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What To Do Over Thanksgiving Break: Pittsburgh Edition

If you’re like me at this point in the semester, then your stress and anxiety is on the same level of Spongebob trying to pass his driver’s license test. Luckily, this Thanksgiving break provides some much-needed time away from Happy Valley and schoolwork.

Arguably, one of the best parts of going back home is being able to enjoy and explore the respective city you call home. For me, I get to go back to the underrated, but absolutely unparalleled, city of Pittsburgh. For those of you that are looking to get out of the house after the 48-hour nap you will fall into upon arriving at your house, here are some fresh and non-touristy ideas for locals and Pittsburgh newbies alike:

Watch the Pittsburgh skyline get even prettier and partake in Light Up Night.

Kicking off the celebration of the upcoming holidays is one of the best traditions in Pittsburgh is the annual Light Up Night. Celebrating its 55th anniversary, Light Up Night is a great chance to reconnect with old friends while enjoying the festivities in downtown Pittsburgh. Be sure to stop by the People’s Natural Gas Holiday Market. Vendors from all over the Pittsburgh area with eclectic tastes, sights, and sounds will dazzle you as you meander through decorated Market Square. The unveiling of the Holiday Windows with Mayor Bill Peduto is also a must do. End your night by jamming out at BNY Mellon New Music Stage with local singer, Daya and pop-singer JoJo on the Roberto Clemente bridge (8:15 and 8:30 respectively). All of these events start November 20. So if you are not staying in Happy Valley for the game, head ‘dahntahn’ and take in the glorious views.

Information on Light Up Night can be found here.

Attend a Museum that you normally wouldn’t think twice about going to.

During the industrial steel days of Sixburgh, wealthy philanthropists such as Andrew Carnegie, Henry Clay Frick, H. J. Heinz, and Thomas Mellon invested in the education and culture of Pittsburgh. Their generosity has made for some of the best museums in the country. Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Carnegie Museum of Art, Senator John Heinz History Center, and Frick Art and Historical Center are all museums you should look into when in Pittsburgh. From invaluable art to unforgettable history, there is something for anyone in these museums. Why not check out Dippy the Dinosaur outside of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History as he puts on his scarf in preparation for the Pennsylvania winter approaching?

Bonus: Phipps Conservatory is a hidden gem in Oakland. Overpowered by neighboring Carnegie Museums, the poinsettias and other winter plants will be on display in the opening of the Winter Flower Show on Nov. 27.

Information on museums in the Pittsburgh area can be found here.

Experience the Strip all over again.

Arguably, the Strip District is one of Pittsburgh’s most diverse neighborhoods. Vendors with arrangements of different desserts, all kinds of Christmas ornamentation and plants, and the sweet look of black ‘n’ gold Pittsburgh apparel will have you exploring for hours. Plus, there are so many hidden gems tucked into the chaos that is Penn Avenue that you might overlook them. Here are some suggestions:

  • Try DeLuca’s instead of Pamela’s. Both are the best breakfast places around, but DeLuca’s is an undeserved second choice behind Pamela’s. Their french toast with blueberries is second to none.
  • Stop in at the Allegheny Coffee & Tea Exchange. Located right across from the Pennsylvania Macaroni Co., the store offers a large assortment of various different coffee selections and teas. It hits the spot on a cold Fall day.
  • Spice up your time in the Strip with a taco from Reyna Food’s taco stand. At a roadside stand right outside of the store, the smell of the stand will lure you in, and trust me. You won’t be disappointed.

Indulge your inner foodie in America’s “Next Destination Food Town.”

According to Eater, Pittsburgh is the next foodie destination. That makes sense, considering the city is known for its Eastern European cuisine like pierogies, kielbasa, sauerkraut, and the famous Primanti’s sandwich. But nowadays, it’s home to some of the best new restaurants in America. Some of my favorites are as follows, broken up by neighborhood:

  • Strip District: Kaya, Bar Marco
  • Shadyside: The Yard, Avenue B
  • East Liberty: Spoon
  • Highland Park: Park Brugges, Smiling Banana Leaf Cafe
  • Southside: Hofbrauhaus, Mallorca

If that didn’t sell you, here are Pittsburgh Magazine’s best from 2015.

Go to the WPXI Holiday Parade.

Formerly hosted by Macy’s, this news station will host its annual Holiday Parade in downtown Pittsburgh on November 28. Pittsburghers and out-of-towners alike will line the streets of downtown Pittsburgh and enjoy the many floats parading through the Golden Triangle. Jerome Bettis, The Harlem Globetrotters, Chris Jamison, and many other local guests will be featured on the floats that will cruise downtown from 9-11 a.m.

BONUS for 21+: Take your former high school mates and crawl through Southside’s many bars.

Southside is one of the most vibrant neighborhoods in the Pittsburgh area. Crawling with Pitt and Duquesne students (even though we’re better than them in our sleep), the neighborhood is home to some of the best bars and breweries around. East Carson Street offers more than enough places to wet your whistle and is oozing with local Pittsburgh flavor. With local pubs, eateries and bars alike, Southside will provide you with a night of good food, drinks and entertainment.

Here are some good local waterholes to try out


Whether you’re in Pittsburgh for the entire break or just visiting, the city is full of opportunities to distract your from your Penn State withdrawal.

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About the Author

Drew Klingenberg

As well as being a staff writer for Onward State, Drew is a self-proclaimed Pittsburgh expert and traveling enthusiast. When he is not hiking some strange yet secluded area of the United States, you can see him either standing entirely too long in the State College Chipotle line, or at the gym acting like he's doing something productive. If you appreciate sub-par humor or overly-saturated photography, follow him on Twitter and Instagram (@dmklingenberg). For inquiries please email Drew at [email protected]


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