Each year in Pittsburgh, Highmark and the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership adorn the Downtown area with colorful lights for an exciting celebration of the holiday season. Kids enjoy ice skating, music, and plenty of fireworks, while the adults browse shops and indulge in specialty food and beverages. A fantastic time for people of all ages, Highmark Light Up Night returns on November 18 for another year of holiday magic. Here’s a breakdown of the events happening throughout the day so you can plan ahead.
Happening every hour, on the hour, the first official “light up” of the night is the City of Pittsburgh’s tree lighting and fireworks at the City-County Building at 5 p.m. Check out the Gingerbread House Competition winners inside the building while you wait.
The next hour takes us to PPG Place for the UPMC Ultimate Holiday Tree Lights and ACS Tribute of Light Ceremony at 6 p.m. Watch eventgoers circle around the PPG Ice Rink while different images are illuminated on the huge tree.
Head on over to Penn Avenue and Stanwix Street at 7 p.m. for the Iconic Highmark Christmas Tree Lighting and Zambezi Rooftop Fireworks. The Highmark Tree is special because it’s decorated on the corner of the building with bright luminations and giant ornaments. It’s definitely a sight to see and the fireworks will prepare you for the Light Up Night finale.
Check out the Sister Bridges of Pittsburgh at 8 p.m. for a brand new project that spans the city’s big yellow bridges. This installation will later become a permanent fixture on the North Shore.
Last, but one of the most exciting parts of the evening is the Xfinity Fireworks Spectacular at 9:30 p.m. The fireworks can be seen from the Allegheny Overlook on Fort Duquesne Boulevard. This display is known to last a long time, so sit back and enjoy the colorfully explosive show.
If you’re looking for the perfect gift for your loved one, visit the Peoples Gas Holiday Market, which opens on Light Up Night. Located in Market Square, it contains a flurry of little wooden booths with handcrafted makers in each one. Shop from countries all over the world or find something a little more close to home.
Five different stages take to the Pittsburgh streets for a night full of entertainment. The evening kicks off with SING! SING! SING! on the Highmark Main Stage and Pennsoulvanians on the Cultural District Stage at 3 p.m. Following them is Clara Kent with special guest Mani Bahia on the Cultural District Stage, and Joe Grushecky and The Houserockers play the Highmark Main Stage.
There will also be a special presentation from the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra for the Highmark Light Up Night Concerts. You’ll have three chances at 6:30, 7:15, or 8 p.m. to catch the PSO for free.
The headlining musician of the entire event is American Idol winner Phillips Phillips. He will close the night on the Xfinity Riverside Stage at 8:30 p.m., right before the fireworks go off.
Since Light Up Night takes place all around Downtown, there are plenty of restaurants to pop into as you walk your way from place to place.
Besides the permanent eatery options, local vendors, food trucks, and of course, beer can be found at the Riverside Stage or at the corner of Stanwix Street and Penn Avenue, Grant Street and 4th Street, and Penn Avenue and 8th Street.
Even though a lot of the programs are big events, there are some special activities for kids and their families to take part in.
The Ice Rink at PPG Place is a chance to skate in the heart of Downtown. You can bring your own skates or rent a pair from the rink so you can race around the Highmark Christmas Tree. Don’t forget to check out the 16 life-size Santas displayed inside PPG Place while you’re there.
From 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the Heinz Hall Courtyard, children can meet their favorite characters, make a craft, and see scenes right from Mister Roger’s Neighborhood. It’s all for free and gives the kids an opportunity to play while the parents take a small break.
Then, walk over to Stanwix Street and Fort Duquesne Boulevard to meet the Pirate’s Parrot and the racing pierogies with more energizing activities from 3 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Finally, end the night with the best surprise of all, a meeting and photo with Santa. Visit the Coca-Cola Caravan to let your little ones tell Santa what they want for Christmas this year. It’s a great transition into the holiday season.
Story by Kylie Thomas
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