By Jon Delano

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Downtown Pittsburgh was hopping on Black Friday, rediscovered by thousands kicking off the holidays.

“The malls are great, but there’s something special about Downtown and the buildings,” Judy Tarcson of DuBois, a former Pittsburgh resident, told KDKA money editor Jon Delano on Friday.

It’s a sentiment shared by many.

Just ask Rudolph on his pedi-cab.

“Beautiful to see how many people are coming down here now and the renaissance that’s happened,” notes Blair Trunzo, who was decked out as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

From outdoor exercise at the ice rink at PPG Place, to shopping in Market Square, or playing and making decorations at Holiday KidsPlay, the old traditions of the last century are being replaced with new ones.

A lot of people think Downtown Pittsburgh is dead at the holidays, but not Cindy Andrews of Sarver.

“Oh, no. Look at it. It’s bustling. It’s alive. It’s the best place to be on earth,” says Andrews.

Try out a horse drawn carriage or take Molly’s Trolley that transports people for free all over downtown.

And with free music on an outdoors stage, 150 retailers Downtown, and 30 new restaurants, those who had abandoned downtown are returning.

“It’s new to me. I’ve never seen this before. I thought I’d look,” said John Stavroulakis of Hanover. “It’s wonderful here. Beautiful place.”

Even downtown parking is less of an issue.

The new parking garage at the corner of Smithfield and Oliver where Saks used to be is now offering free parking on weekends and after 5 pm Monday through Friday.

That means that parking is free in downtown Pittsburgh at least part of the time.

One place to visit — a pop up cocktail bar called Miracle on Market.

“We try to bring holiday cheer to everyone during the holidays while all doing it for charity and raising some money,” says Spencer Warren.

Of course, one man could speak with some authority.

“Merry Christmas,” said Santa.

Delano: “So is it all happening in Downtown Pittsburgh?”
Santa: “Oh, this is the greatest place in the whole world. Downtown Pittsburgh is a great spot. Market Square is a nice spot.”
Delano: “Second to the North Pole?”
Santa: “Yeah, second to the North Pole.”