The final month of the year is always the busiest. As part of your celebration, find time in your hectic schedule to fit in a few of these fun, family-friendly activities. And be sure to check this guide from Kidsburgh on 11 free Downtown events, from the gingerbread houses at the Wintergarden to KidsPlay at Heinz Hall. 

1. Shots with Santa at Brookline Teen Outreach: Dec. 1

Brookline Teen Outreach’s family- and pet-friendly event, Shots with Santa, allows kids of all ages to celebrate the season. In addition to a photo op with jolly ol’ St. Nick, there will be food, crafts, activities, holiday movies, dog treats and adult beverages. That includes spiked hot chocolate and Jingle Juice, a beer luge and shot ski! Admission is $5 and children get in free with a paying adult.

Handmade Arcade’s free Hands-on Handmade Activity Area. Photo by Joey Kennedy.

2. Handmade Arcade at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center: Dec. 8

Handmade Arcade, Pittsburgh’s ultimate source for handmade arts, crafts, home decor and more is back for its 14th year. Not only can you buy one-of-a-kind gifts at the Dec. 8 event, but you and your kids can make them in the Hands-on Handmade Activity Area. Led by local makers and nonprofit organizations, the 16 free projects range from bookbinding, metal stamping and silkscreening to mosaic glass creations and quilting. This is your chance to act like an elf and make something for someone on your “Nice” list.

3. Story Hike: No Two Alike at the Frick Environmental Center: Dec. 8

If you don’t mind Jack Frost nipping at your nose, head to the Frick Environmental Center for a winter hike through the woods. Participants ages 2 to 8 years old (and their parents) will join a naturalist educator in reading “No Two Alike” by Keith Baker as they investigate the differences between trees, leaves and other objects found in nature. The snowy stroll, which runs from 10 to 11:30 a.m., is free, but registration is required.

Photo by Kristy Locklin.

4. Pet Photos with Santa at Animal Friends: Dec. 8

Has your pet been well-behaved all year? Bring the kids and take that four-legged family member to Animal Friends on Saturday, Dec. 8 to see Santa. The holly jolly elf himself will be on hand from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. to take pics with creatures big and small, as long as they’re leashed or in a carrier while they wait in line. For $10, you’ll get three 4-by-6 prints, with all proceeds benefiting the no-kill shelter in Ohio Township.

Photo courtesy of the South Hills Jewish Community Center Pittsburgh.

5. South Hills 7th Night Chanukah Celebration at the South Hills JCC: Dec. 8

On Saturday, Dec. 8, the South Hills Jewish Community Center will be open to the entire community for an evening of family fun and fellowship. There will be a menorah lighting, “dive-in” movie at the swimming pool, dreidel tournament, obstacle course, karaoke and a DJ, as well as a quiet corner for sensory activities, crafts and stories. Folks can sample an array of food and beverages, including a pasta bar and latkes.

Courtesy of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

6. Hip Hop Nutcracker at the Benedum Center: Dec. 11-12

“The Nutcracker,” a holiday tradition since 1892, is getting a remix. Tchaikovsky’s ballet has been adapted for a 21st-century audience with high-intensity dance moves, an urban backdrop and a DJ. The nationally touring act will stop in Pittsburgh Dec. 11 and 12 for two performances. And of course, there’s the traditional Nutcracker which runs November 30th through December 27th at the Benedum and is a family tradition fo rmany.

Photo courtesy of A Magical Cirque Christmas.

7. A Magical Cirque Christmas at the Benedum Center: Dec. 13

The Pittsburgh premiere of this Broadway smash brings some of the world’s greatest entertainers to town. Watch magicians, illusionists, speed jugglers and ballet acrobats, Runfei Deng and Shilei Chen, finalists on this season of “America’s Got Talent.”

8. The PSO’s “Home Alone” at Heinz Hall: Dec. 20

Wet Bandits, beware! Kevin McCallister is coming to Heinz Hall. On Dec. 20 at 7:30 p.m., watch “Home Alone” on a giant, HiDef screen while the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and choir perform John Williams’ holiday score. Ticket prices range from $25 to $105. Keep the change, ya filthy animal.

9. Santa Fun Cruise on the Gateway Clipper Fleet: Saturdays and Sundays through Dec. 23

Santa Claus is ditching his sleigh for a riverboat. Hop aboard the Gateway Clipper Fleet’s Santa Fun Cruise for a two-hour excursion down the city’s three rivers. In addition to sightseeing, there will be a DJ dance party, snacks and refreshments, a full-service bar and other forms of entertainment. Kris Kringle sets sail on Saturdays and Sundays through Dec. 23.

10. Santaland at Kraynak’s: Through Dec. 31

Kraynak’s store, a Hermitage, Pa. landmark since 1949, transforms into a holiday spectacle twice a year. Amid their gardening supplies, toys, candy and collectibles, Santaland suddenly appears. Open now through Dec. 31, the attraction features a dazzling display of decorations — including life-sized animatronics — that customers can walk through free of charge. Can’t make it this Christmas? No worries: Visit Easter Bunny Lane this spring.

11. Highmark First Night 2019

Last but not least, Highmark First Night is one of the biggest family events of the year. Taking place throughout Downtown on New Year’s Eve, there’s fun for every member of the family. Details for 2019 will be announced soon and we will keep you updated!

Don’t miss this article on 6 holiday train exhibits in Pittsburgh then check out more below!