Monongahela and Duquesne Inclines
100 West Station Square Drive, South Side. visitpittsburgh.com/blog/how-to-ride-the-pittsburgh-inclinesMost Pittsburghers have ridden one of our two remaining inclines on Mount Washington at some point. Kids love vehicles on tracks — it is apparently in their DNA — so these double funicular railways are pure catnip for tiny ‘burghers. Both inclines take Port Authority ConnectCards, and while the Mon also accepts credit cards, the Duquesne is cash only. They give change in dollar coins, which are a hot commodity for local tooth fairies. Instead of riding just one incline, though, why not both? Park at the bottom of the Duquesne Incline, travel up to peep the famous city view, and tour their small museum. The railed walkway between inclines is great for spotting trains, bridges, riverboats, barges, and an occasional floating tiki bar. At the top of the Mon Incline are the Shiloh Street shops, where it’s easy to grab a meal, a cookie at Grandview Bakery (grandviewbakery.com), or ice cream from DiFiore’s (facebook.com/icecreamdelite). Once sufficiently sugared up, venture down the Mon and through Station Square back to the Duquesne.
1008 Amity St., Homestead. dragonsdenpgh.org
Located in a repurposed church, Dragon’s Den contains several indoor ropes courses, a climbing wall, and a zip line. There are activities for ages 5 and up, as well as adults. Prices range from $20-35 per child for standard admission, but community partnerships provide free or low-cost access to kids and their families. Reach out to Dragon’s Den for more information.
While in the neighborhood, stop for lunch at Black-owned 8th Avenue Cafe (8th-avenue-cafe.business.site), or Nancy’s B’s (nancybsbakery.com) for award-winning chocolate chip cookies. Dragon’s Den is located near Frick Park (pittsburghparks.org/explore-your-parks/regional-parks/frick-park), which has countless activities for families ranging from hiking to Blue Slide Park, of both rapper Mac Miller and Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood fame.
4100 Forbes Ave., Oakland. pittsburghparks.org/park-projects/schenley-plaza
On Friday mornings, story time in Schenley Plaza is followed by a free carousel ride, hosted by Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy. The park is bus accessible. If driving, park once and walk to quite a few activities in the neighborhood. If you can’t make the free ride on Fridays, the carousel is open Wednesdays-Sundays, April through October, from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. A ride token is $2, and it is wheelchair accessible.
Check out the lozziwurm climber outside of the Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History (free to play on), visit a food kiosk, and venture up the hill past Phipps Conservatory to Anderson Playground. The museums (carnegiemuseums.org), as well as Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens (phipps.conservatory.org), all participate in museums4all.org, which allows low-cost access for families with EBT or ACCESS. Phipps is a recent welcome addition to the list of accessible museums.
Round Hill Park
651 Round Hill Road, Elizabeth. alleghenycounty.us/parks/round-hill/index.aspx
While not accessible by bus, if you can make it to the far southeast corner of Allegheny County, this county-owned park is a must see. It is free and no reservations are needed. The park has a constant rotation of free activities, a playground, splash pad, picnic groves, and a working farm. You might be able to see baby piglets, feed chickens, or visit retired county police horses. There are plenty of picnic groves to enjoy a packed meal. For rail-lovers (seriously, why are kids so into trains?) the nearby Elizabeth Express Kitchen Car (elizabethexpressdiner.com) serves great food out of an old mess car and The Red Caboose (facebook.com/redcaboose80) has kid-friendly fare in a repurposed caboose. If you are still craving more farm-based adventures, check out Triple B Farms (triplebfarms.com) for activities and a variety of fresh meal options.
Pittsburgh Toy Lending Library and Play Space
5401 Centre Ave., Shadyside. pghtoys.org
Opened in 1972, this is one of the oldest continuously operating toy libraries in the country. Due to COVID-19, the library is open only to members on a “pay what you can” scale. Traditionally $30 per year, anyone can now join for as little as $5 per family. Membership includes access to the large, vibrant play space and the ability to check toys out of the library. Located in Pittsburgh’s East End and accessible for families with disabilities, it’s a great year-round option. Follow their social media page, as the volunteer-run schedule sometimes changes. While visiting, hit up several nearby spots to maximize the trip. The playground at PPS Montessori is a popular picnic spot, where families can either pack a lunch, hit up takeout nearby such as Wendy’s and Panera, or the local hotspot BFG Cafe (bfgcafe.com). If your kids eat vegetables (lucky you), at least four people could easily split one of their massive salads for lunch.
Bellevue Farmers Market
Bayne Park, 34 North Balph Ave., Bellevue. bonafidebellevue.org/farmers-market
This popular farmers market is held on Wednesdays from 3-7 p.m. and it’s geared for kids. Featuring a toy lending table with piles of chalk, bubbles, balls, frisbees, and crafts, there are tons of options to keep little ones busy while their adults shop. With a new playground, skate park, and Andrew Bayne Memorial Library (baynelibrary.org) open during the market, kids can either run wild or curl up on a bench with a book. Their local library card works here, too, thanks to the ACLA (aclalibraries.org). Bayne Library is fine-free, and books can be returned to Allegheny County library.
The market switched to feeding neighbors during the heart of the pandemic, and continues to strive for equitable access to healthy foods by doubling EBT dollars at the market. WIC and senior farmer’s market vouchers are also accepted. If you require handicapped parking, just message the market or alert the volunteers at the entrance. Live music and food trucks each week round out the evening, and a monthly concert afterwards provides ample opportunity for dancing, guaranteeing tired kids and an easy bedtime (Note, on concert nights the library closes at 6 p.m.).