From masterful to unusual, Pittsburgh’s museums offer something for everyone. Immerse yourself in art and history found in permanent and changing exhibitions. Learn about the past, the natural world, and the works of established or emerging artists. Experience sleepovers, stargazing, and more, with free or affordable admission at most of these institutions. Three unique places that aren’t detailed below are Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum, which honors our armed forces; Bicycle Heaven, the world’s largest bicycle museum and shop; and Randyland, one man’s colorful home and artwork open to the public.
Carnegie Museum of Natural History
The extraordinary artifacts, objects and scientific specimens at this premier museum document life on Earth, including fossils in its famous Dinosaurs in their Time hall. The museum’s scientists travel the world in search of nature’s wonders. Through the museum’s exhibitions and programs, learn about the critical need to protect Earth and its inhabitants. Its Powdermill Nature Preserve about 55 miles southeast of Pittsburgh offers a family-friendly outing to an environmental research center in a woodland setting.
Carnegie Museum of Art
Industrialist Andrew Carnegie founded Carnegie Institute in 1895 to create a museum of modern art (a first for the United States), amassing works of the “Old Masters of tomorrow” since the 1896 start of the "Carnegie International," a yearly survey and exhibition of contemporary art. The museum’s more than 32,000 objects include visual art, decorative arts, models, film, video and digital imagery, and photographs, including the archive of photographer Charles “Teenie” Harris, who chronicled African American life in Pittsburgh from 1935 to 1975.
The Frick Pittsburgh
This gorgeous property in Pittsburgh’s East End combines art, history, and nature in one experience. Clayton Mansion, the home of steel magnate Henry Clay Frick, has a collection of fine and decorative art objects from the Gilded Age. There’s an Art Museum housing Helen Clay Frick’s personal collection, and a Car and Carriage Museum. The grounds include gardens and a working greenhouse. Current exhibitions are “Katharine Hepburn: Dressed for Stage and Screen” (through Jan. 12, 2020) and the Frick family’s Chinese porcelain.
The Andy Warhol Museum
With seven floors and an underground studio, this museum tells the story of Pittsburgh’s native son and explores his legacy through the world’s largest collection of Warhol art and archives. In addition to unique exhibitions, you can try your hand at some of Warhol’s signature art-making techniques, or star in your own short film inspired by his screen tests of the 1960s. The Warhol regularly hosts events, including LGBTQ events. Warhol is buried in Pittsburgh, and his grave attracts fans and viewers 24/7 via EarthCam.
Artists in residence from around the world create site-specific installations at this contemporary art museum and experimental lab. The museum supports emerging and established artists, providing them with resources to create unconventional, thought-provoking art that utilizes technology, audience interaction, or traditional artistic practices. The museum has helped to revitalize its urban neighborhood, and its Education Studio hosts workshops, school programs, teacher training, and community activities.
Senator John Heinz History Center
Six floors of long-term and changing exhibitions capture Pittsburgh’s rich tradition of innovation and 250 years of western Pennsylvania history. This affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution has interactive exhibits for visitors of all ages. Its museums and programs include the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum, Fort Pitt Museum, Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village, Detre Library & Archives, and Museum Conservation Center. The museum began in 1879 as a historical society and now has more than 40,000 artifacts in its collection.
Carnegie Science Center
With interactive exhibits, a World War II submarine (USS Requin), a giant cinema, planetarium, and STEM Center to engage youngsters in science, technology, engineering, and math, this is the most-visited museum in Pittsburgh. Its Miniature Railroad & Village shows how people lived in the region from the 1880s to the late 1930s. Through April 19, 2020, its Mummies of the World exhibition is not to be missed. At roboworld, explore robotics exhibits and the Robot Hall of Fame. The Science Center has camps, classes, and workshops for children and adults.
Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh
This museum has interactive, educational exhibits that tackle such topics as love and forgiveness, illusions and phenomena, things that drive or fly, and lights and mechanics. A garden connects kids with nature and healthy eating; the Makeshop lets them explore woodworking, textiles and more; a theater has art pieces and live performances. Get wet on the third floor’s Waterplay. There’s a nursery, studio and café. Admission includes MuseumLab, a new museum next door with exhibits and activities for kids ages 10+.
August Wilson African American Cultural Center
This multipurpose venue, named for the Pulitzer Prize-winning Pittsburgh playwright, has three art galleries, live performance spaces, meeting areas, and educational classrooms. Its sleek design by renowned architect Allison Williams makes it a visual landmark downtown. On Jan. 17, the Center hosts “Poetry Unplugged,” a night of spoken word and music inspired by the life of Martin Luther King. The galleries have limited hours and changing exhibitions. Located at one end of the city’s Cultural District, the facility has commercial and nonprofit rental rates.
The Westmoreland Museum of American Art
Worth the day trip to reach this museum that's 35 miles east of Pittsburgh, the Westmoreland Museum of American Art bills itself as an “artful oasis” in the heart of a historic Laurel Highlands town. It houses a permanent collection of American and regional art, from 1750 to present day, and changing exhibitions to appeal to diverse audiences. Admission is free and hour-long guided tours are available to groups of 10 or more. The museum has a hands-on activities center to help visitors connect with artwork and offers curriculum-based school programs. Its outdoor gardens have terraces and native plants.