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Family-Friendly Pittsburgh

The City of Bridges

Pittsburgh’s landscape includes many bridges — somewhere between 296 and 445 of them, depending on how you define “bridge” — thanks to the city’s location at the point where the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers meet to form the mighty Ohio River. Pittsburgh is surrounded by hills, including Mount Washington and Squirrel Hill, giving visitors plenty of opportunities to view several iconic bridges as well as the downtown skyline. 

Pittsburgh’s history as an industrial center gave rise to its other nickname, Steel City, but today’s Pittsburgh has transformed itself into a green-friendly, high-tech business hub and a thriving tourist destination. The City of Bridges is just over four and a half hours from Annapolis by car, making Pittsburgh a great place to spend a weekend — or longer — making some great family memories.

You might be surprised to learn that Pittsburgh is packed with museums, attractions, sports stadiums, and places to enjoy the outdoors. Here are some of our favorites.

Mount Washington Inclines

In Pittsburgh’s steel making heyday, workers who lived on Mount Washington and nearby hills had to use trails and staircases to descend to the steel mills and factories that lined the rivers. Funiculars, or “inclines,” carried coal to those factories and mills. Over time, inclines were built or modified to carry passengers. Two of these, the Duquesne and Monongahela Inclines, are still used today. Park near the bottom of the incline and ride to the top for spectacular views of the Pittsburgh skyline. (Tip: Check the incline’s website for ticketing information. Credit cards are not accepted.)

Rivers of Steel Explorer Riverboat Tours

To learn more about Pittsburgh’s steel making past and its successful revitalization and cleanup efforts, take a guided riverboat tour along the rivers that link Pittsburgh to the rest of the world. Your Rivers of Steel guide will tell stories from Pittsburgh’s steel-producing years and point out historic buildings and sites along the way during your Uniquely Pittsburgh Sightseeing Tour, offered May through October.

The Fort Pitt Bridge gateway into Pittsburgh.

To learn more, sign up for the Hardest Working River Tour, offered in spring and fall, and travel up the Mon (Monongahela River’s nickname) to view the Carrie Blast Furnaces and Edgar Thompson Works, U.S. Steel sites that played important roles in the 1892 Homestead Steel strike.

Carnegie Science Center

U.S. Steel magnate Andrew Carnegie gave away much of his fortune after selling his company. Carnegie created a pair of museums, a music hall, and a library for his adopted hometown, Pittsburgh. The Carnegie Institute, which operates these institutions, partnered with the Buhl Foundation to create the Carnegie Science Center in 1991.

Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History – Exterior View

Here you’ll find an enormous array of kid-friendly science exhibits and hands-on experiences ranging from model train gardens to a walk-in replica of the International Space Station, complete with science experiments for children to try. (The Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History, located in the city’s Oakland neighborhood, are worth a visit, too.)

The Strip District

Located on a strip of land between the Allegheny River and Liberty Avenue (hence the name), the Strip District is popular with locals and visitors due to its array of international grocery stores and restaurants and its fun and funky shops, cafés, and attractions. Pride of place in the attractions category goes to the family-friendly Senator John Heinz History Center, which focuses on all things Western Pennsylvania — everything from early Pennsylvania history to one-of-a-kind set pieces from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood — and, of course, ketchup. 

Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh

Located in Allegheny Square, this top-notch children’s museum will entertain preschool through elementary-aged children for hours. Active children can climb and play to their hearts’ content, and they’ll also enjoy hands-on art and science activities. There’s an outdoor space that includes a musical swing set, bubbling mud, art activities, and a kid-sized lookout to climb, complete with a flag and periscope.

Liberty Avenue in Bloomfield
  • Because there are so many bridges, hills, and winding roads in and around Pittsburgh, navigation can be tricky. Plan to drive at non-peak times so you’ll have extra time to watch for your next turn or on-ramp. 
  • Be sure to check the schedules for Pittsburgh’s many sports teams before heading downtown, especially if you are visiting the North Shore where PNC Park and Acrisure (formerly Heinz) Stadium are located. Pittsburghers love their sports teams and turn out in intersection-clogging droves to cheer them on.
  • Plan ahead for parking. Use the ParkPGH website or iPhone app to get real-time parking availability data. Save time and money by reserving your parking spot via SpotHero, ParkWhiz, or a similar app or website if you know your arrival and departure times.

 

By Nancy Parode

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