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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 the United States of America! Pittsburgh is full of fun things for kids and teens, even those that are only kids at heart, including botanical gardens, amusement parks, art museums, and other popular attractions. Some visitors even 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 awesome place for the whole family and you should absolutely pay it a visit!
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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, it’s 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 the whole family can enjoy. I’ve never had a bad experience on the Clipper. It’s a really great way to see Pittsburgh! And your kids will love seeing the city from the 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 spot to walk around. I’ve even seen a few proposals at the viewing platform at the top.
Play at Kennywood
Kennywood Amusement park is right 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 theme parks in the world. It’s a great family park, they truly have something for the entire family. 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 kids, 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 park 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. Children 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; the Carnegie museum of art, the Carnegie museum of natural history, the Carnegie 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 an interactive exhibits 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!
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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!
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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.
An excellent discount site for flights (and cars, hotels) is Expedia! This is where we start our research for the best deals!
If you’d like to be in the know for exclusive discounts to fly anywhere in the world, check out Going (formerly Scott’s Cheap Flights). Their website shows current deals, and they send emails when they find new deals. Try out their free 7-day membership to save BIG money on flights. I’m not kidding. They have the best deals out there and we’ve tried them all, or so it seems. There’s no need to buy a membership (you’ll still have access to great deals with their free trial).
To get discounts on tours in the area, try Viator which offers 51% off last-minute tours (and great deals on advanced ones too).
Pittsburgh is known as the City of Bridges. Three rivers flow through Pittsburgh: the Allegheny River, the Monongahela River, and the Ohio River. Pittsburgh has a whooping 446 bridges! Because of the rivers and all those bridges, the Pittsburgh area 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 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.
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 and other family fun, 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.
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