Photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

Finish the last day of 2022 with the sensational Highmark First Night 2023 celebration. The Cultural District will be buzzing with family-friendly activities, live music and interactive art-making. Explore an ice maze and revel at the giant puppets in the First Night parade.

It’s all free, with all indoor activities operating on a first-come, first-served basis. If you want to end the year in style, opt for a VIP experience ($50 or $75) as a First Night Friend, which includes perks like entry to the exclusive O’Reilly Theater lounge.

Photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

Family Fun

6-6:15 p.m.: The Dollar Bank Children’s Fireworks Display (Dollar Bank Stage)

What better way to kick off the First Night festivities than a blast of Zambelli fireworks? It’s also a great way for little ones to enjoy the celebration and still make it home for their early bedtimes.

6-10 p.m.: Face painting (Byham Theater)

Transform into a glamorous princess, a fox or Spider-Man. With the region’s top face painters on hand, kids of all ages can experience a whimsical makeover.

Photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

6-10 p.m.: O’Ryan the O’Mazing (Family Zone)

Yes, he truly is O’Mazing! This 10-foot-tall clown juggles, stumbles and bumbles — all on stilts. O’Ryan’s silly performances are interactive, allowing audience members to toss juggling balls, spin plates and fire juggling clubs out of a cannon.

6-10 p.m.: Children’s Theater and Bridge Theater series activities (Family Zone)

As a reminder that the new Children’s Theater and Bridge Theater seasons begin soon, kids are invited to interact with some of their favorite characters. Strike a pose at the Gruffalo Selfie Station and make a wearable button with story characters.

6-10 p.m.: S’more Cooking (Family Zone)

Make a hot, melted chocolate and marshmallow snack with guidance from the Boy Scouts of the Laurel Highlands Council.

6-10 p.m.: Story Telling with Citiparks (Family Zone)

Citiparks brings a life-size story set of “Llama Llama Red Pajama” by Anna Dewdney to provide the backdrop for Story Time Readings.

6-11 p.m.: Highmark Holiday Block Party

Photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

8-8:30 p.m.: New Year’s Eve Parade presented by Giant Eagle

Find a spot along Penn Avenue for your family to watch this fun-filled, arts-focused parade. This year’s theme is a “Better World.” Expect the parade’s signature giant puppets, performance groups and a few artistic surprises. The parade begins at David L. Lawrence Convention Center and continues along Penn Avenue before turning right onto Stanwix Street.

Photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

Immersive and DIY Art

6-10 p.m.: Pittsburgh Center for Arts and Media (Benedum Center)

Create a stunning necklace or ornament with Pittsburgh Center for Arts and Media artists. They’ll provide the supplies, like paperboard templates, markers and tempera sticks. You provide the artistic creativity.

6-10 p.m.: Teaching Artist Emily McMahon (Benedum Center)

Celebrate the upcoming Year of the Rabbit with teaching artist Emily McMahon as she guides all ages through creating a rabbit-themed craft.

Photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

6-11 p.m.: Ice Maze

This is art you can walk through — unless you get lost! Explore a maze of giant ice blocks, stacked 5 feet high, designed and carved by master ice carver Rich Bubin of Ice Creations.

6-10 p.m.: Steel City LUG (Byham Theater)

Take your turn as a would-be LEGO master by creating a firework from LEGO bricks to add to Steel City LUG’s (aka LEGO User Group) collaborative display that glows under blacklight.

6:30-8 p.m.: Live Painting with Sire (Trust Oasis)

First Night celebrates the 50th anniversary of hip hop with live graffiti painting by Pittsburgh artist Sire, one of the first-generation graffiti writers in the region.

Photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.


6-6:20 p.m.: Williams SING-OFF Competition Winner and Special Guest Judge Nick Cortazzo (Highmark Stage)

Each year, the Williams SING-OFF Competition selects a local student from grades 6-12 to be the voice of the year. The award includes performing live at First Night, a $500 cash prize and a $1,000 donation to the student’s school music department.

Finalists’ audition videos are judged by this year’s celebrity judge Nick Cortazzo, a Pittsburgh native and cast member of the national tour of “Hairspray.” He’ll perform a song as well.

6:30-8 p.m.: 4-YAADI (Dollar Bank Stage)

The rhythm is gonna get you when 4-YAADI takes the stage. The Pittsburgh-based reggae artists perform classic reggae, dance hall and other Caribbean and R&B-flavored music. A perfect blend for a cold winter’s night.

6:30-8 p.m. and 9-10:30 p.m.: First Night Jazz Lounge (Trust Arts Education Center)

Stop by to warm up to cool jazz at this pop-up jazz lounge.

Photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

10:45-11:59 p.m.: INEZ (Highmark Stage)

Finish the night’s lineup of musical talent with R&B producer and vocalist, INEZ. The Homewood resident and Pittsburgh native does it all with powerhouse vocals, drumming, songwriting, engineering and music production. Her high-energy performance is a great close to the festivities prior to the fireworks.

11:55-11:59 p.m.: The Future of Pittsburgh Grand Finale

10, 9, 8 … Watch the Future of Pittsburgh Ball rise along with the excitement of the countdown to midnight and a new year. Make sure your honey is nearby for a quick New Year kiss before looking up to the brilliant Pyrotecnico Fireworks display.

Theater tours

6-11 p.m.: Byham Theater

The 1,300-seat Byham Theater started out in 1903 as the Gayety Theater, eventually becoming the Fulton Theater. The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust bought and renovated the theater in 1991, renaming it the Byham Theater in 1995. A guided, behind-the-scenes tour of this nearly 120-year-old theater reveals lots of fascinating history of the space and those who performed here.

6:40-11 p.m.: Benedum Center

There’s a lot of history to the Benedum Center, which started out in 1928 as the Stanley Theater, billed as “Pittsburgh’s Palace of Amusement,” screening movies until 1977, when it became a venue for rock shows. In 1984, it was the first project of the newly formed Pittsburgh Cultural Trust. Explore the chronicle of this palatial theater — and intriguing trivia — during tours offered throughout the night. Tours run every 20 minutes.

Photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.


7-7:30 and 9-9:30 p.m.: Hiroaki Umeda: “Intensional Particle” (Wood Street Galleries)

These small group dance performances of Hiroaki Umeda’s high-intensity solo work, “Intensional Particle,” showcase Umeda’s signature style of mixing digital imagery, minimal soundscape and potent corporeality. (Tickets are also on sale for his performances happening Dec. 28-30.)

7-7:20, 8:40-9 and 9:40-10 p.m.: Alumni Theater Company (Trust Education Center)

The ATC Playlisters is a group of 10 students who offers a mix of powerhouse singers, dancers and inspirational spoken word artists.

7-10 p.m.: Caricature artists (Benedum Center)

Pittsburgh artists Sam Thong and Vince Ornato will draw caricatures in minutes.  

7-10 p.m.: Tarot Card Readings (Benedum Center)

Amber the Witch and Elizabeth Kivowitz, co-owners of Arts & Crafts: Botanica & Occult Shop in Pittsburgh, will offer three-card tarot readings. Come prepared with your questions that require a little guidance.

Photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

7:45-11:15 p.m.: Laurel and Hardy Shorts (Harris Theater)

Four classic Laurel and Hardy shorts will run throughout the night. Have a bag of popcorn and enjoy a belly laugh with favorites from the early 1930s such as “One Good Turn,” “Me and My Pal,” “Scram!” and “Busy Bodies.” The ridiculous mayhem in these films proves that slapstick never goes out of fashion.

Photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.


6-11 p.m.: Highmark First Night Food Court

Follow your nose to browse and munch your way through popular food trucks parked in The Backyard until 10 p.m. Then, they’ll relocate closer to the Highmark Stage for the end of the night.

Photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

Visual Art

6-11 p.m.: Graffiti Walls (Trust Oasis)

Check out the large-scale works commissioned by the Cultural Trust in honor of the 50th anniversary of hip hop. The Graffiti Experience showcase offers new works created by Juliandra Jones, Dejouir Brown, Max Gonzales, Shane Pilster, Jerome Charles, Ashley Hodder and KEMIST ONE.

6-11 p.m.: BLACK ON BLACK LOVE (820 Liberty Ave.)

BOOM Concepts presents expressions of Black love and how that emotion is shared, honored, interpreted and protected within the Black Community.

6-11 p.m.:  The Crest of the Ridge (707 Gallery)

This solo exhibition of paintings was created by Rick Landesberg over three years. The landscapes include Western Pennsylvania, northern Scotland, southwest England, Down East Maine and the Tarn region of France.

6-11 p.m.: #notwhite collective (SPACE Gallery)

Works from the collective range from tenderness to rage, from beauty to disgust, from the familiar to the bizarre.

6-11 p.m.: Rising Voices 2: The Bennett Prize for Women Figurative Realist Painters (937 Liberty Ave.)

The group exhibition features work by 11 women artists presenting a diverse range of approaches and themes. The finalists were selected from among 674 applicants.


You’ll find comfortable indoor restrooms at venues like the Byham Theater, SPACE Gallery and the Benedum Center. Outdoor porta potties will be installed near the Highmark Stage and in The Backyard.

Sally Quinn is a Pittsburgh-based editor and writer who writes about food, entertainment, kid stuff, pop culture, cocktails!