Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is a great city for a weekend getaway with your family. You could actually spend an entire week because there is so much to do. We like to plan a visit once a year and enjoy the many things the city has to offer. Read on for the best of Pittsburgh for Families.
Pittsburgh has such a special place in my heart. I grew up visiting the city when my grandfather lived there and always enjoyed our many visits to this incredible city. As an adult I lived there for 4 years and it is where 2 of my 3 children were born. It is also an amazing city to visit. With many museums, amusements parks, and historical sites you can always find something fun to do. When we plan a visit I often have a difficult time picking what we will do because there is so much. Here are my top ten picks for the best of Pittsburgh for families.
I can’t say enough amazing things about Phipps Conservatory. It is gorgeous. It has desert rooms, a room with waterfalls and koi fish, and even outdoor areas and a children’s garden. I could walk around exploring for hours and the kids really enjoy it. Especially the children’s garden. There are little fountains and places to explore all over the grounds. This part is outdoors and may be closed in the winter.
The costs of tickets can be a little pricey for a family of five but we always felt it was worth it. Typically we spend at least 2-3 hours and you could easily spend more. Arrive early because parking is in the middle of the street and it is gone fast. It is also free for garden guests! There is street parking and parking lots but this may come with a fee. If you finish the garden and have time to spare, exit out to the left and walk over the bridge. There is a little park to have a picnic and a carousel that is open seasonally.
Pittsburgh is a beautiful city and the best way to see it is to go up. There are two inclines, the Monongahela and the Duquesne. We always do the Duquesne Incline because the parking is easy and the view can’t be beat. The parking lot is part of Station Square(a shopping/restaurant/bar area). It is across the street from the incline. There are parking meters in the lot but it is sometimes free.
The cost for the ride is:
Adults (Ages 12-64) $2.50 Each Way or $5.00 Round Trip
Children (Ages 6-11) $1.25 Each Way or $2.50 Round Trip
Children 5 and Under Free
The admission fee is cash only!! If you forget, they have a change machine in the lobby. It is a slow ride to the top and if you have a fear of heights it can make that climb more difficult. I don’t love heights, but I love the views so I take a deep breath and go for it every time! At the top you walk through a small gift shop with postcards and candy. They have a small hallway that has many pictures that show the history of the incline. I love seeing the pictures with the snow, its amazing. This is a must do when visiting the city.
Kennywood is one of the oldest amusement parks in America. When walking through, it still has some of its original attractions. Noah’s Ark is an old school walk through attraction that recently celebrated its 80th anniversary and received a refurbishment. It has been a few years since we have visited the park but it is on our list for our next visit.
Phantom’s Revenge is one of the best roller coasters I have ever ridden and is a must do for anyone who loves coasters. The Exterminator is a fun indoor coaster that still offers great thrills without the height of some of the bigger coasters. You can bring your own food into the park but be sure to try The Potato Patch that serves fresh cut fries with an assortment of toppings….bacon, cheese, gravy!!
A visit to Pittsburgh would not be complete without a meal at Primanti Brothers. This is the place where they put french fries on your sandwich. It does not disappoint!! They have many locations through the city and it is easy to add it to your plans for lunch or dinner. Enjoy!
Pittsburgh is all about their sports. The Steelers, Pirates, and Penguins offer so many opportunities to catch a major league game. All are great but my pick would be to catch a Pirates game at PNC Park. The stadium alone is worth it. Between the food offerings and the views of the city this ball park is one of the best!
Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium
Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium is one of my favorite zoos!! There are not many places you can get a zoo and aquarium for one admission price!! This zoo will easily take 4-5 hours. It is a lot of walking and I suggest good walking shoes and a stroller if you have little ones. My kids are 4, 6, and 8 and they do not need a stroller at our local zoo but this is much bigger and very hilly. If you have never been to Pittsburgh you will realize there are hills everywhere and the zoo is no exception. You actually take an elevator or escalator up to the entrance of the zoo after the ticket booth.
One of my favorite parts of the zoo is it goes in a circle without too much trails off of the path. So once you start to the left you will continue going in a circle. There are a few trails off this but they are short and you finish where you left off on the circle. This is great because it enables you to see everything very easily.
There are two playgrounds too. One is after the Polar Bear exhibit at the Water’s Edge. The other is in the Kids Kingdom Section. I try to arrive first thing in the morning to beat the crowds. We also pack snacks and a lunch.
A perfect spot for lunch is at the new Jambo Grill. They have a great variety of typical zoo food and healthier snack choices like salads and sandwiches. It is counter service so even if you bring food you can use the tables to eat. We ate at the outdoor seating section. My husband and I brought sandwiches from home and the kids ordered kids meals. The outdoor seating looks out to the giraffes. It was such a cool experience to watch the giraffes and enjoy our lunch.
After lunch we toured The Island which was a new exhibit and was partially under construction. Next was the aquarium. This part gets very busy and is indoors. It is a great place to cool off on a hot day. The best is the penguin exhibit. There is an underwater viewing area and the penguins are usually very active swimming.
The polar bear exhibit also has a underwater viewing area but I’ve only been lucky enough to experience it once. Hopefully you will have better luck. After the Polar Bears there is the Kids Kingdom area and a walk through path that has deer inside. This is worth it to walk through and when it is all finished you end up at another walk through that has kangaroos. I have never experienced kangaroos up close and you can get your picture taken right next to them. This is an exciting exhibit that is not offered at many other places.
Carnegie Mellon Museums
There are four museums within the Carnegie Mellon Museums. They are:
- Carnegie Museum of Natural History-We love the Dinosaur Bone exhibit.
- Carnegie Museum of Art-This is connected to the history museum. Two museums for the admission cost of one! The art museum has a huge architecture room. It is my favorite and will take your breath away!
- Carnegie Science Center-At opening, after ticket purchase, go outside and take a tour of the USS Requin. A real submarine in the river. You also get great views of the city. My kids thought it was so cool to see the bunks and kitchen of how life was like. If you get claustrophobic this can feel really tight. You do go at you own pace though so you can exit whenever needed. There are also some steep stairs so use caution. Another must see is the train room. A full working model train set fills a room on the 2nd floor. Look for all the secret moving surprises and the change from day to night. I love the miniature carnival that lights up. Carnegie Science Center also has Highmark SportsWorks. This is housed in a building next door and is included with admission. It offers trampolines, balance beams, and other physically interactive exhibits. Lines can get long so plan accordingly.
- The Andy Warhol Museum- Check out the art museum to see eccentric pieces from Andy Warhol and other artists.
Pittsburgh Childrens Museum/National Aviary
The Pittsburgh Childrens Museum has a lot of hands-on activities. I think the amount of time spent at the museum depends on the current exhibits. They have a great artist room where the kids can work on multiple art projects and you could spend the day there but I am not sure it it worth admission for just the art part. The top floor has a huge water play area. We were not prepared to get drenched because it was our day to drive home but some kids were wearing bathing suits!! If you plan on doing this bring a change of clothes or bathing suits. Remember a towel too!!
The reason we added this to our recent visit was because they had an Eric Carle exhibit. My son loves all things Eric Carle and the exhibit did not disappoint. Very cute adaptation of his most popular books. The exhibit has since left and I saw they currently have a Daniel Tiger exhibit. I also added the National Aviary because they are so close in proximity to each other. It houses many different types of birds and we did visit once when my daughter was 1. If you love birds this is a great place!
Point State Park
Point State Park offers the most beautiful views of the city. It is the point where the rivers meet. Great place to just slow down and take in the city. Pack a picnic and enjoy a slow afternoon.
Ducky Tours or Gateway Clipper
Another great way to take in the city is to do Ducky Tours or Gateway Clipper. Ducky Tours explore the city by land and water. It offers a unique experience that kids and adults will love. Gateway Clipper offers dining and kid themed cruises that are fun for the entire family. Each have different experiences but both offer great ways to sit back relax and take in everything that Pittsburgh has to offer.
If you plan a visit these fun attractions are really some of the best of Pittsburgh for families. Did I leave a favorite off the list? What do you like to do when you visit Pittsburgh? Share in the comments.
Looking for more family fun inspiration? Check out my 52 Ideas for Quality Family Fun.