We’ve all heard the quote, “The best things in life are free,” and that’s especially true when it comes to holiday events. From brilliant light displays to holiday parades to photos with Santa to sweet treats and beyond, finding free things to do for the holiday season adds another layer of joy to what is already a festive season. Fortunately, the Pittsburgh area offers plenty of free events to get you in the holiday spirit.
Light Up the Wall
Kick off the holiday season in Aspinwall at Light Up the Wall. Bring the family for horse-drawn sleigh rides, and bring your best smile for the photo booth and pictures with Santa. Take in all the tempting aromas from the food trucks. Stroll through amazing ice sculptures. There will also be face painting, cookie decorating and more to entertain kids of all ages. The event culminates with fireworks on Commercial Avenue. The event takes place on Sat., Nov. 19 from 5-7 p.m.
Oakmont’s Hometown Christmas
On the Saturday before Thanksgiving, thousands of spectators line up along Allegheny River Boulevard to view the annual Christmas parade. Featuring approximately 15 floats and 100-plus participants, the parade delights all who attend. Keep your eyes open for Santa Claus, who’s expected to hitch a ride on the back of an Oakmont fire truck.
After the parade, spectators spill into the street for more holiday fun. Sing along with carolers or stroll through the vendors for holiday gift ideas. There will be games for children, and free cookies and candy canes while they wait for their turns to sit on Santa’s lap. A tree lighting ceremony in front of the Oakmont Post Office serves as the grand finale at this holiday kick-off, which runs from 4-8 p.m. on Nov. 19.
Butler Spirit of Christmas Parade
The Butler Spirit of Christmas Parade has been a holiday tradition for area residents for almost 60 years. Held after dark, all the floats, marching bands and walking groups incorporate holiday lights into their decorations, making this light-up parade even more magical. Of course, Santa will be making his appearance at the end of the parade to officially launch the holiday season.
Held on Nov. 26, which is also Small Business Saturday, paradegoers are invited to arrive between 3-5 p.m. to browse locally owned downtown shops before the parade begins at 5:30 p.m.
Lawrenceville’s Joy of Cookies Tour
An annual tradition for many years, the Joy of Cookies Tour in the Lawrenceville neighborhood satisfies anyone with a holiday sweet tooth. Held the first weekend in December, this self-guided tour focuses on a two-mile section of downtown. Local businesses host an open house-type event, inviting everyone to browse their shops while indulging in an array of scrumptious free cookies. It’s almost like being rewarded to shop!
Highmark Light Up Night in Downtown Pittsburgh
Join all of Pittsburgh in officially kicking off the holiday season at Highmark Light Up Night on Sat., Nov. 19. This free event is celebrating its 61st anniversary this year with a full day event. Highmark Light Up Night features tree lightings, live music from local and national musicians, and family activities. The event also marks the seasonal opening of local winter attractions. Attendees will be treated to three spectacular fireworks shows. The first fireworks show is held at the City-Country Building at 5 p.m. for the building’s tree lighting. The second show happens at 6 p.m. at the Highmark Building when the lights of the Unity Tree are turned on, and the grand finale show takes place along the Allegheny River.