First Night
Highmark First Night Pittsburgh. Photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

What’s going on this week in Pittsburgh, Dec. 26-Jan. 1? Find out here. Visit each organization’s website and social media for Covid protocols. Know of a cool event? Email us.

Monday, Dec. 26: Harlem Globetrotters at PPG Paints Arena
1 p.m. & 6 p.m.

It’s always a holiday tradition when this sensational team alley-oops its way into the Burgh. Witness “ankle-breaking moves and rim-rattling dunks” during this unrivaled basketball experience that blends authentic streetball, remarkable athleticism and interactive family entertainment. Buy tickets.

African Penguins
Photo courtesy of the National Aviary.

Monday, Dec. 26-Friday, Dec. 30: Holiday Lights and Late Nights at the National Aviary
5-8 p.m.

Right when you’re ready to get out of the house, the Aviary is swinging open its doors for after-hours avian fun. Keep the festivities going for five nights of entertainment this week, including trivia, crafts, and music and dance performances. Take a twilight stroll through the decked-out site, warm up in tropical habitats and observe birds perched in lush tree canopies. Enjoy meet-and-greets with the animal ambassadors, cozy up by the fireplace, and savor seasonal treats like butternut bisque and hot cider. Buy tickets.

Tuesday, Dec. 27-Friday, Dec. 30: Holiday Camps at Carnegie Science Center
9 a.m.-4 p.m.

Are the kids experiencing cabin fever during the holidays? Check out this week’s cool camp series with different themes each day. Young explorers ages 9 to 11 can traverse distant galaxies, design LEGO masterpieces, build robots, get messy with slime, complete a mission to Mars and more. BYOLunch; snacks are provided. Buy tickets.

Tuesday, Dec. 27: “The Nutcracker” at the Benedum Center
2 p.m. & 7 p.m.

You only have a few more nights left to experience the magic of this timeless classic. It takes 150 costumes, 1,500 accessories, 100 artists and 30 sleight-of-hand tricks to make this magic happen. Add in Tchaikovsky’s iconic score, the vision of Emmy-winning designer Zack Brown and the iconic Kaufmann’s clock and you’ve got one enchanted evening. Buy tickets.

Dwayne Dolphin. Photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

Tuesday, Dec. 27: Dwayne Dolphin at Liberty Magic
5 p.m.

For the next edition of this free jazz series, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust welcomes Pittsburgh-based bassist, bandleader and educator Dwayne Dolphin. An essential member of the local and national jazz scene, Dolphin has worked with everyone from Roger Humphries and Nancy Wilson to the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre.

Thursday, Dec. 29: Holiday Lights Tour in Downtown Pittsburgh
5 p.m.

From the world’s largest pickle ornament to the only authorized replica of the Vatican’s Nativity scene to a towering Christmas tree surrounded by an ice rink — Downtown Pittsburgh is a winter wonderland best experienced on foot. Bundle up for an open-air stroll led by Walk the Burgh Tours. Amidst the holiday lights and decor, you’ll learn about the city’s history and architecture. Buy tickets.

Thursday, Dec. 29: Art Chats: Neapolitan Presepio at Carnegie Museum of Art
6-7:30 p.m.

A visit to one of the city’s most breathtaking winter displays is the perfect cultural outing between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Join a docent-led Art Chat, experience the ornate tableau through the eyes of artisans and collectors and discover why the presepio is one of the world’s finest nativity scenes. Don’t miss the chance to take next year’s Christmas card photo in front of one of the beloved Carnegie Trees. Buy tickets.

Thursday, Dec. 29: Holiday Dreams: A Spectacular Holiday Cirque at the Benedum Center
7 p.m.

Add some razzle-dazzle to your merry-making with this eye-popping show that will impress kids and kids at heart equally. Watch in awe as acrobats, aerialists, comedians, dancers and daredevils perform gravity-defying feats. The spectacle is set against a high-tech visual backdrop pulsing with holograms, projections and lasers. Buy tickets.

Thursday, Dec. 29: Holiday Listening Nights at The Joinery Hotel
7-9 p.m.

Downtown’s newest boutique hotel is spreading holiday cheer all month long with its new public event series. Guests and locals alike are invited to gather in the hotel’s chic lobby to sip signature cocktails and enjoy acoustic music by Pittsburgh performer Zig Daniels.

Photo courtesy of Phipps.

Friday, Dec. 30: Holiday Magic! Winter Flower Show and Light Garden at Phipps
9:30 a.m.-10 p.m.

Take a break from the holiday hustle and hustle to melt into the radiance at Phipps. Embark on an arctic adventure — no bobsled required — populated by polar bear topiaries, glowing icebergs and a playful abominable snowman. Be dazzled by dripping icicle lights, snowflake lanterns, luminous blue trees and 1,600 poinsettias. Wander through the new outdoor Winter Light Garden to have your soul soothed. Buy tickets.

The Polar Express
“The Polar Express.” Film still courtesy of Carnegie Science Center.

Friday, Dec. 30: “The Polar Express 3D” at The Rangos Giant Cinema
2:45 p.m. & 5:30 p.m.

Enjoy this cinematic classic like never before — on Pittsburgh’s largest movie screen and in crystal clear 3D. Trek to the North Pole without leaving your seat or needing a train ticket! Based on the iconic holiday book by Chris Van Allsburg, the film stars Tom Hanks and is chugging into the North Shore to make us all believers. While at the Science Center, check out the latest additions to the Miniature Railroad & Village, including a scavenger hunt with 12 hidden twelve presents, a Kwanzaa celebration, menorah and Lunar New Year Festival. Buy tickets.

Friday, Dec. 30: Guided Exhibit Tour: Pittsburgh’s John Kane at the Heinz History Center
11 a.m.-12 p.m.

If you still haven’t seen the John Kane exhibit, today is the perfect time to do so before it closes on Jan. 8. Join a docent-led tour of the dynamic exhibition — featuring 37 works of art and dozens of artifacts — which explores the captivating story of a Scottish immigrant who “achieved breakthrough success as a painter after toiling for 40 years as a laborer in industrial-age Pittsburgh.” Buy tickets.

Ran’D Shine. Photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

Friday, Dec. 30: Ran’D Shine at Liberty Magic
5 p.m. & 8 p.m.

Ready for a holiday miracle? Watch Philadelphia-based magician Ran’D Shine perform them right before your very eyes in his newest show, “Evidence of Things Unseen.” Co-founder of the International Association of Black Magical Artists, Shine is producer of the “The Heart and Soul of Magic” show. Buy tickets.

Dazzling Nights. Photo by Jennifer Baron.

Friday, Dec. 30: Dazzling Nights at Pittsburgh Botanic Garden
5:30-10:30 p.m.

The region’s newest holiday light attraction is a magical way to say sayonara to 2022 and welcome the new year. You only have a few more nights left to wander through 65 acres of glowing light experiences within a landscape that was a toxic coal mining site. Snap a selfie in front of a 30-foot holiday tree and wander into a golden tunnel. Make the night complete with holiday tunes, toasty drinks and decadent nibbles. Buy tickets.

Friday, Dec. 30: “Shiva Baby” with Bagels at Row House Cinema
8 p.m.

Who doesn’t love a night of carbs and cinema? Pittsburgh’s bagel game is finally on point — and now you can pair the doughy delights from Gussy’s with Emma Seligman’s 2020 comedy. Find out what transpires when a college student “unexpectedly runs into her sugar daddy at a shiva – with her parents, ex-girlfriend and family friends also in attendance.” Buy tickets.

Photo courtesy of Kennywood.

Friday, Dec. 30: Holiday Lights at Kennywood
5-10 p.m.

Who said the week after Christmas has to be boring? Add 2 million twinkling lights to iconic amusement park rides and you’ve got a festive holiday destination not to be missed. Gaze up at Pennsylvania’s tallest Christmas tree, savor the flavors of festive foods and holiday drinks and take in 20 family attractions, including live entertainment and model trains. Buy tickets.

Photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Zoo & Aquarium.

Friday, December 30: Zoo Lights Drive-thru at Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium
5:15 p.m.

Take a break from cleaning up all the wrapping paper to cruise through a winter wonderland glistening with more than 100 animal lights, new displays, festive music and holiday treats. Stay cozy in your car as you drive through thousands of environmentally friendly LED lights that transform the park into a winter wonderland. Buy tickets.

Friday, Dec. 30: Maxo Vanka Murals Holiday Tour in Millvale
6:30 p.m.

One of Pittsburgh’s most significant cultural treasures will appear even more magical this holiday season. Join a special guided tour of the awe-inspiring murals of Maxo Vanka at the historic St. Nicholas Croatian Catholic Church in Millvale. Discover the fascinating stories behind these striking works surrounded by beautiful holiday decorations. The night kicks off with a festive pre-tour musical performance by cellist David Bennett and organist Matthew Radican. Buy tickets.

Saturday, Dec. 31: New Year’s Eve on the Three Rivers
Various times

Don’t be a landlubber — set sail for a floating New Year’s Eve party. You’ve got three different festive ways to exclaim cheers and sing “Auld Lang Syne” with your sweetie or bestie. Revelers can choose from the Dinner Cruise & Tour, Dance Cruise or the Hors d’Ouevres Dance Cruise & Tour. Buy tickets.

Saturday, Dec. 31: New Year’s Eve at The PA Market
7:30 p.m.

Looking for a delicious way to countdown to midnight? Head to The PA Market’s “Countdown from 5” for a festive exploration of local food and drink inside the Strip District’s two-story European-style market. You’ll savor 5 food bars, 4 hours of live music, 3 drink tickets, 2 specialty cocktails and 1 tasty New Year’s Eve. Buy tickets.

Saturday, Dec. 31: Countdown to Noon at Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh
12-5 p.m.

No need to wait until midnight: say farewell to 2022 at this family-friendly — and bedtime-friendly — countdown celebration starting at noon. Swing along to jazz by Lee Robinson and ISKA, create pointillist paintings, paper decorations and festive streamers and share your hopes for the New Year live on-air with SLB Radio Productions. Learn the art of embossing, design a festive NYE party outfit and construct a handmade journal. Buy tickets.

Saturday, Dec. 31: First Night in Downtown Pittsburgh: Dec. 31
6 p.m.

We’re not sure how it’s already time to write the date 2023, but we know that the Cultural District is the place to be as one year fades into the next. Highmark First Night Pittsburgh will be free to all with 30 attractions and two fireworks displays. Step into a 5-foot-high ice maze, check out performances by INEZ, 4-Yaadi and Alumni Theater Company and follow the festivities at the Highmark Holiday Block Party. It wouldn’t be NYE in the 412 without the Future of Pittsburgh Ball climbing 75 feet to light our way into January.

Saturday, Dec. 31: New Year’s Eve at Spirit
9 p.m.-2 a.m.

After a three-year hiatus that felt like forever, Spirit’s NYE blowout returns full steam ahead with two floors of fun. You don’t want to miss this rare chance to see Detroit house music trailblazers Inner City making their Pittsburgh debut. Also bringing the NYE vibes will be Pittsburgh Track Authority, Century III, Sweat, Kahone Concept and Dopamine. Make a entire night of it with a three-course pre-arty Polish dinner. Buy tickets.

Saturday, Dec. 31: NYE Celebration at Hot Mass
11 p.m.-8 a.m.

Hot Mass teams up with Club Pittsburgh to present 9 hours of late-night and early-morning revelry. Spanning all four floors, the festivities will feature music by Jwan Allen, Gusto, Naeem plus some surprise guests. Don’t miss this chance to ring in 2023 with the queer nightlife cooperative that’s organized by Honcho, Humanaut, Detour, Cold Cuts and f(x). Buy tickets.

Sunday, Jan. 1: Polar Bear Plunge at the Mon Wharf
9 a.m.

Who doesn’t want to wake up to 2023 by jumping into the Mon? This week’s warm up is the perfect time to partake in this typically frigid tradition. Make a splash into the new year as you join the adventurous Pittsburgh Polar Bear Club to raise funds for families in need. The event is free but you’ll want to buy a commemorative t-shirt for $20 to benefit WTAE-TV’s project Bundle-Up.

Sunday, Jan. 1: Ice Skating at The UPMC Rink at PPG Place
11 a.m.-midnight

Glide your way into 2023 under the glow of a 66-foot tree boasting 10,000 LED lights and shimmering glass reflections of PPG Place. It’s a must-do holiday tradition when the public plaza between Third Avenue and Fourth Avenue transforms into a one-of-a-kind outdoor ice rink. While there, peer into the windows at Two PPG Place to see the enchanting Spirits of Giving display with life-size Santas, original paintings and Christmas folklore depicting holiday celebrations around the globe. Buy tickets.

Sunday, Jan. 1: Laser Holiday Magic at Buhl Planetarium
2 p.m.

Twinkly lights are cute but pulsing lasers are awesome. Treat your eyes to a visual feast in one of the most technologically advanced planetariums in North America. The whole family will want to sing along to this festive laser celebration featuring traditional and contemporary versions of beloved holiday tunes set to dazzling laser choreography. Buy tickets.

Find more things to do in Pittsburgh, including holiday events, live music and family activities, here.

Jennifer has worked at the Mattress Factory, Brooklyn Museum of Art and Dahesh Museum of Art and is co-author of Pittsburgh Signs Project: 250 Signs of Western Pennsylvania. She also is co-coordinator of Handmade Arcade. Musically, she is in a band called The Garment District and is a founding member of Brooklyn's The Ladybug Transistor.