plaza, 625 Liberty Ave.

11 a.m. — Holiday Market at Market Square opens

The Peoples Gas Holiday Market includes 35 chalets, with each hosting various artisans and vendors. The market opens Friday, Nov. 19 and is open daily (except Thanksgiving) through Dec. 23. Hours are: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays.

Market Square

11 a.m. — Ice skating at the UPMC Rink at PPG Place opens!

The PPG Place tree will be lit Friday night. Also, be sure to brag with everybody you know that this rink is bigger than Rockefeller Center’s ice rink. Be sure to check out the “Spirit of Giving Around the World” displays of 16 “life-sized” Santas in windows along 2 PPG Place along Fourth Avenue.

PPG Place, 1 PPG Place



My ultimate guide to making Light Up Night merry and bright.


Noon — Pittsburgh creche dedication

This larger-than-life nativity scene is the only authorized replica of the nativity in Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Another Pittsburgh bragging point. The Pittsburgh creche measures about 64 feet wide by 36 feet long. It features 20 life-sized figures. The creche was first installed in 1999. It is viewable 24 hours a day during the holiday season.

U.S. Steel Tower Plaza, 600 Grant St.

Noon — Pop-up cocktail and beer garden at EQT Plaza (continues until 9:30 p.m.)

Seems like a good spot to bookmark for an adult beverage pit stop. Or another excuse to see the giant pickle ornament.

EQT Plaza, 625 Liberty Ave.

12:30-2 p.m. — The Thomas Wendt Quartet at the EQT Jazzmasters Stage

EQT Plaza, 625 Liberty Ave.

2:30-4 p.m. — Big Blitz at the EQT Jazzmasters Stage

EQT Plaza, 625 Liberty Ave.

4-5 p.m. — River City Brass Band at the City of Pittsburgh Grant Street Stage

414 Grant St.

5 p.m. — City of Pittsburgh Tree Lighting (with Zambelli rooftop fireworks)

After the tree lighting, look for the Gingerbread House competition, which was named one of the “Ten Best Places to See Gingerbread Houses.” This year’s display will feature 60 winning entries displayed behind glass under the Grant Street portico.

City-County Building, 414 Grant St.

5 p.m. — Joe Grushecky & the Houserockers at the Highmark Main Stage under the Horne’s Tree

Stanwix Street & Penn Avenue

5-6 p.m. — Donora band at the BNY Mellon Allegheny Overlook Stage

Fort Duquesne Boulevard and Sixth Street

5-9:30 p.m. — MCG Jazz Presents: The Daniel May Trio with Dwayne Dolphin and George Heid III at the EQT Jazzmasters Stage

EQT Plaza, 625 Liberty Ave.

5-9:30 p.m. — Kea Michaels and The Evergreens will rotate performances at the BJ’s Sounds of the Season Stage

Market Square

5:30-6 p.m. — Texture Contemporary Ballet at the City of Pittsburgh Grant Street Stage

414 Grant St.

6 p.m. — Horne’s Tree lighting (officially known now as the Highmark Christmas Tree Lighting) (with Zambelli rooftop fireworks)

Look for holiday-themed ice carvings nearby.

Stanwix Street & Penn Avenue

6-8 p.m. — Visit with Santa at One Oxford Centre

Plus, check out the 30-foot tree and grab some food from some of Pittsburgh’s favorite food trucks parked outside.

Grant Street & Fourth Avenue

6:30 p.m. — Mr. Smalls All-Star Beatles Tribute at the Highmark Main Stage under the Horne’s Tree

Stanwix Street & Penn Avenue

6:30-7 p.m. — Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra 30-minute concert at Heinz Hall

COVID-19 policy in effect. Full PSO policy linked here.

Heinz Hall, 600 Penn Ave.

6:30-8 p.m. — Lyndsey Smith & Steeltown Horns at the BNY Mellon Allegheny Overlook Stage

Fort Duquesne Boulevard and Sixth Street

6:30-6:45 p.m. — Pittsburgh CLO Holiday Medley at the City of Pittsburgh Grant Street Stage

414 Grant St.

6:30-9:30 p.m. — Blast VIP Party in the courtyard at Heinz Hall.

Pre-purchased tickets are required. Details here.

7-7:30 p.m. — To be announced … at the City of Pittsburgh Grant Street Stage

414 Grant St.

7:15-7:45 p.m. — Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra 30-minute concert at Heinz Hall

COVID-19 policy in effect. Full PSO policy linked here.

Heinz Hall, 600 Penn Ave.

7:45-8 p.m. — Pittsburgh CLO Holiday Medley at the City of Pittsburgh Grant Street Stage

414 Grant St.

8-8:30 p.m. — Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra 30-minute concert at Heinz Hall

COVID-19 policy in effect. Full PSO policy linked here.

Heinz Hall, 600 Penn Ave.

8:20 p.m. — Miss Freddye at the Highmark Main Stage under the Horne’s Tree

Stanwix Street & Penn Avenue

8:30-9:30 p.m. — American Authors at the BNY Mellon Allegheny Overlook Stage

Fort Duquesne Boulevard and Sixth Street

9:30 p.m. — BNY Mellon Fireworks Spectacular (with “supersized” Zambelli finale)

Allegheny Overlook on Fort Duquesne Boulevard

Source for Light Up Night information: Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership
Information is accurate as of Nov. 10, per the PDP’s Light Up Night site.

A history of Pittsburgh Light Up Night

Downtown to glow with holiday spirit” read a headline in the Nov. 18, 1960, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, promoting the coming “Preview of Christmas” spectacular.

Ten seconds before 6 p.m. on Nov. 21, 1960, a countdown began on Mount Washington complete with Santa Claus to usher in the holiday shopping season.

At exactly 6 p.m., “switches will yank on the lights,” the Post-Gazette wrote.

And, thus, a holiday season Light Up Night was born!

The first Light Up Night was a “harbinger,” the PG said on Nov. 22.

The Pittsburgh Press shared this photo, below, of Santa in its Nov. 22 edition.

The Golden Triangle Association and the Building Owners and Managers Association sponsored an amateur photographer contest for the best photos from the first Light Up Night. Winners received savings bonds.

And, yes, the organizers used a “feminine Santa Claus,” as the PG noted, to promote the event. Patty Cratty was her real name.

In celebration of the 60th anniversary of Pittsburgh’s first Light Up Night, the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership said national celebrities would come to Pittsburgh to “flip” the ceremonial switch the light Downtown.

“In actuality, building workers physically threw switches in the electrical control rooms of many buildings,” the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership wrote.

Light Up Night celebrations ran through the 1960s and early ’70s, adding Three Rivers Stadium and other events along the way.

But an energy crisis in the early 1970s meant no celebration for nine years.

Mayor Richard Caliguiri relit the celebration in 1982, proclaiming in a news release that the city has a new skyline “deserves to be highlighted.”

The Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership says WPXI extended an evening newscast to broadcast the lighting of the Horne’s tree.

Perhaps in one of those “true Pittsburgh fashion” things… Light Up Night was traditionally held on Monday nights until 1990 when it moved to Fridays. In 2021, the event will move to Saturdays.

Despite the resurgence of Light Up Night in the early 1980s, some major Downtown department stores were nearing their final years in the 1980s. And, in the years since 1960, shopping malls had continued growing, leaving Downtown shopping districts in an eventual state of panic.

Gimbels closed in 1986. Horne’s closed in 1994. Kaufmann’s closed in 2005 and became Macy’s, which closed its Downtown location in 2015.

Those closures didn’t stop Light Up Night or crowds from ringing in the holidays. The Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership estimates that 25,000 people celebrated Light Up Night in 1997. That number hit 500,000 by 2016.

Though no event was held in 2020 due to the ongoing pandemic, the Horne’s tree was still lit and other holiday season decorations still lit Downtown streets.