Light Up Night in Pittsburgh

Light up night in Pittsburgh

Light Up Night in Pittsburgh: A Festive Celebration of the Holiday Season

Your ultimate guide to experiencing the magic of Light Up Night in Pittsburgh. From the dazzling lights and festive decorations to the live music and exciting events, discover how to make the most of this beloved annual celebration. Get ready to immerse yourself in the holiday spirit and create unforgettable memories in the vibrant city of Pittsburgh.

In the city of Pittsburgh, the start of the holiday season is marked by a spectacular event called Light Up Night. This family festival, which coincides with the unofficial start of the winter holiday shopping season, brings together over 200,000 people to celebrate and enjoy the festive atmosphere. On Light Up Night, the city streets come alive with twinkling lights, beautifully decorated trees, and a variety of exciting activities for all ages.

Light up night in Pittsburgh

The Traditions of Light Up Night

Light Up Night in Pittsburgh is a time-honored tradition that encompasses various festive activities and events. Let’s explore some of the key traditions that make this celebration so special:

The Lighting Ceremonies

One of the highlights of Light Up Night is the lighting of the Christmas tree in the ice skating rink at PPG Place. As the lights illuminate the tree, the ice skating rink officially opens to the public, inviting visitors to glide across the ice and enjoy the enchanting winter wonderland. Another beloved tradition is the lighting of the electric tree on the corner of the old Horne’s department store in Pittsburgh. This iconic display has been a part of Light Up Night for many years and continues to captivate visitors with its magical glow.

Pittsburgh Crèche

A must-see attraction during Light Up Night is the Pittsburgh Crèche, located in the courtyard of the U.S. Steel Tower. This large-scale nativity scene is the only authorized replica of the nativity scene in Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The beautifully crafted figures in traditional dress represent countries from around the world, reminding visitors of the universal spirit of the holiday season.

pittsburgh creche

Festive Music and Performances

Live music fills the streets of downtown Pittsburgh during Light Up Night, creating a joyful atmosphere for all. Choirs, street performers, and even rock concerts entertain the crowds with their energetic performances. The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra also plays free concerts at Heinz Hall, enchanting audiences with their beautiful music. Whether you’re a fan of classical melodies or prefer the sounds of contemporary rock, there is something for everyone to enjoy.

Fireworks Spectacular

No celebration is complete without a dazzling fireworks display, and Light Up Night is no exception. As the night sky is illuminated with bursts of color, spectators are treated to a breathtaking show. The fireworks are launched from various locations, including the Andy Warhol Bridge and barges on the Allegheny River. The grand finale of the fireworks display is a sight to behold and leaves viewers in awe of the magic of Light Up Night.

Exploring the Festive Atmosphere

Beyond the traditional lighting ceremonies and performances, Light Up Night offers a multitude of activities and attractions to explore. Let’s delve into some of the highlights:

Market Square: A Christmas Wonderland

Market Square transforms into a magical Christmas market during Light Up Night. Vendors set up booths offering an array of toys, gifts, and delicious food. The air is filled with the enticing aromas of holiday treats, inviting visitors to indulge in festive delights. Duquesne Light, a local utility company, sets up a popular booth where they distribute free glow sticks to children and adults. KDKA, a local television station, also provides free hot chocolate and cookies, adding to the festive spirit.

Festive Performers and Mascots

During Light Up Night, the streets of downtown Pittsburgh come alive with performers and mascots spreading holiday cheer. These lively characters pose for pictures with children and offer treats to passersby. From beloved mascots to talented street performers, there is no shortage of entertainment during this festive celebration. Keep an eye out for the Kings Family Restaurants’ mascot, Frownie Brownie, who often makes appearances and samples his delicious treats.

Practical Tips for Enjoying Light Up Night

To make the most of your Light Up Night experience, here are some practical tips to keep in mind:

  1. Arrive Early: Light Up Night attracts a large crowd, so arriving early ensures that you have ample time to explore and enjoy all the festivities.
  2. Dress Warmly: November evenings in Pittsburgh can be chilly, so be sure to bundle up in warm clothing and bring hats and gloves to stay cozy.
  3. Plan Your Route: With so much to see and do, it’s helpful to plan your route in advance. Consider mapping out the locations of the lighting ceremonies, performances, and other attractions to make the most efficient use of your time.
  4. Sample the Local Cuisine: Don’t miss the opportunity to try some of Pittsburgh’s famous foods during Light Up Night. From pierogies to Primanti Brothers sandwiches, the city’s culinary delights are sure to satisfy your taste buds.
  5. Take Public Transportation: Parking can be challenging during Light Up Night, so consider taking advantage of Pittsburgh’s public transportation system. This allows you to avoid the hassle of finding a parking spot and provides a stress-free way to navigate the city.

The Birth of Light Up Night

Light up night in Pittsburgh

The inaugural Light Up Night was held on November 21, 1960. It was initially organized as a “Preview of Christmas” to kickstart the holiday shopping season. The event was marked by a countdown on Mount Washington, culminating in a grand switch-on of the city’s holiday lights at exactly 6 p.m. This tradition set the stage for an annual celebration that continues to this day.

The Role of the Downtown Pittsburgh Partnership

The Downtown Pittsburgh Partnership, a non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing the quality of life in Pittsburgh, has played a significant role in promoting and expanding the Light Up Night festivities. In the early years, the event drew a modest crowd of 25,000 people. However, the partnership’s efforts to grow the event have been successful, with attendance reaching a staggering half a million by 2016.

The Evolution of Light Up Night

Despite its success, Light Up Night has faced several challenges over the years. An energy crisis in the early 1970s resulted in a nine-year hiatus for the event. It was only in 1982, under the leadership of Mayor Richard Caliguiri, that the celebration was revived. Caliguiri’s vision was to highlight the city’s new skyline, a testament to the resilience of Pittsburgh amidst the collapsing steel industry.

A Night of Many Lights

One of the most anticipated traditions of Light Up Night is the lighting of various Christmas trees throughout the city. The most prominent of these is the tree in the ice skating rink at One PPG Place. The moment the lights are switched on, the rink officially opens for the season, welcoming residents and visitors to enjoy the festive atmosphere.

Light up night in Pittsburgh

Another notable lighting is that of the electric tree at the corner of the old Horne’s department store. This venerable tradition, accompanied by a pyrotechnics show, continues to this day. Additionally, trees across the city, including the Unity Tree at Penn Avenue Plaza, are ceremoniously lit, adding to the city’s holiday glow.

The Transformation of Market Square

Market Square, a central public space in Downtown Pittsburgh, also undergoes a festive transformation during Light Up Night. Booths offering toys, giveaways, food, and hot beverages fill the square, creating a bustling holiday market. Additionally, live music performances and concerts add to the festive spirit of the event.

The Macy’s Display Window Tradition

Macy’s department store, located in the old Kaufmann’s building, used to be a highlight of Light Up Night, revealing its Christmas display in the windows along Smithfield Street. The display, which took its theme from the story of Virginia O’Hanlon’s editorial to the New York Sun, was a beloved part of the event until the store’s closure in 2015.

The Grand Finale: Fireworks

Light Up Night traditionally concludes with a spectacular fireworks show. Originally launched over Point State Park, the fireworks are now set off from the Andy Warhol Bridge and barges on the Allegheny River. This breathtaking display of lights in the night sky marks the perfect end to a night of celebration and festivity.

Light up night in Pittsburgh

Light Up Night Today

Today, Light Up Night is a cherished tradition that brings the Pittsburgh community together. It is a night when the city comes alive with lights, music, food, and holiday cheer. Despite the changes and challenges it has faced over the years, the event remains a beacon of Pittsburgh’s resilience and spirit.

The Future of Light Up Night

As we look to the future, Light Up Night promises to continue its tradition of bringing joy and happiness to Pittsburgh residents and visitors alike. Its success is a testament to the city’s ability to adapt and evolve, ensuring that this beloved event remains a highlight of the holiday season for years to come.

Pittsburgh’s Light Up Night is more than just a holiday event; it is a celebration of the city’s community, resilience, and festive spirit. As we look forward to the next Light Up Night, we can only anticipate the new memories and traditions that will be created, further enriching the history of this remarkable event.

Light Up Night in Pittsburgh is a magical celebration that brings the city to life with lights, music, and festive cheer. From the traditional lighting ceremonies to the vibrant atmosphere and exciting events, there is something for everyone to enjoy. So, gather your loved ones, embrace the holiday spirit, and create cherished memories at this enchanting annual event. Join the crowds and experience the magic of Light Up Night in Pittsburgh – a truly unforgettable celebration of the holiday season.

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