What’s Going on in Pittsburgh this Memorial Day Weekend: May 22-25, 2015

Here’s my weekly listing of family-friendly events in the Pittsburgh region for the weekend of May 22-25, 2015. Highlights of this year’s Memorial Day weekend include the opening of the city’s spray parks, Discovery Garden Day at Phipps and a number of really beautiful ways to honor our country’s fallen soldiers.

The weather forecast calls for highs in the 70’s-80’s and low chance of rain until Memorial Day when there may be scattered showers.


Friday Night, May 22

Bakery Square’s Summer Kickoff

Bakery Square celebrates the start of summer with its Summer Kick-Off featuring local food trucks, craft beer and live musical performances.

Times: 5-8pm

Cost: Free to attend, refreshments cost extra

Location: Bakery Square, 6425 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh PA


Youth Make: Mission Control at the Children’s Museum

Youth Make is an opportunity for children ages 10-15 to explore the Children’s Museum MAKESHOP after hours. This event’s theme is “Mission Control” with space-themed activities including programming a spaceship with Scratch and Makey Makey, embroidering a constellation, using batteries and lights to create a constellation and exploring the universe using green screen technology. This event is ticketed separately from admission and advance registration is required. You can purchase tickets online or at the museum admission desk during regular museum hours. Parents do not need to attend program with kids.

Times: 5-7pm

Cost: $10 for nonmembers, $8 for members

Location: Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, 10 Children’s Way, Pittsburgh PA 15212


First Summer Fridays at the Frick

It’s the first weekend of the Frick Art and Historical Center’s “Summer Fridays at the Frick” program, where the entire site will be open until 9pm each Friday until August 2. Families can picnic on the lawn, get some bites from the Cafe or local food trucks, enjoy a glass of wine from the Wine Bar and on select Fridays (not including this one) enjoy outdoor music concerts. You can also explore the Clayton historic home and the Frick Art Museum for additional costs.

Location: Frick Art & Historical Center, 7227 Reynolds Street, Pittsburgh PA


PBT School Spring Performance 2015

Over 200 students from the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s Student and Pre-Professional divisions will be performing both classical and contemporary ballet works.

Time: 7pm

Cost: Tickets start at $22

Location: Byham Theater, 101 6th Street, Pittsburgh PA 15222



Pyrofest is an annual celebration of the art of pyrotechnics with unique fireworks displays, live music and food.

Times: 5-11pm

Cost: Pricing is complicated. See here for more info.

Location: Cooper’s Lake, Butler County


All Weekend, May 23-24 (and in some cases the 25th too)

Last Weekend of the Rainbow Jumpy at the Children’s Museum (except Monday)

It’s the last weekend for the Rainbow Jumpy, the 30-foot inflatable jumpy art piece at the Children’s Museum.


Land of Nod Bookmobile Tour (except Monday)

The Land of Nod Bookmobile will be spending the weekend in Pittsburgh and offering story times, crafts and opportunities to buy Little Golden Books. The bookmobile will be at The Picket Fence in Shadyside on Friday, the Mattress Factory and Le Cupcake Shoppe on Saturday and the Children’s Museum and Soergel’s on Sunday. See here for more details.


East Coast Volleyball Championships (except Monday)

The East Coast Volleyball Championships will be held at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center this weekend. Spectators can register here.


$1 Weekend on the Gateway Clipper Fleet

In honor of the holiday weekend, the Gateway Clipper Fleet is offering $1 tickets for children ages 12 and under on its Evening Sightseeing Cruises and Good Ship Lollipop cruises. Use promo code KIDS1 to redeem online. See here for sailing times. Extends through Memorial Day.


Historic Gristmill Open at McConnell’s Mills State Park

Visitors to the historic gristmill in McConnells Mill State Park can explore (11-4pm) and/or take a free guided interpretative tour (1 and 3pm). Park in the Kildoo Picnic or Point parking areas for a short hike into the Slippery Rock Gorge to the Mill.  Limited parking for people with limited walking abilities beside the mill. Through Memorial Day.


Saturday, May 23

Citiparks Spray Parks Open

The free Citiparks Spray Parks in Beechview, Warrington, Troy Hill, Shadyside and East Hills open today, weather permitting. Hours are from 9-8pm.


Discovery Garden Day at Phipps

Phipps Conservatory presents its annual Discovery Garden Day with nature-inspired games, crafts and potting stations. Plus you can explore this kid-friendly garden/play space with its giant tree stump for climbing, interactive fountains, Nature Play Garden and lots more.

Times: 11-4pm

Cost: Free with admission

Location: Phipps Conservatory, 700 Frank Curto Drive, Pittsburgh PA


Little Free Libraries at the Mattress Factory

Students from Brashear High School and Repair the World have created 40 Little Free Libraries to be distributed around the city of Pittsburgh. Bring five books to donate and get free admission to the Museum. You can also browse through the libraries and even “adopt” one to bring home.

Times: 12-5pm

Cost: Free

Location: Mattress Factory, 500 Sampsonia Way, Pittsburgh PA 15212



Pyrofest is an annual celebration of the art of pyrotechnics with unique fireworks displays and live music.

Times: 3-11pm

Cost: Pricing is complicated. See here for more info.

Location: Cooper’s Lake, Butler County


Beauty and the Beast at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater

The students of Virtuous Academy will put on a theatrical production of the classic Beauty and the Beast. All proceeds benefit the Virtuous Academy scholarship fund.

Time: 7pm

Cost: Adults $15, Children $5

Location: Kelly Strayhorn Theater, 5941 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh PA


Sunday, May 24

Please note: Sunday May 24 is a designated state Fish-For-Free Day where families do not need a fishing license to fish the state’s waterways.


Submarine Memorial at the Carnegie Science Center

Submarine veterans will hold a memorial service on the USS Requin beginning at 10am. Veterans will toll the bell once for each submarine that is on “Eternal Patrol” and will cast flower petals on the water where fellow submarines are at rest. Marine Color Guards will also perform a 21-gun salute. The public is encouraged to watch the memorial service from the shore and afterwards are invited to tour the submarine for free. The Carnegie Science Center will be open on Memorial Day and offers a discount for all military personnel and veterans.

Times: 10-11am

Cost: Free

Location: Carnegie Science Center, One Allegheny Avenue, Pittsburgh PA 15212


Yoga in Highland Park

Families are invited to a free hour of yoga with the friendly folks from Yoga Hive. Event is weather permitting.

Times: 10-11am

Cost: Free, though donations accepted

Location: Meet to the left of the large fountain at the entrance of Highland Park


Kids Day at PNC Park

The Pittsburgh Pirates are playing the New York Mets at a Sunday afternoon home game, which means it’s a Kids Day at PNC Park! The game is preceded by a family-friendly carnival on Federal Street (starting at 11am), kids get a Gerrit Cole replica camo jersey at the door and, weather permitting, they can run the bases after the game.

Time: Game starts at 1:35pm

Location: PNC Park, 115 Federal Street, Pittsburgh PA 15212


Kid City Rockers Dance Party at the Children’s Museum

DJ KellyMom will present a family-friendly DJ dance party at the Children’s Museum.

Times: 1-3pm

Cost: Free

Location: Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, 10 Children’s Way, Pittsburgh PA 15212


Bésame at World Kaleidoscope

Bésame, a musical group specializing in the music of Latin America, will perform at the Carnegie Library of Oakland’s monthly World Kaleidoscope series. These family-friendly concerts are ideal for introducing your children to music and dance from other countries.

Time: 2-3pm

Cost: Free

Location: Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh Main, 4400 Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15213



Kaya in the Strip District celebrates its 20th anniversary with Kaya Fest, a street festival on 20th Street with free live music and island-inspired food.

Times: 3-11pm

Cost: Free music, food costs extra

Location: 20th Street, Strip District


Memorial Day, May 25

Please note: The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh and most local libraries are closed on Memorial Day.


Health & Fitness Month Kids Edition

May was recently recognized as Health & Fitness Month by the City of Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Fitness Council is celebrating by holding a morning of fitness activities designed for families. Activities include a family workout session from 9-9:30am, a nutrition activity from 9:45-10:15am and a “Yoga Safari” from 10:30-11am.

Times: 9-11am

Cost: Free

Location: Schenley Plaza, Oakland


Memorial Day Parade in Allegheny Cemetery

The annual Memorial Day Parade to Allegheny Cemetery is one of the oldest parades in the nation, making its way down Butler Street to end at Allegheny Cemetery. The parade is followed by a memorial service honoring the memories of soldiers lost in battle and, after the service, there will be music, giveaways and refreshments.

Time: 10-2pm

Cost: Free

Location: Allegheny Cemetery, Pittsburgh PA


Memorial Day at the Heinz History Center

The Heinz History will be offering free admission to all current and veteran members of the military. There will also be a flag ceremony and folding of the flag in the Great Hall at noon.

Times: 10-5pm

Location: Heinz History Center, 1212 Smallman Street, Pittsburgh PA 15222


Annual Memorial Day Celebration at Soldiers & Sailors Hall

Soldiers and Sailors presents its annual Memorial Day celebration with musical entertainment, children’s activities, a service for fallen soldiers and refreshments available for purchase.

Times: 11-4pm

Cost: Free

Location: Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall, Oakland


I also found other Memorial Day celebrations in smaller communities including Bethel Park, Etna, Sewickley, Castle Shannon, Munhall, the Hilltop, Mt. Pleasant, Aspinwall, Mt. Lebanon, Dormont, Coraopolis, Irwin and Kennedy. If your community has a Memorial Day Parade or special celebration that you’d like to add, please email me at pittsburghmommyblog@gmail.com.


Here are the weekend’s events at the Carnegie libraries and here are the weekends events at the Allegheny County libraries.


Date Ideas:

Star Party Hike with Venture Outdoors and the Amateur Astronomer’s Association of Pittsburgh on Friday night at Deer Lakes Park

TEDxPittsburgh at 12pm on Saturday

Pittsburgh Pirates vs. New York Mets on Friday at 7:05pm and Saturday at 4:05pm.


Have a great long weekend!

2015 Summer in Pittsburgh Family Guide


I was recently lying in my hammock looking toward a beautiful blue sky when I felt it. The energy. The unmistakable, free-spirited energy of summer. And I got to thinking, “Is there anything more satisfying than the anticipation of a summer ahead with my kids?” Outdoor music, festivals, swimming, hiking, camping, biking. Staying up late. Sleeping in. Savoring this most wonderful season that seems to slip through my fingers faster and faster each year.

I know it’s only May. But I want to share my own excitement about Summer and what it will hold for the city’s families. There’s a lot to look forward to!

Learning stuff outside

Summer is the perfect opportunity to take your family’s learning outdoors into nature. Pittsburgh is home to many museums, nature reserves and public parks that offer outdoor educational opportunities during the summer. (Please note: these are NOT summer camps. If you are looking for summer camps, check here).

Tyke Hike in Mellon Park with Venture Outdoors

Tyke Hike with Venture Outdoors

  • Storytime at Phipps Conservatory: During the warm months, Phipps Conservatory brings its weekly, free-with-admission story time outside into the Children’s Discovery Garden. Kids can listen to stories with nature themes, make a craft and explore the beautiful garden with interactive elements just for them. Plus, if you attend six sessions you can choose a free children’s book from the gift store. Story time is held at 10:30 am or 1 pm on Wednesdays and last from 30 minutes to an hour.
  • Tot Hikes at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh: During the warm months, the Children’s Museum offers Tot Hikes, a chance to explore the museum’s Outdoor Classroom. Led by early childhood educators including the fantastic Miss Yvonne, children can explore the vegetable garden, water flowers, sing, dance and listen to nature stories. Recommended for children 5 years old and younger. Tot Hikes are held from 11-noon on Thursdays and are free with admission. 
  • Youth Grow at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh: The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh also offers a monthly, hands-on seasonal gardening workshop for children ages 10 and older. Sessions are held on select Saturdays from 10:30-noon and parents do not need to be present. Cost is $10 for nonmembers and $8 for members and advance registration is required. 
  • KidsPlay in Market Square: The Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership hosts the free KidsPlay in Downtown Pittsburgh’s Market Square on Tuesday mornings. Each week has different educational programs, activities and special guests. This year’s highlights include visits with Santa, Mister McFeely, children’s yoga, penguins from the National Aviary and more. See here for the complete lineup. Also, following KidsPlay the mobile Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s Reading Room will be set up, where kids can choose a new book for only $1 or $2. Programs are geared toward preschool-aged children and caregivers and take place Tuesday mornings from 10-11:30am. 
  • Citiparks Roving Art Cart: Citiparks will once again host its free Roving Art Cart program this summer. The Roving Art Cart visits a neighborhood park and/or playground every Tuesday through Friday and offers creative activities for children. Activities are best suited for kids ages 5-12. The Roving Art Cart runs Tuesday-Friday 10am to 1pm from June 16 to August 7. See here for the complete schedule.
  • Tyke Hikes with Venture Outdoors: Venture Outdoors offers guided nature hikes for children 0-8 with caregivers at a variety of local parks. Each Tyke Hike has a nature-based theme and incorporates nature exploration, a craft and a healthy snack. Tyke Hikes are held on select Tuesday mornings from 10-11:30am and cost is $5 per child (adults are free). Though walkups are allowed, advance registration is strongly requested. 
  • Beechwood Farms and Nature Reserve: Offered once per month, Beechwood Farms in Fox Chapel hosts Preschool Fledglings (3-5yo) and Babes in the Woods (baby-2 yo). While Babes in the Woods is basically a guided nature hike, Preschool Fledglings also incorporates stories, a walk and interactive activities to introduce nature themes to preschoolers. Parents and caregivers must be present and cost is $4 for Audubon Society members and $6 for nonmembers. 
  • Fern Hollow Nature Center: Fern Hollow Nature Center in Sewickley is holding a couple regular educational programs for young children this summer. Nature Play Dates will be held on Wednesday mornings from 11-1pm and include parent-led time in the Natural Outdoor Classroom where families can explore, build and engage in creative play. There will also be a small craft each week. Fern Hollow will also offer a new program this year called Storytime Yoga on select Wednesdays from 1-1:30pm with a nature-themed story time and basic yoga instruction. Cost is $10 per person per class and pre-registration is required.
  • Talk N’Walks at The Outdoor Classroom: The Outdoor Classroom at Boyce-Mayview Park will offer a new monthly Talk N’Walk program on select Sundays from 2-4pm. Program incorporates a presentation on different nature themes (for example, bees in July) and a hike. Cost is $10 for adults and $4 for children.
  • Forest Stories at the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden: The Pittsburgh Botanic Garden is once again holding its Forest Stories series where families can take a guided hike to the Highmark Gazebo for a story time and activity. Following the story time, kids can visit the chickens in the Historic Farmstead as they enjoy a special treat. Forest Stories are held every Friday from June 5-August 21 from 10-11am. The program is free with admission and adult attendance is required. Designed for children ages 3-5 years old.
  • Children’s Storytime at Powdermill Nature Reserve: If you want to travel a bit further (55 miles east of Pittsburgh), the Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s Powdermill Nature Reserve offers a children’s story time on the third Sunday of the month at 1 p.m. Children ages 4-9 with caregiver can participate in a story time, themed arts and crafts projects and a short hike through the forest.
  • Bloomfield Saturday Market: Back for its second year, the outdoor Bloomfield Saturday Market runs Saturdays from 9-1pm. Though not offered every week, the Market sometimes holds free educational activities for children. Looking for other local Farmers Markets? Check out this listing on NEXTpittsburgh.

Getting wet

A hot summer’s day calls for a dip in some cool water. Pittsburgh offers a number of options for families looking to get wet.


  • Citiparks Outdoor Swimming Pools: Citiparks has 18 outdoor swimming pools opening this year on June 9th. Hours are 1-7:45pm on weekdays and 1-5:45 pm on weekends and holidays. For a full listing of locations see here. Citiparks also offers very affordable swimming classes for children 18 months-15 years old. Pool tags are available ($60 for a resident family of four or $45 per person for nonresident families). Or you can buy a daily admission ticket for $3 for children ages 3 – 15 and $4 for individuals 16 and older. Several of the Citiparks pools have kiddie pools including Highland Park, Brighton Heights and Banksville.
  • Citiparks Spray Parks: Citiparks also has five spray parks in Beechview, Shadyside, Troy Hill, East Hills and Warrington. Spray parks open on May 23 from 9-8pm and are free to visit.

Also, if you’re looking for a spray park-like experience, there are a few fountains in Pittsburgh that are particularly fun to visit: the Water Steps at the North Shore Riverfront Park, the Cloud Arbor at Buhl Community Park near the Children’s Museum and the Water Feature at PPG Place (though the Water Feature is being renovated and is closed until at least the end of July).

  • Allegheny County Pools: The Allegheny County Parks Department has a number of pools in suburban parks including wave pools at Boyce Park, Settler’s Cabin Park and South Park; a dive pool at Settler’s Cabin Park and a swimming pool (with water slide) at North Park. These pools are open June 6 through Labor Day from 11:30am to 7:30pm. Pricing is very affordable, but complicated so see here for more information.
  • Allegheny County Spray Parks: The Allegheny County Parks Department also has two spray parks in Round Hill Park and Deer Lakes Park. Spray parks are open starting May 30 from 10-8pm and are free to visit.
  • Sandcastle Water Park: Sandcastle in Homestead is another option for families looking to get wet. The park includes water slides, a wave pool, a lazy river and dedicated children’s area. I know several families that buy a season pass and visit Sandcastle throughout the summer.

There are also several other community outdoor pools/or spray parks that I’ve heard mentioned as really great including the Pool at Clever Park in Robinson, the Dormont PoolMt. Lebanon Swim Center, Crawford Swimming Pool in Shaler, Hampton Community Pool, the Aquatics Center at the Upper St. Clair Community and Recreation Center and the Cranberry Water Park.

Finally, if you’re looking for a beach, you’re in the wrong place. Just kidding. There’s a 500-foot sand/turf beach at nearby Raccoon Creek State Park with a concession stand.

Being healthy outdoors

Besides swimming, there are a variety of Pittsburgh-based organizations that can help you adopt other healthy and active outdoor hobbies.

Biking along the South Side Riverfront Trail

Biking along the South Side Riverfront Trail

  • Venture OutdoorsIn addition to Tyke Hikes mentioned above, Venture Outdoors also offers a variety of other structured opportunities to hike, geocache, fish and rock climb. Though not all programs are appropriate for young children, some may be. Check out the activities calendar for more information.
  • Hike It Baby Pittsburgh: Hike It Baby Pittsburgh is a new family-friendly hiking group started by a local mother. The group holds hikes throughout the week in both urban and suburban locations. For more information, see the Hike It Baby Pittsburgh calendar and my recent article about the group.
  • Kayak Pittsburgh: Kayak Pittsburgh offers both structured family paddles and kayak rentals at both its North Shore and North Park locations. North Park also offers rentals of rowboats, canoes, pedal boats and stand up paddle boards. Finally, both locations offer bike rentals.
  • SUP Three Rivers: SUP Three Rivers offers stand-up paddle boarding lessons and rentals.

Looking for other ways to get out on the Three Rivers? Boat Pittsburgh offers pontoon boat rentals, the Gateway Clipper Fleet has a variety of family-friendly cruises and Just Ducky Tours offers tours on its fleet of duck boats.

  • Bike Pittsburgh: Bike Pittsburgh has an events calendar that compiles a variety of organized bike rides in the city here.
  • Golden Triangle Bike Rentals: Located in Downtown Pittsburgh, Golden Triangle Bike Rentals offers guided bike tours and rentals of mountain and road bikes, children’s bikes, tandem bikes, tag-along’s and trailers.

Listening to outdoor music

Summer is the season for outdoor music in Pittsburgh. With many free options, an outdoor concert can be an affordable and enjoyable way to spend some time with your family. Here’s my roundup of outdoor concert series in the city:

Bach, Beethoven and Brunch

Bach, Beethoven and Brunch

  • Bach, Beethoven and Brunch: Running June 21-August 16 at Mellon Park, Citiparks’ free Bach, Beethoven and Brunch classical musical series is a leisurely way to spend a Sunday morning (10:30-noon). Bagel Factory vendors are on site and Rodef Shalom Temple generally offers free children’s activities.
  • Stars at Riverview Jazz Series: Citiparks also holds a free outdoor jazz series on Saturday evenings from 7-8:30pm at Riverview Park. Can’t get enough of jazz? The free Reservoir of Jazz series runs in Highland Park in August.
  • Mellon Square Summer Concert Series: Citiparks also holds the free Mellon Square Summer Concert Series in Downtown’s Mellon Square from 12-1pm on Thursday afternoons starting June 4.
  • First Fridays at the Frick: The Frick Art and Historical Center in Point Breeze holds a free outdoor music series on the first Friday of the summer months.
  • Allegheny County Summer Concert Series: The Allegheny County Parks Department holds two favorite free outdoor concert series in the summer: one at South Park Amphitheater on Friday evenings and one at Hartwood Acres on Sunday nights. There will also be the Allegheny County Music Festival on September 6th.
  • Weather Permitting: Held at the Shadyside Nursery, Weather Permitting is an outdoor, family-friendly, backyard BBQ-style summer concert series held on Sunday evenings from 5-9pm. Admission is $10 per adult and kids are free. There are food trucks, beer available for a donation and children’s activities.
  • Notes from the Playground Free Outdoor Concert Series: This year Shady Side Academy is debuting a free outdoor concert series at its Junior School campus in Point Breeze.
  • On Stage Summer Concert Series at Eden Hall Campus: Chatham University’s Eden Hall Campus is hosting a free summer concert series on select Friday and Saturday nights.

Watching movies outside

Summer is also a great time to take cinematic magic outdoors!

Cinema in the Park in our hammock in Schenley Park

Cinema in the Park in our hammock in Schenley Park

Dollar Bank Cinema in the Park: Citiparks holds its free Cinema in the Park at several locations in the city including West End’s Overlook Park on Tuesday nights; Schenley Park’s Flagstaff Hill on Wednesday and Sunday nights; Brookline’s Memorial Park on Thursday evenings; Lawrenceville’s Arsenal Park on Friday nights; Mt. Washington’s Grandview Park and Observatory Hill’s Riverview Park on Saturday nights plus a few showings at Highland Park throughout the summer.

Allegheny County Movies in the Parks: The Allegheny County Parks Department also offers free family-friendly Movies in the Park throughout the summer at different county parks. For full schedule, see here.

There are also a number of drive-in movie theaters that might be fun to visit during the summer:

Visiting Farms

Connecting with food–and especially picking fruits at local farms–is a favorite summertime activity for many Pittsburgh families (including mine). In Western PA the fruit season kicks off with strawberries around the first week of June, raspberries later in June, blueberries in early-to-mid July, peaches in late July and apples around Labor Day. For pumpkins, you’ll have to wait until my Fall guide :).

The following farms offer fruit picking. Unfortunately, I know of no pick-your-own organic berry farms :(.

Berry picking at Soergel Orchards

Berry picking at Soergel Orchards

Also, some of these farms have regular organized activities for children including:

  • Storytime at Soergel Orchards: Soergel Orchards in Wexford hosts a free weekly story time at the farm on Mondays at 10:30am. Weather permitting, some activities are held outside.
  • Pop’s Farmyard at Triple B Farms: For $5 from 11-4pm on Saturdays and Sundays, Triple B Farms offers Pop’s Farmyard, with a tunnel slide, rope maze, farmyard playground and “education acre”–a hands-on learning area for children.

Finally, many of these farms have live animals for the kids to play with. Looking for more farm animals? Check out the Exhibit Farm at Round Hill Park, South Park Game Preserve and the Historic Homestead at the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden.

Attending fairs and festivals

Summer is abuzz with festivals and fairs of many different varieties in Pittsburgh. From food to fruit, yoga to music here are some of my favorite outdoor summer festivals in the city:

Pittsburgh Renaissance Festival

Pittsburgh Renaissance Festival

Looking for more smaller community festivals? Check out this great website by Citiparks.

Hitting the road

Finally, here are some ideas if you’d like to take a short trip:

Entrance to Storybook Forest at Idlewild

Entrance to Storybook Forest at Idlewild

  • Kennywood: Located in West Mifflin, Kennywood Amusement Park is quite close to the city and a great way to spend a summer day with your family. There are season passes available and discounted tickets at Giant Eagle.
  • Living Treasures Animal Park: Living Treasures Animal Park is a large interactive zoo with two locations: one north of the city in Moraine and one southeast of the city in the Laurel Highlands.
  • Idlewild/Soak Zone: Idlewild Amusement Park with its attached Soak Zone waterpark is located in the Laurel Highlands and is one of my favorite day trips from the city. The parks are perfect for young children with lots of age-appropriate rides, a Storybook Forest and a new Daniel Tiger exhibit opening this year!
  • Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village: Affiliated with the Heinz History Center, Meadowcroft is a historical village where you can see the oldest known site of human habitation in North America and visit a prehistoric Indian village, a 17th century frontier trading post and a 19th century rural village.

And here are some PA State Parks within easy driving distance of the city:

Raccoon Creek State Park

Raccoon Creek State Park

  • Cook Forest State Forest (2 hours northwest) with boat and tube rentals, fishing, hiking, biking, horseback-riding and camping.
  • Keystone State Park (1 hour east) with a sand beach for swimming, boating (with rentals), fishing, hiking, biking and camping.
  • Kooser State Park (1 and a half hours southeast) with hiking, fishing and camping.
  • Laurel Hill State Park (1 hour southeast) with a sand beach for swimming, boating (with rentals), hiking, fishing, biking and camping.
  • McConnell’s Mills Sate Park (1 hour north) with whitewater rafting, rock-climbing, fishing and hiking.
  • Moraine State Park (1 hour north) with two sand beaches for swimming, boating (with rentals), fishing, hiking, biking (with rentals), horse-back riding, disc golfing and backpack camping.
  • Ohiopyle State Park (1 and a half hour southeast) with whitewater boating, fishing, rock-climbing, hiking, biking, horseback riding and camping.
  • Presque Isle State Park (2 hours north) with beautiful beaches, boating (with rentals), waterskiing, scuba diving, fishing, hiking and biking (with rentals).
  • Pymatuning State Park (1 and a half hours north) with three sandy beaches, boating (with rentals), fishing, disc golfing, hiking and camping.
  • Raccoon Creek State Park (1 hour west) with a sand beach, boating (with rentals), fishing, hiking, camping and horseback riding.
  • Yellow Creek State Park (1 and a half hours east) with a sand beach, boating (with rentals), fishing and hiking.

Cheers to a wonderful summer in Pittsburgh this year!

What’s Going on in Pittsburgh this Weekend: May 15-17, 2015

Here’s my weekly listing of family-friendly events in the Pittsburgh region for the weekend of May 15-17, 2015. Several of my favorite annual events are this weekend including Food Revolution Day on Friday evening, the Venture Outdoors Festival on Saturday and the EQT Children’s Theater Festival throughout the weekend. Other highlights include the annual Touch-A-Truck event in the Strip District and the Pittsburgh International Folk Festival.

The weather forecast predicts hot, hot temperatures with some sun, but thunderstorms scattered throughout the weekend.


All Weekend, May 15-17

The EQT Children’s Theater Festival

The EQT Children’s Theater Festival is one of my favorite events of the year! Featuring over 40 hands-on activities, family-friendly gallery installations, public art and interactive art, a community stage with local and regional performers and paid children’s theater performances by troupes from around the world. This event is so much fun! We went on Thursday and had a blast!

Times: 10-7pm

Cost: Free, except for featured performances and Tangle, an interactive art installation. Tickets start at $5.

Location: Cultural District, Downtown Pittsburgh


Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s Pre-Professional Showcases 2015

The PBT’s Pre-Professional Division presents a weekend of performances where future professional dancers perform new works along with excerpts from works by Lew Christensen and excepts from Terrence S. Orr’s “Coppélia.”

Times: Friday 7pm, Saturday 2 and 7pm, Sunday 2pm

Cost: $25

Location: Point Park University’s George Rowland White Performance Studio


Friday Night, May 15

Food Revolution Day

Food Revolution Day is another favorite event of mine! It celebrates two things: access to real food and the ideas that result when we’re eating well as a community. Food Revolution Day welcomes the community to a free afternoon of taste-testing healthy dishes prepared by the city’s best chefs and food trucks with the help of students from the Cooking Club at Obama Academy. There will also be community organizations with interactive exhibits, live bands and a mural project.

Times: 3-6pm

Cost: Free

Location: Field at Obama Academy, 515 N Highland Ave, Pittsburgh,  PA 15206


Pittsburgh International Folk Festival

The Pittsburgh Folk Festival celebrates the diverse global heritages of the Pittsburgh region featuring live performances, traditional foods, shopping, craft and cultural demonstrations, cultural exhibits and a crafting area for kids.

Times: Friday 4-10pm

Cost: Adult $5 Advance, $6 Door, children 12 & under free

Location: Monroeville Convention Center, 209 Mall Plaza Blvd, Monroeville, PA 15146


Saturday, May 16

Touch-A-Truck in the Strip District

The Junior League of Pittsburgh is hosting its eight annual Touch-a-Truck fundraiser. Past event vehicles have included fire trucks, ambulances, police cars, backhoe loaders and excavators among many others. And let’s not forget the food trucks!

Times: 10-2pm

Cost: Adults and children 12 months and older are $4 in advance or $5 at the event.

Location: 11th and Smallman Street lot in the Strip District


Living History: Play Ball at the Fort Pitt Museum

Visitors to the Fort Pitt Museum at Point State Park will have an opportunity to join in short, informal, 18th-century cricket games conducted by American cricket player and historian Tom Melville. The games will be run on a continuous walk-up basis throughout the day and are open to all ages.

Times: 10-4:30pm

Cost: Free

Location: Fort Pitt Museum, Point State Park


Save the African Penguins at the National Aviary

The National Aviary is hosting a “Save the African Penguins” event to raise awareness of this species rapidly becoming extinct. Visitors will “bring back the penguins” by participating in conservation-themed activities. For each activity they complete, the visitor will receive a token they can donate to a specific penguin. Once that penguin receives enough tokens, they will return to Penguin Point.

Times: 10-2pm

Cost: Free with admission

Location: National Aviary, 700 Arch Street, Pittsburgh PA 15212


Kid City Dance Party with DJ Kelly Mom at the Andy Warhol Museum

DJ KellyMom is back with a family-friendly Kid City Dance Party at the Andy Warhol Museum as part of the Museum’s Year of the Family.

Time: 10am

Cost: Free with admission

Location: Andy Warhol Museum, 117 Sandusky Street, Pittsburgh PA 15212


MLB Pitch, Hit & Run

Boys and girls ages 7-14 are invited to participate in Pitch, Hit & Run–the official skills competition of Major League Baseball. Free & open to boys and girls ages 7-14. Pre-registration is required by clicking here. Competition times: ages 7-8 at 10:00 am; ages 9-10 at 11:15 am; ages 11-12 at 12:30 pm and ages 13-14 at 1:45 p.m.

Times: 10-3pm

Cost: Free

Location: South Park Fairgrounds Oval


Lawrenceville Cat Crawl

Animal Friends is hosting a “cat crawl” in Lawrenceville where adoptable cats and kittens will be spending their day at the neighborhood’s unique shops and eateries. Purchase a $10 shopping pass (on the Animal Friends website or at sites throughout Lawrenceville that day) for specials at each participating business, and proceeds benefit Animal Friends.

Times: 10-4pm

Cost: Free

Location: Lawrenceville


Plus-Plus Building Extravaganza at Learning Express Bakery Square

Join Learning Express Bakery Square for a Plus-Plus building bricks tutorial on how to make 3-D animals or free-build. Will also be offering all Plus-Plus products at a special discount during the event.

Times: 10-1pm

Cost: Free

Location: Learning Express Bakery Square, 172 Bakery Square Blvd., Pittsburgh, PA 15206


Buzzword Pittsburgh presents “Size” with the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

Buzzword Pittsburgh invites preschoolers age 3-5 and their caregivers to learn new words together with representatives from many cultural venues in the city. This week’s word is “Size” and the presenters are from Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre.

Times: 10:30-11:30am

Cost: Free

Location: Carnegie Library of Homewood, 7101 Hamilton Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15208


Venture Outdoors Festival

The annual Venture Outdoors Festival is a great opportunity to get outside again and be active with your family. This free festival features a climbing wall, fishing, kayaking, dragon boating, yoga, aerial silks, adaptive recreation (for individuals with disabilities) and a KidZone with nature-based crafts to take home, sidewalk chalk drawings for the park, making giant bubbles, a self-guided scavenger hunt, geocaching and a bike rodeo (bikes included).

Times: 11-6pm

Cost: Free

Location: Point State Park


Kites for Kids at the Pittsburgh Zoo

In honor of National Foster Care Month, KidsVoice is holding Kites for Kids–a kite-themed community event with games, crafts, demonstrations, face painting and a chance to familiarize people with the work of KidsVoice, a child advocacy group.

Times: 11-3pm

Cost: Free with admission

Location: Pittsburgh Zoo, One Wild Place, Pittsburgh PA


Pittsburgh International Folk Festival

The Pittsburgh Folk Festival celebrates the diverse global heritages of the Pittsburgh region featuring live performances, traditional foods, shopping, craft and cultural demonstrations, cultural exhibits and a crafting area for kids.

Times: Saturday 11a-10pm

Cost: Adult $5 Advance, $6 Door, children 12 & under free

Location: Monroeville Convention Center, 209 Mall Plaza Blvd, Monroeville, PA 15146


Fresh Fest 2015

Fresh Fest 2015 is a community festival on the North Side celebrating healthy eating. Highlights include a celebrity chef vs. neighborhood residents cooking feud, Farm n’ Fun Kid Zone with kid-friendly activities to encourage healthy eating and an appearance by Daniel Tiger.

Times: 11-2pm

Cost: Free

Location: Jacksonia Parklet, 842 Jacksonia Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15212


ArtLAB with Julie Schenkelberg at the Mattress Factory

The Mattress Factory is offering its bimonthly hands-on, art-making program for people of all ages. This week children will be working with artist Julie Schenkelberg to create a collaborative installation using recycled materials, vintage photos and curious objects.

Times: 1-4pm

Cost: Free with admission

Location: Mattress Factory, 500 Sampsonia Way, Pittsburgh PA 15212


Keystone State Music Theater Academy’s Production of Peter Pan, Jr

Based on the play by J.M. Barrie and the 1953 Disney film, Peter Pan, Jr is a modernized version featuring classic music. It features students ranging in age from 7-14 from North Allegheny, Seneca Valley, PA Cyber, Pine-Richland, Butler, St Gregory’s and Mars Schools.

Times: 2:30pm and 7pm

Cost: $10. Children 3 and under are free

Location: Marshall Middle School, 5145 Wexford Run Rd, Wexford, PA 15090


Untucked Music Festival at Shady Side Academy

Featuring Danielle Bradbery, champion of NBC’s The Voice, Shady Side Academy is holding their annual student-run benefit music festival. The event kick off at 3pm with musical performances and carnival fun for all ages. All proceeds benefit Pace School.

Times: 3-8pm

Cost: Advance tickets are $20 for adults, $10 for students under 18, and free for children 5 and under. Tickets at the door are $25 for adults and $15 for students.

Location: Shady Side Academy, 423 Fox Chapel Road,  Fox Chapel, PA 15238


Pittsburgh Riverhounds vs. Richmond Kickers

Pittsburgh’s professional soccer team the Riverhounds will be playing the Richmond Kickers. At the conclusion of game, fans are welcomed onto the field for pictures and autographs with players.

Time: 7pm

Cost: Tickets start at $13

Location: Highmark Stadium, 510 West Station Square Drive, Pittsburgh PA


Sunday, May 17

Rivers of Steel Festival

Held at the historic Pump House in the Waterfront, the family-friendly Rivers of Steel Festival highlights the region’s rich ethnic, cultural and folk traditions and will include workshops, demonstrations, music, performances, food, craft and arts vendors and more.

Times: 10-6pm

Cost: Free

Location: The Historic Pump House at the Waterfront, Munhall PA


Summerset at Frick Park Porch Party

The Summerset at Frick Park residential community is holding an inaugural porch/street party with on-site catering serving new and traditional Pittsburgh fare, Dream Cream Ice Cream, music, entertainers and decorated porches. One block at Overton Lane will be closed to vehicular traffic.

Times: 1-4pm

Cost: Free to attend

Location: Overton Lane, Pittsburgh PA 15217


Nitro Circus Live at the Consol Energy Center

Featuring 40 of the world’s best extreme athletes performing tricks in FMX, BMX and skate, Nitro Circus Live is coming to Pittsburgh for the first time. The tour also features stunts on tricycles, skis, bath tubs and even a Barbie Car, all launched off the 50-foot high Gigant-A-Ramp.

Time: 5pm

Cost: Adult tickets start at $39, children’s discount available at $27.45

Location: Consol Energy Center, 1001 5th Avenue, Pittsburgh PA


Here are the weekend’s events at the Carnegie libraries and here are the weekend’s events at the Allegheny County libraries.


And there’s one more children’s consignment sale in the Spring season this weekend: Just Between Friends Pittsburgh North on Neville Island.


Date Night Ideas:


Have a great weekend!

What’s Going on in Pittsburgh this Mother’s Day Weekend: May 8-10, 2015

Here’s my weekly listing of family-friendly events in the Pittsburgh region for the weekend of May 8-10. The forecast calls for sunshine and highs in the upper 80’s so get out there and enjoy the return of beautiful weather!

All Weekend, May 8-10

Disney FANTASIA by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra

The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra will perform selections from Walt Disney’s original Fantasia (1940) and Disney Fantasia 2000 accompanied by scenes from the movies.

Times: Friday and Saturday 7:30pm, Sunday 2:30pm

Cost: Tickets start at approximately $30

Location: Heinz Hall, 600 Penn Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15222


St. Nick’s Greek Food Festival (except Sunday)

It’s the annual Greek Food Festival sponsored by St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Oakland! We’ve been to this and loved it! The events includes indoor, sit-down dining and outdoor street vendor-style food. There’s also live Greek music and dancing. See the above link for information on food costs and times.

Location: St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral, 419 S Dithridge St, Pittsburgh, PA 15213


Friday Night, May 8

Youth Invasion 2015 at the Andy Warhol Museum

The Andy Warhol is holding its annual Youth Invasion event, showcasing local teens’ unique take on Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable. The event features a fashion show and youth musical, dance and spoken word performances. Visitors also have their own opportunity to create art.

Times: 5-10pm

Cost: $5

Location: Andy Warhol Museum, 117 Sandusky Street, Pittsburgh PA 15212


Make, Grow, Celebrate! at the Union Project

Creative Citizen Studios is holding a fundraising party for “Camp Make & Grow,” a gardening, ceramics and art camp for teens & adults with disabilities. This family-friendly indoor party includes food trucks, art-making activities and music. There will also be art for sale and an art auction.

Times: 6-9pm

Cost: $10

Location: Union Project, 801 N. Negley Avenue, Pittsburgh PA 15206


Saturday and Sunday, May 9-10

Free Admission to the Clayton Historical Mansion at the Frick 

With one purchase of admission to the Frick’s historical mansion, the Clayton, moms, mother-in-laws and grandmas get a free tour. Also coincides with the opening of a new exhibit at the Frick entitled Rolling Hills, Satanic Mills: The British Passion for Landscape and the free art-making activity for kids on Saturday. Also, the Clayton will offer kid-paced, child-friendly tours where children 16 and under get free admission too. Reservations are recommended for tours. Call 412-371-0600.

Times: 10-5pm

Location: Frick Art and Historical Center, 7227 Reynolds Street, Pittsburgh PA


Mother’s Day CD Card Making at the Children’s Museum

Children can work with the Saturday Light Brigade to create a one-of-a-kind audio card for mom, grandma or other special women in their lives.

Times: 1-4pm

Cost: CD Card Kit Purchase required (unsure about price)

Location: Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, 10 Children’s Way, Pittsburgh PA 15212


Saturday, May 9

May Market at Phipps

Phipps is hosting its annual May Market with a wide selection of plants, gardening supplies, botanical art and natural body care products. Will also have a pot-a-plant activity for kids.

Times: 9:30-5pm

Cost: Free

Location: Phipps Conservatory Front Lawn, 700 Frank Curto Drive, Pittsburgh PA


Pittsburgh Sketch Crawl

The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust invites people of all ages to a day of sketching Downtown Pittsburgh’s scenic plazas. Bring a sketch book, drawing instruments, lunch and a chair. Artist Rick Antolic will be on-hand at each scheduled location to assist with sketches as needed. Children 16 and under must be accompanied by an adult. Event is free, but register here.

Times: 10-2pm

Cost: Free

Location: Check-in at Katz Plaza


World Fair Trade Day at Ten Thousand Villages

Ten Thousand Villages in Squirrel Hill is celebrating World Fair Trade Day with a variety of activities including a fair trade tea tasting, story time, live music and dancing.

Times: 10-4pm

Cost: Free

Location: Ten Thousand Villages, 5824 Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh PA


Mini-Factory:Color at the Mattress Factory

The Mattress Factory is holding its bimonthly introduction to installation art for children ages 3-5 plus a caregiver through hands-on activities, a story time and exhibit tour. This week’s theme is Color. Please note: the Mini-Factory program is no longer free, but now costs $5 per child/caregiver pair if you are not a member of the museum.

Times: 10-11am

Location: Mattress Factory 500 Sampsonia Way, Pittsburgh PA 15212


Down on the Farm Day at Round Hill Park Exhibition Farm

The Allegheny County Parks Department is hosting “Down on the Farm Day” at Round Hill Park’s Exhibition Farm. The day’s activities include meeting the animals (11am), watching the annual sheep shearing (12pm) and a sing-along with Old MacDonald and friends (1pm).

Times: 11-2pm

Cost: Free

Location: Round Hill Park Exhibition Farm, Elizabeth PA


Hike It Baby Pittsburgh Round Hill Park Hike and Exhibit Farm Visit

Hike It Baby Pittsburgh is holding a free kid-friendly, stroller-friendly one-mile hike at Round Hill Park and Exhibit Farm. Bring a picnic! Sign this waiver before your first hike with Hike It Baby Pittsburgh. Also coincides with “Down on the Farm Day” at Round Hill Park’s Exhibit Farm.

Time: 11-1:30pm

Cost: Free

Location: Round Hill Park, Elizabeth,  PA 15037


Opening Day of the Backyard Exhibit at the Children’s Museum

The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh’s outdoor Backyard exhibit reopens for the season. Opening day will feature bluegrass music from 11-1pm and a cyanotype printmaking activity using the sunshine.

Times: 11-4pm

Cost: Free with admission

Location: Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, 10 Children’s Way, Pittsburgh PA 15212


Friendship Flower and Folk Festival

The neighborhood of Friendship is holding its annual Flower and Folk Festival with live music, children’s activities, BBQ, plant and book sales and live demonstrations on sustainable practices, beekeeping, gardening and biking.

Times: 11-4pm

Cost: Free

Location: Baum Grove, Corner of Roup, Harriet, and S Fairmont, Friendship


ArtKids: From Cottages to Castles at the Frick

The Frick Art and Historical Museum is holding a free, kid-friendly exploration of its new exhibit Rolling Hills, Satanic Mills: The British Passion for Landscape where children can explore the countryside of Britain through art and make a special map of their travels afterwards.

Times: 11-11:45am

Cost: Free

Location: Frick Art and Historical Museum, 7227 Reynolds Street, Pittsburgh PA


Spring It On 2015 in Arsenal Park

It’s the inaugural Spring It On in Arsenal Park! The event celebrates the coming of spring AND community through six hours of live music, a local craft and artist market and hands-on craft activities for kids. The event also coincides with Steel City Pizzafest with lots of local pizza and the annual Lawrenceville Blossom Tour where nearly 30 local businesses will be giving out free seed packets. Sounds like a great day to visit Lawrenceville :)!

Times: 12-6pm

Cost: Free

Location: Arsenal Park, Lawrenceville


Cinco de Mayo Celebration at Las Palmas Beechview

Las Palmas Beechview is hosting a Cinco de Mayo celebration with live music and DJ all day, authentic Latin food for sale, kids activities and dance performances.

Times: 12-10pm

Cost: Free

Location: Las Palmas Beechview, 1616 Broadway Avenue, Pittsburgh PA 15216


Grand Re-Opening of the South Park Fairgrounds Oval 

The Allegheny County Parks Department is hosting a celebration for the re-opening of the South Park Fairgrounds Oval. The day’s events will include a BBQ lunch with family games and activities at noon (tickets for lunch are $35 per adults and $15 for kids ages 12 and under with all proceeds benefiting the Allegheny County Parks Foundation. Purchase tickets here). The rest of the afternoon is free with an official ribbon cutting at 2pm, family games, activities and arts & crafts starting at 2:30pm and a free concert with NOMaD at 5pm. There will also be food trucks on site for food & beverage purchase.

Time: 12-6:30pm

Location: South Park Fairgrounds Oval


Penny Arcade at the Arcade Comedy Theater

The Penny Arcade Comedy group offers a monthly kid-friendly improv comedy show for families. Before the show, the audience participates in “collaboration stations” which use crafts and literary prompts to help generate ideas that are used in the show. After every show there is an option to meet the cast and possibly play improv games.

Times: 1-4pm

Cost: Adults $5, Children $10

Location: Arcade Comedy Theater, 811 Liberty Avenue, Pittsburgh PA 15222


The Chinese Nutcracker by Yanlai Dance Academy

The Yanlai Dance Academy presents “The Chinese Nutcracker,” which weaves Chinese elements into the classic ballet “The Nutcracker.” From the website: “Little Yuanyuan receives a white pony toy on Chinese New Year. In the magic of the moonlight, the pony transforms into a prince and little Yuanyuan into a princess. Together they travel throughout China visiting ethnic groups, admiring their native costumes and marveling at their traditional dances.”

Time: 7pm

Cost: Adults $30.75, Children $20.75, Babies in arms free

Location: Byham Theater, 101 6th Street, Pittsburgh PA


Sunday, May 10

Mother’s Day Celebration at the Pittsburgh Zoo

All mothers get free admission to the Pittsburgh Zoo when accompanied by their child.

Times: 9-5pm

Location: Pittsburgh Zoo, One Wild Place, Pittsburgh PA


We Love Mom Members Mother’s Day Brunch at the Children’s Museum

The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh is hosting a members Mother’s Day hot brunch with special fun activities planned for the morning including creating an audio card in the Saturday Light Brigade, creating handmade gifts in the MAKESHOP and Studio and a keepsake family photo in front of King Friday’s Castle in the Theater. Advance registration required by Friday, May 8. Purchase tickets online now.

Times: 9:30-11am

Cost: Adults $28, Children 4 and up $18, Children 2-4 $6, Children under 2 are free. Price includes Museum admission, brunch and all activities. Members are also welcome to purchase tickets for non-member guests.

Location: Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, 10 Children’s Way, Pittsburgh PA 15212


Hike It Baby Pittsburgh Mother’s Day Hike in Schenley Park

Hike It Baby Pittsburgh is hosting a free, kid-friendly, two-mile hike of the Lower Panther Hollow Trail in Schenley Park. This hike is appropriate for all-ages though a carrier or all-terrain stroller is recommended for little ones. Sign this waiver before attending your first hike with Hike It Baby Pittsburgh.

Times: 10-11:30am

Cost: Free

Location: Meet at Bartlett Playground in Schenley Park


Mother’s Day Cruises on the Gateway Clipper Fleet

The Gateway Clipper Fleet will be offering brunch, lunch and dinner cruises on Mother’s Day. See above link for specific times.

Cost: Adults $45, Children $20

Location: Gateway Clipper Fleet dock is at Station Square


Kids Day at PNC Park

The Pittsburgh Pirates are playing the St. Louis Cardinals and it’s a Kid’s Day at PNC Park. There will be family-friendly activities at the #1 Cochran Family Fun Zone on Federal Street from 11am-1pm, moms get a reusable tote bag at the door (I guess they think we need to carry more stuff around with us) and after the game kids can run the bases (weather permitting).

Times: Game starts at 1:35pm

Location: PNC Park


Neighborhood Flea Mother’s Day Edition

The Neighborhood Flea is holding a special Mother’s Day Edition where moms can shop at the marketplace, watch an art demonstration and make their own perfume and art planter. There will also be food and activities for kids including family-friendly yoga at 10am, games and bubbles.

Times: 11-4pm (yoga at 10am)

Cost: Free to attend, select activities cost extra.

Location: 2300 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh PA 15222


Ice Cream Social and Spring Planting Activity at Soergel Orchards

Soergel Orchards is holding an Ice Cream Social in honor of Mother’s Day from 1-4pm. There will also be a spring planting activity from 2-4pm where children can decorate a pot and plant a flower for mom.

Times: 1-4pm

Cost: Free to attend, price based on cone and supplies used for planting activity

Location: Soergel Orchards, 2573 Brandt School Road, Wexford PA


Here are the weekend’s events at the Carnegie libraries and here are the weekend’s events at the Allegheny County libraries.


Date Night Ideas:

Friday Night: Youth Invasion 2015 at the Andy Warhol Museum, Bayardstown 2015 Season Kickoff, Introduction to Meditation Workshop with local Buddhist monk Bhante Pemaratana

Saturday Night: Fireworks Paddle with Kayak Pittsburgh

Both Nights: Pirates vs. Cardinals, newMoves Contemporary Dance Festival, Pittsburgh Fringe Festival


Have a great weekend and Happy Mother’s Day to all those fellow moms out there!


What’s Going on in Pittsburgh this Weekend: May 1-3, 2015

Here’s my weekly listing of family-friendly events in the Pittsburgh region for the weekend of May 1-3. Highlights of this weekend include the openings of the Summer Flower Show at Phipps and Kennywood, the Pittonkatonk May Day Brass BBQ and Pittsburgh Marathon festivities! And according to weather.com, we should expect 70 degree weather with lots of sun!


All Weekend, May 1-3

Peter Pan by the Pittsburgh Musical Theater

The Pittsburgh Musical Theater presents its adaptation of the Broadway musical Peter Pan based on the classic children’s story.

Times: Friday and Saturday 7:30pm, Sunday 2pm

Cost: Tickets start at $12.75

Location: Byham Theater, 101 6th Street, Pittsburgh PA


Friday Night, May 1

Unblurred on Penn Avenue

The Penn Avenue Arts District presents its monthly all-ages gallery crawl. Refreshments are generally available for a donation and children’s activities are available at some galleries, especially Assemble.

Time: starts around 6pm. Get there early to avoid craziness later in the night

Cost: Free


Saturday and Sunday, May 2-3

Opening Weekend of the Summer Flower Show at Phipps

It’s the opening weekend of Phipps’ Summer Flower Show running until October. This show highlights “the diverse characteristics that make certain flowers, trees and shrubs so unique, and, in many instances, help them to survive in their natural environments,” according to the website.

Times: 9:30-5pm and open until 10pm on Friday

Cost: Free with admission

Location: Phipps Conservatory, 700 Frank Curto Drive Pittsburgh PA


Opening Weekend of Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village

Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historical Village is located in Avela, PA and is affiliated with the Heinz History Center. It offers families a peek into the past through a prehistoric Rockshelter, 16th century Indian village, 18th century frontier area and 19th century rural village. Opening weekend hours are noon-5pm on Saturday and 1-5pm on Sunday.


Mother’s Day CD Card Making at the Children’s Museum

Children can work with the Saturday Light Brigade to create a one-of-a-kind audio card for mom, grandma or other special women in their lives.

Times: 1-4pm

Cost: CD Card Kit Purchase required (unsure about price)

Location: Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, 10 Children’s Way, Pittsburgh PA 15212


Saturday, May 2

Free Home Depot Kids Workshop

The Home Depot is offering its monthly free kid’s building workshop. Families will receive instructions and supplies to construct a picket fence picture frame (Mother’s Day gift perhaps?). Kids get an apron, pin and certificate after completed the project. Recommended for children ages 5 and up.

Times: 9-12pm

Cost: Free

Location: Participating Home Depot locations, including East Liberty


Toyota of Pittsburgh Kids Marathon

It’s Marathon weekend in Pittsburgh and kids can participate in their own “marathon” on Saturday morning. The children’s course begins on the Northshore, travels across the Andy Warhol Bridge and ends at the Downtown finish line. No strollers are allowed on the course. Each child may have one parent accompany them for no additional price. There is also a toddler trot for children ages 2-4 at 11:30am.

Time: 9:30am

Cost: $20

Location: See this website for more information on the course


Half-Pint Prints at the Andy Warhol Museum

The Andy Warhol Museum presents its monthly silkscreen printing activity for young children and their caregivers.

Times: 10-12pm

Cost: Free with admission

Location: Andy Warhol Museum, 117 Sandusky Street, Pittsburgh PA 15212


American Girl Doll Mother, Daughter and Doll Breakfast at Learning Express Robinson

Learning Express of Robinson invites mothers, daughters and American Girl dolls to a morning of pastries, juice and tea. Families can take photos in the Photo Booth, craft and make lemon sugar scrub for a Mother’s Day gift.

Times: 10am

Cost: $10 per person

Location: Learning Express of Robinson, 290 Settlers Ridge Center Dr, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15205


The 20th Korean Food Bazaar

The Korean Central Church of Pittsburgh is holding their 20th Korean Food Bazaar featuring authentic Korean food including BBQ Beef, BBQ Chicken, Hoe Naengmyeon, Mul Naengmyeon, Bibimbap, Spicy Beef Soup, Fried Dumpling, Gimbap, Japchae, Kimchi, Seafood Pancake, Mung-bean Pancake, Rice Cake and much more. Yum. I’m hungry writing it.

Times: 10:30-4 pm

Cost: Free to attend and extra to buy food

Location: Korean Central Church of Pittsburgh, 821 S Aiken Ave, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15232


Buzzword Pittsburgh Teaches the Word “Size”

Buzzword Pittsburgh is a new initiative where preschoolers age 3-5 and their caregivers are invited to learn new words together with representatives from many cultural venues in the city. This week’s word is Size and the presenters are from Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre.

Times: 10:30-11:30am

Cost: Free

Location: Homewood Carnegie Library, 7101 Hamilton Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15208


Youth Grow at the Children’s Museum

Intended for children 10 and older, Museum garden experts will take children on a taste-testing tour of the fresh herbs and greens in the Museum’s on-site gardens. Kids will also create their own edible garden planter to take home. Workshop concludes with pesto making and recipe sharing. Event is ticketed separately from Museum admission and parents do not need to stay at the Museum during the workshop. Preregistration required and space is limited.

Times: 10:30-12pm

Cost: $10 for non-members, $8 for members. Tickets may purchased online or at the front desk during regular Museum hours.

Location: Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, 10 Children’s Way, Pittsburgh PA 15215


Opening Day of Kennywood

It’s opening day at Kennywood Amusement Park!

Time: gates open at 11am

Cost: Ticketing and season pass information is here.

Location: Kennywood, 4800 Kennywood Blvd, West Mifflin


22nd Annual May Fair at the Waldorf School of Pittsburgh

The Waldorf School in Pittsburgh presents its annual celebration of springtime at May Fair with May pole dancing, fairy garden and May crown-making, a puppet show and face-painting. You can also buy stuff at a bake sale and garden sale!

Times: 11-4pm

Cost: $6 person with max of $24 per family

Location: Waldorf School, 201 S Winebiddle St, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15224


ArtLab at the Mattress Factory

The Mattress Factory presents its bimonthly interactive activity for families. This week kids will learn about digital art through interacting with physical props to create new rhythms that then helps a computer program generate music.

Times: 1-4pm

Cost: Free with admission

Location: Mattress Factory, 500 Sampsonia Way, Pittsburgh PA 15212


Family Game Design Workshop for Tweens, Teens and Baby Boomers at the Heinz History

Children ages 10-18 year old with an accompanying family member over the age of 50 are invited to a free tour and workshop with Heinz History Center educators and video game industry professionals. Attendees will discuss game design principles and will be introduced to Gamestar Mechanic, a web-based platform that will enable pairs to continue creating their games after the workshop. Online registration required.

Time: 1-4:30pm

Cost: Free

Location: Heinz History, 1212 Smallman Street, Pittsburgh PA


Pittonkatonk 2015: A May Day Brass BBQ

Pittonkatonk is a community celebration in the form of a brass music festival and potluck featuring many brass musicians including Detroit Party Marching Band, May Day Marching Band and Colonel Eagleburgers Goodtime Highstep Marching Band plus much more. Bring a picnic lunch and maybe even something to share!

Times: Picnic starts at 2pm and music starts at 3pm

Cost: FREE but donations are welcome

Location: Vietnam Veteran’s Pavilion, Schenley Park


Sunday, May 3

Please note: Children’s Museum does not open until noon today.

Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon

It’s Marathon Day in Pittsburgh which means neighborhood parties and lots of great energy! Click here for more specific information about events in each neighborhood.


Cinco de Rhino at the Pittsburgh Zoo

The Pittsburgh is holding its annual Cinco de Mayo celebration of its rhino family with music and a craft. Plus baby rhino Janine and her mom will receive a special treat.

Times: 11-3pm

Cost: Free with admission

Location: Pittsburgh Zoo, One Wild Place, Pittsburgh PA


Here are the weekend’s events at the Carnegie libraries and here are the weekend’s events at the Allegheny County libraries.


There are a couple of children’s consignment sales this weekend including Rock It Consignment Sale in Canonsburg and Kids Mania Consignment Sale at the Washington County Fairgrounds.

Date Night Ideas:

Friday Night: Party in the Tropics at Phipps, Unblurred on Penn Avenue, Geek Art/Green Innovators Festival

Saturday Night: Couldn’t find anything that interesting, so stay home and watch Netflix :)

Both Nights: Othello by the Pittsburgh Public Theater


Have a great weekend!

2015 Guide to Family-Friendly Pittsburgh Neighborhoods

Family-Friendly Neighborhoods in-2More and more frequently I open up my inbox to find emails from random moms reading: “I’m moving to Pittsburgh. Can you help me????” I do my best, but I don’t necessarily feel qualified to answer their questions. Universally they all want to know, “Which neighborhood should I move to?” and I just don’t know the answer to that question. As a resident of O’Hara Township on the border of Aspinwall, I certainly love my own little corner of Pittsburgh. But there are many different factors that impact an ideal neighborhood or suburb for each family. In order to more thoroughly answer this question, I present this 2015 Guide to Family-Friendly Pittsburgh Neighborhoods intended for families looking to relocate to (or within) our city.

But first, a word about my methods. I used several sources for the information presented in this article. 1) In order to identify qualifying neighborhoods, I conducted an informal poll on the Pittsburgh Mommy Page on Facebook. “What are the most family-friendly neighborhoods/suburbs of Pittsburgh? Why?” was the question. I received many, many responses, conducted email interviews to follow up with specific folks and summarized parental input in this article. 2) To understand the demographics of each neighborhood, I used PGHSNAP (for neighborhoods) and the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission’s website (for suburbs) 3) For the purposes of comparison between schools, I used the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s PA School Performance Profiles based largely on test scores. However, I fully acknowledge that test scores do not give a full picture of a school and encourage you to check out A+ Schools to get a more complete understanding of the unique challenges and strengths of our various schools.


Choosing a Neighborhood

When I think of Pittsburgh’s geography, I generally break it down into Pittsburgh City Proper and the suburbs in the surrounding directions (Pittsburgh East, West, South and North). Depending on where you work, you might choose to look for a new home in any of these regions. If you’re a visual person, check here for a great map of the City of Pittsburgh and here for the entire Allegheny County. In the following sections, I give you profiles of specific neighborhoods/suburbs deemed “family-friendly” by other Pittsburgh parents.


City of Pittsburgh

I know a number of families who could never imagine moving outside the city’s limits. They enjoy the proximity to culture and commerce, the walkability, the access to public transportation, the diversity, etc. If you are one of these parents, you might need some help narrowing down the decision to one of our 90 different neighborhoods.

If you plan to stay within the city, you will also probably want to know about schools. The City of Pittsburgh has several types of schools including traditional neighborhood schools, magnet and partial magnet schools, charter schools and private schools. There are also parents who choose to homeschool or cyber school their kids. While children can automatically attend their assigned neighborhood schools, they also have the option of entering a lottery system for placement at the city’s free magnet schools. An increasing number of parents are electing to take their chances with this lottery. Also, there are a number of charter schools–particularly the Environmental Charter School–that are considered desirable.

The state Department of Education recently released its first academic performance scores for districts (contained in this article by Eleanor Chute at the Pittsburgh Post Gazette and reflecting 2012-2013 data). The usefulness of these scores certainly has limitations (discussed further in the article linked above), but I believe they may still provide some perspective. In this study, the Pittsburgh Public Schools District ranked 35 out of the 43 school districts in Allegheny County. In the following sections, I will provide more detailed information about individual neighborhood schools. Also, please see this site for a listing of the city’s free magnet options.

After polling Pittsburgh parents, these 13 neighborhoods emerged as the most family-friendly.

East End

The PPG Aquarium in Highland Park

The PPG Aquarium in Highland Park

Highland Park: Highland Park received the most number of votes (by far) for most family-friendly neighborhood in the city. The neighborhood has some obvious perks including wide, tree-lined streets; gorgeous architecture; the Bryant Street Business District with several great restaurants (Smiling Banana Leaf for Thai, Park Bruges for poutine and E2 for brunch); a neighborhood coffee shop; Highland Park with the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium, a community pool with a large baby pool, the impressive Super Playground and a number of great wooded trails. Community members also noted neighborliness, pet-friendliness, the family events hosted by the Highland Park Community Council, the Highland Park list-serve and Facebook group, walkability, bikeability and accessibility to shopping at Target, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and other East Liberty destinations.

According to PGHSNAP, Highland Park has some unique features (when compared to the city of Pittsburgh as a whole) including higher median income, higher level of education, greater percentage of young children and a higher per capita park space. Also, a greater percentage of residents use public transportation or bike to work. Finally, the housing values have risen to a greater degree with a median home value of $167,400 in 2010.

In terms of schools, Highland Park children go to Fulton PreK-5 (a neighborhood school with French emphasis with an academic performance score of 65.1) and Pittsburgh Westinghouse 6-12 (academic performance score of 46.2) in Homewood for middle and high school. The neighborhood also houses Dilworth PreK-5, a traditional magnet school with an emphasis on arts integration and humanities for all subject areas.

Morningside: Located adjacent to Highland Park, Morningside was also repeatedly mentioned as a family-friendly neighborhood most frequently for its affordability and location. With its quiet, flat, sidewalk-lined streets, Morningside certainly feels like a community where families could be comfortable.  The neighborhood also boasts a small business district, a couple parks, a community council that plans family events and the same proximity to shopping in East Liberty. Community members also note that houses are not unreasonably large and it’s accessible to Oakland and Downtown via public transportation.

According to PGHSNAP, Morningside is a very different neighborhood than Highland Park with lower education levels, an income level closer to the average for Pittsburgh, less diversity and lower housing prices (median home value was $89,700 in 2010). Similarly to Highland Park, Morningside has a larger percentage of young children.

In terms of schools, Morningside children go to the Stanton Heights’ neighborhood school Sunnyside PreK-8 (academic performance score of 75.1 and was recently awarded STAR status for its significant improvement in recent years) for elementary and middle schools and Pittsburgh Milliones 6-12 (48.8 academic performance scale) in the Hill District for high school. St. Raphael’s Catholic school is another neighborhood option for K-8.

Located close to Morningside, Friendship was also mentioned a couple times as a family-friendly neighborhood. Considered by some as “up-and-coming” Friendship boasts walkability to shopping, access to public transportation and large, glorious homes (median home value was $167,300). Friendship’s neighborhood elementary school is Pittsburgh Woolslair PreK-5 (61.7 academic performance score) in Lawrenceville for elementary school, Pittsburgh Arsenal 6-8 in Lawrenceville for middle school and Pittsburgh Milliones 6-12 (48.8 academic performance score) in the Hill District for high school. Another neighborhood option is the magnet Pittsburgh Montessori preK-5 with its lottery system for entrance.

Also, Bloomfield (a historically Italian neighborhood) was mentioned once as a family-friendly neighborhood for its walkability, fantastic business district, family-friendly events, the Bloomfield Saturday Market, access to public transportation and location. Next year it will also house a partial STEAM magnet at its neighborhood Woolslair Elementary (61.7 academic performance score). Students go on to Pittsburgh Arsenal 6-8 in Lawrenceville for middle school and Pittsburgh Milliones 6-12 (48.8 academic performance score) in the Hill District for high school. Another neighborhood option is St. Maria Goretti Catholic school for grades preK-8.

Blue Slide Park in Squirrel Hill

Blue Slide Park in Squirrel Hill

Squirrel Hill: As a former resident of Squirrel Hill, I can personally vouch for the family-friendliness of this East End neighborhood. Squirrel Hill, the city’s most populous neighborhood, has some great perks for families who enjoy urban environments including walkability to the thriving business district, a community center, a Carnegie library, the Blue Slide Park in Frick Park and proximity to Schenley Park. Squirrel Hill is also conveniently located for trips throughout the city, but especially to Oakland with its universities and museums. Community members also noted the large Jewish community in the neighborhood with several synagogues. Finally, community members mentioned the range of school options available including public, private and religious ones. Several particularly noted that Squirrel Hill has some of the best public schools in the city.

PGHSNAP divides Squirrel Hill into two sections: Squirrel Hill North and Squirrel Hill South. Residents of both these neighborhoods are more educated with higher incomes than average in Pittsburgh. There is also greater diversity (thought significantly less African Americans) in these neighborhoods. Median home values range from $344,900 in North Squirrel Hill (closer to Shadyside) to $201,400 in South Squirrel Hill.

In terms of public neighborhood schools, Squirrel Hill children attend either Pittsburgh Colfax K-8 (79.7 academic performance score) or Pittsburgh Minadeo PreK-5 (66.4 academic performance score) for elementary school, Pittsburgh Sterrett 6-8 (82.5 academic performance score) for middle school (if they don’t stay at Colfax) and Pittsburgh Allderdice HS (69.2 academic performance score) for high school.

Close to Squirrel Hill, Greenfield was also mentioned once as a family-friendly neighborhood for its affordability. This neighborhood has relatively lower property values (median home value was $90,900 in 2010). Most Greenfield children go to Pittsburgh Greenfield preK-8 (academic performance score of 70.5) for elementary and middle schools and Allderdice for high school. In the Eastern regions, children go to Minadeo, Sterrett and Allderdice.

Point Breeze was also mentioned once for its walkability with easy access to Mellon Park and its spray park, Frick Art and Historical Center and shopping in East Liberty. Community members also noted the good private schools (EllisShady Side Academy Junior SchoolShady Lane Preschool), the Environmental Charter School and the neighborliness of residents. Of note, the median home value in 2010 was $240,300. Point Breeze children go to Minadeo or Colfax for elementary school, Pittsburgh Sterrett 6-8 for middle school and Allderdice for high school. Point Breeze is also the home of Pittsburgh Linden K-5, a Mandarin Chinese or German magnet school.

Playroom at the Wilkins School Community Center

Playroom at the Wilkins School Community Center

Regent Square: Regent Square received quite a number of votes for family-friendliness. This eastern neighborhood contains a great business district, the Wilkins School Community Center, walkability to Frick Park with a playground and easy access to the Parkway. Though still urban, Regent Square feels quieter than Squirrel Hill and community members note, “the neighbors all know each other and look out for one another’s kids.” Of note, portions of Regent Square are in Pittsburgh City Proper, Edgewood, Swissvale and Wilkinsburg. This becomes an important factor when considering schools. Here’s a map to help you figure out which parts of Regent Square fall where.

According to PGHSNAP, the Pittsburgh city portion of Regent Square is more educated with higher incomes than the city as a whole with a median home value of $196,300 in 2010.

Children in the Pgh City portion of Regent Square go to Minadeo, Sterrett and Allderdice. Northeastern Regent Square goes to Wilkinsburg School District (rated last of all 43 school districts in the county) and southeastern Regent Square goes to Woodland Hills School District (rated 38 out of 43 school districts in the county).

Finally, nearby Swisshelm Park was noted as a quieter alternative to Regent Square or Squirrel Hill.

The Northside

Tot activities at the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh

Tot activities at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh

The Northside of Pittsburgh was also mentioned as a nice place to live for families. As the home of the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, the National Aviary, the Carnegie Science Center, PNC Park, the Deutschtown Business District, lots of park space and a quick trip over a bridge to Downtown and its Cultural District, families enjoy the walkability and location of the Northside. However, the “Northside” is actually composed of several varied neighborhoods with very different characteristics, including some that are far more residential and some that have larger commercial districts. Families mentioned one Northside neighborhood in particular: Brighton Heights.

Brighton Heights is a hilltop community located in Upper Northside mentioned for its affordability and location (close to Parkways North and West and Route 65). Unlike some other parts of Pittsburgh, the housing values (as of 2010) were decreasing with a median home value of $81,433. Brighton Heights children go to Pittsburgh Morrow PreK-8 (academic performance scale of 65.4) located in Brighton Heights for elementary and middle schools and Pittsburgh Perry High School (academic performance score of 45.1) in Perry North.

South Pittsburgh

View from Mount Washington

View from Mount Washington

Finally, moving South, Brookline was frequently mentioned as a nice place to raise a family. This southern neighborhood is strategically situated between the city and suburbs like Dormont and Mt. Lebanon that were also mentioned as family-friendly. With a thriving business district, several parks and access to public transportation, Brookline was noted to have the amenities of both an urban and more suburban location. Community members emphasized the friendliness of the neighborhood with lots of welcoming businesses and the Brookline Park Recreation Center.

According to PGHSNAP, Brookline’s median home value in 2010 was $82,150 with a slightly declining property value. There are tons of young children in this neighborhood.

Brookline children attend Pittsburgh West Liberty K-5 (academic performance score of 63.3) in Brookline for elementary school, Pittsburgh South Brooks 6-8 (academic performance score of 79.7) in Brookline for middle school and Pittsburgh Carrick HS (academic performance score of 51.7) in Carrick for high school. Brookline is also the home of the science, technology and writing magnet Pittsburgh Carmalt PreK-8.

The nearby Mount Washington was also mentioned once as a family-friendly neighborhood because of the “nice businesses,” two preschools and good elementary school. Mt. Washington children attend Pittsburgh Whittier K-5 (academic performance score of 62.8) in Mt. Washington for elementary school, Pittsburgh South Hills 6-8 (academic performance score of 72) in Beechview for middle school and Pittsburgh Brashear High school (academic performance score of 53.8) in Beechview for high school. Also, nearby Beechview was noted to be family-friendly because of its parks, neighborhood school, access to T, spray park and closeness to city pools and bath house. Beechview children attend Pittsburgh Beechwood PreK-5 (academic performance score of 66.8) in Beechview for elementary school, South Hills for middle school and Brashear for high school.

Since one reader asked me to create a visual, I put together the following table for easy comparisons:

pghneighborhoodsPittsburgh Suburbs

Many families prefer to live in the surrounding suburbs of Pittsburgh for a variety of reasons. Some enjoy the larger yards with more room for kids to romp around. Some enjoy the small town feel. Others look at the academic performance scores for the county and see higher numbers in many suburban school districts.

Northern Suburbs

There were three northern suburbs of Pittsburgh that received the most votes: Aspinwall, McCandless and Cranberry.

Aspinwall Riverfront Park

Aspinwall Riverfront Park

Aspinwall: As a resident of O’Hara Township on the border of Aspinwall, I can also vouch for the family-friendliness of this neighborhood. Located just over the Highland Park Bridge, it has wide, tree-lined streets, a walkable business district, parks (including the new Aspinwall Riverfront Park scheduled to have its grand opening this fall), lots of families and great community holiday events. Community members also noted proximity to the city (especially the Zoo) and Waterworks shopping center with its brand new Market District, a movie theater, TJ Maxx and Marshalls as perks. The area also has a relatively new library and will also have a new community center soon.

According to the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission, Aspinwall has almost a 50/50 split between renter- and owner-occupied houses, but the median value of owner-occupied houses was $208,000 and its median family income was $94,000.

Aspinwall children attend the Fox Chapel Area School District which is ranked 17/43 school districts in the region. With a few exceptions, Aspinwall children attend O’Hara Elementary School (academic performance score of 81.8) in O’Hara Township, Dorseyville Middle School (academic performance score of 90.2) and Fox Chapel Area High School (academic performance score of 93.2).

Also mentioned in the Fox Chapel Area School District was O’Hara Township with its more suburban feel and slightly more expensive homes, Fox Chapel which is also suburban but with much higher housing prices (with a median home value of $524,000!) and Sharpsburg with more affordable homes (but more renters than owners), a walkable business district and nice community events.

McCandless (about 13 miles from Downtown Pittsburgh) was hugely popular in my recent survey with frequent mention of its school district, closeness to North Park, suburban feel and easy access to shopping, places of worship and farms. It was also noted that the Northland Public Library is wonderful with lots of family-friendly programming.

According to the Southwestern PA Commission, McCandless is more educated than Allegheny County in general with a median household income of about $104,000 and a median value of owner-occupied houses of $204,000.

Shenot Farms in Wexford

Shenot Farms in Wexford

McCandless children go to the North Allegheny School District which is rated first out of the 43 school districts in Allegheny County. Bradford Woods, Franklin Park and Marshall Township areas also attend this school district. (I also discovered that much of this area is collectively known as “Wexford”). Of the elementary schools in the borough, Peebles has the highest academic performance score and McKnight has the lowest. Students then go on to Carson (academic performance score of 96.5) for middle school and North Allegheny Intermediate High School for grades 9-10 and North Allegheny Senior High School (academic performance score of 97.2) for the rest of high school. Check out this website to find which elementary school services which area.

Also mentioned were nearby Franklin Park with its Blueberry Park, which is also in the North Allegheny School District, but slightly more expensive. Other suburbs that were mentioned include Hampton (Hampton Township School District is 9/43) with its community center, pool and accessibility to North Park and Hartwood Acres; Ross with its own community center and closeness to McKnight Road shopping (North Hills School District is 15/43 in county) and Shaler with its award-winning Shaler North Hills Library, parks and Kiwanis/Crawford Pool (Shaler Area School District is 22/43).

Though located in Butler County, Cranberry was also repeatedly mentioned as a fabulous place to live. Located about 20 miles from Downtown Pittsburgh, the commute from Cranberry to the city is longer; however some residents choose the tradeoff for the suburb’s perks. Community members noted the wonderful library, the YMCA with its aquatics center, the relatively new Kids Castle playground, Graham Park, walking trails plus lots of businesses. Cranberry also could be considered more affordable with a median home value of $89,000.

Cranberry children attend the Seneca Valley School District which is repeatedly ranked highly (when compared to Allegheny County School districts it would probably rank within the top 15).

Here’s a table of the northern suburbs (excluding Cranberry since it’s not in Allegheny County).


Southern Suburbs

In the southern suburbs, the undeniable winner for family-friendliness was Mount Lebanon. Community members noted the excellent schools, walkable business district, great community events, the Mt. Lebanon Public Library and the parks as perks.

According to Southwestern PA Commission, Mt. Lebanon has high education levels, a median family income level of $108,000 and a median house value of $211,000.

Mt. Lebanon children go to the Mt. Lebanon School District which is ranked 2/43 districts in the county. There are seven elementary schools in Mt. Lebanon (see here for a map of zones). Of these, Howe Elementary School has the highest academic performance score of 95.4 and Lincoln has the lowest with 85.5. Of the two middle schools, Mellon has a higher academic performance score of 92.2 vs. 86.4 and Mt. Lebanon High School has an academic performance score of 99.3.

Snapology in Bethel Park

Snapology in Bethel Park

In the so-called South Hills, parents also mentioned Upper St. Clair, which also has an excellent school district and is comparable in terms of home prices. Community members also noted its fantastic community centerBethel Park (school district is 14/43), South Park (school district is 19/43) and Scott Township (school district is 13/43) were noted as being more affordable options in the same general vicinity. 

If you’re looking for a more urban feel, Dormont was also noted as a nice place to raise a family. Dormont is a quick T ride to the city and is close to the shopping in Mt. Lebanon but with cheaper housing prices. Of note, Dormont children attend the Keystone Oaks School District, which is 27/43. Also Baldwin was noted to be a family-friendly neighborhood for its affordability, down-to-earth people, schools and the Baldwin Borough Public Library. Baldwin students attend the Baldwin-Whitehall School District ranked 18/43 school districts in the county.

southernsuburbsEastern Suburbs

I received a huge amount of response in support of Swissvale, a community bordering on the city neighborhood of Regent Square. While many residents noted they had been “skeptical” when they first moved to Swissvale, they were extremely satisfied with their choice now. “It’s a great community with a small town feel,” said one parent. Swissvale’s perks included affordability, closeness to the Waterfront, neighborhood block parties, access to public transportation and the Swissvale Moms Group on Facebook.

According to the Southwestern PA Commission, Swissvale real estate is almost a 50/50 split between owner and renter-occupied housing. Of owner-occupied housing, the median home value was $73,000. The median family income was $39,000 which falls below the County’s average.

Swissvale children attend the Woodland Hills School District which is 38/43 for county districts.


Riverside Park in Oakmont

The next runner-up in the eastern suburbs was Oakmont (about 13 miles from Downtown Pittsburgh) with its small-town feel, large walkable business district, community events, the Riverside Park, the library and its easy access to Boyce Park with skiing and tubing in the winter and hiking in the summer.

Oakmont is a relatively affluent borough with a median family income of $55,000 and a median home value of $170,000. Oakmont children go to Riverview School District which is 21/43 in the county. Of the borough’s two elementary schools, Tenth Street Elementary School has a better academic performance score than Verner.

Plum, a nearby suburb and about 20 miles from Downtown Pittsburgh, was also mentioned for its more suburban (even rural) feel. Plum’s median income is $66,000 and median home value is $136,000. Its children go to Plum Borough School District which is 10/43. Out of five elementary schools, Pivik has the highest academic performance score and Holiday Park has the lowest.

West Mifflin (about 11 miles from Downtown Pittsburgh) was noted to be family-friendly for its small town traditions and community park. West Mifflin’s median income was $47,500 and median home value was $85,500. The West Mifflin Area School District ranks 28/43. Finally, Braddock was mentioned once as an increasingly family-friendly place because of the energy of Mayor Fetterman and the variety of community events for children.

easternsuburbsWestern Suburbs

In the West, there was no clear winner however the following four communities were mentioned:

Robinson (about 10 miles from Downtown Pittsburgh) was noted for its extensive shopping at Robinson Town Centre (especially Ikea!), Settler’s Ridge and family fun at Latitude 360. The median household income was $75,000 and the median home value was $168,000. Robinson children go to Montour School District which is 6/43 in the county.

Nearby Moon (about 17 miles from Downtown Pittsburgh) has received a couple awards for its livability and was noted by community members for its school district, convenience to the airport and its proximity to Robert Morris University. Its median family income is $89,600 and its median home value is $178,200. Moon Township also has a highly-ranked school district at 4/43.

Sewickley (about 13 miles from Downtown Pittsburgh) was noted to have a nice downtown area, great community events and lots of families, but is more expensive with a median home value of $261,400. Its school district is Quaker Valley which is 5/43. A private school option is Sewickley Academy.

Finally Green Tree (southeast of Pittsburgh) was mentioned for its closeness to Downtown, its elementary school, library, public pool and nature center. Its median family income was $84,000 and median home value was $151,600. Green Tree children attend Keystone Oaks School District (27/43).

Post publication of this article, I received an email in support of Crafton located about 7 miles west of Downtown Pittsburgh. The email came from a Crafton mom, who praised the borough’s neighborliness, its walkability, its library, the newly renovated playground and the new community garden at Crafton Park.


Choosing a Neighborhood Part 2

I realize that this guide is very data-heavy. My goal was to consolidate a lot of information and links in one place so you can make an informed choice for your family based on your own personal preferences. But again, I want to emphasize that NUMBERS don’t say everything about a neighborhood, a suburb, its schools or its people. There are many “intangibles” that I could never hope to capture in this type of guide. Nevertheless, I hope it at least serves as a starting point for your further research. Please feel free to email me at pittsburghmommyblog@gmail.com with any questions or corrections. Also, I’m happy to add any communities that you think should be here!

Interested in learning more about city neighborhoods? Check out NEXTpittsburgh‘s neighborhood guides.

New PGH Family Fun: Hike It Baby Pittsburgh


Caitlin Venczel of Hike It Baby Pittsburgh

In the dead of last winter, I got an email that reminded me of sunshine and springtime. “Want to go on a hike with your kids and some other Pittsburgh parents?” the sender wrote. A hike? In the winter? Although I love to hike a lot, I hate cold more…so I declined. But I was intrigued. Who was this adventurous soul leading hikes with kids in the most challenging of seasons?

Shortly afterwards I learned that the email came from Caitlin Venczel, a fun and energetic Pittsburgh mom who recently started the Hike It Baby Pittsburgh group. An archeologist by training, Caitlin is now a stay-at-home mom to her young daughter. Like many of us, her professional path definitely changed directions after having her daughter–but not her archaeologist’s spirit of adventure. She is determined to unite Pittsburgh families through free, inclusive, kid-friendly hiking in the city, woods, museums and basically anywhere else that curiousity takes them. And I love the idea. Not only is she helping families connect with each other and our beautiful city, she’s also helping them get outdoors and lead healthier lifestyles.

I recently had the chance to interview Caitlin about Hike It Baby Pittsburgh. Here’s what I found out:

What is Hike It Baby Pittsburgh? 

Hike it Baby (HIB) is a new parents group focused on getting families outside and active. Hiking with babies and children comes with a different set of challenges and because everyone that you’re hiking with is in the same situation, it’s a very supportive environment. We have a motto – leave no mama (or papa, or baby, or anyone for that matter) behind. We’ve got you.


What sorts of hikes do you do? 

We do all kinds – gorgeous trail hikes, urban hikes, fast-paced hikes for parents wanting some catch-your-breath exercise, slower-paced toddler or kid-led hikes and many more. We’re also hoping to get bike rides organized, as well as swim outings, Jog it Baby, Hike it Baby picnics and maybe even a camping trip!

We try to hike all over the city and beyond. Of course, we frequent Pittsburgh’s many spectacular city parks. We’ve done riverfront hikes, hikes in the north and the south and segments of popular trails like the Rachel Carson trail, the Montour Trail and the Three Rivers Heritage Trail. If there’s a trail, we’ll hike it! And even if there’s not. Does walking in the Strip and sampling food count as hiking? In my book, yes.

What are the lengths of hikes? Difficulty levels?

Our hikes are rated as green/easy, blue/moderate or black/difficult. What might be a black for a super serious hiker (summiting mountains or hiking the Appalachian Trail) is very different than what we consider a black. We rate our hikes using a newly postpartum mama as our baseline. How would a mama joining us with a six week old feel about doing this hike? We want to make our hikes accessible to everyone!

They are all posted to our website’s Hike it Baby calendar where we also have wonderful information regarding the trail (length, location, level, etc.), whether strollers will work, if it’s good for little toddling legs or if strong walkers are recommended for that particular trail. It also has information on if bathrooms/changing tables are available, if dogs are welcome on the trails and many other details. We try to be very clear on the hike level and exactly what to expect on the trail so you’re able to make the best decision for yourself and your family about going on a hike.


When are your hikes held?

Right now we have about three to four hikes a week but I’d love to see that increase. As for hike times, we try to have hikes at different times during the week and on the weekend to accommodate different schedules. Sometimes the hike time is dictated by the weather. For instance, in the winter we tried to hike during the warmest part of the day and in the summer we’ll start pushing the hikes earlier to avoid the mid-day heat. Even with weather restrictions, there’s still room for variation.

How much does it cost to be a part of Hike It Baby? 

Hike it Baby is 100% free. Our hikes are always free and will always be free. The only time something may cost is if parking has a fee, or if we visit Phipps or the Zoo and they have an entrance fee. And if that is the case, it is clearly marked on the Hike it Baby calendar so there are no surprises.


Is this group just for moms?

Everyone is welcome on Hike it Baby hikes. We say “mom, dad, nanny, and granny” are welcome, and more! And so far, we do see a great mix of the whole family coming out to hike. We tend to see more moms hiking solo during the week, but on the weekends it’s much more of a mixed crowd.

Why did you start Hike It Baby Pittsburgh? 

After I had my daughter Henrietta in July 2014, I was looking around for a hiking group that was baby/kid-friendly. It’s super intimidating (or at least it was for me) to get out and go hiking with a baby, let alone doing it by myself. I wanted to go with a group, but one that would understand if my baby was having a cry or needed to stop to eat or had a diaper situation on the trail. I also couldn’t find anything that had hikes that were free and happened as often as I wanted to get out.

I was just about to start a Meet-up group when I stumbled onto the national Hike it Baby program. It was serendipity! We found out about Hike it Baby in October 2014, talked about the fact that if we started the Pittsburgh branch immediately then we’d have to hike through the winter and decided to go for it! I’m so glad we did because Hike it Baby has already had a major impact on our lives. We’re getting regular exercise and seeing results (yay!), we’ve met amazing people, and we’ve seen this AWESOME community start to form. I see so much support happening on the trail between parents – it’s pretty powerful.


After interviewing Caitlin it was clear to me that she has superpowers. A baby? Organizing three to four hikes per week? Trekking all over the city? I was impressed by her energy and passion.

It also became clear to me that she’s a very innovative thinker. Hike It Baby Pittsburgh redefines the traditional weekday AM, mom-only playgroup. I like to think of it as a 21st century version–where dads (and other caregivers) are welcome, where health is a priority and where we never lose our sense of adventure–even after our babies join the family!

Interested in becoming a part of Hike It Baby Pittsburgh or learning more? Join their Facebook group page or see their calendar of upcoming hikes.