January in Pittsburgh is not a time to hide under the covers. Now that the holiday hoopla is in the rearview mirror, you can focus on quality time exploring all the city has to offer in terms of culture, cuisine, cinema and more. Welcome the new year around town at these top 12 events happening on stages, screens and out in the winter wonderland.
1. “Hairspray” at the Benedum Center: Through Jan. 8
Long before there was “Glee” or “Dancing with the Stars,” there was a quirky little flick called “Hairspray.” Now a cult classic, John Waters’ 1988 film has inspired generations and spawned adaptations — and we can’t imagine a better way to sing your way into 2023. Be transported to 1960s Baltimore, where 16-year-old Tracy Turnblad is destined to dance her way onto TV’s most popular show. The touring musical reunites Broadway’s celebrated creative team led by director Jack O’Brien and choreographer Jerry Mitchell. The fab ensemble stars Niki Metcalf and Nina West of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” fame. Buy tickets.
2. Cirque du Soleil at PPG Paints Arena: Thursday, Jan. 5-8
Soar into 2023 with the world’s largest contemporary circus producer. Making its much-anticipated return to the Burgh, Montreal’s circus arts phenom brings one of its best-loved arena productions to town for five shows. What happens when a clown imagines his own funeral? Every Cirque show is a spectacle to behold and “Corteo,” which means cortege in Italian, is a carnival atmosphere never before seen. In a company first, the stage is at the center of the arena, providing a dramatic perspective for both audiences and performers. Directed by Daniele Finzi Pasca, the gravity-defying production features hand-painted curtains inspired by the Eiffel Tower, baroque circus arts and poetic music. Buy tickets.
3. Januscary Film Festival at the Harris Theater: Jan. 6-11
If you’re anything like us, you’d love Halloween to last for a month instead of just one fleeting day. Lucky for you this new fright-fest is back scarier than ever with spine-tingling thrills. It’s six days highlighting contemporary and classic takes on the ever-popular horror genre along with under-appreciated cult flicks and overlooked cinema. Shriek at the edge of your seat as Inuit teenagers take on extraterrestrial invaders, a woman is plunged into a terrifying motherhood journey, girl gangs rule a dystopian world, police raid a mystery locale and high schoolers are attacked by aliens at a Halloween rager. Take a break to laugh it off with the one-day Abbott and Costello double feature (kiddos 12 and under are free!). View a schedule and buy tickets. A festival pass gets you a discount plus an enamel pin and an introductory partners membership to the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.
4. Pittsburgh Restaurant Week: Jan. 9-15
Feeling post-holiday kitchen fatigue? Pittsburgh’s top chefs are here to cook for you. Spanning seven days with fixed-price multi-course meals, special $20.23 entrees and new surprises, the foodie fest explores the theme of New Dishes for the New Year. There’s a flavor to satisfy all cravings — from Muddy Waters Oyster Bar, La Palapa and Garbarino’s to Scratch & Co., Station, The Vandal and Fujiya Ramen (the list keeps growing). Organized by Pittsburgh TasteBuds blogger Brian McCollum, Restaurant Week highlights diverse dining options, while also giving a boost to independent eateries during what’s typically a slow time of year. Beyond the plate, the event encourages residents to explore the city’s neighborhoods, stroll through the business districts and discover our thriving culinary scene.
5. “FANNIE: The Music and Life of Fannie Lou Hamer” at the August Wilson African American Cultural Center: Jan. 13-16
A first-of-its-kind collaboration by three Pittsburgh cultural organizations brings the story of trailblazing voting rights icon Fannie Lou Hamer to the stage. A co-presentation by the August Wilson African American Cultural Center, City Theatre Company and DEMASKUS Theater Collective, the Pittsburgh premiere of “FANNIE” runs for just five performances, including a “pay-what-you-can” performance on MLK Day. Cheryl L. West’s profound play tells the story of the activist, community organizer and Civil Rights pioneer who was posthumously inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1993. Directed by Joy Vandervort-Cobb, the production stars Robin McGee and features a live band. Buy tickets.
6. Food Truck A Palooza at the Monroeville Convention Center: Jan. 14
Step right up under the Big Top to fuel up, warm up and add some flavor to a dreary January afternoon and try a cool new way of dining out. One of the country’s only indoor food truck festivals is back with five delicious hours showcasing Pittsburgh’s mobile culinary scene. Munch your way through a kaleidoscope of food trucks, including favorites like Revival Chili, Brew Wagon, Pittsburgh Crepe Truck, Country Mountain Moonshine and Hoshi. This year’s frolicking circus theme will animate the space with aerialists, jugglers, magicians, sideshow acts and clowns. Featured performers include Pittsburgh Circus Center aerialists, O’Ryan The O’Mazing, Weird Eric The Magician, giant dancing puppets, and the Shrine Clowns. The foodie festivities hands-on activities for kids. Buy tickets.
7. Winterfest at The Frick Pittsburgh: Jan. 14-22
We never know if we’ll start the New Year with snow or not, but a festive wonderland is taking shape in Point Breeze, where The Frick Pittsburgh is hosting Winterfest. The campus will be animated by seasonal offerings for all ages. Glide alongside the Victorian Clayton mansion on a pop-up ice skating rink and hop in a horse-drawn carriage for an elegant ride. Warm up with furnace-fired demonstrations led by Pittsburgh Glass Center and delve into history during an Outdoor Winter Walking Tour. Keeping the week festive will be live performances by singer KEA, harpist Alyssa Hensley, Chamber Connection, South Hills Children’s Choir, and Caribbean steelpan player Jason Silvert.
8. Lunar New Year Fair and Gala at Carnegie Music Hall: Jan. 15
Welcome the Year of the Rabbit at this local celebration of cultural diversity, art and technology. The Chinese Association for Science and Technology teams up with Carnegie Museum Art to present the 26th annual edition of the Greater Pittsburgh Lunar New Year Fair and Gala. From 1 to 6 p.m., the extravaganza features dazzling performances and activities representing the region’s multicultural community. Also showcased will be a photography fair, youth art exhibitions, abstract paintings by NYC artist Hedy O’Beil, robot shows, VR games and food vendors. Attendees are encouraged to wear festive clothing, including traditional qipao, hanfu or tunics. Register for free.
View more Lunar New Year celebrations in Pittsburgh.
9. The Audacity to Believe: MLK Day Celebration at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater: Jan. 16
Pittsburgh’s civic, cultural and educational organizations offer so many impactful ways to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day throughout the region, from public events and family celebrations to volunteer activities. One central community hub is the Kelly Strayhorn Theater in East Liberty. The nonprofit’s annual MLK Day event uplifts the life, legacy and activism of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with a vibrant celebration from 1 to 3 pm. Start the afternoon in the venue’s lobby with family-friendly activities honoring the civil rights leader and Pittsburgh activists past and present. Then, take a seat in the historic theater to enjoy performances by Jacquea Mae, Hill Dance Academy Theatre, Alumni Theater Company and K-Theatre Dance Complex. Admission is accessible to all with a “pay what moves you” sliding scale from $0 to $25.
10. Racial Justice Summit at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary: Jan. 20 & 21
If you’re passionate about eradicating racism and injustice — and looking for ways to honor the legacy of MLK — this seminal summit is the place to be. For its milestone 25th anniversary, the two-day convening focuses on dismantling white supremacy through educational workshops, panel discussions and wellness sessions. Honoring two-plus decades of shared conversation, learning and community, the gathering will address the overarching question: “How far have we come in the fight for racial justice?” Attendees will connect with community organizers, generate ideas and learn how to take concrete action to eliminate racism and injustice locally. The transformative event grew as a multicultural project of the Black and White Family Reunion out of the protests surrounding the police murder of Jonny Gammage 25 years ago. Register now.
11. “Jagged Little Pill” at the Benedum Center: Jan. 24-29
In case you needed more proof that the 1990s are back (trust me, I was there), look no further than this touring production set to rock the Benedum. Don’t call it dated or nostalgic — it’s an acclaimed musical based on the enduring and visceral music of Alanis Morissette — and timeless in its exploration of relevant themes like love, heartache, healing, joy, wisdom, redemption and catharsis. If there’s a common thread to this year’s PNC Broadway in Pittsburgh Series, it just might be girl power. “Jagged Little Pill” joins “Six,” “Hadestown,” “Hairspray” and “Tina” in a stellar lineup putting female empowerment at center stage and shining a light on the talented women disrupting the Broadway industry. Directed by Tony winner Diane Paulus with a Tony-winning book by Diablo Cody and a Grammy-winning score, “Jagged Little Pill” has been called an “electrifying production about a perfectly imperfect American family.” Buy tickets.
12. Gallery Crawl in the Cultural District: Jan. 27
Banish the winter blues — and start the new year — with art, culture and creativity. The first Gallery Crawl of 2023 returns with even more free stops. Three exhibitions are making their Crawl debut: #notwhite collective 2016-2022 at SPACE Gallery, Rising Voices 2: The Bennett Prize for Women Figurative Realist Painters at 937 Liberty Gallery, and the Intensional Particle and Mold 1 Installation at Wood Street Galleries. At the August Wilson African American Cultural Center don’t miss the OPTICVOICES: Mama’s Boys tour and talk led by Emmai Alaquiva and pop into Adda Coffee to see the new Food, Drink — and Zines! exhibit. Along with 15-plus Crawl stops, the night will host the Winter Night Market and pop-up magic and comedy shows. Stay late for a culminating Crawl After Dark salsa party with Noël Quintana and The Latin Crew.
Find more things to do in Pittsburgh, including public events, live music and family activities, here.