Look for the Helpers, Pittsburgh

Fred Rogers Statue, Photo by Jonathan Plum

Fred Rogers Statue, Photo by Jonathan Plum

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'” -Fred Rogers

The Fred Rogers statue pictured above sits on the North Side of our city, overlooking the Golden Triangle of Downtown Pittsburgh. The statue is a reminder to us that our city was privileged-however briefly-to rub elbows with one of the most inspired individuals of the last century, Fred Rogers.

Known to most of our generation simply as Mister Rogers, he was a man who first influenced us in our pj’s on our living room couches as mere babies. We found comfort in the characteristic exchange of his work jacket for his home sweater, of his shiny work shoes for his blue sneakers. We waited with bated breath for him to feed his fish and to get his special deliveries. And we learned about his neighborhood–and indirectly our own–through the field trips we took with him in our imaginations.

I was recently asked to take another field trip through my neighborhood by Mister Rogers–or, at least, by an important piece of his legacy–the Fred Rogers Company. I am lucky enough to live in Pittsburgh–the same place that Mister Rogers frequented–and the people of my city are as beautiful today as they were in my imagination all those years ago…

IMG_2631

This photo, which has become the image associated with my blog, was taken at Randyland–the home of Randy Gilson on the North Side. Randy has transformed previously vacant and poorly maintained lots into havens of art and greenery. I’m so glad Randy Gilson and Randyland are a part of my neighborhood.

arthouse

 This photo shows Homewood’s Art House–a project of Vanessa German. Vanessa has created a safe space for children to be creative and form positive relationships within a dangerous part of our city. I’m so glad Vanessa German and Art House are a part of my neighborhood.

DSCN0632

The photo above shows Free Store 15104–a completely FREE store located in Braddock, PA. Started by Gisele Fetterman, the Free Store redistributes donated and surplus items to those in need. The only requirement? Pay it forward when you can. I’m glad Gisele Fetterman and Free Store 15104 are a part of my neighborhood.

jpdd3

The photo above was taken after a snack drive I hosted for Jeremiah’s Place, the city’s first emergency nursery. Started by a group of local mothers, Jeremiah’s place offers free childcare for up to 72 hours for families in crisis. I’m so glad Jeremiah’s Place and its founders are in my neighborhood.

freelibrary

The photo above is our Little Free Library, built a couple of years ago by my husband to commemorate the 5th anniversary of my Dad’s passing. Our Little Free Library brought our neighborhood together through a shared love of books.

The truth is that I could go on forever with photos and stories of my inspired neighbors in Pittsburgh. I believe my city is full of them. In fact, I believe every city is full of them. And I know Mister Rogers would agree.

“If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.”
Fred Rogers

Won’t you #BeMyNeighbor?

Visit wontyoubemyneighbor.org to find out how ordinary citizens everywhere are taking Mister Rogers’ message to heart and changing the lives of their neighbors every day. You won’t be disappointed. And please remember to share your own stories with #BeMyNeighbor.

Let’s look for the helpers, Pittsburgh….

This blog post has been generously sponsored by the Fred Rogers Company and the Motherhood. However, my support of Mister Rogers and his beautiful message is 100% my own.

What’s Going on in Pittsburgh this Weekend: November 21-23, 2014

Here’s my weekly listing of family-friendly events in the Pittsburgh region for the weekend of November 21-23, 2014. Highlights of this weekend include LIGHT UP NIGHT 2014 and a TON of holiday events!! In case you can’t tell, this is my favorite time of year :).

 

Friday Night, November 21

54th Annual Light Up Night in Downtown Pittsburgh

The Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership hosts the official kickoff of the holiday season at Light Up Night 2014. The evening features various official tree lightings, visits with Santa, reindeer sightings, free horse-drawn carriage rides, the unveiling of the Macy’s window displays, ice skating, music, food, fireworks and so much more! Please see link above for a complete rundown of events and attractions this year.

 

Winter Wonderland at the Overlook

The Elliot Community Group hosts Winter Wonderland at the West End Overlook, an alternative to Downtown’s “Light Up Night” celebration. Santa will arrive on a fire engine and there will also be games, food and hot cocoa for sale and live music. Plus, you will be able to see the main fireworks display over the city.

 

Free Community Concert by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra

The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra presents a free 45-minute concert featuring the music of Wagner, Mozart, Revel and others.

Time: 7pm

Cost: FREE! Tickets can be reserved in advance or are available at the door on a first come-first serve basis.

Location: Heinz Hall, 600 Penn Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15222

 

Santa Claus is Shopping in Monongahela

Monongahela hosts its annual “Santa Claus is Shopping” event on November 21st at 5:30pm, featuring a Christmas tree display, live entertainment, visits with Santa, face-painting and children’s activities.

 

Santa’s First Stop in Cranberry Township

Cranberry Township holds its annual Santa’s First Stop event at its Municipal Building with activities and crafts starting at 6pm, Santa’s arrival at 7pm, a chance to visit with Santa, Mrs Claus and their reindeers, the giant Lego train display and a stroll through the annual Cranberry Tree Gallery.

 

Light up Kittanning Night

Kittanning hosts its annual light up event on November 21st from 6-9pm, featuring Santa’s arrival with Frosty the Snowman, live entertainment, free cookies and hot chocolate, pony rides, dog sled rides and tons more.

 

All Weekend, November 21-23

First Weekend of the MassMutual Pittsburgh Ice Rink at PPG Place

Starting at Light Up Night, The Plaza at PPG Place will house the MassMutual Pittsburgh Ice Rink seven days/week with $3 skate rental, &8 adult entry and $7 children < 13 entry.

Times: Friday and Saturday 11am-midnight, Sunday noon-8pm

 

First Weekend of the Wintergarden at PPG Place

The Wintergarden at PPG Place opens at Light Up Night and is open seven days per week until January 7th. This free exhibit features a display of life-sized Santas and original paintings from various countries around the world, a 32 foot tree, gingerbread houses, and a unique train display.

Times: Friday 7am-10pm, Saturday 9am-10pm, Sunday 9am-8pm

 

First Weekend of the Peoples Gas Holiday Market

Market Square hosts the Peoples Gas Holiday Market, open seven days/week starting at Light Up Night. The Holiday Market is inspired by the original Christkindlemarkt created in 1545 in Nuremberg and features European-style wooden chalets decorated for the holidays and selling high-quality gifts and ornaments. The Holiday Market also has its own Santa for kids to visit, live musical entertainment throughout the day and a light show every 30 minutes after dark.

Times: Fridays and Saturdays 11am-9:30pm, Sunday 11am-6pm

 

First Weekend of the Pittsburgh Creche 

The US Steel Tower Plaza on Grant Street houses the Pittsburgh Creche starting at Light Up Night and continuing until January 7th. The Pittsburgh Creche is the world’s only authorized replica of the Nativity Creche that stands outside Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

 

Irving Berlin’s White Christmas

PNC Broadway Across America presents Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, a new musical based on the classic holiday movie running from November 18-23rd at the Benedum Center. See website for ticket information.

 

Annual Holiday Train Display at the Western PA Model Railroad Museum

The Western PA’s Model Railroad Museum’s Holiday Train Display is back! The two-story museum features an interactive children’s area on the bottom floor and a 4000 square foot model train display on the second floor. Also a gift shop and snack bar. On Friday evenings, there is a special “Steam at Twilight” event.

Times: Fridays from 6-9pm, Saturdays and Sundays 11-5pm

Cost: Adults $6, Children $4

Location: Western PA Model Railroad Museum, 5507 Lakeside Dr, Gibsonia, PA 15044

 

17th Annual Greater Pittsburgh Arts & Crafts Holiday Spectacular

One the region’s largest and most well-known holiday crafts shows, the Holiday Spectacular will be at the Monroeville Convention Center this weekend with over 270 vendors, food samples, visits with Santa, face-painting and a balloon artist.

Times: Friday 10-9pm, Saturday 10-6pm, Sunday 10-5pm

Cost: Adults $6, Children >6 $1, Children <6 Free

Location: Monroeville Convention Center, 209 Mall Boulevard, Monroeville PA

 

Mon River Arts Presents “A Charlie Brown Christmas”

Mon River Arts presents “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” based on the favorite children’s series at Grand Theater in Elizabeth, PA from November 20-23.

 

First weekend of Overly’s Country Christmas

Located in Greensburg, Overly’s Country Christmas is a nonprofit old-fashioned Christmas Village open from November 21-January 1st, featuring lots of lights and holiday decorations, Christmas carols around the bonfire, a model train display, horse drawn wagon/sleigh rides, shopping, food and Santa.

Times: Gates open at 5:30pm

Cost: $12/car Monday-Thursday and $15/car Friday-Sunday

Location: Overly’s Country Christmas, 116 Blue Ribbon Lane, Greensburg, PA 15601

 

First Weekend of the Christmas Light Up Celebration in Clinton PA

Clinton PA holds its annual light display from November 20-January 4th, featuring over a mile of lights and displays in a woodland setting. On November 20-21st, there is a special walk-through experience. There are also hayrides and carolers during this celebration.

Times: Opens at 5pm

Cost: $10 per car donation requested

Location: 600 Clinton Park Drive, Clinton PA

 

The Winter Festival of Lights at Oglebay Resort

West Virginia’s Oglebay Resort holds its nationally-renowned 300-acre holiday light display on Thursdays-Sundays starting on November 14th. A per car donation is requested and is valid for the entire festival season.

Times: Sunset until 11pm on Friday and Saturday and 10pm on Sunday

Cost: A per car donation requested and valid for the entire season

Location: Oglebay Resorts, 465 Lodge Drive, Wheeling WV

 

Saturday and Sunday, November 22-23

Fifth Avenue Place and Macy’s Free Holly Trolley

Fifth Avenue Place and Macy’s will be running a free Holly Trolley again this year. Run by “Santa’s little helpers,” this trolley circles downtown on Saturdays and Sundays (and Friday, November 28th).

Times: 11-5pm

Cost: Free

Location: Click link above to find pick-up and drop-off locations

 

Holiday KidsPlay

A new holiday tradition on the 800 block of Liberty Avenue, Holiday Kidsplay offers drop-in kid-friendly activities at venues in the Cultural District, including the Arcade Comedy Theater, Harris Theater and Trust Arts Education Center.

Times: 12-5pm

Cost: Free

 

Free Admission for Kids at the Pittsburgh Zoo

The Pittsburgh Zoo is offering children free admission (with the purchase of an adult ticket) until November 30.

Times: 9-5pm

Location: Pittsburgh Zoo, One Wild Place, Pittsburgh PA

 

Saturday, November 22

Free Horse-Drawn Carriage Rides in Downtown Pittsburgh

Highwoods offers complimentary horse-drawn carriage rides during the holiday season.

Times: 11-3pm

Cost: Free

Location: Board on Fourth Avenue next to the Plaza at PPG Place

 

Saturdays at One Oxford Centre

One Oxford Center in Downtown Pittsburgh offers special holiday-themed entertainment, activities, crafts and visits with Santa.

Times: 12-4pm

Cost: Free

Location: One Oxford Centre, Pittsburgh PA

 

Mascot Skate at the MassMutual Pittsburgh Ice Rink at the Plaza at PPG Place

The newly re-opened MassMutual Pittsburgh Ice Rink will hold a mascot skate.

Times: 1-3pm

Cost: $3 skate rental, &8 adult entry and $7 children < 13 entry

 

Kid City Dance Party with DJ Kelly Mom at the Children’s Museum

Kid City is Pittsburgh’s premiere indie dance party for families and it’s coming to the Children’s Museum.

Times: 1-4pm

Cost: Free with admission

Location: Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, 10 Children’s Way, Pittsburgh PA 15212

 

Saturday Crafternoon at Assemble

Assemble hosts its weekly Saturday afternoon free workshop for children in grades 1-8. This week, kids will make winter decorations for the upcoming Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation Holiday Party.

Times: 1-4pm

Cost: Free

Location: Assemble, 5125 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh PA

 

Greensburg Holiday Parade

Greensburg hosts its annual Holiday Parade on November 22nd at noon beginning on North Main Street near the Middle School and ending at City Hall.

 

Brackrenridge-Tarentum Christmas Parade

Brackrenridge and Tarentum hold their annual Christmas Parade starting at 1pm at the Tarentum Bridge.

 

Light-Up Night and Flashlight Candy Cane Hunt in Butler

Butler County Parks and Recreation is hosting a “Flashlight Candy Cane Hunt” featuring live music, hot chocolate and popcorn, caroling and a candy cane hunt.

Times: 5pm

Cost: $7/child

 

Annual Shaler “Lite” Up Night

Shaler Township holds it annual “Lite Up Night” on November 22nd at 7pm in front of the Shaler North Hills Library, featuring visits with Santa, Mrs. Claus, the reindeers, etc.

 

Oakmont’s Hometown Christmas and Parade

The Oakmont business district hosts a night of Christmas festivities, including a Christmas Parade with Santa, marching bands, floats, horses, and lots more.  Other activities that evening: a Nutcracker performance by Western PA Youth Ballet, musical performances, Christmas tree lighting, horse and buggy rides, free Christmas cookies, pictures with Santa, and lots of children’s activities!

 

Season of Lights in White Oak

White Oak hosts its annual “Season of Lights” event.

 

Sunday, November 23

Big Nate by the Pittsburgh International Children’s Theater

The Pittsburgh International Children’s Theater presents the musical, “Big Nate,” a production by Adventure Theater based on a well-known comic strip and books. Best for audiences 5 and up.

Times: 11am, 2pm

Cost: $11

Location: Byham Theater, 101 6th Street, Pittsburgh PA 15222

 

The Nutcracker Holiday Party

The Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre hosts its FREE Nutcracker-themed Open House with a storytime, holiday crafts, dance classes, performance excerpts and a stage makeup station.

Times: 12-3pm

Location: PBT Studios, 2900 Liberty Ave. Pittsburgh, PA 15201

 

Have a fantastic weekend!

Inspired Pittsburgh Mommy: Denise O’Connor and the Three Rivers Mothers’ Milk Bank

In my “Inspired Pittsburgh Mommy” series, I feature Pittsburgh mothers who have started unique grassroots-type projects within the city. These projects directly benefit the greater good of Pittsburgh and improve the lives of our children, families, and/or other mothers.  The series is my humble effort to create a positive, supportive environment among Pittsburgh mothers.  I hope that it will a) help make these projects a success b) motivate other mothers to help support these projects and c) inspire other mothers to make their own dreams a reality.  An introduction to the series can be found here.

denise1

Inspired Pittsburgh Mommy, Denise O’Connor

As Thanksgiving approaches each year, I always get a little weepy. I look at my kids. I look at my husband. I look at my niece and nephew, my mom, my truest friends and I think…”God, how did I get so lucky?” I am blessed in so many ways–not least of all for taking a crazy leap of faith and starting this blog nearly two years ago.

Since doing so, I’ve been honored to meet brilliant women who have changed my life. Gisele Fetterman of Free Store 15104. Lynne Williams of Jeremiah’s Place. Tracy Certo of NEXTpittsburgh. These brave women are forging a new Pittsburgh for us–a place where an inspired idea can turn into something much more…true, important, beautiful change for Pittsburgh families.

I would like to introduce you to Denise O’Connor–a woman who recently joined the ranks of Pittsburgh mothers who are driving this sea change. Denise is the founder of the Three Rivers Mothers’ Milk Bank (TRMMB), Pennsylvania’s first human milk bank. Denise’s TRMMB will first benefit the tiniest of Pittsburgh’s citizens–the newborns in our city’s neonatal intensive care units. But when these sick infants grow up to be healthy productive adults, the benefits will be absolutely immeasurable.

NICU cutie. Photo courtesy of TRMMB

NICU cutie’s first yawn after extubation. Photo courtesy of TRMMB

Here’s my recent interview with my next Inspired Pittsburgh Mommy, Denise O’Connor:

What is the Three Rivers Mothers’ Milk Bank?

Three Rivers Mothers’ Milk Bank will be the first human milk bank in our state and will provide pasteurized milk from screened donors to the neonatal intensive care units (NICUs), hospitals and outpatients of both Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

Why does Pittsburgh need a milk bank?

Exclusive feeding with human milk is the very best protection against a number of serious and sometimes fatal complications for babies within the NICU. For example, one of the most devastating conditions common to premature infants is necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), an inflammation of the GI tract that happens in 10% of babies born before 32 weeks. Up to 50% of babies who get NEC require surgery to remove a portion of their intestines and up to 25% of babies with NEC die. The use of donor milk can decrease the risk of NEC by a whopping 80%. Babies who receive donor milk also leave the NICU sooner and have higher rates of breastfeeding at discharge.

denise3

Pumped human milk. Photo courtesy of TRMMB

How will the milk be distributed?

Donor milk is distributed by prescription only. While most of the donor milk from milk banks is used by babies within the NICU setting, it is sometimes also used for outpatients. Donor milk may be  prescribed for a variety of reasons including malabsorption issues, immunological disorders, allergies, post surgical nutrition and  prematurity.

Is using another woman’s breast milk safe?

Absolutely! Donor milk from Human Milk Banking Association of America (HMBANA) milk banks is typically used by medically fragile babies so safety is a number one concern. Donors are healthy lactating women who must pass a thorough screening process that includes an interview, a detailed medical history, a statement of health from the donor’s physician and a blood screening identical to that done by blood banks. Donated milk is also pasteurized which eliminates all bacteria and pathogens.

How can women donate milk?

A woman would simply call the milk bank and we would start the screening process. Once approved, she would pump milk in the comfort of her own home and store it in her freezer.  Once a significant amount is accumulated, she could drop it off at the milk bank or a nearby depot or even ship it to us for processing.

What stage are you in right now with this project?

I am really amazed with how much we have achieved in just one short year. After incorporating last fall, we became part of the Human Milk Banking Association of America (HMBANA), which sets guidelines for the screening of donors, the processing of milk and distribution. Next, we became an official 501 (c)(3) nonprofit.  Now we are turning our attention to fundraising. Our total fundraising goal is $500,000, which is all for start-up costs. We are pursuing a number of funding sources, including grants and corporate sponsors.

We also have an Indiegogo campaign, which started on November 10th. Since some of our biggest supporters have been young families, we felt that a crowd-funding campaign would be the perfect way to maximize the impact of those who are the most excited about this project. Our month-long Indiegogo campaign is focused on funding the equipment needed for the milk bank. Our goal is to raise $50,000, but we would be thrilled if we exceeded it since every dollar gets us closer to opening.

denise2

Donor milk. Photo courtesy of TRMMB

Next, we discussed her inspiration for starting the project:

 

How did your professional and personal experiences inspire you to launch this project?

I breastfed all three of my children- Andrew (18), Gavin (15), and Anna (12).  I had horrible latch issues with my first child and if it were not for Le Leche League and a very helpful lactation consultant,  I would have never made it through that period. After that experience, I decided to become a Le Leche League Leader. Ten years ago, I also became an IBCLC certified lactation consultant and have been in private practice ever since.

As a lactation consultant, I have long been aware of the health benefits of breast milk for vulnerable infants. I have been telling colleagues for ten years that I wanted to establish a milk bank in Pittsburgh, but felt that the medical community in our city wasn’t ready for it yet. Last July, I stumbled upon a story on KDKA about a local woman who donated her milk to the milk bank in Columbus. In the story, Dr. Nilima Karamchandani, director of West Penn’s NICU was interviewed. At one point, she said that she wished this service was available in Pittsburgh.  “Aha!” I thought, “It is time!”

I called Dr. Karamchandani and told her I would be willing to give it a go if there was interest at the other hospitals. I began cold-calling all of the NICUs in the area and their directors all wanted this service. When I reached out to HMBANA to see what would be involved I realized that it was all very doable. Now neonatalogists from every one of those NICUs are involved in this project–as members of our board of directors or on our medical advisory board.

denise5

Denise and her family. Photo by Jennifer Stein Photography

Finally, we discussed her personal life/professional life balance:

 

How do you balance your work and personal life?

I believe that you can have it all, just not all at once.  I definitely stepped back and focused on my children during their early years and I have no regrets. When my parents got sick, I lightened my professional responsibilities so I could spend time with them. Now that both of my parents are gone and my children are teens, I have the time to devote to a large project like this. The timing is just perfect for me.

*****

While working on this article, I had one last conversation with Denise O’Connor. It was a few days after her Indiegogo campaign had launched. Although she was far from her $50,000 goal, the campaign had already raised over $6000.

She confessed, “People are asking me, ‘What if we don’t reach our goal?'”

Although I didn’t say it, the truth was that I wondered the same thing.

“But I don’t worry about it,” Denise said, “I have faith we’ll get there. This is finally the right time.”

Denise has an incredible aura of confidence, capability, self-sufficiency. Her words reassured me. I believed her.

I also thought the statement reflected one of Denise’s greatest strengths. Patience.

She waited TEN years for the medical establishment to catch up with her vision of creating a milk bank in Pittsburgh. She didn’t rush them. She didn’t rush herself. She spent time at home with her kids–enjoying their young years. She spent months caring for her dying parents–savoring her last moments with them.

“I don’t have any regrets,” she said.

I believed her.

And when the time was right, she recognized it and had the courage to forge ahead.

Pittsburgh, we should be very, very thankful that Denise is a part of our city. She is that one-in-a-million individual with an inspired idea and the skills to bring it to fruition to change our lives.

Denise–we BELIEVE in you and the Three Rivers Mothers’ Milk Bank and all the beautiful benefits it will have for our sweet, little babies. We are here to help you.

*****

 Want to stay connected with the Three Rivers Mothers’ Milk Bank? Please visit their website, Indiegogo campaign, Facebook page and Twitter handle @3RiversMilkBank.

What’s Going on in Pittsburgh this Weekend: November 14-16, 2014

Here’s my weekly listing of family-friendly events in the Pittsburgh region for the weekend of November 14-16, 2014. Highlights of this weekend include free admission days at the Heinz History Center and the Fort Pitt Museum plus the first weekend of holiday-themed events!

 

All Weekend, November 14-16, 2014

Buncher Foundation Free Admission Days at the Heinz History Center and Fort Pitt Museum

The Heinz History Center and Fort Pitt Museum are hosting a weekend of free admission for all! Also features a National Pickle Day Party from 11-3pm at the Heinz History Center.

 

2014 Pittsburgh Pet Expo

The 2014 Pittsburgh Pet Expo will be held at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center this weekend, featuring the 2014 Pet Olympics, a Classic K-9 Dog Show, a Pet Costume Show, pictures with Santa, etc.

Times: Friday 5-9pm, Saturday 10-8pm, Sunday 10-5pm

Cost: Adults $9, Children Under 10 Free

Location: David L Lawrence Convention Center, Fort Duquesne Blvd, Pittsburgh, PA 15222

 

Opening Weekend of Oglebay’s Festival of Lights

Oglebay’s nationally acclaimed holiday light display begins this weekend, featuring over 300 acres of Christmas lights!

Times: Sunset until 11pm on Friday and Saturday and 10pm on Sunday

Cost: A per car donation requested and valid for the entire season

Location: Oglebay Resorts, 465 Lodge Drive, Wheeling WV

 

Annual Holiday Train Display at the Western PA Model Railroad Museum

The Western PA’s Model Railroad Museum’s Holiday Train Display is back! The two-story museum features an interactive children’s area on the bottom floor and a 4000 square foot model train display on the second floor. Also a gift shop and snack bar. On Friday evenings, there is a special “Steam at Twilight” event.

Times: Fridays from 6-9pm, Saturdays and Sundays 11-5pm

Cost: Adults $6, Children $4

Location: Western PA Model Railroad Museum, 5507 Lakeside Dr, Gibsonia, PA 15044

 

Saturday and Sunday, November 15-16

Free Admission for Kids at the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium

Children 13 and under get free admission to the Pittsburgh Zoo (with a paying adult) starting this weekend and continuing until November 30th.

 

Opening Weekend of the Holiday Nationality Rooms

The Nationality Rooms at the Cathedral of Learning will be decorated in full holiday style starting this weekend. Guided tours are available throughout the week until January. More information is located at the link above.

 

Opening Weekend of the Holiday Mansion Tours at Hartwood Acres

Beginning on November 15th, Hartwood Acres will be decorated in full holiday style. Tours are available with advance registration. See website for ticket prices.

Times: Saturday 10-3pm, Sunday 12-3pm

Cost: Adults (residents) $6, (nonresident) $8, Children $1

Location: Hartwood Acres Mansion, Hartwood Acres.

 

Opening Weekend of the Ice Rink at Schenley Park

The Citiparks outdoor ice skating rink at Schenley Park opens this weekend! Admission is $4 for adults and $3 for children with $2.50 skate rentals. For more detailed information on times (which are somewhat complicated), please see website linked above.

 

2014 American Girl Fashion Show

The Junior League of Pittsburgh presents the 2014 American Girl Fashion Show where girls and their favorite dolls can enjoy a weekend of fashion, refreshments, prizes, etc. There will even be an American Girl hairdressing salon :). Online ticket sales are closed but email americangirlfashionshow@jlpgh.org to find out about door admission availability.

Times: Saturday 11, 2:30, 6pm; Sunday 1 and 4pm

Location: Pittsburgh Field Club, 121 Field Club Rd. Fox Chapel, PA

 

Saturday, November 15

Free Tot Discovery Class at the Children’s Museum

The Children’s Museum has recently started a new early childhood education program on Saturday mornings from 9-10am (in the hour before the museum opens). Very similar to the Tot Time program during the week, Tot Discovery is themed each week and offers crafts, activities, story time, etc. geared toward children 18 months to 3 years old. This week’s Tot Discovery is themed “Under the Sea” and is free.

 

Salute to Santa Parade in McKeesport

McKeesport is holding its annual Salute to Santa Parade on Fifth Avenue in Downtown McKeesport, followed by a Children’s Christmas Party.

Time: Parade starts at 11am.

Cost: Free

 

ARTLab at the Mattress Factory

The Mattress Factory presents its bimonthly kid-friendly hands on art experience. This week’s topic is “Project Animation + Storytelling” with museum educator Karen Forney. Forney will demonstrate how to use an overhead projector to make animations and shadow puppetry.

Times: 1-4pm

Cost: Free with admission

Location: Mattress Factory of Contemporary Art, 500 Sampsonia Way, Pittsburgh PA 15212

 

Pine Holiday Dazzle

This year’s Pine Holiday Dazzle in Wexford features visits with Santa and his elves, carriage rides, crafts, ice carving, a parade, tree lighting, a holiday movie, a bonfire with marshmallows, musical entertainment and fireworks.

Times: 4-7pm

Cost: $3 in advance, $5 at door

Location: Pine Community Center, 100 Pine Park Drive, Wexford PA

 

Fireworks in Aspinwall

Aspinwall hosts its annual holiday fireworks display. We enjoy this display because it’s EARLY when the kids aren’t exhausted.

Time: 6pm

Cost: Free

Location: Downtown Aspinwall

 

Sunday, November 16

International Children’s Theater Production of SKINK

The Pittsburgh International Children’s Theater presents SKINK, performed by Brian Sanders Junk. The show uses dance, acrobatics and a variety of musical genres to portray the story of a grumpy old man who remembers the magic of his childhood imagination. Show is presented at the Byham Theater on Sunday and several other suburban venues during the following week. Check website for more information on these other shows.

Times: 2pm

Cost: $9.50 in advance, $11 at door (if available)

Location: Byham Theater, 101 Sixth Street, Pittsburgh PA 15222

 

Have a great weekend!

2014 Christmas in Pittsburgh Family Guide

2014xmasinpittsburgh

Although it’s hard to believe, the Christmas season is just about to begin in Pittsburgh. Starting the second week in November, many local communities, museums and performance venues will begin hosting special holiday-themed events and concerts. In addition, many favorite Christmas attractions will reopen by the end of this month. I have created this 2014 Christmas in Pittsburgh Family Guide to help your family navigate through one of the most exciting times of the year to be in this city!

I have included events and special attractions both within the city and in the surrounding suburbs. At the end, I have also included a special section on Christmas-themed concerts and dance performances. Please note: I will be regularly updating this blog post as more information becomes available, so please check back.

 

Pittsburgh City

I will start this guide with special holiday events and attractions within the city:

54th Annual Light Up Night in Downtown Pittsburgh: The Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership hosts the official kickoff of the holiday season at Light Up Night on November 21st. The evening features various tree lightings, Santa and reindeer sightings, free horse-drawn carriage rides, the unveiling of the Macy’s window displays, ice skating, music, food, fireworks and so much more!

 

There are also a number of less-crowded alternatives to the city’s official Light Up Night celebration on November 21st:

  • Light Up Night Sleepover at the Carnegie Science Museum: Spend “Light Up Night” at the Carnegie Science Center and enjoy holiday-themed activities.  Plus, get a great view of the fireworks over the city! Tickets are $35/person.
  • Winter Wonderland at the Overlook: The Elliot Community Group hosts Winter Wonderland at the West End Overlook, an alternative to Downtown’s “Light up Night” celebration. Santa will arrive on a fire engine and there will also be games, food and hot cocoa for sale and live music.  Plus, you will be able to see the main fireworks display over the city.
  • Poinsettas and Pointe Shoes at Phipps Conservatory: Another “Light Up Night” alternative: enjoy a unique opportunity to explore Phipps during the evening and see vignettes from Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s rendition of The Nutcracker. There are two show times for this event: 6pm and 7:30 pm and tickets cost $26 for adults and $13 for children. Plus, ticket purchase includes a discount on tickets for the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s full-length performance of The Nutcracker at the Benedum Center. Advance registration required.
Santa Around the World Exhibit at the Wintergarden

Spirit of Giving Around the World Exhibit at the Wintergarden

Light up Night marks the beginning of a number of regular holiday-themed happenings throughout Downtown Pittsburgh. Added bonus: The Pittsburgh Parking Authority garages offer free parking on Saturdays (plus Black Friday) during the holidays.

PPG Place has a number of attractions:

  • The MassMutual Pittsburgh Ice Rink at PPG Place: Starting at Light Up Night, The Plaza at PPG Place will house the MassMutual Pittsburgh Ice Rink seven days/week with $3 skate rental, &8 adult entry and $7 children < 13 entry. The Rink will hold a special Mascot Skate on November 22nd and Santa Skates from 2-4pm on Saturday, December 6, 13 and 20th.
  • The Wintergarden at PPG Place: The Wintergarden at PPG Place opens on November 21 and is open seven days per week until January 7th. This free exhibit features a display of life-sized Santas and original paintings from various countries around the world, a 32 foot tree, gingerbread houses, and a unique train display.

Market Square houses the Peoples Gas Holiday Market open seven days/week starting on Light Up Night. The Holiday Market is inspired by the original Christkindlemarkt created in 1545 in Nuremberg and features European-style wooden chalets decorated for the holidays and selling high-quality gifts and ornaments. The Holiday Market also has its own Santa for kids to visit.

Finally, the US Steel Tower Plaza on Grant Street houses The Pittsburgh Creche from November 21 to January 7th. The Pittsburgh Creche is the world’s only authorized replica of the Nativity Creche that stands outside Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

There are several other fun activities in Downtown Pittsburgh starting the weekend after Light Up Night, including:

  •  Free Horse-Drawn Carriage Rides in Downtown Pittsburgh: Highwoods offers complimentary horse-drawn carriage rides starting on Fourth Avenue next to the Plaza at PPG Place on Saturdays from 11-3pm.
  • Fifth Avenue Place and Macy’s Free Holly Trolley: Fifth Avenue Place and Macy’s will be running its Free Holly Trolley again this year. Run by “Santa’s little helpers,” this trolley circles downtown on Saturdays and Sundays (and Friday, November 28th) from 11-5pm.
  • Saturdays at the Centre: One Oxford Centre offers special holiday-themed activities, crafts and visits with Santa from 12-4pm on Saturdays.
  • Creation Stations at Fifth Avenue Place: Fifth Avenue Place will be hosting “Creation Stations” on Saturdays from 11-2pm in collaboration with the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, featuring kid-friendly activities.
  • Holiday KidsPlay: A new holiday tradition in the 800 block of Liberty Avenue, Holiday Kidsplay offers kid-friendly activities on Saturdays and Sunday from noon to 5pm. Includes activities at the Arcade Comedy Theater, Harris Theater and the Trust Arts Education Center.
  • Macy’s in Downtown Pittsburgh: Macy’s has beautiful holiday-themed window displays. Also offers visits and photos with Santa, Breakfast with Santa and a Children’s Very Own Gift Shop, where kids can shop for gifts for their parents with the help of Santa’s elves!

 

And, of course, the annual Holiday Parade in Downtown Pittsburgh on the Saturday after Thanksgiving:

34th Annual WPXI Holiday ParadeAlthough Macy’s is no longer sponsoring the annual Holiday Parade, WPXI will still be holding this favorite annual parade on November 29th. It starts at 9am on the 22nd block of Liberty Avenue and features marching bands, colorful floats, local celebrities, and the arrival of Santa! Kid-friendly activities follow at Fifth Avenue Place.

Winter Light Garden at Phipps

Winter Light Garden at Phipps

Oakland is another hub of holiday-themed activities throughout the season with:

  • The Nationality Rooms at the Cathedral of Learning: Beginning on November 15th, the Nationality Rooms in the Cathedral of Learning will be decorated in traditional holiday styles and open for special tours. The Nationality Rooms will also hold  a very special Open House on December 7th from 12-4pm with guides dressed in ethnic costumes, free ethnic dance performances and special ethnic food selections. Check out the most recent edition of Shady Avenue Magazine for a nice write-up on the Nationality Rooms.
  • Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Garden Winter Flower Show:The Winter Flower Show at Phipps begins on November 28th with a “Winter Wonderland” theme. The Conservatory will be open for extended hours from 9:30am-11pm daily for its Candlelit Evenings and its outdoor Winter Light Garden (from 5-11pm). This year, Phipps will also be offering visits with Santa on Saturdays and Sundays from Nov 29-Dec 20. Also, the Sugar Plum Fairy will be visiting Phipps on December 6 and 13th for a free 30-minute creative movement dance class and story time with a dancer in costume.
  • Holidays at the Carnegie Museums: Starting November 28th, The Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History will house the Neopolitan Presipio, a handcrafted nativity scene featuring lifelike figures and colorful details that recreate the Nativity within a panorama of 18th-century Italian village life. Beginning on December 4th, the Hall of Architecture will also hold the Museum’s six decorated 20-foot spruce trees (there is also a special opening celebration happening on December 3rd if you would like to purchase $75 tickets).
  • Santa Skate at Schenley Park Ice Skating Rink: The Schenley Park outdoor skating rink opens mid-November. Each year, the rink hosts a special Santa Skate in December. No further information available at this time.

 

If you would like to take a guided tour of some of these Oakland attractions, check out this option:

Oakland Yuletide Tour: Enjoy a holiday tour of some of Oakland’s most beautiful buildings on December 6th and 13th. Begins with a continental breakfast at the Pittsburgh Athletic Association, followed by a guided tour through the Nationality Classrooms at the University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning. Finally, a tour of Heinz Memorial Chapel and an organ recital of Christmas music.  Participants will receive coupons to Oakland shops, restaurants and attractions. Tickets are $25.

 

A number of other museums and other special venues offer holiday-themed events within the city over the next month:

  • The Nutcracker Holiday Party: On November 23rd, the Pittsburgh Ballet Theater’s hosts its FREE Nutcracker-themed Open House from 12-3pm with a storytime, holiday crafts, dance classes, performance excerpts and a stage makeup station!
  • Photos with Santa at the National Aviary: On Saturdays from November 29-December 20th, the National Aviary invites children to visit with Santa and his penguin helpers from 11-3pm. Kids can also take home a bird seed ornament to feed the birds in their backyard.
  • Members Holiday Event at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh: The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh is hosting a “Members Holiday Event” on December 5th from 6-8pm, featuring visits with wintry friends like penguins from the National Aviary and a reindeer from Living Treasures Animal Park, live entertainment, holiday crafts and gift-making in the Studio. Member admission is free. Guests are welcome at $12 each. Please RSVP by emailing members@pittsburghkids.org.
  • Breakfast/Lunch with Santa at the Pittsburgh Zoo: On Saturdays and Sundays from December 6-21st, the Pittsburgh Zoo hosts a breakfast or lunch with Santa, featuring food, holiday crafts, decorating sugar cookies, and visits with the animals. Two seatings at 9:30am and noon. Advance registration required.
  • Santa Family Fun Cruise on the Gateway Clipper Fleet: On Saturdays and Sunday from December 6-21, families can visit with Santa Claus during a special cruise on the Gateway Clipper Fleet, featuring a DJ dance party and special gifts for all boys and girls. Tickets are $25 for adults and $12 for children. On December 13th and the 20th, the Gateway Clipper Fleet also offers a special Breakfast with Santa with a breakfast buffet and visits with Santa. Breakfast service begins at 8:30am and cruise runs from 9:30-11:30. Tickets are $20.
  • Cool Yule Free Family Fun Day at the Frick: On Saturday, December 6th The Frick offers its annual family celebration for the season, featuring stories, family-friendly tours of the Clayton (adult admission rates apply) and holiday art-making. The Frick will also offer a number of other holiday-themed family workshops during December. See website for more info.
  • Holiday Themed Let’s Move Family Dance Party at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater: The Kelly Strayhorn Theater is hosting a holiday-themed Let’s Move Family Dance Party on December 13th (time info not available yet), featuring a DJ dance party, holiday craft activities and more.

 

Finally, a number of city neighborhoods offer holiday-themed events:

  • A Pittsburgh Christmas Carol Tour on the Northside: The Northside is hosting a Christmas Carol tour on November 13th from noon to 2:30pm with a portion of the $50 ticket price benefitting the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. Tour includes a visit to two historic and decorated churches and a stop at the Priory Hotel where they can enjoy a light brunch and a tour of the Great Hall.
  • Holiday I Made It! Market in Shadyside: The Holiday I Made It! Market will be in the space above Shady Grove every Saturday from November 29-December 20th from 11-5pm, with vendors selling gift items, treats and other holiday goodies.
  • “The Joy of Cookies Cookie Tour” by the Lawrenceville Corporation: From December 4-7th, Lawrenceville hosts its “Joy of Cookies Cookie Tour,” featuring free cookies and shopping at over 35 stops in Lawrenceville.
  • Wilkins School Community Center Holiday Gift Shop and Opening Night Party: Regent Square’s celebration of the holidays begins at the WSCC’s party on December 5th from 7-9pm, featuring refreshments, music, dancing and a visit from Santa. Also, the WSCC is hosting a make-your-own Gingerbread House Night in December, although final date has not yet been set.
  • Light Up Point Breeze: Point Breeze is offering a holiday celebration from 4-7pm on December 6th on Reynolds Street near Gettysburg Avenue, featuring crafts, music and food.
  • Santa Celebration at the Millvale Community Center: On December 6th, Millvale holds it annual Santa Celebration at its Community Center at 11am, featuring refreshments, children’s activities and visits with Santa.
  • South Side Slopes Holiday Party-The South Side Slopes will be holding its annual Holiday Party on December 9th at 7pm at St. Paul of the Cross Monastery. Dinner will be provided, but guests are asked to bring a dessert or appetizer.

Know of any other neighborhood celebrations? Let me know at pittsburghmommyblog@gmail.com and I’ll add it to the list.

The Western PA Model Railroad Museum

The Western PA Model Railroad Museum in Gibsonia

Pittsburgh North

The northern suburbs of Pittsburgh hold a couple special holiday attractions:

  • The Western Pennsylvania Model Railroad Museum’s Holiday Train Display: Located in Gibsonia, this model railroad museum is only open to the public during the holiday season when it holds its annual Holiday Train Display. This year’s show starts on November 8th and runs into mid-January. The Museum’s bottom floor has a special interactive area for kids with wooden train tables and a Lionel toy train display. The second floor holds its 4000 sf layout called “A Railroad Journey in Miniature. The Museum is open on Saturdays and Sundays from 11-5pm and Fridays from 6-9pm for its special “Steam at Twilight” exhibit.
  • Hartwood Acres Mansion: Hartwood Acres Mansion is decorated in full holiday splendor starting November 15th. The Mansion offers daily guided tours with advance registration. Also, the Mansion hosts special candlelight tours on select days.

 

Also, a number of the northern communities offer special holiday-themed events:

  • “Light Up the Wall” in Aspinwall: On November 13th, Aspinwall will host its annual “Light Up the Wall” event with food, music, free Christmas cookies and visits with Santa from 7-9pm. Also, this year’s holiday fireworks display in Aspinwall will be held on November 15th at 7pm.
  • Pine Holiday Dazzle: This year’s Pine Holiday Dazzle will be held on November 15th at the Pine Community Center in Wexford from 4-7pm. This event will have Santa and his elves, carriage rides, crafts, ice carving, a parade, tree lighting, a holiday movie, a bonfire with marshmallows, musical entertainment and fireworks.
  • Santa’s First Stop in Cranberry TownshipCranberry Township holds its annual Santa’s First Stop event on November 21st at its Municipal Building with activities and crafts starting at 6pm, Santa’s arrival at 7pm, a chance to visit with Santa, Mrs Claus and their reindeers, the giant Lego train display and a stroll through the annual Cranberry Tree Gallery.
  • Light up Kittanning Night: Kittanning hosts its annual light up event on November 21st from 6-9pm, featuring Santa’s arrival with Frosty the Snowman, live entertainment, free cookies and hot chocolate, pony rides, dog sled rides and tons more.
  • Brackrenridge-Tarentum Christmas Parade: Brackrenridge and Tarentum hold their annual Christmas Parade on November 22nd at 1pm  starts at the Tarentum bridge and ends at Flabeg Brackenridge. 
  • Annual Shaler “Lite” Up Night: Shaler Township holds it annual “Lite Up Night” on November 22nd at 7pm in front of the Shaler North Hills Library, featuring visits with Santa, Mrs. Claus, the reindeers, etc.
  • Light-Up Night and Flashlight Candy Cane Hunt in Butler: Butler County Parks and Recreation is hosting a “Flashlight Candy Cane Hunt” on November 22nd at 5pm, featuring live music, hot chocolate and popcorn, caroling and a candy cane hunt. Cost is $5 per child through November 7th and $7 per child after November 7th.
  • Holiday Parade and Light-Up the Borough Night in Saxonburg: Saxonburg holds its annual Holiday Parade and Celebration at 7pm on November 28th.
  • Christmas Parade in Butler: Butler holds its annual Christmas Parade on November 29th on Main Street in the Downtown area beginning at 5:30pm, featuring floats, marching bands, fire trucks and Santa!
  • Christmas in the Country at Reilly’s Summer Seat Farm: Reilly’s Summer Seat Farm holds its annual “Christmas in the Country” event on weekends from December 1-24, featuring a bonfire with marshmallow roasting, a live animal nativity scene, hot chocolate, and complimentary wagon rides with Santa at Reilly’s Summer Seat Farm.
  • Holiday Season Greeting Celebration in Hampton: Hampton Township celebrates its annual Holiday Season Greeting Celebration on December 4th at 7pm at the Community Center, featuring free cookies, hot chocolate, live music and visits with Santa.
  • LaRoche College Festival of Lights: LaRoche College celebrates its annual Festival of Lights on December 5th with crafts, games, Santa, music performances, carriage rides, and fireworks.
  •  St. Paul’s Preschool Santa Express: Located in Allison Park, St. Paul’s Preschool is holding its annual Polar-Express themed fundraiser on December 6th with indoor train rides, hot cocoa bar and cookies, train bounce house, a balloon artist, Polar Express crafts and games, a miniature railroad display, a strolling magician, and face painting. Tickets are $8.
  • Snowflake Festival at Soergel’s Orchard: Soergel’s Orchard is holding its annual Snowflake Festival on December 13th, featuring a Snowflake Express, hot chocolate and other treats, ice carving demonstrations and horsedrawn carriage ride around the grounds.  Santa and his elves will arrive via horse-drawn sleigh at 6 pm.
  • Breakfast with Santa in Pine Township: Families are invited to a special buffet breakfast with Santa in Pine Township on December 13th. Also features games, crafts and face-painting. Full registration info is not available yet.
  • Little Cup of Hope: The second annual “Little Cup of Hope” fundraiser will be held at the Pine Community Center in Wexford on December 14th from 2-4pm, featuring Christmas crafts, treats, stories and a visit from Santa. All proceeds benefit the Pittsburgh Chapter of Flashes of Hope – which takes portraits of children fighting cancer at Children’s Hospital.

 

Pittsburgh South

The southern suburbs of the city hold a special holiday attraction:

Santa Trolley at the Pennyslvania Trolley Museum: The Pennsylvania Trolley Museum offers its annual Santa Trolley on weekends from November 28-December 14th, featuring a caroling-filled trolley ride, a complimentary cup of hot chocolate, holiday craft, a Lionel toy train display and wooden train tables.

 

Many southern communities offer special holiday-themed events:

  • Lebo Light Up Night: Mt. Lebanon hosts its annual Light Up Night event on November 20th from 6-9am, featuring horse-drawn carriage rides, live entertainment, Southminster Bell Ringers, a model train exhibit, tree lightings, visits with Santa and a gingerbread house competition.
  • Santa Claus is Shopping in Monongahela: Monongahela hosts its annual “Santa Claus is Shopping” event on November 21st at 5:30pm, featuring a Christmas tree display, live entertainment, visits with Santa, face-painting and children’s activities.
  • A Night with St. Nick at Trax Farm: Celebrate the holiday season at Trax Farm in Finleyville on November 29th!  Visit with Santa, watch the Christmas tree lighting, participate in Christmas crafts, a coloring contest, a reindeer scavenger hunt game and try samples for holiday entertaining.  Refreshments and treats available for purchase. You can also attend a special Breakfast or Lunch with Santa on Saturdays and Sundays at Trax Farm throughout December. Cost is $8 and seatings are available at 9:30am and 12:30pm. Advance registration required.
  • Tree Lighting in Bethel Park: Bethel Park hosts its annual Tree Lighting event on December 3 at the Community Center featuring hot chocolate, coffee, cookies, the high school marching band and visits with Santa!
  • Bridgeville Winter Blast: Bridgeville is holding its annual Winter Blast on December 5th at 6:30pm at Triangle Park, featuring a bonfire, chorus, refreshments and visits with Santa and Mrs. Claus.
  • Christmas Parade in Washington PA: Washington PA holds it annual Christmas Parade on December 5th at 7pm, beginning on West Chestnut Street and ending at the Railroad Station. Parade features floats, marching bands, fire trucks, horses and Santa!
  • Light Up Dormont: Dormont holds it annual holiday event on December 6th. The day starts with the Fireman’s Annual Christmas Parade at 10am on West Liberty and Potomac Avenue. Parade is followed by Cookies with Santa hosted by the borough from 3-5:30pm at the Recreation Center. Finally, Light Up Dormont begins at 6:30pm at the Recreation Center, featuring carolers from Dormont Elementary and tree lighting.
  • Holidays at the Upper St. Clair Community and Recreation Center: The Upper St. Clair Community and Recreation Center holds its annual holiday event on December 6th at 11am, featuring live music, children’s activities, refreshments and visits with Santa.
  • Santa Luncheon in Canonsburg: The Canonsburg Chamber of Commerce holds its annual Santa Luncheon on December 6th at Canonsburg Senior Center, featuring lunch, treat bags, balloon artists, music and visits with Santa.
  • South Park Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony: South Park Township hosts its annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony on December 8th at 6:30 pm in the library courtyard. Afterwards, families are invited to the community center for refreshments.
Window Display at Oakmont's Hometown Christmas

Window Display at Oakmont’s Hometown Christmas

Pittsburgh East

The Eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh hold a couple special holiday attractions:

  • Overly’s Country Christmas: Located in Greensburg, Overly’s Country Christmas is a nonprofit old-fashioned Christmas Village open from November 21-January 1st, featuring lots of lights and holiday decorations, Christmas carols around the bonfire, a model train display, horse drawn wagon/sleigh rides, shopping, food and Santa. Cost is $12/car Monday-Thursday and $15/car Friday-Sunday.
  • Kennywood’s Holiday Lights: Starting on November 28th, Kennywood will transform into a winter wonderland of spectacular lights, family friendly rides, activities and seasonal food favorites from 5-9pm on Fridays-Sundays.

 

A number of eastern communities also have special holiday-themed events:

  • Salute to Santa Parade in McKeesport: McKeesport holds its annual Salute to Santa Parade on November 15th at 11 am on Fifth Avenue in Downtown McKeesport, followed by a Children’s Christmas Party.
  • Oakmont’s Hometown Christmas and Parade: On November 22nd, The Oakmont business district hosts a night of Christmas festivities, including a Christmas Parade with Santa, marching bands, floats, horses, and lots more.  Other activities that evening: a Nutcracker performance by Western PA Youth Ballet, musical performances, Christmas tree lighting, horse and buggy rides, free Christmas cookies, pictures with Santa, and lots of children’s activities!
  • Greensburg Holiday Parade: Greensburg hosts its annual Holiday Parade on November 22nd at noon beginning on North Main Street near the Middle School and ending at City Hall.
  • Season of Lights in White Oak: White Oak hosts its annual “Season of Lights” event on November 22nd
  • Monroeville Tree Lighting: Monroeville holds its annual Tree Lighting on November 25th from 7-7:30pm at Old Stone Church on Monroeville Blvd. Kids can bring homemade decorations, hang them on the tree, listen to caroling and visit with Santa.
  • Penn Hills Holiday Light Up: Penn Hills hosts its annual Light Up Night on December 4th from 7-9pm at the Municipal Building on Frankstown Rd, featuring Santa and his reindeers, tree lighting, clowns, treats, refreshments and train display.
  • Munhall Light Up Night: Munhall hosts its annual Light Up Night event on December 5th at 6pm at the Borough Building, featuring refreshments, carolers and Santa.
  • The Historic Steel Valley Christmas Parade: The annual Steel Valley Christmas Parade is happening on December 6th on Eighth Avenue in Homestead.
oglebay

New 100 ft. interactive LED display at Oglebay Resorts. Photo courtesy of Oglebay’s.

Pittsburgh West

Finally, the west of Pittsburgh holds a couple special holiday attraction:

  • Christmas Light Up Celebration in Clinton PA: Clinton PA holds its annual light display from November 20-January 4th, featuring over a mile of lights and displays in a woodland setting. On November 20-21st, there is a special walk-through experience. There are also hayrides and carolers during this celebration. $10 per car donation requested.
  • The Winter Festival of Lights at Oglebay Resort: West Virginia’s Oglebay Resort holds its nationally-renowned 300-acre holiday light display on Thursdays-Sundays starting on November 14th. A per car donation is requested and is valid for the entire festival season.

 

Also, several western communities offer special holiday-themed events:

  • Sewickley Light Up Night: Sewickley hosts its annual Light Up Night on December 5th from 6-10pm with entertainment, food from local restaurants and vendor carts, shopping, and the Lighting of the Village followed by a fireworks show. Sewickley also offers special holiday-themed activities on Saturdays throughout December, including visits with Santa at Wolcott Park, free carriage rides and entertainment. Finally, check out Sweetwater Center for the Arts in Sewickley for holiday-themed craft activities throughout the season. 
  • Robinson Township Tree Lighting: Held in Clever Park, Robinson Township’s annual Tree Lighting on December 5th from 6:30-7:30pm, features Christmas lights, refereshments, caroling and Santa.
  • Sewickley’s Santa Parade: Sewickley welcomes Santa to the village with a holiday parade on Beaver Street on December 6th.
  • “Christmas at the Village” at Old Economy Village: A unique opportunity to explore this historic village! Travel back in time to visit a 19th century Christmas Village. Walk along a candlelit cobblestone streets, window shop in the various stores, listen to music by local choirs, participate in children’s crafts and activities, see Santa, and eat! Held on December 13th and 14th.
  • Brunch with Santa in Moon Township: Moon Township hosts its annual “Brunch with Santa” event on December 13th at the Doubletree Moon on University Blvd. 10:30 and 11:30 am seatings are available and cost is $10/person, which includes a boxed brunch, visits with Santa and craft activities. Email info@moonparks.org for more info.
  • Gingerbread Geocaching in Moon Township: Moon Parks and Recreation is hosting a Gingerbread Geocaching adventure where children can find gingerbread house building materials using GPS receivers. After collecting the components, kids can assemble their gingerbread houses in an authentic 1800’s cabin. Email info@moonparks.org for more info.
nutcrackerpmb

The Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s the Nutcracker. Photo courtesy of the PBT

Finally, there a number of Christmas-themed concerts and shows throughout the city.  Many of these have a huge variety of show times and ticket prices, so I have not included that information for these events. Visit the performance’s website for more detailed information.

  • Irving Berlin’s White Christmas: PNC Broadway Across America presents Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, a new musical running from November 18-23rd at the Benedum Center.
  • Mon River Arts Presents “A Charlie Brown Christmas”: Mon River Arts presents “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” based on the favorite children’s series at Grand Theater in Elizabeth, PA from November 20-23.
  • Gemini Children’s Theater “The Gift of the Ice Queen”: The Gemini Children’s Theater’s holiday show this year will be “The Gift of the Ice Queen,” starting on November 29th on Saturdays and Sundays. Enjoy this original, interactive, holiday-themed production.
  • Holiday Concert by the Heinz Chapel Choir: University of Pittsburgh’s Heinz Chapel Choir presents its annual holiday concert on November 29, 30th and December 5 and 7th.
  • “The Nutcracker” by the Pittsburgh Ballet Theater: Enjoy this timeless ballet classic presented by the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre at the Benedum Center running from December 5-28th.
  • Sounds of the Season by the Pittsburgh Concert Chorale: The Pittsburgh Concert Chorale presents its annual “Sounds of the Season” concert on December 5-7th, featuring traditional and modern Christmas tunes. Also, the Pittsburgh Concert Chorale is holding a special “Singin’ with Santa” concert designed for kids on December 6th at Ingomar United Methodist Church.
  • Holiday Unwrapped at the Attack Theater: The Attack Theater hosts its annual “Holiday Unwrapped” event on December 5-6th, featuring live theatrical performances, movement activities for the family and holiday games.
  • Pittsburgh Youth Ballet Company’s “The Nutcracker”: The Pittsburgh Youth Ballet Company’s offers its rendition of this classic Christmas ballet on December 5-7th. Tickets start at just $15. . A great option for introducing your little ones to the ballet!
  • A Musical Christmas Carol: The Pittsburgh CLO presents its annual “A Musical Christmas Carol” at the Byham Theater from December 5-21st. Enjoy this Charles Dickens’ classic with accompanying Christmas music. Children under age 3 are not permitted in the theater.
  • Highmark Holiday Pops: The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra presents its annual “Highmark Holiday Pops” at Heinz Hall from December 12-21st. Features classic Christmas music and a visit from Santa!
  • Trans-Siberian Orchestra Winter Tour 2014: The Trans-Siberian Orchestra presents its Winter Tour 2014 at the Consol Energy Center on December 13th.
  • Holiday POPS: The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra presents its annual “Holiday POPS” at the Scottish Rite Cathedral on December 18th, featuring traditional Christmas carols and a visit from Santa Claus.
  • Sensory-Friendly Performance of the Nutcracker: The Pittsburgh Ballet Theater will once again present its sensory-friendly version of the Nutcracker on December 23rd at 2 pm. Intended for individuals with autism or other sensory-processing disorders and their families.

 

Other Christmas concerts: Chatham Baroque’s Handel’s Messiah on December 6th, the Pittsburgh Camerata’s “Recounting the Nativity” on December 12, 14 and 20th, BE Taylor Christmas Concert on December 15-16th, Mannheim Steamroller Christmas on December 16th, Holiday Doo Wop on December 17th

*****

It is my sincere hope that this family guide will help make this holiday season your most magical yet :). Enjoy!

xmas

 

What’s Going on in Pittsburgh this Weekend: November 7-9, 2014

Here’s my weekly listing of family-friendly events in the Pittsburgh region for the weekend of November 7-9, 2014. Highlights of this weekend include the Circus and free admission days at both the Children’s Museum and the Pittsburgh Zoo!

 

All Weekend, November 7-9

Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey presents Built to Amaze

The circus is back in town! Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey are presenting their show “Built to Amaze,” which features an extra special All Access pre-show, where children can come down to the ring and visit with the animals, clowns, etc. Show is at Consol Energy Center. Please visit website for more detailed information about ticket price/times/etc.

 

Last Weekend for the Fall Flower Show at Phipps

The Fall Flower Show at Phipps is always here and gone before you know it and this is already the last weekend to pay it a visit. Here’s an article that Phipps published this week entitled “Five Reasons to Visit Fall Flower this Week.”

 

First Weekend of Ice Skating at South Park and North Park

The Allegheny County Parks Department officially opened the outdoor ice skating rinks at South Park and North Park on November 6th. Find more information on season passes, lessons, etc at link above.

 

Friday Night, November 7

Unblurred on Penn Avenue

It’s the monthly family-friendly art gallery crawl on Penn Avenue in Garfield. Assemble Community Space is a great place to visit during this crawl–as it offers hands on activities and snacks for kids.

 

Firefighters Visit the Library at the Baldwin Borough Public Library

The Children’s Department at the Baldwin Borough Library invites kids to visit with local firefighters! Firefighters will talk about their job and also about fire safety. Then kids can climb in and explore a fire truck for themselves. Call the library at 412-885-2255 to register.

Times: 6:30-7:30pm

Cost: Free

Location: Baldwin Borough Public Library, 41 Macek Dr. Pittsburgh PA 15227

 

The Royal Ballet of Cambodia

Lovers of ballet are in for a real treat this Friday night, with the Royal Ballet of Cambodia performance at the Byham Theater. “Renowned for its graceful hand gestures and stunning costumes, the Royal Ballet of Cambodia has been closely associated with the Khmer court for more than 1,000 years. The traditional style celebrates graceful, subtle movement that is absolutely spellbinding.”

Times: 8pm

Cost: Tickets start at $25

Location: Byham Theater, 101 6th Street, Pittsburgh PA

 

Saturday, November 8

10th Anniversary Celebration at the Children’s Museum

The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh is celebrating the 10th Anniversary of the “Lantern Building,” the structure that connects the old Post Office to the Buhl Planetarium with a community day, featuring lantern-making art activities, a great performance lineup, a family resource fair and free admission for all! Also, there will be a separate “Snowboard with Seven Springs” activity, where children can learn to snowboard on the yard outside of the Museum from 12-4pm.

Times: 10-5pm

Location: Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, 10 Children’s Way, Pittsburgh PA 15212

 

Science Kit Build and Grow Workshop at Lowe’s

Lowe’s presents its bimonthly free children’s workshop. This week’s workshop will focus on a take-home science kit, which children can use to complete science experiments. Even includes experiment cards to bring home. Advance registration required.

Times: 10-11am

Location: Participating Lowe’s locations

 

Story Walk with the Sewickley Public Library

The Sewickley Public Library is hosting a story walk at Edgeworth Elementary School. Kids can enjoy stories and activities at five separate stations.

Times: 10-12pm

Cost: Free

Location: Edgeworth Elementary School, 200 Meadow Ln, Edgeworth PA

 

2014 Pittsburgh Veterans Day Parade 

The 2014 Pittsburgh Veterans Day Parade kicks of at 10:30am at 11th Avenue in Downtown Pittsburgh and ends at Commonwealth Place. Parade features military personnel from all branches of the service, high school and military bands and more.

 

6th Annual Bounty Fall Fest at Boyce Mayview Park

The Township of Upper St. Clair presents the 6th Annual Bounty Fall Fest at Boyce Mayview Park, featuring hay wagon rides, cider tastings, guided nature hikes, petting zoo, children’s activities, live entertainment and lots of food trucks.

Times: 11-4pm

Cost: Free admission, select activities cost extra

Location: Boyce Mayview Park, Upper St. Clair

 

Felted Bugs and Critters Workshop at the Trust Arts Education Center

The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust presents Part I of a two-part workshop entitled “Felted Bugs and Critters,” where adults and children will team up to learn the basics of felting. In Part I, you will learn how to make felted coils, balls and sheets from dyed wool which will be crafted into as many parts as you need for your project. In Part II of this workshop, on December 13th, you will assist your partner in a mini sewing lesson in which you will learn some sewing and embellishing basics using buttons, sequins and beads. All supplies will be provided. Intended for children 8+ plus a caregiver.

Times: 11am

Cost: $50 per adult/child pair. Includes both workshops.

Location: Trust Arts Education Center, 805-807 Liberty Avenue, Pittsburgh PA

 

Military Through the Ages Presentation

The Fort Pitt Museum will take visitors on a trip back through time to explore the military through the ages. The event will feature living history re-enactors from different time periods, a chance to see historic weaponry and demonstrations/cannon-firing at 11am, 1pm and 3pm.

Location: Fort Pitt Museum, Point State Park

 

Barbie Fest 2014 at Shaler North Hills Library

Barbie is turning 55 this year and Shaler North Hills Library is celebrating her birthday at Barbie Fest 2014. Advance registration requested by calling 412-486-0211.

Times: 11am

Cost: Free

Location: Shaler North Hills Library, 1822 Mt. Royal Blvd, Glenshaw PA

 

Geography Festival at Robinson Township Library

Local students will present a “Geography Festival” at Robinson Township Library, featuring a table showcase of different cultures from around the world and food tastings.

Times: 11:30-12:30pm

Cost: Free

Location: Robinson Township Library, 1000 Church Hill Road, Pittsburgh PA 15205

 

11th Annual Oyster Festival at Mullaney’s Harp & Fiddle Irish Pub

Mullaney’s Harp & Fiddle in the Strip District is hosting its Annual Oyster Festival, featuring live Irish music from 1pm onward and many oyster food selections including Oysters on the half shell, Fried Oysters, Oyster Po-Boys, Oyster Stew and much more.

Times: 1 pm-1am

Location: Mullaney’s Harp & Fiddle Irish Pub, 2329 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh PA 15222

 

Penny Arcade at the Arcade Comedy Theater

The Arcade Comedy Theater presents its monthly comedy show for kids! Children are invited to a special pre-show interactive session where they will generate story ideas through creative activities. These ideas will then be incorporated into an improv comedy show.

Times: 1pm

Cost: $10

Location: Arcade Comedy Theater, 811 Liberty Avenue, Pittsburgh PA 15222

 

Sunday, November 9

RADical Day at the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium

It’s RADical Day at the Pittsburgh Zoo–which means free admission for all!

Times: 9-5pm

Location: Pittsburgh Zoo, One Wild Place, Pittsburgh PA

 

Run 4 Forever Family-Friendly 5K

Every Child Inc. is hosting a 5k race and 1 mile fun walk/run to raise awareness for the 1,381 children in Allegheny County’s foster care system and the need for more foster and adoptive families to step up for these children in need. Strollers are welcome. Following the race, participants will be encouraged to visit information booths to learn more about National Adoption Month and local services. There will also be face painting and other fun activities for kids.

Times: Race starts at 9am

Cost: 5K $25, 1 miler $15

Location: North Park, Harmar Shelter

 

A Sensory-Friendly Performance of the Nutcracker at the Carnegie Library of Oakland

Ballet FUNdamentals presents a special, interactive adaptation of the Nutcracker, where kids can dance and move to the music of Tchaikovsky, touch costumes and pointe shoes, and meet a ballerina.

Times: 2pm

Cost: Free

Location: Carnegie Library Oakland, 4400 Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh PA

 

Have a great weekend!

What’s Going on in Pittsburgh this Weekend: October 31-November 2, 2014

Here’s my weekly listing of family-friendly events in the Pittsburgh region for the weekend of October 31-November 2, 2014. It’s an unusually quiet weekend in the ‘Burgh, so enjoy your trick-or-treating on Friday night and the down time before the holiday events begin in November!!

 

All Weekend, October 31-November 2

“Annie” presented by PNC Broadway Across America

PNC Broadway Across America presents “Annie,” the family-friendly musical based on this well-loved story abut the precocious little girl, Annie. See website for information on times and tickets.

 

Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Prime Stage Theatre

The Prime Stage Theater presents its adaptation of the classic, “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” Appropriate for middle-school aged children and up. Showing at New Hazlett Theatre. See website for information on times and tickets.

 

Friday Night, October 31

It’s Halloween! Check out this article on WPXI to get a complete listing of local trick-or-treat times. Now, let’s all say a collective prayer that the weather holds out!

 

Saturday and Sunday, November 1-2

Fall Festival at Simmons Farm

Simmons Farm is holding its daily Fall Festivals this weekend, featuring pick-your-own apples, hayrides, pumpkin picking, a corn maze, a barnyard petting zoo and more.

Times: 9-5:45pm

Cost: $10.50/person

Location: Simmons Farm, 170 Simmons Rd, McMurray PA 15317

 

Saturday, November 1

How to Build a Pallet Coaster at Home Depot Kids Workshop

Home Depot is hosting a free kid’s workshop where children will learn to build a pallet coaster. All materials and instructions provided. Kids get a free apron, certificate and pin.

Times: 9-12pm

Cost: Free

Location: Participating Home Depot locations

 

Harvest Festival at the Bloomfield Saturday Market

The Bloomfield Saturday Market celebrates its final farmer’s market of the year with a Harvest Festival. There will be free apples for kids, cookie decorating and pumpkin ring toss.

Times: 9-1pm

Cost: Free

Location: Bloomfield Saturday Market, 5050 Liberty Avenue, Pittsburgh PA 15224

 

Great Pumpkin Smash! at the Carnegie Science Center

The Carnegie Science Center is hosting its annual Great Pumpkin Smash! where families are invited to bring their jack-o-lanterns to the museum and drop them off the roof! There will also be controlled pumpkin explosions on the lawn throughout the day. All pumpkins are then composted.

Times: 10-5pm

Cost: Free with admission

Location: One Allegheny Avenue, Pittsburgh PA 15212

 

Frozen Princess Book Signing at Learning Express of Bakery Square

The Learning Express store in Bakery Square is hosting a Frozen Princess book signing with Anna and Elsa. Kids get a Frozen book then can visit with the princesses. Advance registration requested.

Times: 10-12pm

Cost: $8

Location: Learning Express Bakery Square, 172 Bakery Square Blvd, Pittsburgh PA 15206

 

Stamped! at Westmoreland Museum of American Art

The Westmoreland Museum of American Art is hosting a special kid-friendly event called “Stamped” where children ages 7-10 can take a guided exhibit tour and then visit the studio to use different media to create an “unusual” piece of printed art. Advance registration required.

Times: 10-12pm

Cost: $10

Location: Westmoreland Museum of American Art, 221 N. Main Street, Greensburg PA 15601

 

GreenKids: Tree-mendous at the Frick Art and Historical Museum

The Frick Art Museum is offering its monthly kid-friendly workshop. This month’s workshop is devoted to TREES. Kids can learn about the Frick’s ancient trees and create some tree crafts to bring home.

Times: 11-11:45am

Cost: FREE

Location: Frick Art and Historical Museum, 7227 Reynolds Street, Pittsburgh PA 15208

 

Falloween Event in Morningside

The Morningside Area Community Council is hosting their annual “Falloween” event at Bulldog Pub. There will be live bluegrass music, food, games for kids and everyone is encouraged to come in costume. $5 donation/family requested.

Times: 12-4pm

Cost: $5 donation/family requested

Location: Bulldog Pub Sideyard, 1818 Morningside Avenue, Pittsburgh PA 15206

 

Pittsburgh Vegan Festival

The Pittsburgh Vegan Festival will include vegan food items, entertainment and tons of kids activities including a storytime, games, prizes, a craft activity (where kids can bring empty half-gallon vegan drink container and make it into a treat basket from 2:30-3:30) and a Halloween trick or treating from 4-5:30. If you are planning on trick-or-treating, please RSVP here.

Times: 12-8pm

Cost: Adults $3, Kids free

Location: Unitarian Universalist Church of the North Hills, 2359 West Ingomar Road, Pittsburgh PA 15237

 

Saturday Crafternoons at Assemble

This week’s Saturday Crafternoons at Assemble is comic-making extravaganza, co-facilitated by local cartoonist, Juan Fernandez. Intended for students in grades 1-8.

Times: 1-4pm

Cost: FREE

Location: Assemble, 5125 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh PA

 

ArtLab: Word Balloons! at the Mattress Factory

Children are invited to participate in an Art Lab at the Mattress Factory with artist John Pena, where they will create a series of two-dimensional word balloons which they can place around the museum.

Times: 1-4pm

Cost: Free with admission

Location: The Mattress Factory, 500 Sampsonia Way, Pittsburgh PA 15212

 

Star Wars Day at the Northland Public Library

The Northland Public Library is hosting a special Star Wars celebration, featuring Imperial Storm Troopers.

Times: 1-3pm

Cost: Free

Location: Northland Public Library, 300 Cumberland Road, Pittsburgh PA 15237

 

Magical Music of Disney by the Butler County Symphony Orchestra

The Butler County Symphony Orchestra is producing “The Magical Music of Disney,” featuring some of the most loved Disney music.

Times: 7:30 pm

Cost: $20

Location: Butler Intermediate High School, 551 Fairground Hill Road, Butler PA 16001

 

Sunday, November 2

Learning Express of Bakery Square and Robinson Candy Buy Back

The Learning Express stores in Bakery Square and Robinson will be hosting a candy buy-back event, where for each pound of candy turned in, kids will get $1 in toy bucks (max 5 pounds/child).

 

Frozen Princess Book Signing at Learning Express of Robinson

Children are invited a special book signing event with the two Frozen sisters. Kids will get their own Frozen book and can visit with the Princesses. Advance registration requested.

Times: 1-3pm

Cost: $8

Location: Learning Express Robinson, 290 Settlers Ridge Center Drive, Pittsburgh PA 15205

 

Dia de los Muertos Celebration with Escuelita Arcoiris

La Escuelita Arcoiris presents their annual Dia de los Muertos festival with Mexican food for purchase, a puppet show, face-painting, mask-making, a children’s parade and live music.

Times: 2-5pm

Cost: Free, but donations accepted

Location: Hill House Kaufmann Center, 1825 Centre Avenue, Pittsburgh PA 15219

 

A Twilight Visit to the Oliver Miller Homestead

South Park’s Oliver Miller Homestead is hosting a special twilight tour, where families can visit the historic homestead by the light of candles and lanterns. Guides in 18th century dress will demonstrate pioneer crafts and provide education about the Miller family. Hot cider and cookies will be sold.

Times: 4:30-7:30pm

Cost: $2

Location: Oliver Miller Homestead, South Park

 

Have a great weekend!