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How to Spend One Day in Pittsburgh with Kids

It’s amazing how time flies when you are having fun and our great American road trip is coming to an end. We said goodbye to my parents and the farm we called home for the week in Cooperstown and headed out in a light drizzle to Pittsburgh. Neither my husband nor myself had ever visited “Steel City”, but we were excited to see as much as we could in less than 24 hours. Here’s what we did in Pittsburgh with kids.

Pittsburgh with Kids-Kids Are A Trip

We set out just after 5 a.m. and our seven hour drive took us through the gorgeous wooded terrain of northern and central Pennsylvania, crossing multiple towering bridges, rain swollen creeks, and rivers. The drive was uneventful because the kids were using the car’s wi-fi of course (darn you, Chevy, LOL), and my husband and myself split the drive time working when not driving. We were horrible company for one another. About an hour before arrival the kids started asking for food, so we promised them our first stop in Pittsburgh would be for lunch.

Where to Eat Lunch in Pittsburgh

As we drove into Pittsburgh, we were pleasantly surprised. I think we both expected an industrial, run down city, but Pittsburgh was far from that. It is made up of rolling hills and valleys, crisscrossed by rivers and bridges. It’s enough to confuse a novice driver, (yes, we got lost, as did our GPS), but that allowed us to see more of this beautiful city.

We stopped at a highly recommended restaurant called Pamela’s Diner, but we were unimpressed. Four of us had the famous crepe hotcakes (maybe that was our mistake), and we all thought they were cold and nothing special. My husband had an egg dish which he thought was decent. He was kind enough to let me sample his potatoes, and I will say, those were pretty good.

Carnegie Museum of Natural History

After we were semi-fed, we headed down the street to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. The museum is located on the east side of Pittsburgh near Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh. (We told our 12 year old to consider these his first two college visits, and figure we are saving ourselves some money that way, lol).

Admission also includes access to the adjoining Carnegie Museum of Art. The kids were not thrilled that we were “dragging them to another museum” because all they wanted to do was swim at the hotel pool. That was about to change.

We entered the Hall of Geology and they were only mildly interested, but as we continued further into the room, we found the Hillman Hall of Mineral and Gems. I have never seen a larger collection of gems and minerals in a museum before, and we were all blown away.

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There was an area of minerals with unique names like the “Fortress of Solitude”, but there was also an area explaining the mining process, exhibits showing locations in the world where mining occurs, and brilliant collections from around the world. We loved it so much we walked through it twice!

Fortress of Solitude-Kids Are A Trip

After that we continued to the Dinosaurs in Their Time exhibit. If your kids love dinosaurs, this is the museum for them! As it turns out, this is the first exhibit in the world to feature scientifically accurate, immersive environments from the Age of the Dinosaurs arranged chronologically with actual dinosaur fossils. Even cooler is that fact that nearly 75% of the dinosaurs on exhibit are made up of actual fossils. It is hands down the best dinosaur collection our family has ever seen!

Dinosaurs in Their Time-Kids Are A Trip
Overlooking the Dinosaurs in Their Time exhibit

Next, we headed upstairs and ended up in the Bird Hallway. I don’t know why, but my kids really enjoyed seeing the variety of stuffed birds, from owls to roadrunners, toucans to hawks, the kids admired each and every one of them. When I told them they were real birds, they didn’t believe me. Oh well, I guess there’s no harm in letting them believe they’re fakes.

The last area we spent a lot of time exploring was the Polar World and Hall of American Indians. The Polar World exhibit focused on the life of the Canadian Inuit in North America. It touched on their history, settlement, culture, and life today and featured some cool artifacts like a life sized polar bear and model igloo for the kids to explore. The Hall of American Indians focused on a handful of tribes from various locations throughout the United States detailing their history, art work, and traditions. I found it fascinating, but the kids didn’t spend as much time as I would have liked learning about their Native American ancestors.

Native American Carnegie Museum-Kids Are A Trip

The kids started to complain about hunger (again), so we wrapped it up with a quick walk through the Hall of Ancient Egypt. The exhibit includes a 30 foot Egyptian funeral boat, a sarcophagus, and various mummies. My kids
love Egyptian mythology (thank you Rick Riordan for your Red Pyramid series) and they enjoyed the hall of Egyptian gods in this area.

Cathedral of Learning – University of Pittsburgh

Realizing it was much later than we had anticipated, we quickly wrapped things up and headed down the road to the Cathedral of Learning. This gothic tower and its Nationality Rooms on the University of Pittsburgh campus are one of the most visited attractions in the city. Unfortunately, I only had a few minutes to run in to the first floor and take a few pictures as the kids were getting restless, but I would definitely want to go back and take a tour to see the rooms.

Cathedral of Learning-Kids Are A Trip

Our Hotel: Hampton Inn & Suites Downtown

The next stop was our hotel, the Hampton Inn & Suites Downtown. The hotel has a central location in the Strip District, across the street from the Heinz History Center (which we will tour on our next visit) and walking distance to plenty of restaurants as well as PNC Park and Heinz Field.

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Thankfully, the hotel has free parking (unheard of in most major cities), a swimming pool (hooray), free breakfast (another plus), and a very spacious room for our family of five. Once we convinced the kids to forego swimming for dinner, we headed off to Sienna Mercato based on the recommendation of the concierge.

Hampton Inn Breakfast Bar-Kids Are A Trip
What family doesn’t love a hotel with a breakfast bar?

Baseball in Pittsburgh

Sienna Mercato on Penn Avenue is three restaurants within one building. The place was packed, and we incorrectly assumed that the food available on one floor would be available on the others. This is not the case. Be sure to check in for the correct restaurant. First floor is meatball themed (the Emporio). The second floor (Mezzo) is pizza, pasta, and panini. The third floor (Il Tetto) is a roof top bar and there was a line to get up there the entire time we were dining.

We checked in at the Emporio and they took our cell phone number so they could call us when a table was ready. This allowed us to walk around and explore Pittsburgh while we were waiting. Along Penn Avenue there are a ton of restaurants, shops, and a theater district. We also noticed we were very close to PNC Park and the Pirates happened to have a game that evening (you know where this is headed).

PNC Park Pittsburgh-Kids Are A Trip
Check another ballpark off the list.

Dinner was delicious and during the meal my husband and oldest decided they would try and head over to PNC Park to see if they could find tickets to the game. After dinner we parted ways, and once they were out of sight, I took the other two to Ben & Jerry’s for an after dinner snack. They were bummed about missing the baseball game, but I think the ice cream made up for it.

Ben and Jerry-Kids Are A Trip
Ice cream makes everything better.

Other Things to Do in Pittsburgh with Kids

We headed back to the hotel, the kids swam, and went to bed. Unfortunately, we did not get to see 75% of what I wanted to see in Pittsburgh (other sights on my list were the Duquesne Incline, Carnegie Science Center, and the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium), which means we will definitely schedule a return trip.

This concludes our great American road trip (because frankly the trip from Pittsburgh to Chicago was uneventful except for the torrential downpour in Ohio that lasted for two hours), so thank you for following along. I hope you have enjoyed learning about Cleveland and Cooperstown, and the road in between. It has been a wonderful journey and now we are ready to be home.

35 Comments

  1. Seems like it was a great road trip!! Love the sound of Pittsburgh – those dinosaurs look amazing – never been but sounds like there is no end of things to keep a family busy.

  2. One of the things I regret about my seven years living in Philadelphia is that I never spent any time in Pittsburgh :/ I drove through a couple of times on my way to Ohio and Michigan but never spent any time there…and it looks great!

  3. Ice cream always helps, huh? Isn’t the Sesame Street attraction around there? I always wanted to take my daughter there but she’s already passed the Elmo phase. And that restaurant sounds so neat!

  4. What a great road trip! My daughter and I drove last year from California to Vermont but we were in a time crunch and did not have the time for so many stops. That is so lucky that you are able to check out all the great museums! I loved reading about them.

  5. Joy, it was amazing what a collection they have at the Carnegie Museum, and the fact that it is only one of several in the city of Pittsburgh is amazing! We will definitely go back to visit when we have more time. Hope you are enjoying your summer!

  6. Julie, you have to be kidding me! It has such a great vibe, and a beautiful setting. We can’t wait to go back!

  7. I think the Sesame Street Place (I think that’s what it is called) is closer to Hershey. I always wanted to go there too, but my kids would die of embarrassment if I took them now. : ) They would love Hershey Park however…

  8. Looove reading travel posts with the whole family involved! We hope to travel around and also live in another country at some point! The dinosaur part of the museum is gorgeous; you got a great shot!

  9. Wow Stacey, that is impressive! What a long drive, but I’m sure you saw a ton of the U.S. Thanks for stopping by!

  10. Thank you for the excellent ideas. We have not yet explored Pittsburgh and will be adding it to our list.

  11. Love this! We just moved to PA from AZ and haven’t gotten out to Pittsburg yet but plan to! Thanks for the tips!

  12. I have ALWAYS wanted to go to Pittsburgh! Looks like so much fun!

  13. This sounds like a great road trip. I have never been to Pittsburgh…or anything east of Ohio except I went to Washington D.C. on a class field trip and we flew to New York for a weekend to visit family. I have always wanted to take a road trip east. I love history and I would love to see the different historic sites, buildings, etc.

  14. Pittsburgh is such a short flight for us, I would really love to take a weekend and explore it. It’s too bad you didn’t get a chance to see a lot of things, but it looks like you had a fun 24 hours there!

  15. Rebecca, we had a great time! It is such a beautiful city. I can’t wait to go back and explore!

  16. Thanks Jaclyn. We would love to live in another country too. At this point it looks like it might have to wait until retirement. : ( Enjoy your week!

  17. Definitely add Pittsburgh to your list. I don’t think anyone could be disappointed.

  18. Michelle, where in AZ did you move from? I grew up in Tempe and went to school in Tucson. Make the trip to Pittsburgh when you have a chance. It is worth a visit!

  19. Debra, it is a blast. Such a fun vibe. We can’t wait to go back!

  20. Shelly, we really had fun exploring Cleveland, Cooperstown, and Pittsburgh. The cities have so much history compared to the west coast (where I grew up), I always find it fascinating!

  21. Thanks Bonnie. It was a great time!

  22. Rebecca, we crammed in as much as we could in 24 hours. You should go explore for a weekend. I bet you could see a ton!

  23. Looks like a fun trip! I’d love to visit Pittsburgh someday

  24. I have a friend from Pittsburgh and he swears by the city! He loves all the attractions and has recommended the city to many many times. It looks fun!

  25. Your road trip looks like it was tons of fun! I can’t wait until my daughter is old enough to appreciate them!

  26. Karissa, it was a lot of fun, but too short of a trip. Hope you get to visit someday, it’s a great city.

  27. Krystal, you have to go if you have the chance. It really is a great place and completely different from what we expected!

  28. Thanks Taylor. Road trips really do get better when kids get older. They can be challenging when they are little.

  29. Isn’t that the truth Marina? What’s your favorite flavor? I love mint chocolate chip!

  30. I grew up just south of Pittsburgh. We’re taking the kids to visit my mom in a few weeks and hoping to make it to the zoo and maybe the Carnegie Science Center. They have a children’s museum they would probably love as well. They would enjoy the natural history museum, too. Just too many things to do on a short trip.

  31. We live so close to Pittsburgh! This would be great for a family day trip!!! Thanks for sharing! Pinned!

  32. Valerie, there are so many fun things to see and do with kids in Pittsburgh. I honestly feel like we could have spent a week there and not made it to everything. What a great part of the country to explore!

  33. Thanks! I think it would be a great day trip, just bring a good map. All those bridges can be confusing. LOL

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