The past year saw my return to Pittsburgh after an extended absence that was precipitated by the pandemic. This return has involved much revisiting familiar terrain, but also a great many firsts. For instance, last month I visited Phipps Conservatory for the first time, despite the local landmark having been on my Pittsburgh to-do list for as long as I’ve been in the city. Last week I made my second-ever visit to Phipps in order to view the elaborate lights and displays that decorate the conservatory throughout the holiday season.
The newly-installed lights and Christmas trees are the main attraction, but for me a big part of the excitement comes from being inside the conservatory after dark. In winters past I’ve ogled the seasonal nighttime displays through Phipps’ windowed exterior, and now I finally got to see it from the other side of the glass.
The interior takes on a different ambience at night with darkness beyond the window panels. When I visited in November the conservatory was still decked-out with Fall-centric seasonal flourishes and a pair of trolls greeted guests in the entry. Now the trolls were replaced with trees.
Through the windows of the Orchid Room (pictured above) you can see the golden “victory lights” illuminating the top of the Cathedral of Learning. My trip to Phipps came on the day after Pitt’s football team won the ACC championship, and the victory lights were an ever present sight, especially from outside where the Oakland skyline seemed part of a tableaux with the garden light displays.
After completing our circuit of Phipps we were in the mood for more holiday lights so we headed downtown where I accomplished another Pittsburgh first: visiting the city’s Christmas tree in PPG Place.
The European-style Christmas market in the adjacent Market Square had already closed for the evening, but there was still a large number of ice skaters circling the rink around the tree.