All of Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods and the small towns right on its outskirts have their own personalities and during the holiday season, their streets put on a show with Christmas lights. Take a break from the hustle and bustle of your holiday shopping, load up the family and get ready to drive or walk through these top 5 locations to see some of the best Christmas lights in and around town. It’s a great way to spend quality time together and best of all – it’s free!
Christmas Light Cruising
1. Drive up Middle Road in Hampton Township: Head out of the city onto Route 8 North; after two miles, you’ll turn right onto Saxonburg Boulevard and make a quick left onto Middle Road — a long and meandering two lane country road lined by lovely homes. Cars tend to move slowly along this street so don’t worry about holding up traffic with your Christmas light gazing. The homes are close to the road and for the five-mile stretch between the start of Middle Road and Hartwood Acres — the Christmas lights are non-stop! Bonus? After all those miles of Christmas lights you’ll come to Hartwood Acres where you can extend your road trip a little longer at the Celebration of Lights. This drive-through display of over-the-top Christmas decorations is a Pittsburgh favorite and proceeds from admission benefit Project Bundle up!
Dates: November 18th 2011 through mid-January 2012
Price: suggested donation of $12 per car
Hours: Sunday through Thursday 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday 6 p.m. to 11 p.m.
2. Drive up Blackburn Road in Sewickley: The small town of Sewickley is known for its huge, secluded mansions. Many of these massive homes are completely hidden from view in this wooded area, but if you find your way onto Blackburn Road, you’ll be rewarded with glimpses of some of the most impressive homesteads you’ve ever seen. When the Christmas decorations go up, these houses shine during a winter night as bright as the lights of the city. Blackburn is a long (we’re talking a 30 minute drive) and windy road with minimal traffic so plan on taking your time if you head out to Sewickley to see the sights. To get to Blackburn from downtown, take Ohio River Boulevard out of the city and continue onto ORB/Route 65 North for 8 miles. Turn right onto Beaver Street then right onto Blackburn Road.
3. Drive on Beechwood Boulevard from Point Breeze to Squirrel Hill: Just off of 5th Avenue in Shadyside is Beechwood Boulevard, lined with houses that range from mansion-sized to regular family-home-sized. The variety of houses on this street makes it one of the most interesting to drive on and, during the holidays, the neighbors definitely try to outdo each other with their Christmas decorations. This is a heavily traveled road and traffic is constantly buzzing around but the well maintained homes and neighborhood-within-a-city vibe on this street makes it a perfect place to see Christmas lights.
4. Shadyside – Stroll down Ellsworth Avenue and surrounding streets: Shadyside is home to some of the oldest mansions in the city. These architectural marvels transform into gorgeous tributes thanks to some amazing decorations. Professional landscaping, perfectly hung twinkle lights and tasteful lawn decorations are plentiful in this area. The best part? You can park along any of the residential streets around Ellsworth for up to two hours for free. Put the car in park and make your way down side streets like Maryland Avenue and South Negley Avenue.
5. Walk along Grandview Avenue on Mt. Washington: Getting to Grandview Avenue can be a fun adventure if you park at the base of Mt. Washington and take the Monongahela Incline up the mountain. The incline will drop you off at Grandview where you can walk among the tall luxury homes on this avenue that is right on the edge of Mt. Washington. Seeing the Christmas lights on this street is a double treat because the lights of the city twinkle up at you from below.
Hours: Monday-Saturday 5:30 a.m. – 12:45 a.m. Sundays and Holidays: 8:45 a.m.-midnight.
Price: $2.25 each way for adults, $1.10 each way for seniors, disabled persons and children
Sally Turkovich lives in Pittsburgh with her fiancé, Jason and German Shepherd, Zeus. By day she works as an eyewear stylist for an independent eye doctor. By night, she writes a twice-weekly column for Twoday Magazine. Catch up with her there at twodaymag.com