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North Hills Monthly

Celebrating the Holidays Safely during the Pandemic

Nov 30, 2020 02:24PM ● By Vanessa Orr

Holiday Market Vendor, Pittsburgh Pottery

While it looked like COVID was going to be the Grinch that stole Christmas this year, with Light Up Night cancelled and large gatherings out of the picture, the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership has instead found a way to provide Pittsburghers with a reimagined holiday experience with safety top of mind.

And while some things will be familiar, such as the Peoples Gas Holiday Market™ and beautifully decorated Christmas trees on display all over town, other things will be brand new—including the world’s largest pickle ornament—a fitting decoration for the city that Heinz calls home*.

“Though some things may lack familiarity, many beloved Downtown holiday traditions will continue, and several new and exciting activities have been added for the community to experience safely,” said Mayor Bill Peduto. “The holidays are also a wonderful time to support our Downtown small businesses like never before, and helping our neighbors in need is what makes Pittsburgh the special place that it is.” 

According to Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership Vice President of Marketing & Communications Richard Hooper, the value of having this ‘reimagined’ downtown holiday programming cannot be understated.

“First, we are supporting a significant amount of vendors and retailers who have been particularly impacted during the pandemic. For most, having this increased public engagement can have significant economic impact that will sustain them through the winter months,” he explained. 

“Downtown restaurants have also been incredibly challenged, so increased engagement during this time is imperative to continued operations. They have put some incredible efforts into implementing safety protocols, while also creating outdoor dining experiences that offer heating, blankets and even igloos!” he added. “Lastly, the emotional impact of providing safe holiday attractions after such a challenging year is important—we want people to still find joy, hope and wonder downtown as they safely experience it all.”

Beginning on Black Friday, Nov. 27 and lasting (in some cases) through early January, Pittsburgh’s downtown will be transformed into a holiday extravaganza designed to allow visitors to enjoy the flavor of the season in a safe, socially distanced way. Even Santa is getting into the act, taking part in Zoom calls with kids live from the North Pole in Market Square. And while you’re enjoying the event, you can even be doing your part to help out those less fortunate during what has been an incredibly challenging year; donations from the Zoom calls will be helping to support the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.

Following is a listing of just some of the events happening downtown. As we get closer to the holidays, even more attractions will be announced, which can be found at

The Worlds’ Largest Pickle Ornament

*Due to an unforeseen dill-saster, the pickle will not be available this year for photos. The pickle balloon burst while being put in place, which happened after we went to press.  

Looking for an authentic Pittsburgh selfie? Starting on Black Friday and open daily until 9 p.m., you can add the World’s Largest Pickle Ornament, located in EQT Plaza, to your selfie shot gallery.

“The World’s Largest Pickle Ornament evolved from a holiday tradition and the deep love Pittsburghers have for Picklesburgh,” said Hooper. “The attraction reflects a holiday tradition of hiding an ornamental pickle on the family Christmas tree, with the first person to find it receiving an extra gift or a year of good luck. And since we have a giant Heinz pickle balloon, which we use as the centerpiece of Picklesburgh, it seemed obvious we should convert that into a preposterously large, supersized pickle ornament!” 

Holiday Wonderland Projections

Larger-than-life falling snowflakes, swirling candy canes, and other fun holiday themes will be projected on several building facades in the Cultural District. This new holiday light installation features over 300 color-changing lights and mirror balls that project endless sparkling points of snowflake light! The festive backdrops will complement expanded outdoor dining along 6th Street and Penn Avenue, and Wood Street also received some extra special holiday treatment with a snow globe motif.

Holiday KidsPlay Selfie Garden in Heinz Hall Courtyard

Holiday KidsPlay has been reinvented this year to provide safe and easily accessible outdoor fun. The Holiday KidsPlay Selfie Garden will offer an array of colorful backdrops and standees of popular characters from Fred Rogers Productions' beloved children's shows, including Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, Peg + Cat, Odd Squad, and Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood

Santa Zoom: Live from the North Pole

The magic of a visit to Santa is reimagined through Santa Zoom: Live from the North Pole! Technology is second nature to today’s savvy kids, and this real-time conversation with Santa provides a creative and safe alternative to the traditional in-person visit. Every family gets a free, downloadable photo keepsake of the visit with a suggested $5 donation to the Greater Pittsburgh Community Foodbank. Santa Zoom is open daily beginning Nov. 27 and ending Dec. 23. Hours are Black Friday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m.; Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. and 4-7 p.m.; Saturday 11 a.m.-8 p.m.; and Sunday, 11 a.m-6 p.m.

Peoples Gas Holiday Market™ 

The safely reconfigured Peoples Gas Holiday Market™ will return to Market Square and will be open daily, Friday, Nov. 27 through Wednesday, Dec. 23. Offering a charming, European-style holiday market, the market overflows with unique artisan products, international items, handcrafted goods, and Pittsburgh gifts. Local performers will share a variety of musical genres daily for shoppers’ listening pleasure. 

“It’s an outdoor experience, which presents a much safer option, and we’ve modified spacing of vendors and requirements for vendor interactions, as well as requested masks and social distancing,” said Hooper, adding that the entire market is gated, should they need to limit pedestrian traffic.

Hours are Monday-Thursday 11 a.m.–8 p.m.; Friday & Saturday 11 a.m.–9:30 p.m.; and Sunday 11 a.m.–6 p.m.

Oh, Christmas Trees! 

Families can capture holiday memories and marvel at the lights and sights of six spectacular holiday trees across downtown. All of the annual favorites are back, including the Highmark (Hornes) Christmas Tree at Fifth Ave Place, as well as trees at the Allegheny Courthouse, City-County Building, Point State Park, PPG Plaza and Market Square. 

PPG Place 

Ice skating around a 65-foot-tall holiday tree—one of Pittsburgh’s favorite holiday traditions—continues at The Rink at PPG Place. The number of skaters on the ice will be reduced to allow for more social distancing, and all skaters must pre-purchase tickets online. Mask wearing will be required while inside the rental and plaza areas, and while skating. Hand sanitizing stations will be available, and skates will be thoroughly disinfected, with all high-touch areas cleaned regularly. The Rink at PPG Place opens daily Nov. 20 through Jan. 3. Hours are Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to midnight; Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas, and New Year’s Day from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and midnight on New Year’s Eve. 

Spirit of Giving Around the World Exhibit

Available for viewing 24/7 through Jan. 2, 2021, these enchanting displays of 16 life-sized Santas capture a whole world of Christmas folklore and fantasy. Affectionately named “Santas of the World” by locals, they will be located in the windows of Two PPG Place (along Fourth Avenue).

Pittsburgh Crèche 

From late November until early January, visit the large-scale nativity scene at US Steel Tower Plaza, the only authorized replica of the one found in Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome. An annual attraction since 1999, the crèche brings joy and meaning to the holiday season.

Special thanks to all of the sponsors who helped make this event possible, including KraftHeinz, BNY Mellon, Highmark, Xfinity, and Peoples Gas.

Ring in the New Year, Virtually

This New Year’s Eve, the party is coming to you through a one-hour, TV-only special edition of the city’s signature celebration—Highmark First Night Pittsburgh.

Tune in to KDKA-TV at 11 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 31–along with a few hundred-thousand neighbors–and count down to midnight with a celebration of art from the region and beyond.

Hosted by Heather Abraham and David Highfield of KDKA's Pittsburgh Today Live and the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, First Night will include music, magic and more from an array of talented artists, as well as fireworks and the raising of the Future of Pittsburgh Ball, all adapted for this one-of-a-kind broadcast spectacular. 

To make it extra special, and to support the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, you can order an exclusive First Night Friends in a Box filled with local treats and gifts that will be delivered to your door in time for your New Year’s Eve celebration. The box includes specialty treats from Fancypants Popcorn, the Milkshake Factory, and Sinful Sweets Chocolate Company. You’ll also receive an exclusive Pittsburgh Cultural Trust candle from PGH Candle, limited edition Trust postcards, a deck of specialized playing cards from the Liberty Magic venue with instructions on how to do your own magic trick, and a curated Spotify playlist to get your NYE party started! To order, visit

Happening on the North Side

From Dec. 5 to Jan. 2, Northside Glow, a festive light display in Allegheny Commons East Park, will welcome those shopping for the holidays in historic Deutschtown. 

“We’ll be decorating the fountain, light poles and trees in the park to add some holiday cheer,” explained Gina Grone, executive director, Northside/Shore Chamber of Commerce.

The Chamber hopes to build on this event in future years as a way to promote the Deutschtown business district. “We’re working with business owners to reach people who want to support local and small businesses, and to let them know what the shops in the area are offering, as well as if they provide curbside pickup or delivery, and what discounts and promotions are taking place throughout the month. It’s just a nice way to put a smile on people’s faces.”

Full event information is available at