by Janet Jonus
Check out the FamilyFunPittsburgh list of Fun Free Things to Do this Summer. You still have plenty of time before school starts.
The best place to find FREE Events is on the FamilyFunPittsburgh Calendar: https://familyfunpittsburgh.com/events/
FamilyFunPittsburgh has an extensive calendar of events in and around Pittsburgh. Just search the keyword “free” to find free events near you.
1. Spray Parks and Water Steps
Sure pools are fun but at $5.00-10.00 per person the cost of cooling down can get expensive for a family. Fortunately Citiparks, the Allegheny County Parks system, and numerous Township parks have a free, fun alternative – spray parks.
Citiparks has seven spray parks spread throughout the city. Troy Hill is the largest spray park with buckets, fountains, a spray tube, and more, this spray park is very popular on hot days. The Spray Park is right next to a playground and a ball park. The Beechview Spray Park is small but fun for kids up to tweens. It is next to a small playground and has a parking lot. The Arlington Spray Park is brand new this year. With buckets and fountains, the spray park offers plenty of ways to get wet. The Burgwin Spray Park is a smaller spray park next to ball fields and a nice grassy area. The Mellon Park Spray Park (Shadyside) is a small spray park with buckets and fountains. It is next to a small playground and has public restrooms. It gets very crowded on hot and sunny days and parking is limited. The Warrington Spray Park is located next to the Warrington Recreation Center and Playground. It has a spray tunnel, fountains, and buckets. The East Hills Spray Park is a small spray park with fountains and buckets and a small playground.
The Citiparks Spray Parks are open daily from 1000AM-800PM with the exception of the East Hills Spray Park which is open from 1200PM – 600PM. Spray Park hours may be limited once schools are back in session. Bathing suits and water shoes are recommended. Spray Parks have lifeguards on duty and will be closed in inclement weather. For more information check here: https://pittsburghpa.gov/citiparks/citiparks-swimming/spray-parks.html
Allegheny County has Spray Parks in the Deer Lakes and Round Hill Parks. The spray parks are small with fountains and a waterfall. Deer Lakes also has really cool playground so you can spend a day there playing and getting wet. Round Hill Park is a working farm with extensive gardens, an accessible playground, and a small spray park. Both Deer Lakes and Round Hill Parks have extensive parking.
Many Township Parks have added water features. The Wiltshire Park in Upper St Clair has a water and sand play area. This tiny gem of a park is on McMurray Road. It has a stream, a playground, a pavilion, and a water and sand play area. There is parking across the street. North Strabane Township Park has three playgrounds, ball fields, and a spray feature in the lower playground with plenty of parking. (Note: If you your community playground has a spray feature tweet it to us or send us an email: [email protected].)
The Water Steps on the North Shore are another popular place to cool off in the city. Located near PNC Park, the water steps can get crowded on hot and sunny days.
Yes, this is an obvious free destination but why not take a picnic and make it a day?
There are many neighborhood and community parks around Pittsburgh. Everyone has their favorite. FamilyFunPittsburgh loves to explore new parks. The Playgrounds of South Park are a big hit. The Anderson Playground in Schenley Park has several play areas for little to big kids. The Big Blue Slide at Frick Park is a classic. This in-ground slide has a wonderful, old-fashioned feel but there are plenty of modern play areas all around for the kids to enjoy. The Avonworth Community Park has a large wooden castle playground with lots of passages and tunnels for children to explore. Mingo Creek Park in Washington County has three playgrounds. The best is the new Ninja Warrior Playground with a complete ninja warrior course that you can time using an app on your cellphone. There is a hillside slide nearby. West Mifflin has a large wooden castle playground.
FamilyFunPittsburgh always takes a picnic when we head out to the playground. We spend hours playing, exploring the park, and eating.
3. Cinema in the Park
Pittsburgh Citiparks has a full season of Cinema in the Park. Movies are family friendly and free. What better way to spend a warm summer evening than stretched out on a blanket, eating a picnic, and watching a movie under the stars?
Pittsburgh Citiparks shows movies at Schenley Park (Flagstaff Hill and Schenley Plaza – there are free concerts at Flagstaff Hill before the movie), Arsenal Park, McBride Park, West End/Elliott, Riverview Park, Brookline Park, and Grandview Park. For a complete schedule check here: https://apps.pittsburghpa.gov/redtail/images/2635_2018_CINEMA_IN_THE_PARK_SCHEDULE.pdf
Peters Township also has offers Cinema in the Park. For more information check here: https://www.peterstownship.com/?SEC=79A352D7-FA8A-422E-A4AE-5648A327E191
4. Theater and concerts
The Allegheny County Free Concert Series has free concerts at South Park and Hartwood Acres. South Park performances are on Friday nights at the South Park Amphitheater starting at 730PM. Food trucks and the Hop Farm Brewing Company are on-site starting at 600PM. The Hartwood Acres performances are on Sunday evening starting at 730PM. Hartwood Acres also has food trucks and the Hop Farm Brewing Company on-site starting at 600PM. Artists include rock, country, jazz, symphony, the ballet, and more. Check out the schedule here: https://www.alleghenycounty.us/special-events/summer-concert-series.aspx
The Borough of Crafton has concerts all summer long. For a complete schedule check here: https://www.craftonborough.com/concerts-in-the-park
Starting on August 5th and going through September 2, Citiparks presents the Reservoir of Jazz at Highland Park every Sunday. The concerts start at 500PM. For more information check here: https://pittsburghpa.gov/events/concerts/reservoir-jazz.html
The Bach, Beethoven, and Brunch Classical Music Series is held on Sunday mornings at Mellon Park. The concerts start at 1030AM and end at noon. For more information check here: https://pittsburghpa.gov/events/concerts/brunch.html
Cranberry Township has concerts and movies in the Park. Check here for more information: https://www.cranberrytownship.org/1447/Special-Events
Peters Township has a summer concert series with concerts and food trucks. More information can be found here: https://www.peterstownship.com/?SEC=79A352D7-FA8A-422E-A4AE-5648A327E191
Monroeville has a summer concert series as well. Check here: https://www.facebook.com/events/241550416393007/
Allegheny County brings you Shakespeare in the Park. Check here: https://www.alleghenycounty.us/special-events/shakespeare-in-the-parks.aspx
5. Star Parties
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. Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and Venus will be observed during the July Star Parties on the July 20 and 21 at 845PM. The Craters of the Moon, the Ring Nebula, and the Hercules cluster should also be visible during the Star Party. AAAP members will be setting up their personal telescopes and they welcome members of the public to gaze through them. The Wagman Observatory added two more Star Parties on July 27 and 28 at 845PM in honor of Mars and its closest approach to Earth in 15 years. Guests will be able to see details of the Martian surface. For more information check here: https://3ap.org/calendar-of-events/ . 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 at 630PM 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 around 930PM. July Star Parties at Mingo Creek are July 20 and 21, weather permitting. The Mingo Creek Observatory has Star Parties every month through November. More information can be found here: https://3ap.org/calendar-of-events/
6. Round Hill Park and Farm
Round Hill Park and Farm is one of Allegheny County’s parks. The 1100 acre park has a playground, a spray park, seventeen picnic pavilions, a duck pond, walking trails, and a working demonstration farm. Take a picnic and spend the day at Round Hill – and best of all it is free!
Kids of all ages love the Farm at Round Hill Park. The Farm has horses, sheep, pigs, chickens, cows, and more. Every spring the sheep get sheared during a special event. The cows are milked daily and the Park Rangers give a fun, interactive demonstration. There is a demonstration garden too. Kids love to watch the ducks in the duck pond near the park entrance.
The Park also has an accessible playground and a seasonal spray park. There are walking trails, picnic groves, and plenty of green space for everyone to relax and enjoy a day in the country.
Round Hill Park and Farm is open daily starting at 800AM. There is ample parking and bathrooms near the Farm. For more information check here: https://www.alleghenycounty.us/parks/round-hill/index.aspx
7. The Fort Pitt Blockhouse and Point State Park
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 April 1 – October 31 from 1030AM – 430PM (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.
Numerous Port Authority bus routes stop near Point State Park and the Gateway T stop is a short walk away. There is metered parking on some nearby city streets or at a number of public parking garages for various rates. Information can be found here: https://www.heinzhistorycenter.org/fort-pitt/visit/driving-directions/
8. 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 tours for you to choose from both guided and self-guided.
The Pittsburgh History and Landmark Foundation hosts a Free Friday Walking Tour. The Tours are led by a guide from the PHLF and take place at various locations in and around Pittsburgh. Each Tour lasts an hour. Expect to be standing and walking the entire time. There is a morning Tour and a Tour at noon every Friday. Tours in July are held in Oakland. The morning Tour in August is the Fourth Avenue Historic District. The afternoon Tour is Gateway Center. While there is no age limit for the Tour, FamilyFunPittsburgh recommends these Tours for Tweens and Teens. Younger kids may have a hard time keeping up with the walking. To register for a Tour go here: https://phlf.org/events/category/walking-tours/
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/
9. The Old Allegheny County Jail
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: https://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: https://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.
The Three Rivers Regatta has been canceled for 2019!
The Three Rivers Regatta brings three days of thrills, fireworks, music, food, and FamilyFun to Point State Park, the North Shore, the Roberto Clemente Bridge, and the Allegheny River. Events are scheduled daily from 1200PM – 1000PM August 2, 3, 4. The Regatta holds races, stunt shows, and the always popular Anything That Floats Race. The North Shore has BMX Stunt shows, Pirates games, and a vantage point to watch the races on the water. Point State Park has the Bank of America Main Stage, food vendors, Frisbee dog shows, the Sandsational Sand Sculpture, and all of the kid’s activities. For more information look for our upcoming article or check out the Regatta website here: http://yougottaregatta.org/
The Pittsburgh Steelers Training Camp at St. Vincent College in Latrobe is a FamilyFun chance to see your favorite players in action. Live your football dreams in the Play 60 Fun Zone. Meet players and staff. Enjoy kid’s activities and more. Training Camp is open daily from 1200-600PM July 26 through August 15. https://www.steelers.com/schedule/event-calendar/training-camp/