Whether you’re already baking, wrapping and stringing garland — or you’re hiding under the covers until Jan. 1 — November has arrived to light up our city’s main streets, public spaces and even some unexpected places. From cinema to chocolate to the cosmos, we’ve got 10 reasons to get out there and embrace the Burgh before the snow falls.
1. EQT Pittsburgh 10 Miler: Nov. 6
The crisp fall weather is the optimal time to lace up and race your yinzer heart out with 5,000 runners from 28 states and six countries. Equal parts athletic event and hyper-local tour de Burgh, the race features engaging course activations along five Pittsburgh-themed routes: the DICK’S Sporting Goods City of Champyinz Mile, Mister Roger’s Mile, Pittsburgh Foods Mile, Military and First Responder’s Mile and PGH Entertainment Mile. Six bands will keep participants motivated all the way to the finish line at Liberty Avenue. To celebrate its milestone 10th anniversary, the event is debuting a new 10K distance. Register now.
2. Three Rivers Film Festival at Pittsburgh Playhouse, Harris Theater and Tull Family Theater: Nov. 10-16
A nostalgic look at the beloved PBS show, “Reading Rainbow.” A tale of love, loss, reincarnation and a mysterious shaggy dog. A road trip through France in a hearse. A raw exploration of suicide. These are just some of the compelling stories from around the globe that will light up three area theaters when this cultural powerhouse returns. It’s a chance to experience 18 independent feature films — including work with local ties such as “The Unknown Country” produced by Pittsburgh’s own Laura Heberton. Opening night goes full tilt when brothers Austin and Meredith Bragg lead a Q&A in conjunction with their debut film, “Pinball: The Man Who Saved the Game.” Along with a slate of prolific directors and producers, the festival also features Q&As with “Reading Rainbow” creator Twila C. Liggett and Fred Rogers Productions Chief Creative Officer Ellen Doherty. Teaming up with the George A. Romero Foundation, the festival goes out on a thrilling note with a 40th-anniversary screening of the trailblazing director’s 1982 filmed-in-Pittsburgh classic, “Creepshow.” November is a cinephile’s dream because just as the Three Rivers Film Festival closes, Pittsburgh Shorts sets up shop Nov. 17-20 at the Harris. With 114 films from 24 countries, including dramas, comedies and “Chiller Theater” selections, the shorts showcase includes a filmmaker conference with actor Joe Manganiello. View a schedule and buy tickets.
3. The Chocolate Bar at the Benedum Center: Nov. 12
Willy Wonka goes glam for one chic and decadent evening. Step into the elegant grand lobby at 8 p.m., where aromas of sweet and savory concoctions from 16 area restaurants and chocolatiers will waft through the air. Be greeted by models and dancers from the Broadway musical “Hadestown” donning looks styled by Richard Parsakian and Izzazu Salon. Your taste buds won’t believe their luck when you sink your sweet tooth into tantalizing treats like chocolate pepper bombs, coriander pralines and chocolate ravioli filled with lemon ricotta. Drift down to the lower gallery for music by the Boilermaker Jazz Band and café au lait to warm your soul. Strike a pose with steampunk drag queens in the pop-up photo suite and dance it off with DJ SMI. Just when you think you’ve seen — and tasted — it all, feast your eyes upon the chocolate sculpture created by Amanda Wright and Claire Hardy’s “Brush with Monet” paintings. Buy tickets.
4. GLOWLAND in Oakland: Nov. 18
There’s no need to dread the impending cold and gloom of winter because Glowland is here to illuminate our surroundings and lift our spirits. Just in time for November — when the region’s neighborhoods and towns begin to shine with hints of the holiday season — there’s a new way to experience creativity and connectivity through the medium of light. For the next month, Pittsburgh’s academic, healthcare and cultural hub will be known as Glowland. The free festival is anchored by “Impulse,” a playable art installation that’s activated public spaces in host cities like NYC, London, Brisbane and Toronto. Transforming Schenley Plaza into a public playground will be 15 sound and light-producing seesaws for visitors of all ages to hop on and enjoy. Throughout Oakland, public spaces and unexpected places will pop via mesmerizing light-based installations and live music. Get enlightened at the kick-off party, Small Business Saturday celebration and family-friendly closing festivities.
5. Holiday Magic! Winter Flower Show and Light Garden at Phipps: Nov. 18
Before the holiday hustle and hustle kicks into overdrive, take a break from making those lists and checking them twice for this cherished Burgh tradition. Embark on an arctic adventure — no bobsled required — when the North Pole comes to Pittsburgh. Friendly reindeer and polar bear topiaries will greet you along a fantastical frozen journey through the enchanted tundra. Meet whimsical narwhals and unicorns, watch massive whales spray water below a glowing iceberg and encounter a playful abominable snowman. Be dazzled by dripping icicle lights, snowflake lanterns, luminous blue trees, multi-colored trees and icy ponds. The holiday spirit will move you with 1,600 poinsettias, exquisite props, and signature floral delights like amaryllis and orchids. Wander through a glistening tunnel of neon orange and green rope lights in the new outdoor Winter Light Garden to have your soul soothed. No holiday season is complete without a pilgrimage to Phipps, so buy tickets now.
6. Mars: The Next Giant Leap at Carnegie Science Center: Nov. 19
In 2008, the prestigious 55th Carnegie International was titled Life on Mars. Fast-forward 14 years and a new permanent exhibition at Carnegie Science Center is exploring the realities of that very construct. If you had any doubt that Pittsburgh is leading the 21st-century space race, look no further than CMU’s MoonArk, Astrobotic’s LunaGrid and the Moonshot Museum. Blast off on a 300-million-mile journey through 7,400 square feet and seven experiential zones to explore humanity’s future on Mars. Control a Martian rover, see models of a proposed Martian settlement and be inspired by cutting-edge space research happening in Pittsburgh. Explore perceptions of Mars through science fiction, learn about potential methods for growing food on the Red Planet and examine pressing social issues. Buy tickets.
7. Light Up Night in Downtown Pittsburgh: Nov. 19
Yep, it’s time to flip the switch and turn on the holiday magic. Add in a headlining set by rock superstar Joan Jett plus a supercharged Zambelli fireworks finale and you’ve got the hottest holiday ticket in town. Produced by the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, Highmark Light Up Night returns to a Saturday night format as part of a 61st-anniversary reboot of the beloved celebration. Join revelers for a vibrant mix of time-honored traditions paired with new holiday experiences including a Pirates Mini-Fest, an Ultimate Disney Cover Band and a colossal Pantl’s cake. Other new attractions include Santa’s House in Heinz Hall Courtyard and an expanded indoor Kidsplay area. Behold the light as the iconic 60-foot city tree shows off hundreds of oversized ornaments at the City-County Building. Wander amongst picturesque wooden chalets inspired by authentic German Christkndlmarkts to get all your shopping done at the expanded Peoples Gas Holiday Market. Ready to rock? Belt out holiday tunes during the Merry Karaoke open mic show hosted by YaJagoff! Media. The night isn’t complete without a glide around The UPMC Rink at PPG Place where your skating session will be set aglow by a 66-foot high-tech animated tree.
8. I Made It! for the Holidays at The Block Northway: Nov. 19
Make a pledge to skip the mall, ditch Amazon and buy local this holiday season. At this one-day pop-up experience, you can boost the local maker community — and find something for everyone on your gift list plus the awkward office Secret Santa exchange. The best part is that you’re bound to walk away with a few cool wares for yourself too. The merry marketplace runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Shop for handcrafted goods from 110 artisans, makers, small-batch food purveyors and distilleries. The mix of juried craft and vintage vendors includes artwork, clothing, toys, skincare products, ceramics, home décor, jewelry, leather goods, pop culture and fandom collectibles and pet gifts. While there, make your own art with Paint Monkey and pop onto the mall’s Holiday Shopping Spectacular.
9. Suite Life at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater: Nov. 26
Lush jazz compositions will mingle with energetic choreography when the Kelly Strayhorn Theater honors its two iconic namesakes and Pittsburgh natives. The concept for the milestone 15th-anniversary tribute to jazz composer Billy Strayhorn and performer Gene Kelly was created by guitarist and Con Alma co-owner John Shannon. Anchoring the fall performance season at the community performing arts center, Suite Life has become a Thanksgiving weekend tradition. Directed by multidisciplinary artist Monteze Freeland, the night of illuminating performances showcases lead vocalists Anita Levels and Billy Mason. The production also features musical direction by Theron Brown, media design by Scott Andrew and lighting by Jonathan Bucci Productions. New this year is a VIP reception hosted by Duolingo at the company’s East Liberty HQ at 6:30 p.m. Buy tickets.
10. Dazzling Nights at Pittsburgh Botanic Garden: Nov. 27
There’s a new holiday lights attraction in town. Pittsburgh Botanic Garden is a natural destination to be experienced during all four seasons and now it’s the place to be for making holiday memories. As the daylight hours diminish, you’ll traverse 65 acres of awe-inspiring light experiences within garden areas that were once home to a toxic landscape damaged from coal mining. Ready to embrace your inner hygge and welcome the coming winter solstice? Imagine what it would be like to walk into the aurora borealis as you trek through a forest of light and fog. Snap a selfie in front of a 30-foot holiday tree, activate interactive lights on the ground and head into a 65-foot-long tunnel. It’s off the beaten path enough to make you feel like you’re escaping the hubbub into a winter wonderland. Making the evening complete will be holiday tunes, toasty drinks and decadent nibbles. Buy tickets.