The Thaw Guide: 25 things to keep you busy as Winter melts into Spring

By January 28, 2020 No Comments

By Charlie Deitch
Pittsburgh Current Editor

For some, winter is a beautiful time of the year. A time for skiing, sledding, or cozying up to a warm fire with a cup of cocoa and a good book.

For others, the winter is a heartless, wretched beast whose winds and jagged ice pellets rain down from the sky beating down on you until you surrender to its wrath. It is the demonic bastard spawn of Steve Bannon, Donald Trump and Stephen Miller (it’s called a throuple for the socially ignorant).

Last year, the Pittsburgh Current presented you with its “Chill Issue,” a periodical full of ideas to help you while away the winter. But we found that concept to be, well, depressing as hell. But the fact is, there is plenty of stuff to do in the winter and they shouldn’t be used simply as ways to pass the time. It’s also an inaccurate description of the period of time we’re talking about. 

Winter ends in March, technically, and spring begins. So instead of offering you a winter-themed issue, we present the “Thaw Guide,” and 25 things you must do to take advantage of as winter melts into spring. Also, full disclosure, I wanted to call it the Sprinter Guide, but was quickly voted down. It’s probably for the best.

 Go for a run. Everybody knows about the Pittsburgh Marathon in May and the Great Race in September, but there are plenty of races to run between now and the end of April. Some are competitive and  some are for great causes. Here’s a quick sampling of events: Cupid’s Chase Run is on Feb.8, sponsored by Community Options Inc. which supports people with disabilities. That same day is also Cupid’s Undie Run. On April 4 is the Race for Grace, to raise funds to support patients and families of children with pediatric brain cancer. April 18 is the Pittsburgh Pirates Home Run Race, 5K and 10K. And on April 25 in North Park is the Superhero Run with proceeds benefiting Court Appointed Support Advocates,  which works with abused children. There are plenty of other options

(Photo courtesy of Cupid’s Undie Run)

If you have to go outside, at least be active. Some people like winter activities. I have no idea why. But to each their own. Luckily, Allegheny County Parks has you covered. Whether you want to ski, snowboard or go tubing at Boyce Park, skating at North Park and South Park. Or, you can even go cross-country skiing at all nine county parks. Pittsburgh’s parks also offer plenty of activities including hikes, skating and cross-country skiing. One notable event is Schenley Park’s Mascot Skate. Yes, it’s exactly as it sounds.

See one of the Greatest Musicals Ever Produced. I’m no theater critic, but I know what I like. And Hair is the musical that made me want to watch musicals. Pittsburgh Musical Theater is producing the show, which is in its last weekend, January 31-Feb. 2. Go see it in all of its shining-gleaming-streaming-flaxen-waxen glory.

Experience shrinkage for a good reason. We all do crazy things for one reason or another — on  dare or to launch a successful Youtube channel. So you may as well head down to the Pittsburgh Polar Plunge at 11 a.m. Feb. 29 at Heinz Field. Raise a minimum of $50, jump in a cold pool and all the money goes to the athletes of the Special Olympics of Pennsylvania

See how cultured Bugs Bunny was. The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra presents “Bugs Bunny Goes to the Symphony” March 20-22 at Heinz Hall. Most younger folks might not know much about the Looney Toons gang beyond the various incarnations of Space Jam. A lot of those old cartoons had themes and soundtracks rooted in classical music and opera. The Orchestra will play as the classic cartoons are projected on the big screen.

Get drunk with a few thousand of your closest friends. The winter installment of the Pittsburgh Beerfest hits the David L. Lawrence Convention Center on Feb. 28 and 29, presented by Fathead’s Brewery. There will be food, music and dozens of craft beers to warm your cockles or whatever else needs a little heat.

Learn about the history and importance of one of America’s great newspapers. You knew we weren’t talking about the Post-Gazette, right? The still-publishing Pittsburgh Courier is undoubtedly one of the most important newspapers in the history of this country. At the height of this nation’s fight for civil rights for African Americans, the Courier was the Vanguard of national black newspapers. Learn its history at 5:30 p.m. on Wed. Feb. 26 at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh in Homewood, 7101 Hamilton Ave. There will be a screening of Kenneth Love’s documentary, Newspaper of Record: The Pittsburgh Courier, 1907-1965. A panel discussion will follow.

Spend an evening with Cats. No, not the horrific film and especially not the even more so Broadway production that started it all. The Carnegie Science Center is putting its new giant screen to good use when it hosts CatVideoFest 2020 Feb. 28-March 8 (check times at The show is an 80-minute string of cat videos made up new submissions, old favorites that will make you think your a cat by the time you leave. So, don’t leave this film and go right into one of the center’s laser shows, you’ll lose your mind!

Watch your winter doldrums literally disappear. The things that The Queen of Cardistry, Anna DeGuzman can do with a deck of cards would knock your Aunt Connie’s socks off. Her residency at Liberty Magic runs from Feb. 19-March 29. This will be the rising talent’s first stage show. 

Check out the big-ass farmer’s market at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. Well, farmer’s market may be an oversimplification of the 14th Farm to Table Expo at the Pittsburgh Home and Garden Show March 6-15 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. There will be more than 60 local food vendors and 10 days of demonstrations and speakers. for more information.

Nerd it up. Nerd it up bigtime. It would be hard for anyone to argue that the Steel City Con at the Monroeville Convention Center isn’t one of the top pop-culture cons in the country. There are tons of artists and vendors, a costume contest and great panels. Bit more than that, the list of attending celebrities gets more impressive with each installment. This year’s crop is pretty impressive with talent like John Bernthal from The Punisher and Walking Dead. In fact the Walking Dead contingent is amazing with Sonequa Martin-Green (Sasha), Avi Nash (Siddiq), Alana Masterson (Tara), Cailey Fleming (Judith) and Steven Ogg (Simon) also the star of the wildly popular Grand Theft Auto V video game. for more info 

Party on Mars? The Phipps Conservatory transforms into a unique nightspot. On March 6, they pay tribute to David Bowie, the space odyssey, himself. Dance to new wave and synth pop hits in a tropical paradise. Drinks and appetizers are available for purchase. Reservations suggested.

Gather your crew and head to a festival. Support local artists, savor local fare or listen to some great music at any number of local festivals. I Made It! Mine market on Feb 8 highlights local crafters and vendors just in time for Valentine’s Day gifts.The 21st Annual Pittsburgh Arts & Crafts Spring Fever Festival runs March 20-22. Check out Vintage Pittsburgh on April 4 for one-of-a-kind vintage accouterment. Visit our listings section for other events..

Get  your Irish On. Participant in any of the million St. Patrick’s Day activities in Pittsburgh. You could always experience the nation’s 2nd largest St. Patrick’s Day parade, participate in Lucky’s St. Patrick’s Day Crawl, or enjoy music and food in Market Square. When deciding what to do, don’t forget to consider listening to the Bastard Bearded Irishmen at the Rex Theatre, March 14 at 6PM.

St. Patricks Day Pittsburgh

The 2019 St. Patricks Day Parade (Current photo by Jake Mysliwczyk)

Pull out your legwarmers, fingerless gloves and parachute pants! The Heinz History center presents the 22nd annual History Uncorked. This year, the party centers on the history of the 80’s. Dance, drink and participate in 80’s themed activities throughout the 5 floors. Tickets for the Feb 21 event on sale now!

Don’t have leg warmers? How about Tartan plaid? Attend Carnegie Mellon’s annual Spring Carnival and help them celebrate what it means to be a Tartan.  April 16-18 brings three days of amusement park rides, junk food, booth activities and buggy races. 

Learn a little something. The Pittsburgh Arts and Lectures presents a series of lectures in the Carnegie Library Lecture Hall or the Carnegie Music Hall. There is a lecture for everyone: Dan Gemeinhart on Feb 2, Tommy Orange on Feb 10, Sara Piper Gilliam on Feb 20, Colum McCann on Feb 26, Linda Park on March 1, Esi Edugyan on March 9, Jarret Krosoczka on March 12, Anny Enright on March 16, Mo Rocca on March 30 (my personal choice) and Michael Ondaatje on April 6. 

Visit the theater district and attend at least one show. Consider Summer: The Donna Summer Musical. We all know her iconic music, but most don’t know about the risks she took and the barriers she broke that paved the way for others to follow. Learn more about her life and listen to her incredible music April 7-12. Tickets on sale now at the 

Get a jump on summer sports at the Children’s Museum. Big League Fun opens on Feb 1. It’s an exhibit that explores the math and science behind Major League Baseball through hands-on, engaging activities for children.

Oh, The Humanities Festival ! Sponsored by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and the Humanities Center at Carnegie Mellon University, this three-day event is meant to help you expand your horizons and your knowledge base. One of the main attractions is Ira Glass, host of NPR’s This American Life. But there’s so much more including acclaimed African American historian Blair Imani, Pittsburgh’s documentarian-in-chief Rick Sebak and the very special event, Shit-faced Shakespeare, which is exactly what it sounds like.

It’s never too early to look for a summer job or internship! Allegheny County’s Learn & Earn Summer Youth Employment Program opens in March. Interested? Check out The Pittsburgh Zoo holds their annual Job Fair for hundreds of summer jobs on February 29.

Volunteer your time and skills. As a non profit affiliate of the HandsOn Network, Pittsburgh Cares works to advance a culture of volunteerism and civic engagement in the Pittsburgh region. Be part of the solution. Visit

Experience an otherworldly adventure. Starting Jan 18 and running through March 8, the Phipps Conservatory takes you through a galaxy of gardens at Orchid and Tropical Bonsai Show: Out of This World. Step out of the cold and into a world of star-shaped orchids and a cosmic collection of tropical bonsai.

Listen to 21st century chamber music. On March 1, the Del Sol String Quartet and FretX Guitar Duo perform for the Andy Warhol Museum’s Sound Series: Beyond Microtonal Music. Doors open at 7:30. Tickets available in advance or at the door. Visit for more information.

Raise a glass to conservation. The Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium’s Sip & Swirl : Wine Tasting Series begins on Friday, April 3. The event includes wine tasting, live music, small bites and animal visits. There’s even an opportunity to bid on Animal Art. Tickets go on sale Feb 13. 

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