Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, once known as being an old steel town, has recently been getting more attention as one of the best places to live and visit in the United States. With the reasonable cost of living and its family focus, it’s no surprise that there are tons of things for toddlers to do around the city. While there’s also a lot to see and do in the outlying suburbs, this guide will focus on things to do in downtown Pittsburgh and its connected neighborhoods. With more nonstop flights recently added to the Pittsburgh International Airport (including a nonstop to London!) it’s becoming more accessible than ever before.
This post is by our friends over at Toddling Traveler
Top Ten Things to do in Pittsburgh with a Toddler
- Learn through play at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, which offers hands on exhibits to offer a creative outlet for kids of all ages. With the water floor, nursery area and art space, it’s especially great for toddlers. If you’re there on a Thursday, be sure to check out Young Sprouts, a nature-themed story and discovery time for children under 5.
- The National Aviary is one of the largest bird focused zoos of its type in the US. Penguin Point with the fun and interactive penguins, the Tropical Rainforest and the Butterfly Garden are all must-sees for toddlers.
- See the expansive number of animals and sealife at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium. There’s also a dedicated Children’s Zoo with playgrounds, a water ride and many areas to allow children to get up close to and pet the animals, making this Zoo great for little kids.
- Take the Duquesne Incline from SouthSide in Pittsburgh for a unique mode of transportation up the mountain that dates back to the 1870’s. Once you reach the top, be sure to check out the beautiful views of the city from Mt. Washington and get a picture at the observation deck.
- Watch a Pittsburgh Pirate’s baseball game at PNC Park with a beautiful view of the city along the water. The Pittsburgh Steeler’s american football stadium and Penguin’s ice hockey arena are also nearby if you’re visiting in the Fall or Winter and are interested in those sports.
- Visit Phipps Conservatory & Botanical Gardens for the beautiful, rotating flower and plant exhibits, along with a seasonal train in the Fall and Winter each year. There’s also a produce room dedicated to toddlers, with a fully stocked market complete with grocery carts and a full kitchen to promote learning through play.
- Take a ride on the Gateway Clipperfor a scenic and informative ride around the city. They also offer many kids themed cruises, including sailings with Princess, superheroes and Santa.
- The Carnegie Science Center offers several exhibits for active kids and science lovers, including an expansive model train setup and a recently added Little Learners Clubhouse designed for kids under 6.
- For dinosaur lovers, visit the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, one of the top 5 natural history museums in the United States with an extensive collection of dinosaurs and the Discovery Basecamp, where kids of all ages are encouraged to touch everything they see.
- If you have a rental car and are willing to travel slightly outside of the city, visit Kennywood, an amusement park that dates back to the 1800s and recently added a Thomas & Friends™ attraction that’s perfect for toddlers. Kids under 2 are typically free at most attractions in Pittsburgh, while children 3 and up are charged a discounted rate.
- In addition to the sights mentioned above, Pittsburgh has great parks in each of its neighborhoods, with Schenley Park and North Park being two of the best for kids.
Where to Eat with Toddlers in Pittsburgh
- Pittsburghers love a good breakfast. Kid-approved favorites are the chocolate chip hotcakes at one of several Pamela’s Diner locations or the banana split sundae pancakes at Deluca’s, a traditional old-school diner in the Strip District. If you’re looking for brunch on the weekend, Meat and Potatoes has innovative dishes with something for the whole family or the Grand Concourse offers a buffet in an beautiful old train station, complete with donuts made to order that the kids love.
- Browse the many offerings at the vendors in the Strip District, an area bordering downtown with indoor/outdoor markets. Choose from several up and coming chefs at Smallman Galley or stop at the original Primantis Brothers to get the sandwich with coleslaw and french fries that Pittsburgh is known for.
- While many restaurants downtown cater to more of an after work, happy hour crowd, Emporio, a Meatball Joint, tacos at Condado or Proper Brick Oven Pizza are all great option for dinner with kids downtown. There are also several locally owned, kid-friendly restaurants including Burgatory, Mad Mex, and Atrias that are great options with locations across Pittsburgh and its surrounding suburbs.
- For dessert, be sure to try the ice cream at Millie’s Homemade, the Milkshake Factory, or Klavon’s for a traditional soda fountain. The burnt almond torte cake at Prantl’s Bakery should also be on your “must eat” list.
Where to Stay with Toddlers in Pittsburgh
Staying downtown will offer access to several great restaurants and things to do or a quick car or bus ride to any of the things to do listed above. The hotels below are all great options that offer suites for families:
The Strip District: Industrial feeling with several converted lofts availableFor free parking in an area with things to walk to, consider staying outside of downtown in a hotel or AirBnB in one of the following neighborhoods, all of which are family friendly but have very different feelings:
- Shadyside: Established neighborhood with young professionals and families
- Lawrenceville: Up and coming with more of a “hipster” vibe
- As with all cities, Pittsburgh has great and not so great neighborhoods. As a general rule of thumb, avoid any of the neighborhoods with “Hill” in the name when looking for a place to stay (i.e. Hill District, Middle Hill, Upper Hill)
Top Tips on Visiting Pittsburgh
- While it’s possible to see Pittsburgh without a rental car, given how spread out the neighborhoods are outside of downtown and the limited public transportation options, a rental car is definitely recommended if you’re going to be there for more than a few days.
- Parking in downtown Pittsburgh can be fairly expensive (approx $30 USD/night) If you choose to rent a car to more easily access the surrounding areas, consider staying outside of the immediate downtown area.
- Pittsburgh has a fairly extensive bus system and limited light rail service that operates for free in the downtown area. For more information on public transportation, see here.
- Taxis, Uber and Lyft are available throughout the city.
- Pittsburgh is extremely stroller friendly, and both downtown and most of the surrounding neighborhoods are lined with sidewalks.
- Crowds typically aren’t bad in Pittsburgh unless you’re visiting on a day when the sports teams are playing a home game, which is particularly true for Steeler’s football games in the Fall.
- Pittsburgh is lined with rivers and you will cross a bridge almost anywhere you go. Fun fact: As of 2016, Pittsburgh had 446 bridges and surpassed Venice, Italy as having the most bridges of any city in the world.
- The Pittsburgh International Airport is approximately 18 miles northwest of the city and is accessible to downtown via car, taxi or bus.
- Pittsburgh recently added a nonstop flight through British Airways as well as several others to Europe and the western part of the US, making it more accessible from other countries than ever before.
- The best time to visit Pittsburgh is in the late Spring or early Fall. The city experiences all four seasons, which means winters are cold and snowy and mid-summer (July/August) can be very humid and hot, although the summertime typically offers the most activities.
Pittsburgh, with it’s affordable, family-friendly dining and accommodations, as well as the variety of indoor and outdoor activities, is a US destination that shouldn’t be missed when traveling with a toddler.
Thanks to Amanda for this amazing Guest Post!
Amanda lives north of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with her husband Frank, son William (Will) and a huge dog named Sydney. She recently left the corporate world to spend more time with her son and created Toddling Traveler with the intention of inspiring families to travel with little kids; something they love to do as a family. The blog covers family-friendly destinations, tips for traveling with babies and toddlers, and fun things to do with kids in their hometown of Pittsburgh.