Everyone always says that the holidays are especially fun when you’ve got kids in tow and they’re right. Seeing the excitement from a child’s perspective gets you into the Christmas spirit that sometimes evades adults. So take a look at this guide and be sure to hit some of these kid-friendly holiday hotspots.
The Rink at PPG Place
Adults, $7, Children & Seniors $6
Skate Rental $3
Opened 10 years ago, the Rink at PPG Place has been the winter crown jewel of downtown Pittsburgh ever since. There’s nothing quite like skating at night in the open sky—and your kids will have a blast doing it. If your family is new to skating, you can take some lessons here or rent some skates. Once you’ve mastered the basics, there are plenty of fun skating events that happen throughout the winter months that get you and your family into the holiday spirit. While you’re in the area, there’s usually a fun Gingerbread House Competition and Train Display inside 2 PPG Place (Wintergarden).
Overly’s Country Christmas
Hours: Sun-Thurs, 5:30 p.m. – 10 p.m.; Fri-Sat, 5:30 p.m. – 11 p.m.
Overly’s Country Christmas should be at the top of your list to ring in the holiday season with your family. This nationally recognized holiday light display was started over 50 years ago by Harry Overly when he started to decorate his home with tons of Christmas lights. People began stopping by, so he decided to turn this into something special. Once he made this into an annual event for visitors, he accomplished an incredible goal, having raised over a million dollars to donate to children charities. Years later, the lights show has been transplanted at the Westmoreland Fairgrounds, where it has taken on a life of its own.
When you step foot into Overly’s, it’s like entering a Christmas village. Light displays greet you, and Christmas carols flood the air. The actual Christmas Village covers about five acres, designed to replicate the miniature Christmas villages that are usually found underneath Christmas trees. Inside the Hartman Station, you’ll find the area’s largest G-gauge model train display. Head over to Santa’s Workshop, which is filled to the brim with toys from yesteryear, as well as Santa Claus himself. Check out C. Edgar & Sons General Store, which offers ornaments, decorations, commemorative items and handmade gifts and crafts. And you definitely won’t leave hungry—grab a piece of their homemade fudge and candy, a cup of chocolate or apple cider and stand in front of the cozy bonfire. What else? A waterwheel and wishing well, Christmas nativity scene and a talking Christmas tree complete the perfect holiday retreat.
Carnegie Science Center: Miniature Railroad & Village
Sunday – Friday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Saturday- 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Admission: $17.95 adults, $11.95 (3 –12)
In 1992, the Miniature Railroad & Village found its home at the Carnegie Science Center—and ever since, families have been flocking here to see this 83-feet long beautiful work of art. The display is open almost all year, but it re-opens every year right after Thanksgiving. The display features hundreds of animated scenes, depicting the life of locals in the 1880s-1930s. With 105 animations, 25,000 trees and 22 horse-drawn vehicles, this display is truly a masterpiece that celebrates the area. The major highlight of the display is Fallingwater, a built scale model of Frank Lloyd Wright’s creation. And this exhibit is built keeping the kids in mind, as the staff carefully constructs pieces to make sure they can be enjoyed only from a child’s perspective. Sure, it’s open almost year-round, but you’ve got to check it out near the holidays—the kids will love it.
Hartwood Acres Park: Celebration of Lights
Hours: Sun-Thurs, 6 p.m. – 10 p.m.; Fri-Sat, 6 p.m. – 11 p.m.
Suggested Donation: $12/car
Hartwood Acres Park in the North Hills offers visitors an exceptional holiday lights display—The Celebration of Lights. Open every night, this 3.2 mile stretch of holiday lights throughout one of the largest country estates in the region is a spectacle. Last year, more than 2 million lights and over 400 displays created the perfect holiday atmosphere for the whole family. Grab your family van, pack it with the family, grab some snacks and hot chocolate and drive through this beautiful holiday lights spectacular.
Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium: Breakfast or Lunch with Santa Claus
Event: Sat., Dec. 10 – Sun., Dec. 11; Sat., Dec. 17 – Sun., Dec. 18 from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Admission: adults & children, $20; children under 2, $7; members, $17
The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium is always a great option for families looking for a great way to celebrate the holidays, family-style. This year, the zoo will once again be offering breakfast or lunch with the one and only Santa Claus. Kids will get a chance to meet with him and take pictures, which may or may not be used as future blackmail. In addition, kids get to make a holiday craft, decorate a cookie and meet zoo animals. Be sure to reserve a spot early as this popular event sells out very quickly! Click here to check availability and to get registration information.
Click here to find some of the best places to see Santa!
Christine Mouser is currently living in the Pittsburgh area, where she is an editorial intern for Pittsburgh Magazine. She is set to graduate from Penn State University this summer, with a degree in print journalism. She has written for HappyValley.com, Town&Gown magazine and Penn State’s Valley magazine.