Family Fun in the Steel City Without Breaking the Bank
Located at the confluence of the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio Rivers, and dotted with lush city parks and rolling hills, Pittsburgh offers plenty of wide-open space for adventure-seeking families. The city has a thriving cultural scene as once shuttered steel factories now serve as trendy dining, entertainment and retail spaces, and world-renowned museums fill downtown. As an added bonus, you’ll save money during your family vacation since many of the Steel City’s top attractions are completely free.
A Walk in the Park
It’s free to enter Schenley Park, the 465-acre park in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood. Explore the densely landscaped space via hiking trails that cut through wooded areas and along lakes and creeks. Make sure to visit Anderson Playground, where kids of all sizes climb long-necked dinosaurs. Schenley Park hosts free concerts and movies during summer. Kids’ Days, a free festival complete with games, craft workshops and music, takes place on the second Sunday of every month from May through October.
Cars to Culture: A Day at the Frick
Set in the city’s Point Breeze neighborhood, the 5.5-acre Frick (7227 Reynolds St., Pittsburgh, PA) features multiple museums and gardens, all of which are free to the public. Visit the collection of antique and classic automobiles at the Car and Carriage Museum or stroll through the ground’s lush gardens and tropical greenhouse. Special family-friendly events, also free of charge, take place at the Frick throughout the year, including Second Saturday Studio, an arts and crafts workshop where kids create everything from original paintings and drawings to car designs.
Get a Little Crafty
Based in Pittsburgh’s trendy Strip District, Contemporary Craft (2100 Smallman St., Pittsburgh, PA) combines gallery and retail space to showcase crafts. Peruse the small exhibit space that features such art forms as textiles, metal jewelry, porcelain sculptures and woodwork. Contemporary Craft also offers a drop-in studio, where children and adults participate in arts and crafts workshops, which usually tie in to the current exhibit. The workshops are free and do not require registration.
Look to the Skies
Owned and operated by the University of Pittsburgh, the Allegheny Observatory (159 Riverview Ave., Pittsburgh, PA) is located on a hilltop in Riverview Park. On Thursday nights from May through August and on Friday nights from April through October, the observatory is open to the public. Admission is free, but you must call ahead for reservations. Children can learn about stargazing by watching a short film and embarking on a walking tour of the building. On clear evenings, you’ll get the chance to gaze into the night sky with the observatory’s massive telescope.
Cool off at Troy Hill Spray Park (1200 Goettman St., Pittsburgh, PA), just a five-minute drive from downtown Pittsburgh. The splash pad is typically open between late May and mid-September, and is free to the public. Little tots ride the pint-sized slides and run through the rain tunnel, while older kids have fun dousing each other with dump buckets and water cannons.
- Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy: Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy
- Pittsburgh Magazine: Best of the 'Burgh 2015 - Kids & Family
- The Frick Art & Historical Center
- Contemporary Craft
- Visit Pittsburgh: Free Museums & Attractions
- University of Pittsburgh: Allegheny Observatory
- City of Pittsburgh: Spray Parks
- Play Pittsburgh: Troy Hill Sprinkler Park
A travel writer since 2002, Leah Rendon has written countless articles for online pop-culture magazines and various travel-related websites, including Eurobooking and World66. Gosford also has experience in copywriting, having developed a series of articles related to network marketing. She graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles with a degree in theater arts.