Looking for fun things to do in Pittsburgh? This bustling Pennsylvania city hosts a surprising number of family-friendly activities year-round. This itinerary includes active play, museums and great places to eat. There are things to do for sports fans, history buffs and transportation lovers. These are the top 21 things to do in Pittsburgh with kids!
TravelingMom was hosted by Visit Pittsburgh to facilitate this post. All thoughts and opinions are those of the writer.
Fun Things to Do in Pittsburgh with Kids
Let’s clear the air: Pittsburgh Pennsylvania has a reputation as being a dirty city. The tour guide even mentioned this history, as a result of the steel mining and steam trains that the air was sooty in the past. Fortunately this is all history and I found downtown Pittsburgh to be very clean with lots of fun things for kids. There has also been an upswing in the arts communities, public transportation and kid-friendly entertainment making Pittsburgh a viable family destination.
My 7-year old son and I flew cross-country to spend 4 days in beautiful Pittsburgh. I had a lot to learn about Pittsburgh and we had so much fun exploring together on this trip. This is the itinerary we experienced and it’s packed with family fun! I’m sharing my tips for taking on Pittsburgh with kids.
Best Activity for a Sunny Day in Pittsburgh – Gateway Clipper Boat Tour
The Gateway Clipper offers first time visitors to Pittsburgh the whole package – an entertaining history lesson, a gorgeous view of the city and a ride on all three rivers (the Monongahela, Allegheny and Ohio). I highly recommend this tour as a great first day activity, especially if the weather is agreeable. The Gateway Clipper vessel has multiple levels for seating both inside and out. We chose to sit up top in the open to enjoy the view and fresh air.
There are chairs on the top deck but no shade so if it’s a sunny day, definitely wear sunscreen and bring a hat. Overcast day? Bring a jacket as it does get windy along the river. The live narration can be heard from every deck. We took the traditional tour on our visit but they also offer special tours geared for kids, including pirate, princess and super hero themed tours. I’d recommend the traditional tour for older kids and teens. My 7 year old was a bit bored with the hour-long narration, but I found it fascinating!
Where to Eat Breakfast in Pittsburgh
Starting with breakfast, I have recommendations whether your kids love waffles or hotcakes! Waffles, INCaffeinated in Downtown Pittsburgh has amazing specialty waffles as well as build-your-own mix ins or toppings with ingredients that range from sweet (Bananas Foster) to savory (Eggs Benedict atop waffles). The kid’s menu is definitely geared for young ones with toppings like crumbled Oreo cookies or peanut butter chips!
If your gang prefers hotcakes, the enormous crepe-style version at Pamela’s Diner are a must. Order them straight-up with meat or in a “stuffed” specialty version with sour cream and whipped cream. The potato and meat hash is another popular choice. We ate at the historic Strip District location but there are other Diners around Pittsburgh. There isn’t a kid’s menu here so my recommendations for families is to order multiple platters and share. Dishes are huge and easily served “family-style” so everyone can try a bit of everything.
TravelingMom Tip: Pamela’s Diner only accepts cash, so come prepared!
Imagination Takes Flight at the National Aviary
The National Aviary is the country’s only dedicated bird zoo. This family-friendly location offers something for everyone. Individual rooms house unique bird species including a tropical rain forest of macaw and grasslands with tiny finches. Admission to the National Aviary includes viewing scheduled features like penguin or lorikeet feedings.
There are also additional features for a fee, like the Birdly simulator which lets guests fly and dive just like a Jurassic bird! Private feedings and other interactive animal encounters are also available. If you’re making a day of it at the National Aviary, guests can enjoy a healthy meal at the Atria’s Kookaburra Kitchen.
A View from the Top – Duquesne Incline
My son and I had the chance to ride the Duquesne Incline from bottom to top in one of the original cars. While only a few minutes, it’s a steep and thrilling climb to the top of Mount Washington. Once at the peak, guests can take photos of the grand vista. Explore the outdoor observation deck and pop a quarter into one of the telescopes for a closer look at the view below. The stunning bird’s eye of downtown includes the three identical bridges (Roberto Clemente, Andy Warhol and Rachel Carson) and Point State Park fountain.
One of the tidbits heard on the Gateway Clipper is the Incline/Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood connection. When Fred Rogers was creating his television program, he had requested that an Incline car carry viewers to Make-Believe on the show. However, the producers convinced him that a trolley would be more relatable for kids around the nation. You’ll notice the resemblance to the Trolley on the show and the Duquesne Incline cars.
TravelingMom Tip: The Incline is a cash only ride, with kids five and under riding for free.
Best Lunch Spots in Pittsburgh
For families wanting an authentic Pittsburgh dining experience, lunch at Primanti Bros. is a popular stop. We ate at the original location in the Strip District but you can find additional spots around town, including one at the Pittsburgh airport. All sandwiches are topped the same, with vinegar-based coleslaw, fries, cheese and tomato.
You won’t find a kids menu at Primanti Bros. so this is definitely a place to consider sharing a sandwich with younger ones. My picky 7-year old opted for some of the meat off my Angus Steak & Cheese and some fries on the side. Teens will likely enjoy the meaty, messy sandwiches that are served straight up on butcher paper (not a plate, fork or knife in sight!).
For those exploring the public art and wall murals in the South Side, lunch at Double Wide Grill is ideal. Built in what appears to be an old filling station and garage, there are cool automotive touches throughout this space (hub cap ceiling decor, lamps made of gas cans, etc). Diners can enjoy barbecued favorites including ribs and pulled pork inside or on the patio.
TravelingMom Tip: Pittsburgh on a budget? Dine at Double Wide Grill on Sundays, when kids’ meals are only $1.99 after 4 p.m.
Amusement Park Fun for Young and Young-at-Heart – Kennywood Park
Located about 30 minutes drive outside the city, Kennywood Amusement Park offers a full day of fun. Kids will love the great mix of classic, historical rides as well as modern thrills. The park was founded in 1898 and three roller coasters still in operation date back to the 1920s.
Younger kids will love Kiddie Land and Thomas Town, a newer area dedicated to fans of the railroad themed television show. Thrill riding teens will enjoy the faster speeds of Phantom’s Revenge or the highly anticipated Steelers football team-inspired coaster, the Steel Curtain. For kids in between, try the Gran Prix bumper cars, Raging Rapids or the Turtle.
TravelingMom Tip: Kennywood Park is not open daily year-round, with certain days closed in the off-peak season. Be sure to check their online calendar to ensure park days and times during your visit.
Best Activity for a Rainy Day – Pittsburgh Children’s Museum
If there’s inclement weather in the forecast, you’ll need someplace to spend the entire day. The Pittsburgh Children’s Museum in Pittsburgh’s North Side is perfect for all ages. It would be a challenge to see everything in a single day here – but you’ll have so much fun trying!
There are hands-on areas here for art, experimentation or active play. Traveling exhibits mingle with permanent ones, so what you see on one visit may vary from the next. There are designated areas for babies as well as tweens as well as sections where they can play together. The newly opened MuseumLab space (occupying the old Carnegie Library) is ideal for ages 10+ with places for crafting, workshops, virtual simulators and creating.
Don’t be surprised as an adult if you get distracted by playing and your kids wander off without you (happened to me!). The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh is extremely popular and areas can get very congested. Dress your child in bright colors so you can spot them in the crowd. If you have children of varying ages, consider dividing adults so that younger kids and older kids can explore areas that are most appropriate for them.
Too wet or cold to play outdoors? Check out these things to do indoors in Pittsburgh with kids.
Kid-Friendly Treats in Pittsburgh
For kids and grown-ups craving a treat, stop into the Milkshake Factory for handcrafted shakes, sundaes or chocolates. Gourmet milkshake flavors like Cookie Dough Fudge or Fried Ice Cream are thick and rich. Consider sharing to avoid the belly ache! Chocolates are made locally and hand dipped in the store. The Pittsburgh Penguins hockey puck chocolate is a souvenir must-have!
For a tiny treat, try the mini gourmet doughnuts from Peace Love and Donuts in the Strip District. For about $1.50 each, this is a great way to sample fun flavors like maple bacon or raspberry lemonade.
Fun with a Dash of History – Senator John Heinz History Center
The Senator John Heinz History Center is operated in association with the Smithsonian, so you know this is a high-quality operation! Some exhibits at the Heinz History Center are long-term and other are on rota tion, so you may experience changes between visits to this extensive museum. Guests should set aside at least a half a day to see and do everything on all six floors. Fortunately the Heinz History Center that’s appropriate for all ages, with interactive details and areas for little ones to roam.
When it comes to sports, the people of Pittsburgh know their stuff. This extensive homage to Western Pennsylvania sports is incomparable and sports fans can soak in all the history of the Steelers, Penguins, Pirates and more. Fans of the public television show Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood will love to see the props from the show on display here.
My favorite was the Heinz exhibition with displays of the 150-year old proud Pittsburgh product, famously known for their pickles and ketchup (you’ll find lots of great Heinz souvenirs in the gift shop). Young guests of the museum will enjoy exploring the creative kid’s space Discovery Place or sliding down the Liberty Tube in the “Kidsburgh” area.
TravelingMom Tip: For families with kids who nap in a stroller, save exhibits like the Collections Center to walk through slowly while your little one sleeps. It’s a fascinating look at items from the past (but boring for kids).
A Night of Baseball – Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park
Families can enjoy a night of sports and entertainment watching the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park. This top-rated ball park sits along the Allegheny River. Whether the Pirates win or lose (they won at our game!), a night of baseball is always a good time. The view across the river towards downtown Pittsburgh from PNC Park is amazing.
Consider a seat in the outfield Pirate’s Cove section, especially if you have kids who like to snack throughout the game. Those sitting in Pirate’s Cove can enjoy complimentary popcorn, peanuts and soda as well as discounted pricing on select foods like nachos.
TravelingMom Tip: If little ones get antsy, there’s a playground area and a small baseball diamond for running the bases.
Dinner Hot Spot in Pittsburgh
For dinner, try the family-friendly Burgatory Bar, which has 5 locations around Pittsburgh (including one at Heinz Field and another at PPG Paints Area that are only open during games). This burger hot spot has some inspired creations, including Piggy Butter & Jelly with candied bacon, peanut butter and habanero jelly! Guests can also build their own with meats that include elk or bison, then add creative toppings like carmelized onion marmalade or beer cheese.
Burgers are the highlight here, but you can also find salad, chili and short ribs on the menu. For a break on the beef, I chose the Impossible Burger, a veggie-based patty, and it was perfectly delicious.
Definitely save room at the end of your meal for dessert. Choose a deep-dish cookie topped with ice cream scoops for the family to share or a thick and creamy signature milk shake to go. Grown ups can chill a little longer with a hard milk shake like the Burnt Almond Torte shake with amaretto or Blueberry French Toast shake with vanilla vodka. I went booze-free with a Salted Nutella Crunch to-go and wow, what a finish to a great night!
TravelingMom Tip: The kids’ menu offers a challenge – clean your plate and get a complimentary cherry Coke float!
Looking for More Fun Things to Do in Pittsburgh?
Here are a few more fun things to do in Pittsburgh with the kids!
- Train-lovers (aka: “Rail Fans) will love touring Pittsburgh for the sheer number of train spottings available. There are trains running all over the city and kids will enjoy looking for them.
- For a closer look at the rails, visit the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum where kids can jump on board for a ride.
- Carnegie Science Center offers four-stories of hands-on entertainment including a miniature railroad and rock climbing wall. Find out what other top kid’s museums in the United States are worth the visit.
- Artistic and creative types will appreciate the many colorful murals and wall art displayed all over the city. In addition Pittsburgh was home to Andy Warhol and houses an art museum and a bridge in his name.
- Cool off on a summer after with a day at the Sandcastle Water Park.
- Looking for a bright spot on a gloomy day? Kids will love the annual butterfly exhibit at the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens.
- Active kids can run and play at one of the many open spaces or parks throughout the city. Biking trails and waterfront paths popular locations for those who want to bike, run or walk with kids.
- Another good location for a rainy day, the Carnegie Museum of Natural History is among the top in the country. For families traveling with a child on the autism spectrum, plan your visit on “Sensory Friendly Saturday” when the museum opens early (register online before your visit).
More Tips for Vacationing in Pittsburgh with Kids
There are 90 neighborhoods in the Pittsburgh area. We stayed at the Homewood Suites in the Strip District. Roomy and comfortable, this is a great location with full kitchens for families to prepare a meal and stay on a budget. Homewood Suites also hosts a complimentary breakfast and evening happy hour with light appetizers.
Many attractions in the Strip District are within walking distance or accessible at a short drive. With the odd street arrangements, multi-leveled roads and many bridges to cross, driving is a challenge. Consider calling Uber or Lyft to get around rather than renting a car.