Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium.

December is fueled by outdoor and indoor delights for kids in Pittsburgh. You’ll find wizardry and magic, holiday celebrations, science and nature. End the year on a high note with these top 10 December happenings.

Photo courtesy of PPG Place.

1. Downtown Pittsburgh for the Holidays, Downtown: Through Dec. 23

The heart of Pittsburgh shines with festive holiday fare that’s re-imagined with safety protocols. Kids can video chat with Santa in a Zoom call experience that includes a downloadable photo. Find outdoor activities and playful photo ops in the Holiday Kidsplay Selfie Garden. Skate around a giant Christmas tree at the Rink at PPG Place. Those who prefer to stay at home can access the 18th Annual Gingerbread House Competition and catch the Pittsburgh Symphony’s Holiday Pops concert. Find the complete lineup of activities here.

Photo courtesy of ElfBurgh.

2. ElfBurgh Christmas, Hundred Acres Manor: Through Dec. 23

Hundred Acres Haunted Manor throws off its creepy persona to reveal its sweet side with ElfBurgh Christmas, running through Dec. 23.  This drive-thru holiday attraction sends families along Elf Lane, guided by a half-million lights, past vignettes of Santa’s helpers preparing for the big day. Then, head to Santa’s Castle through the Elf Forest of decorated Christmas trees. Kids can give Santa their wish lists without leaving the car. Timed tickets are $22 per vehicle. Add a treat bag from Santa for an additional $5.

Image courtesy of the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden.

3. Moonlight & Cocoa, Pittsburgh Botanic Garden: Dec. 3-6

Bundle up and stroll through Pittsburgh Botanic Garden along trails glowing from thousands of candles and sparkling lights. Moonlight & Cocoa is a lovely family-friendly winter celebration with hands warmed by a mug of hot cocoa. Timed tickets are required.

4. Penguins on Parade, Pittsburgh Zoo: Weekends beginning Dec. 5

What’s more fun than a lineup of waddling penguins frolicking in winter weather? Penguins on Parade returns to Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, giving us the best reason to love the cold. The annual event has been reconfigured to allow best safety practices. Cheer on the birds of winter every Saturday and Sunday in December. Penguin on Parade is included in your timed ticket, sold in advance.

Image courtesy of Assemble.

5. Slime Time Day Camp, via Assemble: Dec. 9

No two ways about it: Kids love slime and oozing the goopy stuff through their fingers. Here’s their chance to satisfy their curiosity about the science of gooey and gross things through Slime Time Day Camp at Assemble Pittsburgh on Dec. 9. The virtual camp for grades 1-3 explores polymers, slime activators and other scientific factors. The $20 registration includes a link and materials kit. The camp is free for Garfield residents.

Image courtesy of Allegheny County Parks.

6. Holiday Laser Show, North Park: Dec. 10-20

Allegheny County Parks continues its creative programming for families in 2020. The latest is the Holiday Laser Show. Head to the North Park Pool parking lot, where you can watch the 45-minute spectacular from the safety and warmth of your car. The laser action is coordinated with holiday music. Admission per vehicle for county residents is $15 for Thursdays and Sundays, $20 for Fridays and Saturdays. Get your tickets early for the limited spaces.

Illustration by Greg Joens, courtesy of Prime Stage Theatre.

7. ‘One Christmas Carol,’ via Prime Stage Theatre: Dec. 11-19

This version of the classic holiday tale comes from Prime Stage Theatre and offers Charles Dickens on stage as the narrator. Having read a government report on child labor, he’s inspired to publicize the plight of the poor through a story he believes will resonate with his readers. Actor Scott Calhoon takes on the Dickens role and a multitude of other characters in this one-man production. “One Christmas Carol” will be live-streamed through Prime Online on Dec. 11, with a recorded link available from Dec. 12-19. The production is holiday priced as a pay-what-you-can starting from $5. Reserve your spot here.

Photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

8. ‘The Wizards of Oakwood Drive,’ via EQT Children’s Festival @ Home, Dec. 26-28

 “The Wizards of Oakwood Drive” brings the interactive delight of the EQT Children’s Theater Festival to a live, at-home experience. The wizardry takes place via Zoom, with parents acting as accomplices. A day or two before the performance, grownups will receive a list of supplies and simple instructions to help pull off the magic and treasure hunt. During the story, siblings compete to be the best wizard of Oakwood Drive, with kids acting as judges. Buy your $30 tickets here.

Photo courtesy of Venture Outdoors.

9: Winter Survival Series, via Venture Outdoors: Dec. 28-30

Do your kids have what it takes to survive a winter camping trip? Venture Outdoors challenges them to learn survival skills from the comfort of your home. Key skills include first aid, shelter construction, fire building and navigation. The three days of live classes include virtual classes, followed by a catch up with parents about how those proficiencies can continue outdoors with the family. The Winter Survival Series is recommended for kids in grades 2-5. Registration is $50, which includes a supplies kit.

Photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

10. First Night, via Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, Dec. 31

The end of 2020 gives us a lot more reasons to welcome the new year with gusto. Even though the traditional Downtown celebration is canceled, Pittsburgh Cultural Trust transformed First Night into a virtual party worth allowing kids to stay up past their bedtime. Watch the First Night celebration on KDKA-TV and the Pittsburgh-centric lineup of music, magic and special guests. You can elevate the party and support the Cultural Trust with First Night Friends in a Box, a package of holiday gifts and goodies, including a hot chocolate bomb, specialty popcorns and a First Night chocolate medallion.

Honorable mentions:

Frick Pittsburgh Winter Family Fun Day

Carnegie Museum of Natural History Super Science Saturday

Black and Gold Geocaching

Carnegie Museum of Art Family Day

For more events, go here.

Avatar photo

Sally Quinn

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