Downtown Pittsburgh has long been the nexus of excitement and activity for the holiday season. In years past much of the focus was on department stores like Kaufmann’s, Horne’s, and Gimbels. People went there to see their beautifully decorated windows, and for the kids to visit Santa and see the Talking Christmas Tree. Afterwards perhaps head to the Tic Toc Restaurant, Chinatown Inn for some chop suey, or Market Square for a fish sandwich at The Original Oyster House.The Horne’s Christmas tree on the corner of their building was also a long-running holiday tradition.
The department stores are gone, luckily Chinatown Inn and The Original Oyster House remain, and the Horne’s tree is still lit, but for the holiday season new traditions have emerged. Now during the holidays Market Square is magically transformed into Peoples Gas Holiday Market. The market is fashioned after German outdoor Christmas markets and features Alpine-looking retail structures. These booths feature unique goods from faraway countries and also locally made products. You can enjoy strudel, pretzels, bratwurst, and hot chocolate at Helmut’s Strudl. Outside of the Square there are many other interesting stores including a couple of pop ups like PG&H, a locally made home goods store. There’s also several holiday pop up bars: Miracle on Liberty, Auld Lang Syne: the most wonderful bar of the year, Jingle Bar on Forbes, and Tinsel Town.
PPG Place offers outdoor ice skating, several restaurants, and exhibits and events in the Wintergarden. The Wintergarden features a 32-foot fully decorated tree surrounded by over 400 uniquely built gingerbread houses. There’s also the Spirits of Giving displays with Santa figures of various cultures from around the world. Many musical groups perform there throughout the month. Additional fun activities that can put some sparkle in your season are holiday karaoke, horse drawn carriage rides, the Holly Trolley, and Holiday Kids Play, and much more. Plus the Downtown Cultural District has fantastic holiday plays and performances at every turn.
“Downtown Pittsburgh is home to a full season of free and fun family entertainment,” Leigh White, V.P. of Marketing and Communications for the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership said. She continued, “We encourage Pittsburgher’s to put the Holidays back in the Holiday shopping experiences and visit one of the many, unique experiences that only Downtown can offer.”
It truly is, as Andy Williams sang, “the most wonderful time of the year.”
For more information see the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership’s Downtown Holiday Guide.
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Photos and story by Rick Handler, executive producer of Entertainment Central.