Pittsburgh Family Fun

Parent's Guide to Pittsburgh with Kids

Girl gazing at sea lions in zoo
••• Suzanne Puttman Photography / Getty Images

Pittsburgh, named America's fifth Best Place to Raise A Family (Reader's Digest), is fun, affordable and packed with family entertainment. The region is blessed with a host of attractions that educate and entertain including museums, amusement parks and a world-class zoo and aquarium. You won't believe what "Kidsburgh" has to offer until you see your children talking to robots, playing in a sea of clouds, building and launching airplanes, climbing mountains, splashing down with dolphins, and digging for dinosaurs...

  • Explore the mysteries of science at the Carnegie Science Center where you can investigate over 250 exhibits related to science and technology, including a WWII submarine and a four-story, domed OMNIMAX theater that features a variety of films and laser shows. Visit distant galaxies in the world's most technologically sophisticated planetarium and tour the Miniature Railroad & Village at this playground for the mind.
  • Three floors of hands-on exhibits make exploration fun at the Pittsburgh Children's Museum, located in an elegant, old Victorian Post Office. Kids can explore the Museum's climbing mazes, build and launch flying machines, use pulleys to raise themselves up in human-powered elevators and get creative with silkscreening, painting and computer graphic design.
  • Marvel at hummingbirds the size of a thumb or Andean Condors with giant 10-foot wingspans at the National Aviary, a veritable indoor jungle of the world's most incredible birds, including many endangered species. Located on Pittsburgh's North Side, the National Aviary is one of the only free-standing aviaries in the world.
  • Experience one of America's finest children's zoos when you plan a day at the Pittsburgh Zoo & Aquarium. Located just 20 minutes from downtown Pittsburgh, the zoo is home to more than 4,000 animals in natural settings. From meerkats to monkeys, tigers to tarantulas, gorillas to giraffes, the Pittsburgh Zoo has it all, including two baby elephants! The Zoo's Kids Kingdom and Discovery Pavilion have earned the Pittsburgh Zoo & Aquarium the ranking as one of the top three children's zoos in the United States by Allen W. Nyhus, zoo critic and author of "The Zoo Book, A Guide to America's Best." The Pittsburgh Zoo's $16 million Aquarium opened to the public in June 2000 and has the nation's largest coral propagation facility, along with penguins, sharks, octopuses and thousands of other colorful and exotic water animals from around the world.
  • Stroll Phipps Conservatory & Botanical Gardens to see one of the most intricate Beaux Arts buildings in the city. Phipps has towering tropical plants that were the original seedlings at the 1890 Exposition, miniature orchids, indoor and outdoor gardens and a fabulous bonsai collection. Children will revel in the Discovery Garden where they are invited to exercise their green thumb and explore the world of plants and flowers, worms and all. Seasonal exhibits include spring and winter flower shows and a Butterfly Garden.
  • Experience Pittsburgh's history at The Senator John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center. One of only a handful of such museums in America, the History Center tells the experiences of the waves of immigrants who were swept into Pittsburgh on the tide of history. The core exhibit of the museum transports visitors through time from the 1750s to the present. A robot offers a guided tour of the first floor.


Next page> More Pittsburgh Fun for Kids & Parents

Don't miss more family fun in Part One of this article...
  • In the summer months, visit Kennywood Park, the 102-year-old "roller coaster capital of the world" (New York Times). Get wet on the Pittsburgh Plunge (our daughter's favorite part of the park), sample the best curly fries and funnel cakes around, ride The Jack Rabbit and the Thunderbolt, both classic wooden coasters, or test your courage on the Exterminator, an indoor rollercoaster. A national historic landmark full of history, beauty and fun, Kennywood is a Pittsburgh family tradition.
  • Shiver in the shadow of the giant T-rex at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, home to one of the finest dinosaur collections in the world. See Egyptian artifacts, visit the Hall of Minerals and Gems and hear the beat of distant drums in the Hall of American Indians. One of the largest, most contemporary exhibits on American Indians in the United States, the Hall engages visitors with an array of historical and contemporary artifacts brought to life through dioramas, storytelling, videos and interactive computer activities.
  • Experience one of the greatest slide shows on earth at Sandcastle Waterpark. Take the plunge on 15 of the wildest, wettest, wackiest waterslides imaginable or enjoy a slow ride on the "lazy river." Those less adventurous can shop on the boardwalk or take a dip in the Moonlight Bay pool or the Tad Pool, complete with mini slides created just for little tykes.
  • Younger children will be thrilled with a day of "make believe" at Idlewild Park in Ligonier, east of Pittsburgh. Founded in 1878, Idlewild is believed to be the oldest continuously operating amusement park in the United States. With 410 acres, 15 major rides, picturesque picnic facilities, Storybook Forest and Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood of Make-Believe, the park continues to set the national standard for family amusement.
  • A visit to Pittsburgh is not complete without a ride on the Monongahela or Duquesne Incline. Before the appearance of electric streetcars and automobiles, these funiculars were the most convenient way for Pittsburghers to climb the towering hills that are so much a part of the city's topography. Today, the cars transport visitors and residents to the top of Mt. Washington for a spectacular view of the city. Station Square, at the base of the Monongahela Incline is a great place to take the kids to lunch. The historic Duquesne Incline is more authentic, however, and children get a big kick out of the pictures of Pittsburgh in its steel hey-day located in the mini-museum at the top.
  • See the sights from the water on board the Gateway Clipper's Good Ship Lollipop riverboat, or combine land and sea with a Just Ducky! Tour. This WWII amphibious vehicle is equally at home driving the streets of Pittsburgh or navigating the city's three rivers.


If you are coming into Pittsburgh from out of town, you can plan your entire stay online in advance of your visit, including ticket purchase for the activities mentioned in this article, restaurant and hotel reservations, etc. at Pittsburgh's interactive Web site, VisitPittsburgh.com.