Take this merry and bright, 9-stop Downtown Pittsburgh holiday walking tour

We’ve got step-by-step directions for this *free* festivity.

Rossilynne Culgan / The Incline
Rossilynne Culgan

Updated Dec. 1, 2018: If you’re reading this in 2018, remember Miracle is on Liberty this year. Here’s what to expect at the holiday pop-up bar.

Downtown downright dazzles during the holiday season.

From sky-scraping evergreens to artful gingerbread houses, the city teems with seasonal merriment this time of year.

Make a new holiday tradition with this wintry walk spotlighting all the glimmer and glitz of the Golden Triangle. Take a walking tour to these nine sites, snapping photos along the way. We’ve sketched out a map of where to go and where to stop along the way to warm up (with hot cocktails and/or hot coffee).

The logistics:

  1. Wear comfortable shoes. Expect to walk about 4,000 steps.
  2. If you simply walk from stop to stop, pausing just to take photos, budget an hour. If you want to stop for drinks, shopping or skating, allocate extra time.
  3. The walking tour is *free* (with the exception of your shopping finds and food stops, of course).
  4. Late afternoon is a great time to start, so you’ll be able to see the lights as they’re turning on, but it won’t be too cold and dark yet.

The route:

The route begins at the Point. We’ll walk you through each step, and you can load the interactive map here.

Rossilynne Culgan / The Incline

Stop 1: Point State Park

Look for: The tree at the confluence

Start at the tip of the Golden Triangle by checking out the large Christmas tree at the confluence of the three rivers. You can admire the tree from afar, or if you’re up for a few extra steps, walk around the park to see the tree with the skyline in the background like Dave DiCello did, naturally.

On the walk back to the city, notice the snowflake decorations along the lamp posts. Head toward the intersection of Penn Avenue and Stanwix Streets, pausing for a moment en route to peek through the windows of Gateway Center to admire the lobby decor.

Rossilynne Culgan / The Incline

Stop 2: The Horne’s Building

Look for: The Unity Tree

Yes, it’s officially called the Unity Tree (and has been since 1996, and it’s not about political correctness). But Pittsburghers still tend to call it the Horne’s Building tree after the now-defunct department store (it’s part of our DNA, basically). This resplendent tree is among the most unique Pittsburgh decorations, as it wraps around the corner of the building.

From there, continue along Penn Avenue. Stop for a second to admire the Cultural District’s long stretch of light posts adorned with wreaths before turning right onto Sixth Street and heading into Market Square.

Rossilynne Culgan / The Incline

Stop 3: Market Square

Look for: A cozy holiday market and Santa’s house

Miracle_BadSanta_mh3140_preview 2
Courtesy of Miracle

Holiday cheer abounds in the heart of the city’s public square. Check out the tree made up of red-and-white LED lights, listen to some live music, shop the holiday market and even say hello to Santa. If you can only make one stop on this journey, this is the one.

After all of that, it’s a good time to warm up with a drink nearby. Check out Miracle on Liberty or The Wine Bar at Market Street Grocery.

Rossilynne Culgan / The Incline

Stop 4: PPG Place

Look for: Iconic ice rink and a swoon-worthy tree

Next up: The glittering, glowing tree nestled among Pittsburgh’s glass castles. Lights, ornaments and bows bedeck this 65-foot tree. Be sure to build in some extra time if you’re up for some ice skating. Even if you’re not interesting in gliding around the ice, the 116′ x 116′ rink serves as the perfect photo opportunity.

Rossilynne Culgan / The Incline

Stop 5: PPG Wintergarden

Look for: Gingerbread houses and Santas statues

Admire the creativity of handmade gingerbread houses, gawk at a ceiling-scraping tree and learn about Santa traditions from around the world. It’s also a great spot to warm up for a few minutes and grab a coffee from the Wintergarden’s Crazy Mocha.

Afterward, walk back through Market Square along Market Street, pausing for a moment to admire the Fairmont’s white-and-pastel tree.

After that, make a right onto Liberty Avenue. Just before the Wood Street T station, make another right onto Sixth Avenue where you’ll spot the next stop on the tour.

Rossilynne Culgan / The Incline

Stop 6: K&L Gates Center

Look for: A larger-than-life ornament

This iridescent red oversize ornament looks as if it were plucked from the recognizable display near Radio City Music Hall in New York City. It’s a festive addition to Pittsburgh’s decor that stands out from the crowd. From there, continue walking along Sixth Avenue, checking out the Duquesne Club’s decorations along the way.

Rossilynne Culgan / The Incline

Stop 7: Omni William Penn Hotel

Look for: A giant gingerbread house and jaw-dropping chandeliers

Find the next stop just before Grant Street — the century-old Omni William Penn Hotel. Look for a soaring tree, garlands and a giant gingerbread house all under glow of three shimmering chandeliers.

Rossilynne Culgan / The Incline

A model of the 101-year-old hotel, it took hotel staff more than 60 hours of work to wrangle 350 Hershey bars, 40 pounds of sugar, 4,000 M&MS and 300 candy canes into a detailed replica. (Omni William Penn staff, may we suggest coconut flakes as “snow” next year?)

If you’re looking for another break to warm up, walk to the Commoner at Kimpton Hotel Monaco Pittsburgh just down the street for some 21+ holiday beverages.

Rossilynne Culgan / The Incline

Stop 8: City-County Building

Look for: A six-story tall evergreen

The city’s tree this year hails from Regent Square. Soaring 58-feet into the air, this evergreen is flanked by two festive wreaths and a row of glowing green lights.

Rossilynne Culgan / The Incline

Stop 9: US Steel Tower

Look for: The Pittsburgh Crèche

This nativity scene is the world’s only authorized replica of the Nativity Crèche that stands outside Saint Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, according to the Diocese of Pittsburgh. A tradition since 1999, this massive scene sits next to US Steel Tower.

And to all a good night

Here we are — the end of the journey. If you parked near the Point, hop on the T at Steel Plaza and head to Gateway (for free) or rack up some more steps and a few more breaths of fresh wintry air on your walk back.