Downtown Pittsburgh prepares for holiday season

Festivities kick off with Light Up Night on Nov. 22


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Apologies to fans of the giant rubber duck.

There will be no 40-foot-tall Santa Claus posted on Pittsburgh's rivers like the duck that made its home here last month, although Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald floated the idea Wednesday morning.

There will, however, be plenty to do Downtown throughout the holiday season.

Plans announced for Downtown holiday events

The Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership today announced events associated with the city's holiday season, including Light Up Night. (Video by Andrew Rush; 11/6/2013)

Mr. Fitzgerald, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and Santa Claus himself were among those who spoke at a news conference in One Oxford Centre on Wednesday to announce the events planned for Downtown during the holiday season, which will kick off with the annual Light Up Night on Nov. 22.

"This event has been a cherished Pittsburgh tradition for over 50 years and has become one of the largest celebrations in the country," said Jeremy Waldrup, president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership. He said more than 800,000 people are expected to visit Downtown that weekend, driving an economic impact of $21 million for the holiday season.

The 53rd annual Light Up Night will include eight tree lightings and ceremonies at sites across Downtown, starting with the City-County Building Tree Lighting at noon and ending with the Highmark Unity Tree Lighting ceremony at 7 p.m. That same day, Macy's will unveil its holiday windows and Fifth Avenue Place will show off life-sized ice carvings.

Among other attractions will be music and horse-drawn carriage rides at One Oxford Centre, ice skating and entertainment at PPG Place, jazz at EQT Plaza, a blues party on the Clemente Bridge and a light show and mini-concerts every 30 minutes in Market Square. The newly renovated Mellon Square will be turned into a stage overlooking Smithfield Street, which will be closed for a dance party.

The night will be capped with a fireworks show from the Warhol Bridge.

To help Downtown visitors keep all that straight, Mr. Waldrup pointed to a new site, www.downtownpittsburgh.com/holidays, that people can access before they visit Downtown or on their smartphones while walking around.

That's just Day One. The People's Gas Holiday Market, a selection of vendors set up in Market Square for visitors' holiday shopping needs, will return again after its inaugural run last year.

"While I had high expectations, and I really thought it was going to work, it really exceeded [my expectations]," Mr. Ravenstahl said, adding that he believes this year "is only going to be bigger and better."

It will definitely be bigger, with the Market opening Nov. 23, a week earlier than last year, and running daily, except Thanksgiving, through Dec. 23. There will also be significantly more space available for a wider variety of vendors, including a Christmas tree farm stand with do-it-yourself and designer wreaths.

And, of course, Santa will be in Market Square, ready to greet children in his North Pole-inspired home.

Market Square will not be the only place for Christmas shopping, and Mr. Waldrup showed a television advertisement encouraging people to come Downtown to shop for their holiday presents.

One incentive will be free parking in Pittsburgh Parking Authority parking lots on Saturdays starting Nov. 23, as well as on Black Friday on Nov. 29, the traditional shopping day that follows Thanksgiving.

Kaitlynn Riely: kriely@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1707.


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