If you are looking for a fun, kid-friendly American city for your next vacation, there are so many things to do in Pittsburgh with kids! Located in Southwestern Pennsylvania, this wonderful, historical city is as unique as it is interesting.
My husband and I grew up not far from Pittsburgh, and we return each year to visit family. There are so many exciting things to do with kids, it makes a great, affordable family vacation.
In fact, it has often been rated one of the most livable cities in the United States, and one of the most affordable.
Pittsburgh is a great place to visit for a vacation or as a launching point to even go North to explore Lake Erie and Niagara Falls. And you are not far from Ohio. So, if you want to see more of the midwest, Pittsburgh is only about two hours from the best things to do in Cleveland.
But, if you are wondering if Pittsburgh is good for families, I can tell you that it is fantastic for families. In this guide, you will find the best things to do in Pittsburgh with kids, where to eat, where to stay, and even how to talk like a Pittsburgher!
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Why Visit Pittsburgh With Kids
Pittsburgh is easily accessible from a variety of nearby cities, and it is full of fascinating history and fun things to do with kids. In fact, if you wonder what there is to do indoors in Pittsburgh, you will find plenty of indoor and outdoor things to do with kids. This makes Pittsburgh good for families all year round.
Pittsburgh is located in the Southwestern part of Pennsylvania. Some people say it is part of the midwest, but most of us who have lived there consider it part of the Northeast or mid-Atlantic states.
It is about two hours drive from Cleveland, Ohio, about three hours drive from Erie, and about five hours drive from Philadelphia. It is easily accessible by car from these locations and it has an international airport.
Though to people not familiar with the region, it is sometimes confused with Philadelphia. That’s understandable because they are both “P” cities. But Philadelphia is on the Eastern side of the state, and Pittsburgh is on the Western side.
It is a unique city in that it sits where three rivers meet, which has been significant in its history.
Did you know that Lewis and Clark started their journey to explore the western land, bought by the Louisiana Purchase, from Pittsburgh in the 1800s?
And that’s just a slight touch on the history that this city has to offer. It also played a significant role in the French and Indian War, the American Revolution, and the Early Republic!
Pittsburgh was known as the steel headquarters for the United States until the industry’s collapse in the late 1970s and early 1980s. In fact, my grandfather was a Steel Worker his entire life. And, if you are interested in learning more about this industry, and its fascinating history, the Rivers of Steel National Heritage area is one of the best National Parks in Pennsylvania!
Afterward, the city was left reinventing and diversifying ways to bring in new industries.
As it quickly became a leader in sports and tourism, the arts and medicine, it is now one of USA’s “most livable cities” and most affordable cities – which makes it a great spot to visit with kids.
It was also the birthplace and home to many famous individuals, including artist Andy Warhol, Fred Rogers (Mr. Rogers), and legendary golfer Arnold Palmer.
Like many cities in the Northeast of the United States, Pittsburgh has four distinct seasons. Summers are hot and humid and Winters are cold and snowy. Fall and Spring are both beautiful for changing leaves and budding of trees and flowers, respectively.
Keep in mind that, while Pittsburgh does have limited public transportation, I recommend having a car to get around. It can be tricky to navigate with a car, but it is the easiest way to get around.
Another option is to plan activities around your hotel! A lot will be within walking distance.
So, are you ready to explore this city? Here are 15 of the best things to do with kids in Pittsburgh (many of my childhood favorites!)
The Best Things To Do In Pittsburgh With Kids
If you are visiting Pittsburgh with kids, these are some of the best things to do. Many of them I did as a kid growing up and have fond memories. And we always try to do a few of these things when we visit Pittsburgh with our kids. Here’s my top recommendations.
1. Heinz History Center
Also known as the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania, and part of the Smithsonian Institution, this museum is jam-packed with fun activities. It is a great way to learn about the history of Pittsburgh and its important contributions to the world, in an interactive way.
Kids adults alike will love the Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood special exhibit that includes original set pieces and signature artifacts from the show that was filmed in Pittsburgh. Kids can also climb in a historic Pittsburgh trolley car.
Kids can learn about the world’s most famous ketchup and condiment company, Heinz, and be mesmerized by this fascinating company.
Families can discover Pittsburgh’s 250 years of innovation, including the Ferris Wheel and Big Mac! And, kids can enjoy interactive exhibits and experiences in Kidsburgh!
It’s for kids of all ages- and adults enjoy it, too! I do recommend giving your family at least half a day to explore it all. The Heinz History Center is definitely one of the best indoor things to do in Pittsburgh with kids.
2. Carnegie Museum of Natural History
This fascinating museum holds one of the largest dinosaur and mummy collections in all of America. In fact, as a kid, these were my two favorite areas of this very special museum!
Not only is this a fun place for your little (or big) ones to walk around, it also teaches them more about science and different world cultures within history.
This museum also frequently has “Sensory Friendly Saturdays” for families with members on the autism spectrum. But, make sure you register online before going.
The Carnegie Museum is also quite beautiful in its own right, so be sure to appreciate its architecture while you are there. This is another of my favorite things to do in Pittsburgh with kids!
3. Take A River Cruise on The Gateway Clipper
If you want your kids to see Pittsburgh’s three surrounding rivers (the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio), this is an absolute must.
The best part? You get to choose which themed cruise you want to be on. Some of the themes include superheroes, princesses, and wizards, making it perfect for exploring the area with kids.
The Gateway Clipper is a Pittsburgh staple, so it is definitely worth a ride to enjoy the rivers. And, it is another one of the best things to do in Pittsburgh with kids!
4. Pittsburgh Children's Museum
Although your family may not be able to see everything this museum has in one day, this interactive museum has tons to do.
You may particularly enjoy the Mr. Rogers’ display in the MuseumLab, which has a variety of artifacts related to the show.
They even have a Makeshop, where your kids can work with experts to design and make real tools that creators regularly use! This indoor activity for kids in Pittsburgh is a great thing to do on a cold or rainy day, especially if you are visiting in the winter. It is one of the best things to do with toddlers in Pittsburgh.
5. Kennywood Park
Marked as a National Historic Landmark, this park has been around since 1898. It is one of the oldest parks and is home to one of the world’s oldest wooden roller coasters.
And, I have to tell you, it is one of the best amusement parks I have ever been to and was a favorite of my childhood! In addition to being lots of fun for kids and adults, it is a pure symbol of Americana.
Perfect for all ages, Kennywood Park has a Kiddie Land, sport-inspired rides, and even a 4D theater.
I will warn you, though, you really need to plan to spend an entire day here. Riding the roller coasters at night is great fun! This is one of the must-do things in Pittsburgh with kids if you are visiting in the summer.
6. Idlewild Park and SoakZone
Kennywood's sister park, and even older than Kennywood is Idlewild Park founded in 1878, and its water park, the Soak Zone. This park is located in Ligonier, about an hour or so drive from Pittsburgh, in the Laurel Mountains.
While this park is fun for older kids, it actually has a lot more for the little ones. It is also smaller than Kennywood and has a wonderful area called Storybook Forrest. Kids can walk through scenes and interact with some of their favorite storybook characters, like Snow White, Red Riding Hood, and even see the house like a shoe!
There is also a Daniel Tiger ride where kids get to ride on the trolley! There are many rides here ideal for toddlers to younger kids, and like Kennywood, has some old-fashioned wooden roller coasters.
Idlewild has two theme parks built into one and has over 35 different rides and attractions. You can also learn the significant amount of history when visiting the park for how it went from a fishing and picnic area at its inception to the Golden Ticket Award Winner as the Best Children’s Park.
7. Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum
Pittsburgh is a sports town. After all, there is a reason the Pittsburgh Steelers has the largest fan base outside of the ‘Burgh (as it is affectionately known) on top of their die-hard local following. Pittsburgh is also home to the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team and the Pittsburgh Penguins hockey team.
So any sports fanatic would love a trip to the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum. If you are visiting the Heinz History Center, you can easily check it out as it is part of this museum.
But, if your family is full of sport- lovers, you could definitely spend a hefty amount of time just here alone.
It has an abundance of history related to a variety of sports teams like the Steelers, Penguins, and Pirates. It is definitely one of the best things to do in Pittsburgh with kids.
8. Visit Heinz Stadium
As I mentioned above, the Steelers have one of the largest fan bases in the world. In fact, when we lived in London, we found “Steelers Pubs” to gather to watch games with like-minded football fans. Even in Boston, my husband has a large group of Steelers fans he gets together with.
If you love waving your Terrible Towel, created by the famed sports announcer Myron Cope, or even just see where this football team calls home, a tour of the Heinz Stadium is a great thing do in Pittsburgh with kids. Getting a chance to see where the great ones play is a real treat.
There are different tour packages, but if you book the Ultimate Tour, you get to see the field, luxury boxes, press boxes and more. It is a true monument to this great sports team and its loyal fans.
Before you go, check their website to book a tour!
9. Ride The Duquesne Incline
One of the iconic symbols of Pittsburgh, a ride on the Duquesne Incline is one of the best things to do in Pittsburgh with kids, and one of the most amazing things to do in Pennsylvania! If your kids like trains and views, this is a great way to see the city of Pittsburgh.
Pittsburgh is a city of hills, tunnels (called “tubes”), and bridges because of all of the rivers. There are also a lot of trains, which were important to the steel industry and transporting the goods around the country.
To see this interesting and beautiful city from above is really a great way to capture its significance in American history visually. You can drive to the top of Mount Washington and get one of the most amazing views of the city from above. But the hills are steep, and its more fun to ride the incline.
In only a few minutes, the Duquesne Incline takes you to the top of Mount Washington. At the top, you will be able to take pictures of the skyline view of the downtown city. And, you can see all of the bridges (most of them yellow). You’ll be able to see the Point State Park fountain, as well as the Roberto Clemente, Rachel Carson, and Andy Warhol bridges.
There are a few restaurants at the top where you can dine while enjoying a view. And, Pittsburgh at night is a sight to behold.
The Duquesne Incline is definitely one of the best things to do in Pittsburgh with kids. Note that the Duquesne Incline ride is cash only, but kids under five are free.
10. Fort Pitt Museum & Fort Ligonier
If your family likes US History, you must go to either the Fort Pitt Museum or Fort Ligonier.
The Fort Pitt Museum is right in Pittsburgh and a great way to learn about the role Pittsburgh played in the French and Indian War, the American Revolution, and the Early Republic. There are exhibits and displays, a gallery of homes, and a live history museum which includes reenactments.
Fort Ligonier is in Ligonier, about an hour’s drive from Pittsburgh. It is much bigger than Fort Pitt and was a favorite place to visit when I was a kid.
You can tour the fort, visit the different buildings that have exhibits for you to learn about, and feel what life was like at the time. Not only can you walk around the fort itself, but they also do live reenactments on certain weekends throughout the summer.
This educational experience really steps you back in time, and it is a great thing to do with kids when visiting Pittsburgh!
11. The Andy Warhol Museum
If you have kids or teens who are interested in art, the Andy Warhol Museum is a Pittsburgh art museum like no other and a great thing to do with kids. The Pittsburgh native’s unique works and signature style is on display at this excellent museum.
The pop-art of Andy Warhol is world-renowned. His works include bright colors and familiar products like Cambell’s Soup cans and characters like Mickey Mouse. There are a few pieces of work in the museum that are better left for adult eyes only. But Museum staff can direct you to the best galleries and works for kids.
Kids can also star in their own movie with the museum’s Screen Test Machine. The Andy Warhol Museum is one of the best things to do in Pittsburgh with kids.
12. The National Aviary
Dedicated to the birds within the United States, this nonprofit zoo allows your kids to see over 150 different species of birds.
It is the only zoo in our country that is solely dedicated to birds. Kids love seeing the variety of birds at The National Aviary and learning about their species, habitats, and behaviors. It is a great thing to do in Pittsburgh with kids.
Keep in mind that this museum is generally closed on Tuesdays, so you may want to check their calendar before going.
13. Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium
The Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium is one of the best zoos in the United States. There are so many species of animals to see, it has always been a favorite of mine even when I was a kid.
You should definitely plan a full day to explore this 2-in-1 attraction. One of the special features of the zoo are the Polar Bears, a favorite exhibit of families.
For families with children with sensory needs, the Pittsburgh Zoo offers sensory bags, weighted blankets, and other items provided by KultureCity.
In addition to animals from all walks of the animal kingdom, the zoo also offers Wild Encounters which include up close and personal animal encounters.
14. Take A Kayak Ride
If you want to get on one of the three rivers, you can take a kayak ride through Pittsburgh’s waterways. Kayak Pittsburgh rents kayaks so you can explore Pittsburgh and its views in an entirely different way.
Although this is a great way for all ages to spend a summer day outdoors, keep in mind that there is a 3-year-old age limit. But, anyone 3-12 years of age can ride with an adult.
This is definitely one of the best things to do in Pittsburgh with kids.
15. The Carnegie Science Center
When Andrew Carnegie died in 1919, his wealth was used to create museums and libraries. One of the most popular museums built in his name is the Carnegie Science Center.
Inside, this fun, interactive museum includes a variety of exhibits kids love! Kids can explore a treehouse playground, submarine, and railroad villages. You can even explore the laws of science that control sports, space, and Bricksburgh, the Lego and engineering area, among the many curiosity-inspiring activities.
The Carnegie Science Center is a great indoor activity in Pittsburgh with kids and one of the best things to with kids in the city.
Where To Eat In Pittsburgh With Kids
There are many family friendly restaurants in Pittsburgh. But there are a few with a signature twist that are my favorites and not to miss!
Quaker Steak and Lube
Located in the PPG Paints Arena, PNC Park, in Robinson Township (a 20-minute drive from the city) and in the airport, this motor-themed restaurant is known for the best wings in Pittsburgh. Themed with race cars and bikes (including some hanging from the ceiling!) this family-friendly restaurant is great fun for kids. And their wings are out of this world. You will have so many sauces to choose from, but be sure and try their signature Louisiana Licker sauce.
If you like sandwiches, you can’t go wrong here. This is a Pittsburgh staple. But, to do as the Pittsburghers do, you have to put the fries ON your sandwich!
This German restaurant and brewery is a great way to end a long day. The adults can try their ‘bier’ (beer) of the month, while the kids enjoy eating a schnitzel. Be sure and get one of their famous German-style soft pretzels. A great place to stop after a great day in Pittsburgh with the kids.
Eat' n Park
Eat’ n Park is a Pittsburgh classic and you will find them all over the city. I can’t tell you how many times I frequented an Eat’ n Park as a kid! A classic family restaurant, this restaurant chain has something for everyone in your family. Don’t forget to get one of their signature Smiley cookies before you leave (included with a kids meal)!
This restaurant brings you dinner AND a show. You get to watch the chefs create Chinese meals, as you wait on yours to be brought out. As of right now, they are only taking reservations. So, be sure to check their website to reserve your table.
Common Pittsburgh Cuisine
You may be familiar with pierogies as a famous Chicago food. But believe it or not, pierogies are actually a common staple in Pittsburgh too! In fact, there is a pierogi mascot that often appears at Pittsburgh sports games (not kidding).
Because there is a large Eastern and Central European heritage in Pittsburgh, along with Italian and Irish, it is not uncommon to find some of these cultural cuisines on menus. And many of these are also found in grocery stores if you are staying in an Air BnB or VRBO.
At certain restaurants, especially if they are locally owned, you may find some local or regional specialties on the menu. Many of these were staple meals of my childhood. These could include:
- Pierogies: Potato (sometimes potato and cheese) dumplings often served fried in butter with onions.
- Halushki: Egg noodles with cabbage and onion cooked in butter
- Halupki: Stuffed cabbage usually with beef in a tomato sauce
- Pepperoni Rolls: A bread roll that is stuffed with pepperoni. These make great road trip foods if you are driving to or from Pittsburgh.
Where to Stay With Kids in Pittsburgh
There are many great places to Here are some great options.
Located downtown, traveling through the city from here, on foot, is a breeze.
This hotel offers skyline views of the entire downtown area.
This gorgeous hotel is located in the Fulton Building. Oh, it's also pet friendly!
The Omni William Penn luxury hotel has valet parking, dining options, and a 24-hour fitness center.
Another great stay option is this artsy boutique hotel located downtown.
The Best Things To Do in Pittsburgh With Kids: Learn Pittsburgh Lingo
Pittsburghers have their own language so to speak, so if you want to live like the locals, here’s a few words and phrases you may enjoy knowing.
- Yinz – it means “you guys” or “you all”
- ‘Burgh – it means Pittsburgh
- Sweeper – it means vacuum
- Chip Chopped Ham – it means “chipped ham” or very thinly sliced ham deli meat
- Buggy – it means shopping cart
- N’at – it means “and that” often used at the end of a sentence.
- Pop – it means soda, like soft drinks.
- Slippy – it means slippery.
- Dippy – it usually means “dippy eggs” or sunny side-up eggs.
- Aht – it means out, as in “aht there” is “out there.”
- Sheetz – it is a local gas station/convenience store chain.
Final Thoughts About Pittsburgh With Kids
As you can see, there is no shortage of things to do in Pittsburgh for kids. It is historical, affordable, and beautiful, full of so many fun activities for the whole family. Pittsburgh is a great place to stop for a day, a weekend or to make your vacation destination.