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It’s not just steel that steals the show in Pittsburgh. Large sandwiches, roller coasters, riverboats, and museums share the spotlight in the city that built America! Pittsburgh is full of fun activities for kids and teens, even those that are only kids at heart. Some visitors go to visit the famous Falling Water house or head there for budget friendly shows, opera, and sports tickets. Pittsburgh and my hometown Cleveland are friendly rivals, so it pains me just a little bit to say this, but Pittsburgh is a really great city for families and you should absolutely pay it a visit!
Visit Station Square
One of my favorite places to visit as a kid was the Station Square area of Pittsburgh. Station Square is not only home to lots of places to shop and dine, its also the site to two of my favorite attractions: The Gateway Clipper and the Duquesne Incline!
Ride the Gateway Clipper
The Gateway Clipper has a fleet of riverboats that sail through the city. They offer sightseeing or dinner cruises, as well as seasonal cruises. I’ve never had a bad experience on the Clipper. It’s a really fun way to see Pittsburgh! And your kids will love seeing the city from a river.
Ride the Duquesne Incline
The Duquesne Incline is a cable car that is used to carry cargo and passengers up Mount Washington. It was built in 1877 and has been in operation ever since. I was really impressed with it as a kid, and to be honest I’m still pretty impressed with the incline as an adult. The neighborhood at the top of the incline is a great place to walk around. I’ve even seen a few proposals at the viewing platform at the top.
Play at Kennywood
Kennywood is an amusement park outside of Pittsburgh. I consider myself a bit of an amusement park guru, and I’ll admit that there is a nostalgia factor here, because I was practically raised on potato patch fries, but Kennywood is one of my favorite amusement parks in the world. It’s a great family park, they truly has something for everyone. Kennywood’s newest attraction is 2019’s rollercoaster of the year The Steel Curtain. The Steel Curtain inverts more times (9) than any rollercoaster in North America and is the tallest (197 feet high!) in the world!
For the younger sect, they also have Thomas Town based on everyone’s favorite tank engine and lots of other family-friendly kid’s rides and attractions. I have many fond memories of going to Kennywood with my cousins as a kid. Many of the attractions at Kennywood are historical landmarks. Be sure to look for the placards noting the historic attractions!
Visit the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh
Did you know that Mr. Rogers was from Pittsburgh? He filmed his show at WQED in Pittsburgh for many years. So it’s no surprise that the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh has an exhibit in his honor. Kids of all ages will enjoy the many exhibits there, including science and art based exhibits. If you have older kids, check out Museumlab next door, which is geared towards the 10 and up crowd.
See Art at the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh
The Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh is a museum system that includes 4 museums; art, natural history, the science center and the Andy Warhol museum. If you have a dinosaur lover in your family, you need to make a beeline to the natural history museum. They have so many artifacts related to dinosaurs, including a quarry where you can dig up a “fossil” and a ton of actual fossils!
Pittsburgh is full of fun activities for kids and teens and even those that are only kids at heart. Amusement parks, crazy sandwiches and river boats share the spotlight in Steel City!
Where to Eat
They say when in Rome do as the Romans do, so when in Pittsburgh eat at Primanti Brothers. Primanti Brothers is a sandwich shop, with a unique twist. They put their fries and coleslaw right on the sandwich! There are other sandwich shops around town that make similar sandwiches, but trust me on this one, Primanti Brothers is where it’s at. Good luck eating one though. The sheer size makes it challenging. It’s worth it though, they are amazing!
S & D Polish Deli
Not a sandwich fan? Then try some pierogies! Pierogies are a traditional polish dish, basically, thin dough stuffed with potatoes or cheese and occasionally sauerkraut or meat. You can try pierogies all over town, pierogies are practically Pittsburgh’s mascot. There’s even a pierogi race at Pittsburgh Pirates games! I like S&D Polish Deli the best though. They are the closest to the kind of pierogies my aunts make. You can tell if the pierogies are hand made by looking at the edges. If the pierogi edges are a little bumpy, then they are most likely hand made. The bumps are from the fingers pressing them closed!
Where to Stay
There is a lovely Sheraton at Station Square that would be a great place to stay if you want to be within walking distance of the Gateway Clipper and the Incline. If you want to stay on the other side of town, closer to Kennywood, then the Hampton Inn Waterfront would be a great choice! Not only do they have a pool they have a beautiful view of the river. The Fairmount is arguably the nicest hotel in PIttsburgh, that’s actually where celebrities usually stay when they are in town filming movies! Tom Cruise even stayed there when he filmed Jack Reacher.
You can check out reviews of thee and other area hotels and get the best prices from TripAdvisor.
When you Go
If you’re coming to Pittsburgh from Southern California, the easiest way to get here would be to fly into Pittsburgh International Airport. There is a small network of public transportation, but the easiest way to get around the ‘burgh would be to rent a car or use Uber/Lyft.
Pittsburgh is known as the City of Bridges. Three rivers flow through Pittsburgh: the Allegheny, the Monongahela, and the Ohio River. Pittsburgh has a whooping 446 bridges! Because of the rivers and all those bridges, Pittsburgh can be confusing to navigate. It’s not uncommon for highways in some parts of Pittsburgh to be built so close together that my GPS gets as confused as I am. So, I highly suggest that you go a little old school and print some directions out and put your best reader in the passenger seat if you decide to drive while you’re in the ‘burgh.
Pittsburgh also has some great Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tours that can acclimate you to the city quickly and get you to the areas you want to visit fast.
Also, Viator has tours and other discounted activities that can make your visit even better.
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