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SpringFun – Top FREE FamilyFun Things to Do in Pittsburgh

by Janet Jonus

It is still cold outside but we do have the promise of warmer weather. There are still a few indoor activities for those early spring months when it is too cold outside plus plenty of outside FamilyFun. As spring nears summer, there are FamilyFun festivals.

Create Art

There are several opportunities to express your inner artist for FREE in Pittsburgh this Spring.

1.)The Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse in Lawrenceville has a cornucopia of recycled and upcycled art supplies. From old CD’s and VHS tapes to fabric and buttons to frames and wreaths to the ever-popular trophies, the Center for Creative Reuse has it all.

The Center hosts a Creative Conundrum once a month. These events are held on the third Sunday (except April when it is held a week earlier due to Easter) from 300-500PM. Creative Conundrums are FREE and open to all ages. The Conundrum in April is on the 14th. 214 North Lexington Street, Pittsburgh PA 15208 / 412-473-0100 / http://pccr.org/

2.)Assemble – A Community Space for Arts and Technology in Garfield hosts a Youth Maker Night and has a Saturday Crafternoon for kids in Grades K-5. Assemble encourages kids of all ages to explore their creativity, ingenuity, and abilities through hands-on projects and community engagement.

Youth Maker Night is a FREE (RSVP required) workshop for kids in grades 6-8 or tweens and teens ages 10-14 the 2nd Friday of every month.

Saturday Crafternoons run from 100-300PM. They are for kids in Grades Kindergarten through 5th Grade. Saturday Crafternoons are STEAM-centered (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math), community-partnered workshops for younger learners to explore, learn, and DIY.

Assemble has Spring Break Camps. A Pet Hospital Camp for ages 5-7 is held on April 15-16. A Monster Makers Camp for ages 8-10 is held on April 17-18. There is a Girl’s Maker Camp for ages 10-12 on April 22nd.

On May 17th Assemble has a Learning Party: Sound + Noise. Learn how to make music at this free event from 400-600PM.

Assemble is located in Pittsburgh’s Garfield neighborhood at 4824 Penn avenue, Pittsburgh PA 15224 / 412-661-6111 / http://assemblepgh.org/

3.)The Society for Contemporary Craft has a Drop-In Studio every day during regular business hours. This FREE daily craft is inspired by the artists of the Society for Contemporary Craft. The Drop-In Studio is open to guests of all ages.

The Society has a FREE exhibition area. The upcoming exhibition starts on May 10th. It is the 23rd Triennial Fiberart Juried Exhibition featuring fiber artists locally and from around the world.

The Society for Contemporary Craft is located at 2100 Smallman Street, Pittsburgh PA 15222 / 412-261-7003 / https://contemporarycraft.org/

The Society also operates a FREE Satellite Museum inside the Steel Plaza T Station at Oliver and Grant Street. The BNY Mellon Satellite Gallery is located at 500 Grant St, Pittsburgh, PA 15219. The current exhibit is Pathways by Sharon Massey. The work explores patterns in man-made materials. The exhibit runs through May 5th. The gallery is open daily through midnight.

4.)Pittsburgh Glass Center celebrates the art and artistry of glass. The Center has an exhibition gallery that is FREE and open to the public. They have a monthly FREE Hot Jam on the first Friday of the month.

The Hodge Gallery at the Center presents the best in modern glass art. The Gallery is open for FREE to the public during regular Center hours. The current exhibition, “Material World” explores our consumerism, luxury, and materialism through art. The exhibit opens on March 1st and runs through May 12th.

The Hot Jam is a FREE monthly Open House at the Pittsburgh Glass Center. Enjoy live glass-blowing demonstrations and tour the current exhibit. Hot Jam dates are February 1st, March 1st, and April 5th from 600-900PM.

The Center is open from 1000AM-700PM Monday through Thursday and 1000AM-400PM Friday through Sunday. The above events are free to the public but donations are accepted. The Pittsburgh Glass Center is located at 5472 Penn Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15206 / 412-365-4125 / https://www.pittsburghglasscenter.org/

Walking Tours

What better way to spend a few hours and learn more about our hometown than on a free walking tour? There are several free self-guided tours for you to choose from.


5.)Rivers of Steel has TourAnytime Tours. These Free walking tours are self-guided. Just download a printed PDF guide from the Rivers of Steel website and then use a cell phone to call into a number to hear the recorded history of the tour site. The tours can be taken at anytime. Tours currently available are Grant Street, The Frick, Mellon Square, Sprout Public Art, and the Battle of Homestead and the Homestead Steel Works. (Look for the FamilyFunPittsburgh review of the Homestead tours coming soon!) For more information, check here: http://www.touranytime.org/

6.)The Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation has free, downloadable, self-guided walking tours of Pittsburgh. The PHLF has six self-guided tours: Gateway Center, Grant Street, Market Square, Penn-Liberty, Fourth Avenue, and Pittsburgh’s Bridges and River Shores. Each Tour takes 60-90 minutes. The downloadable PDF Guides include details and information about the buildings and points of interest. The Gateway Center Tour takes you through the heart of Downtown Pittsburgh near the Point. The Grant Street Tour covers the area near the US Steel Building and the County Courthouse. The Penn-Liberty Tour explores Pittsburgh’s Cultural District. FamilyFunPitsburgh loves these tours! For details and downloads, https://phlf.org/education-department/self-guided-walking-tours/

7.)The Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation holds self-guided tours through the Old Allegheny County Jail every Monday from 1130AM -100PM through October. From 1886 through 1995 the Old Allegheny County Jail housed Pittsburgh’s criminals. During its renovation one of the former cell blocks was preserved and open to the public for tours. A PHLF docent is on hand to relate the history of the jail.

The Old Allegheny County Jail now houses the Family Division of the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas. As a working courthouse, all visitors must go through security to enter and no cameras are allowed.

Enter the Old Allegheny County Courthouse through the Main Entrance on Ross Street or through the Great Courtyard Arch on Fifth Avenue.

Check the calendar here: http://phlf.org/events/category/events/ to make sure the tour is open before you go.

Parking is in Downtown lots. For more information check here: www.parkpgh.org/ The Steel Plaza T station is close to the Old Allegheny Courthouse. Numerous Port Authority buses also stop next to the Old Allegheny Courthouse.

Star Parties

8.)See the stars with The Amateur Astronomers Association of Pittsburgh. The AAAP has two Observatories in the Pittsburgh area – the Wagman Observatory and the Mingo Creek Park Observatory. The AAAP hosts monthly Star Parties at both Observatories open to the public and free of charge.

The Wagman Observatory in Deer Lake Park has a 21 inch Manka Memorial telescope and an 11 inch Brashear telescope under a retractable roof. Wagman Star Parties start just before sundown. If the weather is rainy or cloudy, the Star Party may be canceled. Star Parties are held on April 13 and 27, May 17-18 (with a Blue Moon on the 18th), and June 7-8. For more information check here: https://3ap.org/category/starparty/wagman-observatory/ . Star Parties are held every month through November, weather permitting.

The Mingo Park Observatory in Mingo Park, Washington County, has a 24 inch Ritchey-Chretien telescope and a 10 inch D & G Refractor telescope. The Observatory also has full planetarium and classroom that is open during Star Parties. Members present full planetarium shows. The Mingo Observatory offers special safe Sun viewing starting about an hour before sundown on Star Party days. This part of the Star Party extends until near sunset so if your little children can’t stay up late to see the stars, they can come on out and observe our own special star. The nighttime viewings start near sundown but the best viewing is at least an hour after sundown. Star Parties may be canceled due to clouds and rain.  There is a Star party on April 27, May 24-25, and June 21-22.The Mingo Creek Observatory has Star Parties every month through November. More information can be found here: https://3ap.org/category/starparty/mingo-observatory/

The AAAP holds Star Parties at local libraries and other locations. Check out their calendar here: https://3ap.org/calendar-of-events/

The Fort Pitt Blockhouse and Point State Park

 9.)The Block House is the oldest building in Pittsburgh. The Block House is all that is left of the original Fort Pitt. Built in 1764, the Block House was an important part of Fort Pitt. The building was built by the British as a part of the defense of the Fort during the French and Indian War. The British abandoned the Block House in 1772. It became a trading post and then a single-family home after the Revolutionary War. During the 1800’s the Block House became a multi-family tenement. In 1894 the Block House was gifted to the Fort Pitt Society of the daughters of the American Revolution who still own the Block House today. The DAR restored the Block House to its original form. Visitors can view the Block House in Point State year round for free.

The Block House is open Friday through Sunday 1030AM – 430PM from November 1- March 31. Admission is free. The Block House is located in Point State Park. For information call 412-471-1764 / http://www.fortpittblockhouse.com/

Point State Park was built during the 1950’s and 1960’s as a part of the urban renewal of Pittsburgh. It is now the crown jewel of Pittsburgh. Located on the “point” at the confluence of the three rivers, Point State Park is a mixture of history and urban park.

The outlines of Fort Duquesne, established in 1754 by the French and destroyed by the French prior to its fall to a British force in 1758, is outlined by granite bricks in the grassy area of Point State Park. The outline of the British Fort Pitt is also outlined in granite bricks. The Flag Bastion and the Monongahela Bastion have been rebuilt. The rebuilt Monongahela Bastion is home to the Fort Pitt Museum. The original shoreline of the three rivers is also marked by granite bricks.

Families can explore the granite traceries of the Forts, relax and play on the Great Lawn, and walk along the riverfront but the FamilyFun favorite is the Fountain at the Point. The Fountain at the Point sprays water up to 150 feet in the air depending on weather conditions.

Festivals

As the weather warms up, we get more FamilyFun Festivals. Here are the highlights of the Spring Festival Season.

Easter Egg Hunts. Many Easter Egg Hunts charge a fee but some do not. For a comprehensive listing of Easter Egg Hunts, check out our article.

10.)The Hopewell Township SpringFest is on April 13th. http://familyfunpittsburgh.com/event/springfest-hopewell-township/

11.)The Pittsburgh Earth Day Festival is held downtown in Market Square on April 19th and 20th with entertainment, activities, and vendors. http://familyfunpittsburgh.com/event/pittsburgh-earth-day-festival-market-square/ The Pittsburgh Earth Day Food Truck Festival is held on Smithfield Street on April 19th and 20th. http://familyfunpittsburgh.com/event/pittsburgh-earth-day-food-truck-festival/

12.)The EQT Children’s Theater Festival takes over the Cultural District Downtown for four days of FamilyFun. The Festival has featured performances, activities, vendors, art, and more. It is a FamilyFunPittsburgh Favorite Event. The featured performances cost $8.00 per person but the rest of the Festival is FREE! May 16th through May 19th. http://familyfunpittsburgh.com/childrens-theater-festival-2018/

13.)The National Pike Day Festival is held along Old Route 40 May 18th and 19th. The center if the Festival is in Scenery Hill with vendors, entertainment, period costumes, food, and more.
http://familyfunpittsburgh.com/event/the-national-road-festival-scenery-hill/

The Festival schedule will pick up with the “official” start of summer on Memorial Day Weekend! Look for upcoming FamilyFunPittsburgh articles in early May!