Best Once-a-Year Events in Pittsburgh

Our list of can’t-miss annual happenings you should put on your calendar right now.

There’s never a shortage of things to do in Pittsburgh. But there are some things you can only do once a year, and if you miss them, you have to wait 12 months for your next chance. We’ve compiled a list of those you’ll want to put on your calendar now.

photo by anthony musmanno

Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival
Chances are you won’t miss this, as it runs for 10 days every June, but it gets bigger and better every year, so you want to make sure you don’t miss it. Get a new piece of Pittsburgh-themed artwork for your walls, check out local and national vendors and view the art installations that take over Point State Park. Keep an eye on the music schedule so you know which day you’ll want to grab a blanket, take advantage of the food trucks and park on the lawn to enjoy a summer concert.

When it (usually) happens: Beginning the first Friday in June

photo by Richard cook


Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon
Even if you’re not a runner, the Pittsburgh Marathon is a major city event everyone can take part in in some way (even if it’s just walking out your front door to cheer on those running through your neighborhood). The marathon has turned into a whole weekend of events, so there are lots of ways to participate (take your pet out on Saturday to join in the fun at the Pet Walk!). Put off griping about the road closures for one year and make a funny sign to hold up while runners make their way through those hilly 26.2 miles.

When it (usually) happens: the first Sunday in May

Austrian Nationality Room/photo provided by university of pittsburgh

Nationality Rooms Holiday Open House
Each December, the University of Pittsburgh’s grand Cathedral of Learning plays host to an international extravaganza: the Nationality Rooms Holiday Open House. Cultures from the 30 Nationality Rooms are represented in an afternoon of music, ethnic food and traditions. The charming, 91-year-old Nationality Rooms and Intercultural Exchange Programs Director, E. Maxine Bruhns, is sure to get up and dance with at least one musical group. Get some Indian food with a side of pierogies and buy a unique holiday gift for a friend — part of the proceeds from sales benefit the Nationality Rooms Summer Study Abroad Scholarships.

When it (usually) happens: the second Sunday in December

Pittsburgh Magazine Best Restaurants Party
Come hungry. Not to toot our own horn, but our Best Restaurants Party each June is quite the event. Winners from our annual list of Best Restaurants (chosen by an independent panel) as well as other fan favorites from around the region each bring a delicious — and usually adventurous — dish or custom drink for patrons to try. If you think your stomach can handle it, aim to hit all of them. Plus, part of the proceeds benefit the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.

When it (usually) happens: The second Monday in June

Photo by John Altdorfer

Light Up Night
This is one can’t-miss event with many can’t-miss aspects. You’ll want to catch one of the many tree-lighting ceremonies. The Macy’s windows (they may still be decorated this year even though the store itself has closed). The gingerbread house display inside PPG Place Wintergarden. The crèche at the U.S. Steel Tower. The carriage rides. Ice skating around the Rink at PPG Place. The list goes on. Yep, there’s nothing like Christmastime in the city.

When it (usually) happens: The Friday before Thanksgiving

photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh cultural trust


First Night
If, despite our warnings, you missed Light Up Night, you can still experience a beautiful, wintry downtown evening just a few weeks later at First Night, presented by Highmark. There’s a host of events for the whole family, food trucks are prevalent and fireworks show is a must. This year, catch the Wailers as they headline the event.

When it (always) happens: New Year’s Eve

Art All Night
Proving Lawrenceville was hip before Lawrenceville was hip, Art All Night is a showcase of local artisans. In an abandoned brewery. With beer. All night long. Catering to the non-staying-up-all-night crowd, the event also includes daytime activities for families and children with a youth-friendly section of art, but go in the middle of the night for a different vibe.

When it (usually) happens: the last Saturday in April

Steel City Big Pour
Tickets for this event sell out very, very quickly after they go on sale, so chances are this is one event you may miss — but that makes it all the more enticing. Construction Junction’s largest fundraising event held at their Point Breeze warehouse features samples from local craft breweries, food, music and more.

When it (usually) happens: September

photo courtesy of bricolage production company


The Bricolage Urban Scrawl is a theater event where six playwrights hop on a city bus, write a 10-minute show about their experience and direct said show in front of paying audiences — all in 24 hours. The event is a fundraiser for Bricolage with several ticket options. Pay the “Double Decker B.U.S.” fee to attend a VIP reception and actor parade on Friday night as well as the VIP reception, shows and after-party on Saturday night; a “Party B.U.S.” fee to attend all Saturday events or a “Mini B.U.S.” fee for the performances and Saturday night after-party.

When it (usually) happens: April


Categories: Best of the ‘Burgh