(credit: Thinkstock)

If you’re like any other warm-blooded Jewish Pittsburgh native, you’ve undoubtedly grown weary of the same holiday dinners at the in-laws year in and year out. What you’re looking for is a little excitement before and during your eight-day festival, a reprieve, of sorts. Read on for where to go, what to do and who to see in Pittsburgh during Hanukkah 2012.
Western Pennsylvania Model Railroad Museum
5507 Lakeside Drive
Gibsonia, PA 15044
(724) 444-6944

Price: $6 adults/$4 children/recommended donations
Hours: Fri, Sat and Sun through Jan. 13 – 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

There’s no better way to kick off the holiday season than by checking out the holiday train display at the Western Pennsylvania Model Railroad Museum. The display bursts alive with Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and Christmas lights as every man, woman and child works, plays and prepares for the holidays in this unforgettable scene. Take the kids for a trip down memory lane as you browse the museum, and make sure to make a pit stop at the special children’s display. The kids may delight in Thomas the Tank Engine’s antics with this hands-on activity. The gift shop is also a recommended stop for everything that your budding engineer may need during Hanukkah.

Related: Happy Hanukkah

Menorah Parade
Chabad Lubavitch Center
2100 Wightman St.
Pittsburgh, PA 15217
(412) 421-3561

Price: free
Hours: Dec. 9 – 4:30 p.m.

Every year, more than 30 cars embark on a parade with menorahs on their roofs on the first day of Hanukkah. Get in on the fun with the kids, or join the gathering at the final stop. When the parade finally winds its way through town and ends up back at the center, free food, a live orchestra and gifts for the kids await. Check out Chabad Pgh’s website for route info to pick the best spot this year.

Chanukah Party
Carnegie Mellon University
5120 Beeler St.
Pittsburgh, PA 15217
(412) 772-8505

Price: free
Hours: Dec.16 – 6:30 p.m.

Whether you’re a current student of CMU, alumni or are just in the market for a great Hanukkah event this season, check out Chabad of CMU’s Chanukah party. A gathering of students, alumni, faculty, family and neighbors is sure to make this festive celebration one to remember. Enjoy homemade goodies during the menorah lighting, and kick back with friends while you listen to Torah scriptures.

Creative Arts for Kids
Chabad Outreach
6401 Forbes Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15217
(412) 421-3561

Price: free
Hours: through December – 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.

If you want your children to learn more about the Jewish faith, or to refresh their knowledge, send them to the Shabbat children’s program throughout Hanukkah and the entire month of December. Prayer and insights are offered by Rabbi Yisroel Altein, and families may enjoy crafts and sing-a-longs. Transliterated/translated prayer books are available. A kiddush brunch follows the services.

Congregation Beth Shalom
5915 Beacon St.
Pittsburgh, PA 15217
(412) 421-2288

Price: $5 donation per family
Hours: Dec. 9 – 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

It’s time once again to come together at Congregation Beth Shalom for the first night of Hanukkah during its annual Latkepalooza event. Unlimited latkes, sufganiyot (powdered doughnuts), carnival games and crafts abound at this community-wide, family friendly event.  Enjoy live music and celebrate Hanukkah with a community full of life, love and fellowship. You do not need to be a member to participate.

Related: Pittsburgh Holiday Theatre Preview

Nikki Tiani-Moroney is a full time mum of two boys, wife of a professional poker player/photographer/amateur pencil-sharpening competitor and writer from Pittsburgh, PA. When she isn’t studiously neglecting her housework in favor of a good book, she’s out simultaneously fighting crime and picking up sidewalk litter while savoring an occasional cigarette. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.