Your Ultimate Guide To The Best Things To Do In Pittsburgh With Kids
Pittsburgh is called Kidsburgh because it is awesome for families. This is your ultimate guide to the best things to do in Pittsburgh with kids!
We were hosted by Visit Pittsburgh for this trip but all opinions are my own.
What makes a great family friendly destination to visit with your kids? Tons of activities that will delight your kids but also put a smile on your face? Beautiful scenery? Great eats?
Well, I have to tell you that Pittsburgh is pretty much the perfect destination for a family getaway- whether you visit for a day, a weekend, or longer. My daughter and I recently spent a long weekend in Pittsburgh and I have to say I am in love. There are so many fun neighborhoods and more things to do with your kids than you could possibly tackle in one trip.
Read on to find out our favorite picks for the best things to do Pittsburgh with kids!
1. Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh
If you visit Pittsburgh with your kids and you only had enough time to do one thing, this would absolutely be it. The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh is absolutely fantastic and we pretty much spent the entire day there. This museum is all about hands-on, experiential learning, so don’t rush your kids as they explore everything there is to do here.
In the main building we spent a ton of time making art in the studio, figuring out circuits in the MAKESHOP, and crawling through tight crevices in the 1 1/2 story tall Limb Bender. My daughter’s favorite though was Waterplay on the 3rd floor. We spent over an hour in this room alone, playing with water and building a dam.
One of the charming things about the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh is its tie to Mister Roger’s Neighborhood. Sprinkled throughout the museum there are artifacts from the beloved children’s show, including the original Daniel Tiger, O the Owl, and other puppet characters.
Related: Check out Port Discovery’s newly renovated awesomeness!
One of the new additions to the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh you won’t want to miss is MuseumLab. It is located next to the main museum. The website says this space is meant for kids ages 10 and older, but they encourage younger kids to have fun too. The space itself is gorgeous and we both totally fell in love with the cool projects, which included virtual reality and making a collaborative community sculpture. The museum docents supervised my 6-year old sawing, hammering, and drilling her contribution to this art! How awesome is that?
Related: The Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia is perfect for kids age 7 and under
2. Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium
We had a blast (translation: we spent most of the day) at the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium too! The zoo and aquarium are co-located so you get to see both for one admission price. One of the things I really loved about this zoo was the fact that you could get very close to some of the more exotic animals (like the leopards).
When we visited, Cloud Leopard puppies were on exhibit and they were definitely the star of the day. I literally could not peel my daughter away from their habitat. To be fair, it was a lot of fun to watch them play together.
Related: The Maryland Zoo is fantastic any time of the year!
We also were able to get super close to the giraffes, hippo, an anteater, some of the primates, and the sea otters. Other animals were being a bit coy (probably due to the heat) but we still got good looks at the tigers, lions, elephants, zebras, cheetah, polar bears, harbor seals (ok.. he wasn’t coy– very loud and proud), and many more.
The other thing I really loved about this zoo is that it is definitely geared to families with young kids. There is plenty of shade and even though there are hills, there is also a tram during the summer, for a small cost.
Related: The Philadelphia Zoo is a must do with kids!
Don’t skip Kid’s Kingdom. As in, make sure you make time for Kid’s Kingdom. The playground is AMAZING and your kids will LOVE it. Next door at Worlds of Discovery, there are a number of kid-friendly experiences like petting goats and a gentle log ride.
Tip: You will want to eat lunch at Bean Sprouts, behind Worlds of Discovery. Not only is there a 2nd super cool playground, but the food is uber kid friendly and, ummm, cute.
Related: Have you seen the pandas at the National Zoo in DC?
3. Carnegie Science Center
Fun fact– most of the time Science Centers are just as awesome for kids as Children’s Museums. The Carnegie Science Center is no exception. Wow. This place rocks. You could easily spend an entire day here too! We LOVED hanging out in the Robotics exhibit. You can ask the robot (pictured below) a series of questions about life and see what happens. Ha. Or, you can challenge a robot to basketball or air hockey– the robot is very good at air hockey.
There are tons of interactive exhibits, including a 3-story international space station replica, a fantastic area for younger kids, and a huge miniature train display of Pittsburgh. Make sure you reserve tickets for a Buhl Planetarium Laser Show. We saw Galactic Odyssey and it was awesome!
Related: The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore is a fantastic place for a day trip!
In addition to the exhibits in the main building, your admission covers a visit to the USS Requin submarine, which was in service from 1945 to 1971. This is a very cool side trip you won’t want to miss.
And speaking of not missing cool exhibits, you HAVE to make time to visit SportsWorks. This is an entire building dedicated to interactive exhibits about sports and how the body works. You and your kids will LOVE it though because there is a ropes course, climbing wall, and other super fun and interactive exhibits. We almost didn’t walk over to this building, but I am soooo glad we did. It was awesome!
4. The Inclines
The Duquesne Incline and Monongahela Incline are the perfect way to take in a scenic view of Pittsburgh. We visited Duquesne Incline, which is essentially a trolley that goes up the side of Mount Washington. The history is pretty interesting. It was built to accommodate Pittsburgh’s growth and has been operational since 1877!
The incline is open pretty much from before sunset until after midnight. The view is spectacular. We visited in the early evening but I hear that if you visit on the night of a home game, you will get a fantastic view of fireworks!
5. National Aviary
You will not need all day to visit the National Aviary but you absolutely need to carve out a few hours for this gem. Tip: You can actually walk here from the Children’s Museum. They are very close to each other.
The National Aviary is home to over 500 birds and there are so many cool interactive shows. Even though you have to pay extra, you will absolutely want to get tickets to see the SOAR! Free-Flight Bird Show. This fantastic show features birds of prey like hawks and falcons.
You can also purchase tickets to feed birds like toucans and lorikeets.
Some of the feedings are included with admission price. One of them, watching the penguin feeding, is awesome… and the penguin exhibit in general is so cute. You can really get close to the penguins!
6. Andy Warhol Museum
Pittsburgh is home to some amazing art museums. Did you know Andy Warhol was a Pittsburgh native? His art museum is phenomenal and even though younger kids might not ‘get’ all of his art, the museum has some great activities for kids (and parents too).
Visit the 1st floor underground studio called The Factory to create your own Warhol-inspired art. There is also a small but fun kids play area adjacent to the studio. In the main museum, kids will like the interactive exhibits like the metallic floating sculptures called Silver Clouds.
7. Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens
You might not think to visit a botanical garden with your kids, but you will love Phipps Conservatory! Botanical Gardens are really fun ways to introduce your kids to different climates and habitats. I have to tell you though, my favorite thing about Phipps wasn’t the plant life.. it was Chihuly!Yep, there are Chihuly glass sculptures sprinkled throughout the conservatory, including the stunning centerpiece pictured below.
Phipps has a fun children’s garden and a play area where kids can ‘shop’ for produce. Phipps also runs great special exhibits. When we visited they were in the middle of Van Gogh In Bloom. They transformed their rooms to replicate Van Gogh’s paintings. It was gorgeous. For kids they had a fun scavenger hunt to find all the paintings.
On the more quirky side, you can’t miss a side trip to Randyland. It’s free (they encourage donations) and open to the public as long as it is light outside. Randyland is such a fun public art space that will honestly just make you happy.
Places We Didn’t Have Time To Visit But Should Also Be On Your To-Do List
We spent four amazing days in Pittsburgh but we didn’t have time to see everything! I know, right? There are so many more fun activities you can check out if you have the time.
9. Carnegie Museum of Natural History
What’s not to love about dinosaurs? Kids can dig for bones and see actual dinosaur fossils. Discovery Basecamp is a hands-on exhibit where kids can do things like feel the mane of a lion, inspect bugs under a microscope, or many other play-based learning activities.
10. Carnegie Museum of Art
Admission to the Museum of Natural History includes the Carnegie Museum of Art too! They have a special program for kids called ARTventures. This is a great drop-in artmaking program for all ages right in the galleries! As for the art, a quick glance at their website showed a little Monet, a little Dali, a little Van Gogh, and some other more modern but interesting pieces your kids might like.
11. Mattress Factory
The Mattress Factory seems like the kind of art museum my daughter would love. The description from their website says this, “Founded in 1977, the Mattress Factory is a contemporary art museum and experimental lab featuring site-specific installations created by artists in residence from around the world.” For families the museum offers a Family Guide to the museum, as well as ARTLabs on the weekends.
12. Catch a Game!
Pittsburgh has a proud sporting heritage. Tickets to the Pittsburgh Steelers probably are a bit pricey for a family jaunt. However, check to see if either the Pirates (baseball) or Penguins (hockey) have a home game during your visit. A sporting event would be a great way to soak in the local scene!
13. Heinz History Center
Another one of the famous residents of Pittsburgh is U.S. Senator John Heinz. Yes, that Heinz. As in, you put his ketchup on your hot dogs Heinz. Turns out, he is pretty important to this area. The Heinz History Center is associated with the Smithsonian Institution and centers on Pittsburgh’s unique role in U.S. history. Did you know that the ferris wheel and the Big Mac both originated in Pittsburgh? Kids (and parents) will love Mister Rogers Neighborhood, the most extensive collection of set pieces from the beloved show.
14. All the playgrounds
Pittsburgh has some amazing playgrounds. The most iconic one is the Blue Slide Playground. Check out this list if you visit Pittsburgh. I am pretty sure all of these playgrounds are free. Woo Hoo!
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If you visit in the summer, try and stay an extra day so you can visit Kennywood. This great amusement park has tons of rollercoasters for thrill seekers, plus Kiddie Town for the younger crowd!
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16. Idlewild and Soak Zone
Located about 50 miles away from Pittsburgh, this amusement park is also pretty awesome for a day trip. It even features a Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood park area that will be sure to be a hit with young kids.
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17. Sandcastle Water Park
If you want to beat the heat, check out the Sandcastle Water Park, which is right inside Pittsburgh!
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18. Parks, Bridges, and Fountains!
Pittsburgh is home to 25 (!!!) bridges. That is because this super cool city spans three rivers! Rivers are not the only cool water feature in Pittsburgh though.
Pittsburgh boasts some impressive public fountains too. The most notable are the Water Steps and Point State Park Fountain. Although, the fountain at Station Square has a nightly water-light show that is pretty cool too.
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Another area where Pittsburgh shines is their public park land. The favorites are Highland Park, Frick Park, Schenley Park, Riverview, and Emerald View Park. Tip: Many of the playgrounds are located in these parks. Also, many of the other attractions are located very near or adjacent to them.
Where to Eat in Pittsburgh
We didn’t eat everywhere because a) we were only in Pittsburgh for four days and b) there are so many amazing restaurants! But we loved the restaurants we picked and they are all definitely kid friendly.
Tip: Don’t stress if you are in a museum at lunch time. Most of the museums have really good cafe’s with food both you and your kids will enjoy.
Double Wide Grill
How could we not eat dinner at a restaurant dedicated to the double wide trailer. I loved the vibe of the South Side location (the original) AND the awesome outdoor art wall that serves as the dramatic backdrop for the restaurant.
What about the food? Yep, my daughter ordered Mac’ N Cheese (of course) and loved it. I ordered their signature Streaming TV Dinner TV Dinner Tray. It came out on.. you guessed it, a TV Dinner Tray. However, the food was notably better than the Lean Cuisine I typically eat for lunch.
My dinner was a Honey Chipotle Boneless Chicken Breast, pulled pork, amazing cornbread, fresh cut fries, and broccoli. It was delicious!
There are multiple locations of this Pittsburgh staple, but you have to eat at one of them during your visit.
The burgers are AMAZING and even better? Yep, they offer gourmet milkshakes! Sometimes they have super whimsical flavors like Fruity Pebbles or Unicorn milkshakes. When we visited, I ordered the Rocky Road Milkshake. It was awesome.
For the kids menu, my daughter took a break from Mac’ N Cheese to inhale her pint-sized burgers. As a reward, she got a complimentary scoop of ice cream and chocolate sauce.
One of the many things Pittsburgh is known for is great breakfast diners. Unfortunately, we missed a bunch of them because we like to sleep in a little too much.. and the breakfast at our hotel was pretty great. If you love breakfast places, you should check out either Pamela’s Diner or Kelly O’s Diner in the Strip.
On our last day we did visit one of the breakfast places I was dying to try.. Square Cafe.
Oh my goodness, I fell in love with this restaurant. First of all, the walls are covered with pop art that is actually for sale! But we weren’t there for art.. we were there to eat.
I ordered the strawberry nutella crepes. Ooooh, the memory of them makes me smile. They were sooo good. My daughter ordered chocolate chip pancakes with chocolate chips on top. I am not sure she had enough chocolate there.
And then, the piece de resistance… their milkshakes. Like Burgatory, and a few other places around town, Square Cafe has a gourmet milkshake menu. Sign me up! I indulged in the Caramel Blondie shake and let’s just say my taste buds were very, very happy.
Lidia’s is the signature restaurant of celebrity chef Lidia Bastianich. So, you know the pasta is going to be awesome. We were lucky enough that Lidia’s was located right next to our hotel. So, of course we had to visit!
The Kids Menu is great because they have standard kid pleasers like Macaroni and Cheese.. but this isn’t from a box. Nope. Lidia’s Mac’ N Cheese is made with Fontina and topped with bread crumbs. Perfect.
As for the regular menu, I tried the house special– Lidia’s Pasta Tasting Trio. That was absolutely the best choice. The three choices were a rigatoni with marinara sauce, a gnocchi, and a fettuccine. Three different dishes with very different flavors… and they were all awesome.
So, yeah.. turns out Pittsburgh is serious about ice cream. Burgatory and Square Cafe are great for milkshakes, but that is merely scratching the surface. Again, we couldn’t eat everything. However, if you like a good scoop or a good shake, you will want to add these places to your list too:
- The Milkshake Factory
- Klavon’s Ice Cream Parlor
- NatuRoll Creamery
- Millie’s Homemade Ice Cream
- Gus and Yia Yia’s shaved ice
Check out this post that has a comprehensive look at Pittsburgh’s best ice cream places!
Where to Stay
I am sure there are plenty of family friendly lodging options in Pittsburgh. I mean, it is called Kidsburgh for a reason. We were thrilled to stay at Homewood Suites Downtown Pittsburgh.
The room was incredibly comfortable. The beds were luxuriously comfortable. We slept very well every night. The best part for me though was the fact that there were two rooms! Two rooms! So, I could put my daughter to bed, close the door to a pitch black bedroom, grab a snack from the frig, and kick back and watch TV or read… without having to worry about waking my daughter up.
The kitchen is great, with a full refrigerator, sink, dishes, stove top, microwave, and a small dining table area.
The bathroom in our room had a tub (which is nice when you have a 6-year old) and had great water pressure and temperature.
We loved the amenities at this hotel. Clearly the pool was a big hit. We spend probably 1-2 hours here every evening. My daughter loved it! Breakfast was amazing.. not only with the waffle maker, but also the rotating breakfast items (scrambled eggs, breakfast burritos, etc…), fresh fruit, and baked goods. The breakfast area overlooks the river and one of the iconic bridges too.
Oh! and the hotel has free shuttle service anywhere within 2 miles of the hotel (I think 2 miles). That is awesome.
I highly recommend this hotel for anyone, but especially families who want a great home away from home while exploring Pittsburgh!
Here are more ideas for great family travel destinations!
- Why you have to visit Philadelphia with young kids
- The best things to do with young kids in Boston
- 40 FREE things to do with kids in Washington DC
- 100 Best Things to Do With Kids in Maryland!’