10 things to do on Pittsburgh’s college campuses during winter break

While the students are away, Pittsburghers will play.

David Bennett / flickr
MJ Slaby

Winter break is a quiet time on Pittsburgh campuses — no classes, no events, and for the most part, no people, which means ample parking.

When better to explore Oakland’s festive, wintry offerings?

FWIW, University of Pittsburgh and Carlow University students are back in class Jan. 8, while Carnegie Mellon University students come back Jan. 16. Consider those your deadlines.

See the lights.

Check out the current display at Forbes Digital Plaza, the outdoor digital art gallery at Forbes Avenue and South Bouquet Street. Created by University of Pittsburgh student Sam Nosenzo, the display of snowflakes and snow is up through Dec. 25 and will put you in a holiday mood no matter the actual weather.

Continue your tour with the light installation outside of UPMC Presbyterian and the tree in Schenley Plaza.

Finish your holiday shopping.

Use this guide of Oakland shops to find last-minute gifts from eyewear to university gear. Don’t forget that Maggie and Stella’s Cards & Gifts has a holiday pop-up store from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday to Friday through Dec. 22 at 3955 Forbes Ave. (the former 7-Eleven).

Park for free.

Sweeten the deal with the free holiday season parking. Every Saturday before Dec. 25, parking at the Forbes Semple Garage (210 Meyran Ave.) is free, per the Pittsburgh Parking Authority. Plus, the Parking Authority’s on-street meters and metered lots are free Dec. 25 and 26.

Go ice skating.

Head to Schenley Park and lace up your skates. It’s $5 for adults and skate rentals are $3. The rink is open daily, but hours are sporadic, so be sure to check here before you go. 9:30 p.m. skates are for an 18+ crowd.

Explore holiday traditions from around the world.

Get a two-for-one deal at the University of Pittsburgh Nationality Rooms in the Cathedral of Learning. Not only can you see the rooms and learn about the cultures they represent, but you can also see traditional holiday decorations in most rooms through Jan. 13. Winter break hours are:

  • Audio-guided tours: 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. today to Thursday
  • Closed: Dec. 22-26 and Jan. 1.
  • Group tours: 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Dec 27-31
  • 2018 audio-guided or group tours: 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Jan. 6 and 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Jan 7.

Engage in art wars.

Immerse yourself in a galaxy far, far away with the Carnegie Museum of Art’s “Star Wars” themed Third Thursday from 8 to 11 p.m. Dec. 21. Dress up in intergalactic gear — there’s a costume contest with prizes — and go for themed gallery tours, Jedi (or Sith) training with stage fight choreographer Tonya Lynn, in-gallery discussions, a dance party, cocktails and more. (Worth noting that lightsabers and masks aren’t allowed, but there will be lightsabers available for photo ops.) Admission is $15, $10 for members and students. Get your tickets here.

Learn something on a museum tour.

Speaking of CMOA, there are multiple museum options on/near campus.

Enjoy the winter flower show and light garden.

It’s a holiday tradition at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, and this year’s theme for the Winter Flower Show is “Holiday Magic!” Plus, outside is the biggest, best Winter Light Garden yet, per Phipps.

The show and light garden displays are open through Jan. 7. Admission is $17.95 for adults, and hours are 9:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. for the flower show and 5 to 11 p.m. for the Winter Light Garden. Phipps closes at 5 p.m. Dec 24 and reopens at 9:30 a.m. Dec. 26. Get your tickets.

Get nostalgic at your favorite spots.

Relive your college days — whether you went to college in Pittsburgh or not — by heading to Hemingway’s Cafe, The “O” or Fuel and Fuddle. Or pick from this full list here. (If you *really* want to go all out, head over the river to the South Side — but that’s a different article entirely.)

Cheer on sports.

Sure you can watch the Penguins and Steelers, but you can also see local college athletes in action over winter break. Here’s the rundown:


Men’s basketball (at Petersen Events Center)
vs. Delaware State 7 p.m. Tuesday
vs Towson 7 p.m. Friday
vs Miami (Fla.) 4 p.m. Dec. 30

Women’s basketball (at Petersen Events Center)
vs Bucknell 2 p.m. Wednesday
vs Chicago State 1 p.m. Dec. 31

Wrestling (at Fitzgerald Field House)
vs North Dakota State 7 p.m. Jan. 5
vs Oklahoma 2 p.m. Jan. 7


Men’s basketball (at Oakland Catholic High School)
vs Tiffin University 1 p.m. Dec. 30
vs Indiana University Kokomo 8 p.m. Jan. 2

Women’s basketball (at Oakland Catholic High School)
vs Indiana University Kokomo 6 p.m. Jan. 2


Men’s basketball (at A.J. Palumbo Center)
vs Lamar University 7 p.m. Tuesday
vs George Washington University 7 p.m. Dec. 30

Women’s basketball (at A.J. Palumbo Center)
vs Massachusetts 1 p.m. Dec. 31

Point Park

Men’s basketball (at CCAC-Allegheny Physical Education Building)
vs Cincinnati Christian University 7:30 p.m. Jan. 2
vs Midway University 7:30 p.m. Jan. 4

Women’s basketball (at CCAC-Allegheny Physical Education Building)
vs University of the Cumberlands 1 p.m. today
vs Cincinnati Christian University 5:30 p.m. Jan. 2
vs Midway University 5:30 p.m. Jan. 4