Pittsburgh is ending the year with a bang by offering up a month of great live shows, holiday festivals and New Year’s Eve fun. Sleep over at the Carnegie Science Center, dance the afternoon away at the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater or craft your heart out at Handmade Arcade. You’ll find these and more in our December family events guide.

Image courtesy of the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre.

1. The Nutcracker at the Benedum Center: December 1-27

A time-honored holiday tradition returns when Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre presents The Nutcracker at the Benedum Center. More than 100 professional company members and student dancers from the PBT School will bring a Pittsburgh twist to the fantastic tale. This version opens in early 20th-century Shadyside and contains references to the city’s own landmarks and cultural heritage, including the Snow Scene’s Mount Washington view, a Kaufmann’s-style proscenium clock and a Land of Enchantment inspired by Pittsburgh’s historic amusement parks. All 24 performances will feature Tchaikovsky’s iconic score, spectacular choreography, and costume and scenic designs by Emmy-winning designer Zack Brown. Of course, the scene wouldn’t be complete without a colossal Christmas tree, flurrying snow and mesmerizing magic tricks. Audience members also have the chance to take a souvenir photo with the Sugar Plum Fairy, shop for Nutcracker and holiday-themed gifts at the PBT boutique, and listen to lobby entertainment by local musical ensembles before select performances.

Tickets start at $28 and are available online, by phone at 412-456-6666 or at the Box Office at Theater Square in Downtown Pittsburgh.

Handmade Arcade

Hands-on Handmade Activity Area at Handmade Arcade. Photo by Joey Kennedy.

2. Hands-on Handmade at Handmade Arcade: December 2

Shop til you drop at Handmade Arcade or make your own fun gifts at the event’s free all-ages activity area. Located adjacent to the massive, 170-plus vendor market, Hands-on Handmade features short and daylong drop-in projects, demonstrations, mini-tutorials, make-and-take activities, games, and large-scale community art projects presented by area nonprofits and arts groups. Create your own screen-print t-shirt design with Artists Image Resource and Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts High School, make holiday decor with Hatch Art Studio and Sarah Heinz House, or build your own upcycled “frankentoy” with the Mt. Lebanon Public Library. There are also stations for making cards, pins, stickers, jewelry and more, as well as workshops about leatherworking, wood burning and macramé.

Hands-on Handmade takes place during Handmade Arcade on Saturday, December 2 from 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. The event is free and open to the public.

My Brigadista Year by Katherine Paterson. Image courtesy of Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures.

3. Katherine Paterson: Words & Pictures at Carnegie Library Lecture Hall: December 3

The Carnegie Lecture Hall will play host to a kid lit superstar when Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures presents a talk by author Katherine Paterson. Most noted for her coming-of-age fantasy “Bridge to Terabithia,” Paterson has written 16 novels for children, including such award-winning titles as “Jacob Have I Loved,” “The Master Puppeteer” and “The Great Gilly Hopkins.” Her new book, “My Brigadista Year,” follows a Cuban teenager as she volunteers for Fidel Castro’s national literacy campaign and travels into the impoverished countryside to teach others to read. This event is presented as part of the Words & Pictures series, which showcases acclaimed children’s authors and illustrators to readers of all ages.

Katherine Paterson: Word & Pictures takes place at 2:30 p.m. Tickets cost $11. A book signing will follow the program in the Children’s Department of Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

Ornament Extravaganza. Photo by Ben Filo. Courtesy of the Union Project.

4. Ornament Extravaganza at the Union Project: December 3

Give your tree a personal touch with keepsakes made at the Union Project‘s Ornament Extravaganza. Kids and adults will learn to slab build, coil build and glaze their own ornaments during this amazing holiday art class. The projects will then fired in the Union Project’s on-site kiln. Ornaments will be ready to be picked up before Christmas; more details will be provided at the workshop.

Ornament Extravaganza takes place from 1-3 p.m. Registration costs $25.

The Polar Express. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Entertainment.

5. Polar Express Sleepover at the Carnegie Science Center: December 8

Gather the whole family for a night of festive entertainment when the Carnegie Science Center presents their Polar Express Sleepover. The evening includes a 3D screening of “The Polar Express” on the massive screen in the brand new Rangos Giant Cinema. Based on the beloved children’s book, the 2004 computer-animated musical fantasy film follows a young boy who goes on an adventure to the North Pole aboard a magical train. And there’s plenty more sleepover fun to be had, including a planetarium, laser and live theater shows and activities.

Sleepover tickets cost $39 and include museum admission, a midnight snack and a continental breakfast served the following morning. Check-in begins at 6 p.m. Groups must have a minimum of one adult chaperone per eight children. To register, call 412-237-1637.