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Identity & Community
It can be hard to jump into a new location without understanding the local customs and history. Pittsburgh, with its layers of seemingly impenetrable culture, is hardly an exception. But do not fret: Our occasional web series "New to the 'Burgh" is here to provide a handy guide for newcomers adapting to life in the Steel City.

6 Ways to Have Fun This Winter in Pittsburgh

The winter season in Pittsburgh offers plenty of opportunities to discover the city — or, for you native Pittsburghers — to remember why you love your city. Here’s our rundown of seasonal festivities to get you out the door and fill you with holiday spirit.

Light Up Night: The chilling of the air marks a great occasion for a party, and Pittsburghers traditionally use the change of season for a pair of downtown nighttime festivals in the Cultural District. The opening of the holiday season receives an annual send-up with Light Up Night. In its 53rd year, Light Up Night features eight different tree lighting ceremonies, a lights show, world-class jazz music and much more. As an added bonus this year, the festival will be expanding to take over four stages across downtown. The 2013 Light Up Night will put Pittsburgh into the holiday spirit on Friday.

First Night: Marking the end of the season and the beginning of the new year, First Night Pittsburgh takes over the Cultural District on Dec. 31. The event features live music, the First Night Pittsburgh Parade, comedy performances, visual art shows, a kick-off fireworks celebration and more. First Night marks the largest single-day celebration in the region, giving it enough variety to bring value to any visitor — from the Pittsburgh native to the new-to-the-‘Burgher.

Skating Rinks – PPG Place & Schenley Park: For those tired of taking shelter from the cold, Pittsburgh’s ice skating rinks offer a pleasant diversion — instead of shivering at home, you can shiver while falling down. In all seriousness, Pittsburgh’s skating options leave nothing to be desired. For the general public, Schenley Park in Oakland has already opened up the Schenley Skating Rink. Later in the month, starting on Light Up Night on Nov. 22, downtown’s The Rink at PPG Place will open to the public. Both rinks offer public sessions as well as special sessions such as family nights, adult-only nights and college ID discount sessions. If you are new to winter weather, or if you have previously experienced ice skating as a method of face-planting onto the ice, both rinks offer skating lessons to help you keep your feet.

Steel City Roller Derby: The winter months tend to chill our blood, and that can’t be good for our health. Fortunately, Steel City Roller Derby has some home games with enough thrills to make your pulse throb. On Dec. 8, home teams the Penn Bruisers take on the Allegheny Avengers in the Battle of the Burgh, followed by the annual Toys for Tots Scrimmage. Several other games are scheduled throughout the season (you can check out a full schedule here), and new faces are always welcome. If the skating scene intrigues you, tryouts for the SCRD are held in January, with two pre-tryout boot camps — one in December, one in January — to help you prepare.

Venture Outdoors: If you can’t escape the cold, you might as well dive in and embrace it. Nonprofit go-outside advocacy group Venture Outdoors has shut its social enterprise Kayak Pittsburgh for the season (you can eagerly await its re-opening in May), but the program still offers a strong schedule of hikes and walks to help you stay active when all your instincts are telling you to burrow under a blanket. Weekend “tasting hikes” (ranging from whiskey to microbreweries to coffee to s’mores) and historic hiking tours are just examples of the wide variety of hikes the group has planned. Check out their schedule, then bundle up and get moving.

Peoples Gas Holiday Market: Visitors to downtown’s Market Square over the next month will find themselves strolling through a one-of-a-kind shopping village. New-to -the-‘Burghers should feel a certain kinship with the Peoples Gas Holiday Market, as the pop-up market is only marking its second year in the city. This newfangled market isn’t slacking in its holiday cheer, however. Vendors this year offer a mix of ethnic and local traditions (you can view a full listing here). Those with children to think of can head down to Santa’s House for a visit and complimentary photo.

Are you new in town? Or are you a Pittsburgh lifer? Either way, share your plans to beat the trademark Pittsburgh chill on Twitter and Facebook: #new2theburgh.