For those of us lucky enough to live in or around Pittsburgh, we know how many amazing activities there are for kids and families. It’s these same fun things to do that keep us heading back to the city for family fun no matter what time of year. From educational activities to ways to burn off extra energy, here’s my Pittsburgh family travel bucket list.
Visiting Pittsburgh, PA, is always fun any time of the year. There are the outdoor water sports and events from spring through fall, the gardens and parks to trek through when the weather is mild, and all of those amazing restaurants to dine at any time of year. But there’s tried and true favorites that any Pittsburgher will tell you are the kid-friendly hot spots when visiting. These Pittsburgh spots truly make the grade for families.
Carnegie Science Center
There’s no such thing as a science geek at Carnegie Science Center on the North Shore. It’s THE Pittsburgh spot where science is super cool! Filled with four floors of science fun, our favorite spots are the Buhl Planetarium and Highmark SportsWorks. If the weather’s decent enough, you can always head to the Ohio River and check out the USS Requien, the U.S. Navy’s first Radar Picket submarine.
And if the weather’s frightful? Head to the Miniature Railroad & Village to check out minute details from Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania.
Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh
Yep, I know Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh on the North Shore caters to kids but, ding dang it, I can’t help but have fun there, too! When The Kid was younger, Waterplay was her go-to spot. It’s there she got soaked and learned about the properties of water. Now that she’s older, she loves the Studio where she can paint, draw, and simply create.
My favorite spot? The areas dedicated to Mr. Rogers and Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. The famous, heart-warming puppets from the Neighborhood of Make Believe make me tear up every time I see them. Not kidding.
Carnegie Museum of Natural History
While these favorites are in no particular order, Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Oakland is always on the top of our list as a Pittsburgh indoor activity. With four floors (counting the basement!) filled with educational fun, we never tire of it. Turns out I’ve been visiting since elementary school myself. The recent addition of an entire 1,900-square-foot Discovery Basecamp has upped its game, too. A hands-on, interactive learning area (Seriously. We could touch it all without fearing a security guard’s glare or warning.) lets kids and adults learn about the world around them by no better means than learning through touch.
Classic permanent exhibits including Walton Hall of Ancient Egypt, Botany Hall, and Wertz Gallery: Gems & Jewelry always give us something to look forward to on each trip and the temp exhibits make us want to keep visiting for the updates. The Dinosaurs in Their Time exhibit lets visitors learn all about the giants as well as their habitat. I love how photo-worthy it is.
Heinz History Center
Even if you live in or around Pittsburgh, there’s always a need to brush up on its fun history, right? Heinz History Center in The Strip District is the place to head to for just that! It features over 250 years of Pittsburgh innovations including the creation of the Big Mac, the making of standardized railroad time, and even life-sized hometown hero displays like Rosie the Riveter.
Carnegie Museum of Art
I lucky to have an art lover for a teen. I’m also very lucky that Carnegie Museum of Art is less than an hour away from our home. The museum offers both permanent and temporary exhibits and the ability to mosey around and spy paintings from Monet to Albert Joseph Moore makes us very happy.
Bonus: A ticket to CMOA will get you free admission to Carnegie Museum of Natural History and vice versa!
We love heading to Phipps Conservatory in Oakland for its gorgeous botanical displays. Bonus: the temperature is always lovely and warm! Unique displays like Tropical Rain Forest and the Fern and Orchid Rooms will definitely keep away the chill, but if you want to get the best of both worlds, bundle up and head outdoors to explore its lovely walkable gardens.
For kiddos that love trains, head to the Garden Railroad in the South Conservatory to spy iconic Pittsburgh spots like the Duquesne Incline and Three Rivers Stadium. Mr. Rogers’ fans will have fun identifying the Neighborhood Trolley and King Friday XIII Castle.
If there’s one place to get a bird’s eye view of the city without a trip to Mount Washington, it’s National Aviary on the North Shore. The zoo prides itself on its care and preservation of avian species, but it’s so much more than just a bird zoo. The personalized animal events (including Flamingo and Sloth Encounters!) make it a regular hang when we head to Pittsburgh proper. You can also go online and look for the special events as well.
Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium
Beautiful walking paths, giant aquariums, and of course, lions, tigers, and bears (oh my!), Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium is a fun family activity year round. There’s plenty of hands-on activities, several climbing and play areas including giant slides, a deer petting section, and lots of spots to rest and take a breather.
Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium is open 362 days a year (save for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day) and hours vary depending on the season.