A Pittsburgh Christmas: Celebrating the Burgh’s holiday season in a day

Features - Hogwarts (aw)By: Katie Auwaerter | The Duquesne Duke

You have roughly two weeks until winter break officially begins, where you and the other students of Duquesne will leave the ‘Burgh and scatter across the country to your homes.

Before you go over the river and through the woods to your family holiday festivities, don’t miss out on the holiday opportunities that the Steel City has to offer!

But with final exams, projects, and papers, who has the time? Well if you can take one day out of your busy study schedule, here are some different options for a fun-filled day of holiday cheer.

Option 1: Rockin’ Around DowntownFeatures - Market Square (cm)

Start off the day by heading down to PPG Place for the displays in the Wintergarden. Open at 8 a.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. on weekends, PPG’s Wintergarden has three holiday displays, along with a colossal 32-foot Christmas tree. Learn about the tradition of Santa through the exhibit, The Spirit Of Giving Around the World, which include life-sized Santa statues and accompanying paintings.

In the 11th Annual Gingerbread House and Train Display, you can admire the gingerbread creations of “area students, chefs, organizations, and individuals,” according to PPG’s Holiday Brochure. The train display, constructed by artist Don Jones, circles the edible village. Honoring the memory of loved ones who cannot be with us this holiday season are the Forbes Hospice Poinsettia Trees.

After exploring the Wintergarden, take a step outside to the PPG Ice Skating Rink. With a 65-foot Christmas tree in the center, the rink opens at 11 a.m. Monday through Saturday and at noon on Sundays. The fee is $11 total, an $8 skating fee with a $3 skate rental. Different events will be occurring at the rink throughout the season, but simply skating (or attempting to skate) with friends will surely get you in the holiday spirit.

While you’re in the area, Market Square is host to the annual People’s Gas Holiday Market. According to the Downtown Pittsburgh Holidays website, the Holiday Market is inspired by the German tradition of Christkindlmarkts, bringing “a cherished European tradition to Downtown Pittsburgh that mixes international flair with local charm.” With 24 vendors, you can purchase your holiday gifts while listening to live performances of local entertainment.

But you can’t head back to the Bluff without seeing the crèche. Walk down to the US Steel Plaza on Grant Street for the Pittsburgh Crèche, the world’s only authorized replica of the Nativity Crèche in the Vatican, according to the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh. The stable, which is 64-feet wide, 42-feet tall, and 36-feet deep, weighs a whopping 66,000 pounds, according to the Popular Pittsburgh website. The crèche (which is French for manger or crib) includes 20 hand-crafted figures and will features local music groups and choruses throughout the season.

Features - Little People (aw)Option 2: There’s No Place Like Oakland For The Holidays

Start by taking a bus to Pitt’s Cathedral of Learning. You may think the Cathedral itself, all decked out for the holidays, would be an attraction. But there’s more. The Cathedral is home to the nationality rooms, which are 26 rooms that are themed to represent various countries around the world. For the holidays, these rooms are decorated based on the traditional holidays celebrated by that country.

After exploring Pittsburgh’s own Hogwarts at Christmas, walk down to the Carnegie Museum, which is open Tuesdays through Saturdays at 10 a.m. and on Sundays at noon. During the Holiday season, the Carnegie has five 20-foot trees elaborately decorated in the Hall of Architecture. Also check out the Neapolitan Presepio, with “lifelike figures and colorful details that re-create the Nativity within a vibrant panorama of 18th-century Italian village life” according to the museum’s website. This 250 square-foot installation, which was created by artists throughout the 18th century, features over 100 figures along with additional animals and accessories. Admission is $11.95 with a student ID, which may seem hefty for a couple of trees and a nativity, but don’t forget to explore the entire museum while you’re there. The museum is home to the 2013 Carnegie International, which as the name implies is an international art exhibit featuring 35 artists from 19 countries.

After exploring art, get in touch with the natural side of the holidays at the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. Phipps opens at 9:30 a.m., while the Winter Lights Garden and Flower Show opens at 5 p.m. The $14 student rate may seems steep, but Phipps has a lot of Holiday splendor to offer. This year, artists Matthew McCormack and Jenn Figg transform the conservatory’s west wing into a winter wonderland, complete with an installation akin to the mystic Northern Lights. The Outdoor Garden exhibit takes holiday lighting to a new level.

“You will be dazzled by glowing orbs, ‘dripping’ snowballs, luminous trees and a brilliant fountain of light as you follow meandering pathways through a winter wonderland,” according to the Phipps website. Features - Rink (cm)

If the festive poinsettias and lush gardens aren’t your style, Phipps offers a unique take on the typical holiday train exhibit that fits the quirky style of Pittsburgh. Take a visit to the Garden Railroad exhibit, has the qualities of the numerous train exhibits that pop up during the holidays: typical landscapes and railroads….and dinosaurs. Yes, they have a dinosaur-themed train exhibit. If that doesn’t excite your inner child, then nothing but Santa himself will.

So those are two fun-filled days of Holiday activities in Pittsburgh. Think of it as a study break to keep your sanity during this holiday and finals season.