Kid-friendly attractions in Pittsburgh By Katie DeTar
Family Vacation Destinations
Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh (Courtesy Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh)
This is an exciting time to visit Pittsburgh. The former industrial city and surrounding region is now a haven of family fun. There are classic amusement parks, historic sites, kid-friendly dining and many family-focused attractions. Downtown Pittsburgh’s size is manageable and walkable, with many parks and green spaces for a picnic and free kids programs. The surrounding Laurel Highlands Region is a beautiful, easy drive from downtown and offers many kid-friendly attractions that make the Pittsburgh area a great family getaway.
Additionally, kid-friendly hotels abound and make it easy for families looking for a temporary home base in Pittsburgh during their visit. DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel & Suites in Downtown Pittsburgh offers packages as well as cribs, children’s menu and highchairs for families with younger kids while Courtyard Downtown Pittsburgh offers connecting rooms and breakfast packages for families with active tween and teens.
Here are some of Pittsburgh’s must visit attractions:
Must See: Carnegie Science Center
Carnegie Science Center (Courtesy Carnegie Science Center)
For a day of hands-on learning for kids of all ages, head to the Carnegie Science Center near downtown Pittsburgh, and plan to spend the day. There’s enough kid-friendly exhibits to entertain the bunch, including a miniature railroad village depicting life in western Pennsylvania, the USS Requiem WWII submarine moored in the Ohio River and open for touring, a sports-themed interactive area where kids can become a human yo-yo, and the world’s largest robotics exhibition. For the little ones, there’s Munchkin Mondays, a special just-for-toddlers program with hands-on and take home projects geared for 2 to 6 year olds. Families can also take in a movie at the Omnimax Theater, including larger-than-life animal and nature shows.
Must See: Fort Ligonier
Fort Ligonier (Flickr: Jeff Kubina)
History comes to life at Fort Ligonier, a re-created fort from the French and Indian War located in Ligonier, PA – about an hour’s drive east of the city. Here, kids can retrace the footsteps of George Washington – he served at the fort more than 250 years ago! Costumed soldiers demonstrate daily life, including welcoming visitors to their barracks to see where they slept, ate and prepared for battle. The most exciting part of the day is the regular musket demonstrations. The loud boom resonates through the fort! In October, the village of Ligonier hosts the annual Fort Ligonier Days with re-enactments, live music, parades, fireworks and more.
Must Do: Just Ducky Tour
Pittsburgh’s amphibious Just Ducky Tour takes riders from land to water on one vessel! The jeep-like boats start on land for a driving tour of the business and cultural districts of downtown, before seamlessly splashing into the river! The tour guide makes an effort to tell fun stories about the landmarks and provide historic tidbits for all ages. Kids will love the group participation, including quacking at neighboring cars and trucks and the thrill of driving right into the river! Aspiring captains may also get the chance to take a spin at the helm, navigating the boat (with help, of course) up river.
Must Do: Eat Pie at Sand Hill Berries
The homemade pies at Sand Hill Berries are better than what’s found on any kids menu, and everyone loves fresh fruit pie! The family farm has been growing strawberries, raspberries and blackberries since 1981, using the fruit for homemade jams, jellies and pies. It’s worth a drive through the rolling horse farms of the Laurel Highlands to visit the farm’s charming outdoor Cabin Café. Kids and adults will enjoy a slice of pie in what feels like a secret garden.
Must Do: River Raft on the Youghiogheny
River rafting on the Youghiogheny (Courtesy Wilderness Voyageurs)
Ohiopyle State Park, an easy drive south of Pittsburgh, is a playground for families. Here, kids of all ages can get outside for a hike, a bike ride, swimming and river rafting. Wilderness Voyageurs – an outfitter located right in Ohiopyle – offers rafting trips for families with kids as young as five every day during the summer months. With a friendly guide at the helm, the whole family will safely paddle and bounce their way down the gentle rapids of the Youghiogheny River. It’s a great summertime adventure.
Must See: Idlewild Amusement Park
Idlewild (Courtesy Idlewild)
Fans of classic summer fun must visit the iconic Idlewild Amusement Park, east of Pittsburgh in Ligonier, PA. The park, open since 1878, offers everything kids of all ages could want: rollercoasters, a waterpark, picnic grounds, carnival games, cotton candy and even a special ride devoted to Mister Rodgers Neighborhood! The park has enough attractions to appeal to all ages, from toddlers to tweens to teens – including a quaint Storybook Forest, where kids can walk through a magical forest and visit the homes of some of their favorite book characters. Be sure to ride the Rollo Coaster, a wooden coaster built in 1938. It offers just enough of a thrill to satisfy adventurous kids. All in all, it’s one of the best tourist attractions around Pittsburgh for families.
Must See: Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh
For active kids with energy to burn, the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh is a perfect place to spend an afternoon. Older kids can play in the Garage – an interactive area that includes a parachute launcher and toy car raceways. For infants and toddlers, there’s the Nursery, with padded crawl areas and giant basin of birdseed for play. At the Makeshop, all ages use skills to create a take-home piece of woodworking, sewing or animation. Museum exhibits change often and make for fresh repeat visits. Pack a change of dry clothes for post visit: the Waterplay learning and playroom upstairs is fun but wet!