The Pittsburgh tourism office doesn't call it “KidsBURGH” for nothing. Whether they're exploring local museums or crossing one of the area’s 446 bridges – the most of any town in the world – your kids will love this unique Western Pennsylvania city.
From cruising down where the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio rivers famously meet to screaming for dear life on a zipline 40ft in the air to cheering on the black and gold all year round, your Steel City to-do list will be overloaded with options. These are the best things to do in Pittsburgh with kids.
Go birdwatching at the National Aviary
At the country’s largest aviary, your kids can see African penguins, Andean condors, bald eagles and more. Whet their appetites by watching the chicks on the peregrine falcon livestream while you travel to the aviary. For an extra-special experience, book an animal encounter at the National Aviary to get one-on-one time with a sloth, hawk, owl and more.
Go on a scavenger hunt at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium
See animals from all over the world and teach your kids about conservation at the zoo and aquarium. Check the zoo’s social channels before you head over – you can often find a fun activity advertised, such as an animal-themed scavenger hunt. Also, buy tickets in advance to avoid long lines.
13 free things to do in Pittsburgh
Splash in the fountain in Highland Park
After the zoo, mosey into Highland Park, which surrounds the zoo. It has a playground where kids can unwind and spots for hiking, swimming and, if you brought your bikes, cycling. Kids will appreciate the fountain near Highland Avenue, where they can cause a little mischief as they splash about while you sit down for a well-deserved post-zoo rest.
See the laser show at the Carnegie Science Center's planetarium
Your kids will think they’ve entered a real-life Star Wars with the Buhl Planetarium Laser Show at Carnegie Science Center. Set to music, the lasers seem to shoot around you for an exciting three-dimensional effect. The shows are themed, so you can choose from bands such as Queen and Pink Floyd or even the TV show Stranger Things. (Make reservations beforehand.)
If your kids dislike or have sensitivity to loud music, skip the planetarium and try one of the other experiences at the center, such as exploring a submarine used during the Cold War or walking through the Robot Hall of Fame, where you can find replicas of the world’s most famous robots, like C3PO. (Star Wars comes full circle!)
Play games at Pinball Perfection
Whether your kids are pinball wizards or novices, they'll adore Pinball Perfection, a museum and arcade with 300-plus pinball machines from all different eras, including a 1933 World’s Fair machine. Do your kids love Star Wars? Then head to the “Star Wars” and “Empire Strikes Back” sections to play games with Force-focused themes. Visit on Friday nights for discounted prices on museum entry and arcade play.
Watch the sunset at North Shore Riverfront Park
Visiting the water steps at North Shore Riverfront Park at dusk is a must. Pack a picnic dinner or grab some takeout, and watch the sun set along the river while your kids explore the steps. They will want to take off their shoes to get their feet wet – it’s OK, everyone does it!
Get hands-on at the Senator John Heinz History Center
An affiliate of the Smithsonian, the Heinz History Center is a great place for parents to take a much-needed timeout. Relax with a coffee in the cafe while watching your kids play on the closed-circuit TV that streams from Kidsburgh.
This interactive station lets kids “milk” a replica cow, design a downtown using models of buildings and stadiums, and serve each other from the play deli. Older kids will appreciate the Heinz history exhibit with the 11ft-tall ketchup bottle and loop of vintage Heinz TV ads.
Learn about a pop-culture icon at the Andy Warhol Museum
With its bright colors and pop-culture references, Andy Warhol’s art speaks to kids, and they can experience it in a new way at the Andy Warhol Museum. Warhol grew up in Pittsburgh, and his museum includes interactive exhibits aimed at kids, such as making a screen test to star in a movie.
Soar above the trees at Go Ape North Park
Does your family like outdoor adventure? At the Treetop Adventure at Go Ape North Park, the ziplines measure up to 440ft long, and you can clamber up platforms up to 40ft high. The park is open to kids 10 and older who are at least 4ft-7in, and kids ages 10 to 15 must be accompanied by at least one adult. Give yourselves at least two to three hours to tackle the park.
Take a funicular up Mt Washington to see the skyline
No visit to Pittsburgh is complete without visiting the Monongahela or Duquesne Incline, two funicular railways that ascend and descend the steep hill to Mt Washington. The inclines originated in the late 1800s to help residents of Mt Washington get around town.
These days, they’re the best way to see a skyline view of the city. They run every 15 minutes so that you can go any time of day. Both views are spectacular, but the Duquesne Incline ride is a bit shorter for younger kids who get fidgety.
Get out on the water with a Gateway Clipper River Cruise
The Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio rivers famously meet in Pittsburgh, and you can ride down all three when you take a Gateway Clipper cruise. It lasts an hour, the perfect amount of time for children, and gives you a full tour of the city, including views of the famous sports stadiums.
Check out the Pittsburgh sports scene
Speaking of the stadiums: no matter what time of year you visit Pittsburgh, it’s always sports season. You can attend a Steelers football game at Heinz Field, watch the Pirates play baseball at PNC Park or cheer on the Penguins during a hockey game at PPG Paints Arena.
All the teams have strong fanbases and loud cheering sections. Not up for a game? You can still enjoy the food and atmosphere near the stadiums and arenas, where you’ll find restaurants galore, including two kid favorites – Federal Galley, which serves sugary Pop Rocks floats, and Threadbare Cider, a cidery for adults with excellent pizza and an oversized Lite-Brite wall for kids.
Get a dose of adrenaline at the amusement parks
Whether you choose Kennywood Amusement Park, Sandcastle or Idlewild Park & SoakZone, your kids will love flying high on the rides. For preschoolers and younger, Thomas Town at Kennywood features the iconic train and all his pals, while Idlewild has Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.
Sandcastle is best for steamy summer days when you all want is to cool down on the waterslides and in the wave pool. Try the Cliffhangers, where the slides lead to “sky ponds” (pools suspended in the air).
See cheerful art at Randyland
You can’t beat free, and Randyland is a “museum of happiness” that's fascinating for all ages and charges no admission fees. The artist behind Randyland, Randy Gilson, invites people to walk through his yard and house, where he displays his exuberant art, mostly found objects he paints with cheerful colors and patterns.
There’s space for tired kids to sit, relax and enjoy a snack (bring your own!). In the summer, the courtyard adds a giant sandpit where kids can dig.
What else should I know about visiting Pittsburgh with kids?
Access to bathrooms is always a top concern for parents of younger children, and it can be difficult to find public facilities on the South Side and in the Strip District. Plan ahead, so you don’t go too long without a restroom. (The riverfront trail near the Highline on the South Side has clean public restrooms, for example.) The North Shore and Morningside neighborhoods offer more plentiful restroom options.
You can find hotels offering babysitting, though availability varies widely depending on when you visit. Even if you see childcare mentioned on the lodging website, confirm on the phone before booking.
Heading to a baseball game, the zoo or the aquarium? Local grocery chain Giant Eagle has discounted tickets for all of the above.