While many parents may not choose Pittsburgh as their first choice for a family vacation, it’s well worth the effort. This amazing city is very kid-friendly, and it’s also very affordable. There are plenty of indoor and outdoor activities to enjoy, and this is a great access point to many other exciting nearby cities. Visit during the fall and spring, when the weather is perfect, and the leaves are changing, and you won’t regret it. Without further delay, let’s talk about the best things for kids to do in Pittsburgh.
Historical Things for Kids to do in Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh is a very historical city, and there’s a lot to learn for kids and adults alike. If you’ve got time and a sense of wonder, then make sure to check out at least a couple of these museums that cover a number of different categories.
Heinz History Center
As your first stop, you can learn a ton about the wonderful city of Pittsburgh at the Heinz History Center. There are many great attractions and exhibits. Since the famous children’s show host Mister Rogers was born here, you can also see a special exhibit that celebrates his show Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. There’s also a trolley car, an exhibit about Heinz ketchup, and fun facts about other famous Pittsburgh creations, like the Ferris wheel, the big mac sandwich, and more.
Carnegie Museum of Natural History
Next, venture over to the amazing Carnegie Museum of Natural History, where you can see one of the largest and most expensive mummy and dinosaur collections in the entire country. Your kids will have a ball looking at the many exhibits, and they’ll also learn a lot along the way. As an added benefit, if your child is on the spectrum, they have special “Sensory Friendly Saturdays” so they can see the museum in peace. While here, they’ll learn about science, nature, and the great big world around them.
Pittsburgh Children’s Museum
Ideal for younger kids, the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum has many interactive exhibits that provide hours of entertainment and education. There’s the famous MuseumLab and the Makeshop, where the kids can make and create design tools. There are also many fun workshops, like those where kids learn to make magazines and plaster animals. Permanent exhibits include a car garage, waterway, and garden, among others.
Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum
Older kids and parents who love to watch and play sports should stop by the awesome Western Pennsylvania museum. This is the place to go if you want to learn everything about the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers and the players that have made the team great. You can also learn about the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team, the Pittsburgh Penguins hockey team, and the teams of the past. In addition to seeing some great exhibits, you can also play football and other fun games.
To complete your Pittsburgh sports experience, bring your football-loving kids to Heinz Stadium, where the Steelers call home. You can take a tour around this awesome stadium and see where they play and prepare for the games. There are different tours at different price points, including the Ultimate Tour, which gives you a view of the field, press boxes, luxury boxes, and more.
If you visit Pittsburgh during baseball season and you love the game, then check out PNC Park and watch the Pirates play in person. This is a huge park, and you can get great seats if you book in advance. While you’re there, you can eat some tasty popcorn and candy and root on the team. If you visit during the off-season, you can book a tour and see all of the behind-the-scenes action.
If you love history and you love pinball, you must take a couple of hours and visit Pinball Perfection. This museum, established in the 90s, has over 300 different pinball machines, including some with cool themes, like Superman, Star Wars, The Flintstones, Jurassic Park, Godzilla, Star Trek, and more. If pinball isn’t your thing, there are also other fun games, including air hockey, slot machines, Pac-Man, and more.
While it may look like an amusement park, Randyland is actually an outdoor courtyard museum where 100,000 visitors every year go to check out hand-painted murals, welcome signs in a variety of languages, and an incredible mirror wall. It’s a fun and colorful place for children of all ages.
Fort Pitt Museum
Fans of all things history need to add the Fort Pitt Museum and Fort Ligonier tour to their vacation agenda. This is one of the best things for kids to do in Pittsburgh because it allows them to see how the people in this great city played a role in the American Revolution, the French and Indian War, and the Early Republic. There are interactive exhibits and also live history reenactments. Fort Pitt Museum and Fort Ligonier are two different places, but they both show the bravery of the great people of Pittsburgh.
Carnegie Science Center
For something really wild, visit the Carnegie Science Center. This place was built last century by the great Andrew Carnegie, who loved to educate the youth. The museum is full of a lot of really cool exhibits, including a submarine, railroad villages, a treehouse playground, and more. There are also a lot of fun activities where you can play with Legos, learn about engineering, and more. This is a great activity to break up your day, and the kids will have a blast.
Henry Clay Frick was a famous industrialist who decided to turn his home into a fabulous museum, and you can visit it! This place looks like a castle, so bring your camera so you can capture the magic. However, the real fun is inside. There’s a ton to see, including an art museum, a playhouse, a vintage car and carriage collection, a tasty cafe, and more. It may seem like a delicate place at first, but this is one of the most kid-friendly destinations in town.
The Andy Warhol Museum
Although you may not immediately think of the term “family-friendly” when thinking about Andy Warhol, he was a very imaginative fellow, and your kids can see a lot of that through his fun museum. Your children can bring out their artistic side at this museum as they star in their own short films, stretch metallic stars, create their own pop art projects, and more. It’s something different to do, and it’s recommended for all ages.
If your kids have a sweet tooth, you must add the Milkshake Factory to your vacation agenda. Located on the South side of the city, the Milkshake Factory began in 1914, and today, you can join a tour that will show you how all the magic happens. You can stop by and have a standard chocolate or vanilla shake, or you can have extra-special flavors, like fried ice cream and cookie dough fudge.
Adventurous Things for Kids to do in Pittsburgh
Once you’re done learning, you can get out into the fresh air and try many adventurous activities and other fun things for kids to do in Pittsburgh. There are rivers, forest preserves, parks, and more.
The Gateway Clipper River Cruise
If rivers are your thing then this cruise has you covered. While you travel on the Gateway Clipper, you’ll see the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio rivers and breathe the amazing fresh air along the way. Best of all, you can choose different themes for the cruise, like princesses, superheroes, wizards, and more. The Gateway Clipper is a great ship with snacks and bathrooms, and plenty of seating, so you’re sure to have a blast.
Officially marked as a National Historic Landmark, this is an amazing amusement park that has been around since 1989. It’s home to one of the oldest wooden roller coasters in the world. But that’s not all. There’s also the merry-go-round, sports-inspired rides, a Kiddie Land for the smallest children, and a 4D theater so you can sit down during the day and see an amazing show. Stay until night, and you can ride the roller coasters when they are all lit up. It’s truly a fun and awesome sight.
Idlewild Park and Soak Zone
Next on our list of the best things for kids to do in Pittsburgh is the dual parks: Idlewild Park and Soak Zone. The Idlewild Park portion is a great experience for little kids because there is a nice little area called Storybook Forest, where they can walk through fun scenes and interact with characters like Red Riding Hood and Snow White. There’s also a trolley ride, a wooden roller coaster, and more.
The Soak Zone portion is a small water park. There are over 35 different rides, and you can stop along the way to learn interesting facts about how it won the Golden Ticket Award for Best Children’s Park.
Duquesne Incline Train
One of the most famous parts of Pittsburgh is the Duquesne Incline Train, which is a train that goes almost straight downhill, allowing you to get amazing views along the way. It’s a great way to see the city, and you’ll also see plenty of nature at the top of Mount Washington. There are also tasty restaurants at the top of the hill where you can get a snack to eat. Keep in mind that the train ride accepts cash only.
Sometimes, it can be difficult to find fun activities for the toddlers in your family, but you can give them a chance to stretch their legs at the Seesaw Center. This is a great indoor play center where your babies can play with a lot of fun toys, including mini basketball hoops, large blocks, a dress-up area, play castles, reading stations, and more. This center is recommended for kids from infancy to kindergarten age.
The name here says it all. This is a massive play area that offers all of the classics, including a jungle gym, slides, climbing areas, swings, and more. There’s an almost limitless number of fun activities, and that’s just the play area. The park also features walking trails, sports courts, a zoo, an aquarium, a swimming pool, fishing areas, and even an aquarium full of colorful fish and sea life.
Sandcastle Water Park
Located less than 20 minutes from Pittsburgh, this massive 67-acre park has tons of fun rides, including easygoing attractions for youngsters and more extreme attractions for older kids. All the classics are represented, including a lazy river, splash area, wave pool, and several normal pools. This is a clean location that has clean restrooms, ATM machines, and anything else you may require.
Fun Slides Carpet Skatepark
As the world's only carpet skatepark, this fantastic park provides a truly unique experience during your visit to Pittsburgh. Carpet skating is safe and fun, and it's easy for beginners to catch on and start having a blast! There's also an arcade, a ninja course, nerf war zone, bounce houses, dodgeball, and carpet hockey. This is a great attraction for kids aged 4-13.
Don’t forget that there are some great rivers that go through the area, which provide even more things for kids to do in Pittsburgh. One activity that many people like is kayaking or taking a canoe down the lake that goes through the downtown area. There’s no rush. Take your time as you make your way down the calm waterways.
Zoos and Wildlife Adventures
No vacation is complete without a visit to at least one zoo, aviary, or other animal adventure, and this city has you covered. Here are the best wildlife-esque things for kids to do in Pittsburgh.
The National Aviary
If your kids love birds of all shapes and sizes, bring them to the National Aviary. This is a free zoo where you can visit over 150 different species of birds as they live and thrive in their natural habitat. This is the only zoo in America that is solely dedicated to birds. It’s really fun to just walk around the park and look in the trees and ponds to spot the gorgeous birds. Check the website ahead of time, as the park is closed on Tuesdays and other days.
Pittsburgh Zoo & Aquarium
Another 2-in-1 event in Pittsburgh is their famous zoo and aquarium. Mentioned as one of the best zoos in America, this location has a lot of animals you won’t see anywhere else, including polar bears and gorillas. All-in-all, there are over 475 animal species over 77 acres. You can also sign up for their Wild Encounters, where you get a 30-minute private tour and you can see the animals up close and personal. There are also many events at the zoo, including breakfast with the Easter Bunny, Cinco de rhino celebrations, and more.
The aquarium is also a lot of fun, with hundreds of different fish and sea animals for you and the kids to see. Tickets are moderately priced, and you can get lunch at the many local restaurants.
Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens
Your family can continue to witness the beauty of nature during a visit to these gorgeous botanical gardens. There’s a ton of cool plantlife to see here as you explore this 14-room conservatory that has 19 different gardens. Beautiful butterflies frolic everywhere around the conservatory, and it’s quite stunning. While there, you can enjoy many art collections, a seasonal flower show, an art exhibit, a virtual story time, and more. Take this as an opportunity to stop and smell the flowers.
Here is your comprehensive list of fun and educational things for kids to do in Pittsburgh. This really is a lovely city, and it’s loaded with a lot of great people who will make your visit that much more special. Make Pittsburg your next weekend getaway and create memories you’ll remember forever.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©iStock.com/CreativeI.