1) It’s the ballet that even non-ballet fans enjoy. The Nutcracker also provides a huge share of annual ticket sales for ballet companies across the nation, and Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s production is among the grandest of all. Choreographed to Tchaikovsky’s music by PBT artistic director Terrence S. Orr (who drew in part on the original choreography by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov), this Nutcracker has a traditional feel but includes many custom features you won’t find in other versions. The story is set at an old-time Christmas party in Pittsburgh at the turn of the last century. Then, as we move into the realm of fantasy—with the Nutcracker doll coming to life and leading a cast of adult and child dancers through a visit to the Land of Enchantment—there are dazzling special dances, amazing magic tricks, and breathtaking stage effects. 11 and 3:30 p.m. Performances through December 27. Benedum Center, 237 7th St., Cultural District. (MV)
2) The holidays are full of traditions around these parts: Italians have the Feast of the Seven Fishes; Eastern Europeans have their 12-dish supper; and the Elf on the Shelf is here to stay. This year, the Carnegie Museum of Art wants to be part of your seasonal traditions with the Neapolitan presepio, a Pittsburgh tradition at the museum since 1957. This carefully preserved Nativity scene, which covers 250 square feet, offers a glimpse into 18th-century Italy with its life-size figures handcrafted by artisans between 1700 and 1830. While there, enjoy the Carnegie Trees display too which this year focus on the Americas. Both exhibits run through January 9 and are free with museum admission. 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. 440 Forbes Ave., Oakland.
3) You’ve braved the malls, you’ve crawled through the traffic, and you didn’t grumble once—well done! You deserve a little present for yourself. In the midst of the holiday rush, slow down and relax in the natural setting of the Phipps Conservatory with its Winter Flower Show and Light Garden. This spectacular display includes the festive seasonal colors of poinsettias, amaryllis, and evergreens accompanied by thousands of tiny LED lights. If weather permits, mingle in the Outdoor Garden, complete with glowing lights and festively lit trees for a unique holiday treat. There’s even a garden train that runs through nine fairy tale and fable settings with interactive displays. Phipps is open Christmas Eve from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. One Schenley Park, Oakland.