Category Archives: Pittsburgh

An Economic Appreciation of Lord Stanley

Reasons why you should respect the Stanley Cup and the team who won it in 2017--the Pittsburgh Penguins!

I’ve got to be completely straight with you: I am not the world’s biggest hockey fan.

Being from Pittsburgh, this is all but a sin. I’ve tried–truly. I will say that I enjoy the games much more when they’re live. We went to a scrimmage in 2013 near the end of the NHL lockout. When we were in Calgary this winter we even caught our hometown team play against the Flames.

FRUGAL TIP: Hockey games are waaaaaayyyyy cheaper in Calgary!!!

Live games are kind of fun, but I don’t know the rules and don’t mind if I miss a few minutes when I get stuck in the refreshment line.

Hockey’s Economic Contribution

What I really appreciate about the Penguins is all the good they do for our city. Unlike other sports, they don’t employ thugs. Their players are constantly giving back to our local community. And that lockout? It proved that the NHL is a major contributor to Pittsburgh’s overall economy.

In the recent past, the Pens have brought people in not just from out of town, but from out of the suburbs. You can frequently watch away games at the big screen in front of PPG Paints Arena, bringing more spending dollars downtown. And don’t even get me started on those insane victory parades—over 600,000 people downtown this year from what I heard!

My Kid is Every Other Pittsburgher

It also brings a lot of joy to my family. I’m pretty sure my eldest is with me and couldn’t care less about the sport itself, but my youngest has now watched the Penguins score their winning goal for the Championship two years running. It’s a fond memory with their father.

Tweeting n’at

One great thing about all this hockey success in 2017 is that fans can always stay connected, tweeting out pictures of Crosby with the cup and streaming the joy-filled madness on Facebook Live. Because we had oh, so many people staying connected downtown this year, though, we needed a little tech boost.

Verizon, who is particularly committed to the fans and the community, added eight small cells surrounding PPG Paints Arena this year. These permanent mini cell sites help bring additional speed and capacity not just for things like the victory parade, but also for any Pittsburgher who travels downtown.

Viewing the Stanley Cup

As a thank you for their generosity, the Penguins brought the cup to the Verizon offices so their employees could touch the challis that has bathed the babies of champions. In turn, Verizon was kind enough to invite my family out to view the cup, too.

It was really cool to be able to see my youngest, who has now seen legends hurl this very trophy above their heads after back-to-back victories, reach out and touch the cup, tentatively at first, and then giggling with glee after they realized this was the real thing.

Thanks to the Pens for boosting Pittsburgh’s economy and helping the least of us through your charity work, and thanks to Verizon for helping us tweet about it!


22 Free Things to Do in #Pittsburgh This Summer

I have literally never heard of 90% of these and I'm a native yinzer. We're going to have a fun summer with this article!

Summer break is so close I can taste it. While those long, summer days are some of the funnest all year, they can also be some of the most expensive if you’re not careful.

Luckily, if you’re in Pittsburgh there are a ton of F-R-E-E options to keep you occupied until the end of August. We’re not going to cover the super obvious ones like, “Hang out at the Point!” You can read more about these in our Ultimate Frugal Pittsburgh Guide & Ultimate Frugal Pittsburgh Guide Part 2.

Here are 22 of my favorite (unique!) things to stay occupied in the Steel City this summer:

Free Things to Do in Pittsburgh for Kids and Families

Let’s kick our list off with free things for families. Entertaining your child through those long summer months can be a challenge, or it can be an amazingly frugal adventure.

Help feed Pittsburgh's children by spreading awareness of the GrubUp program, becoming a sponsor site, or contacting your legislative representative to expand summer meal programs across America.

1. GrubUpPGH

GrubUpPGH is a program that provides no-cost breakfasts and lunches at a litany of locations across the city. While the intent of the program is to provide meals for kids who use the lunch program during the school year, there is no income limit for this program. This is done to remove the stigma that might otherwise keep kids away when they truly need it.

2. OpenStreetsPGH

This is an event that will take place twice more over the summer. Essentially, certain streets across the city are shut down to cars in order to open them up to pedestrian traffic. The car-less roads will host a ton of different physical activities like rock climbing, basketball and more. There’s also a sensory space for some cool down time if your kiddo needs it.

The next date you can attend is June 25th.

3. Kids Play at Market Square

Especially for the pre-K crowd, this twice-per-week event is a great way to get your kiddos out of the house and involved in the community. They’ll get to do fun crafts, meet guest speakers on different topics, and sit for story time. They’ll also get to participate in unique activities, like planting a tree, touch a firetruck and learn how cartoons are made.

You can catch Kids Play at Market Square starting June 13th. The event will be held Tuesdays from 10:00-11:30 and Saturdays from 10:00-1:00.

4. Free Pool Entrance

If you child is 15 years old or younger, they can get free entry to any Citiparks pool all summer long by signing up for a Citiparks Rec Center membership. Parents do have to pay, but if there’s an ACCESS card in your household, you can apply to get 50% off your pool tag. That brings the price down to $15 for one adult all summer long.

5. Spray Parks

If you’re parenting solo and you have more than one kid who can’t swim, the pool is stressful as all get out. In moments like these, I prefer to head to the spray park. Pittsburgh has six of themSIX!

They’re beautiful, well-kept and dynamic. They don’t only help your little ones stay cool; they also encourage imagination and discovery. Oh, and they’re 100% FREE.

They’re currently open on the weekends, but they’ll be open daily from 11a to 8p all summer long starting June 13th.

Catch storytime with Belle at Learning Express Bakery Square.

6. Classes at Learning Express

Learning Express in Bakery Square hosts a bunch of free classes for kids. From Disney princess storytime to music lessons to Pokemon trading hour, their Facebook events page is something you’ll want to hit up when boredom strikes.

7. Father’s Day at the Zoo

Going to the zoo can be a little bit expensive, but on Father’s Day, the costs come down. On June 18th, dads get in free when accompanied by their children. This includes adult children.

8. Ussie Summer Games

A major component to a working police force is establishing trust within the community. The fact that this trust has eroded nationwide is no secret.

Which is why I think the Ussie Summer Games are so great. Pittsburgh Police officers compete on teams with community members (and one celebrity leader) in events like tug of war, three-legged races, and dodgeball. You can join a team, come as a spectator, or enjoy all the fun activities going on in the background like music, face painting and other activities from vendors and sponsors.

The June 24th festivities will be free no matter how you choose to participate.

9. Library Programs

Don’t skip over this one!

Yes, we all know we can get books at our libraries. For free. All the time. We know this because we don’t live under a rock.

But libraries also offer a litany of free classes and programs. Your child can learn a foreign language, learn about a different culture, indulge in some scientific fun, or even just attend story time. If you hear, “I’m bored!” once this summer, send your kid to CLPgh’s website and tell them to find something.

Even if you can’t leave the house, the library also provides free games and learning programs that your kiddos can use on any device.

There are programs and learning programs for adults, too. Which brings us to our next section…

Free Things to Do in Pittsburgh for Everyone

The free-ness isn’t just for the kids. It’s for everyone. Whether you have a teen, have a date, or are just looking to get out with some friends, here are a bunch of ways to have free fun this summer in the Burgh without busting the bank.

Looking for free fun in Pittsburgh? Tour Space at 1010 at the Allegheny Inn to get a taste of some amazing local artists. Tours are 100% free.

Local artists are featured at Space at 1010.

10. Space at 1010

Space at 1010 is a really cool concept. The Allegheny Inn now hosts local artists on wall space in their entry, parlor, dining room, and second-floor hallway. Viewing is 100% free–just make sure to place a reservation first. While you’re there, you can also schedule a free tour of the Inn itself. The owner, who will take you on the tour, is such a warm, funny, inviting host.

11. Movies in the Park

Cinema in the Park kicked off yesterday! For the rest of summer, you’ll be able to catch a movie at one city park or another seven days a week.

12. Summer Fridays at the Frick

If you’re looking for something to do on a Friday night, check out the Frick. From 5-8p, the first floor of the Clayton house will be open to all visitors for free. There will also be weekly performances at 6:30, and family-friendly activities for the duration.

Summer Fridays at the Frick start June 23rd and run through September 8th.

13. Gallery Crawl in the Cultural District

There are typically four of these per year. They’re all gloriously free. The summer edition will be happening July 7th from 5:00-10:00p.

14. Tour the Cathedral of Learning

You probably know that you can tour the culture rooms at the Cathedral of Learning for a fun day out. But did you know that if you want to visit the rooms without a guide, you can do it for free? We had a great time doing this a few months ago.

15. Tour the Old County Jail

You may know it as the Family Division of the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas, but until 1995, the imposing stone building served as a jailhouse. There is now a museum dedicated to its long history–dating back to 1886–which you can tour for zero dollars.

16. Posner Center

Located on CMU’s campus, the Posner Center is an interesting museum that flies low on the radar. The Posner family left their rare book and art collection to be made available to the public. You can visit the collection between 1-4pm Monday through Friday.  To top it all off, there’s a really cool art installation on the roof. Numbers adorn a huge bench in the middle of a labyrinth. I’m not sure if their arrangement has any meaning, but it’s definitely a great place to go for conversation, studying or introspection.

17. Tour One of the Greenest Buildings in the World

Want to see one of the greenest buildings in the world? The Center for Sustainable Landscapes at Phipps runs free tours when you schedule ahead. If you’re dropping in last minute, you can spend some time in their beautiful courtyard or on the living roof. Both are free and open to the public.

18. Tour the Pittsburgh Glass Center

Touring the Pittsburgh Glass Center is free when you go the self-guided route, though you can also pay a small fee to take a guided tour. It’s a working center, so you’re likely to see classes and artists at work. If you’re lucky, you may just get to see an entire glass blowing demonstration!

19. Visit SPACE

SPACE is an open art gallery downtown. It hosts one exhibition at a time with five or six exhibitions per year. Right now you can check out Non-Punk Pittsburgh, and later in the summer you’ll be able to view Wall Paintings: Storytellers. It’s an interesting project that also has a heavy emphasis on local artists.

SPACE is always free and open during the day Wednesday through Sunday.

20. The Drop-In Studio at Contemporary Craft

Contemporary Craft is essentially a working arts & crafts gallery. Their exhibitions, open Monday through Saturday, are free and open to the public. They have a ton of hands-on workshops, too, but those do cost money.

The Drop-In Studio, however, does not. At this studio, an artist has created a tie-in craft for you to make which is related to the current exhibition. This particular project is free to anyone who is visiting.

The Thaw Telescope in Pittsburgh was used to proof other astronomer's theories through the late 90s. See it on a free tour.

Thaw Telescope

21. Free Tours of the Allegheny Observatory

While science is definitely a big deal at the Allegheny Observatory, history buffs will probably get the biggest kick out of the observatory’s weekly free tours. You learn a lot about the history of Pittsburgh, including who the heck Brashear was and what a huge role Pittsburgh played in astronomic studies. Plus once it gets dark you’ll have an opportunity to view far away celestial bodies through one of their telescopes.

22. Picklesburgh

An event like this would do well in Pittsburgh! On July 28-29, join the masses on the Clemente Bridge for a festival celebrating pickling. There will be demonstrations of the art of pickling from whiskey to kimchee to, well, pickles. There will also be live music and entertainment plus a kids’ center. There will be vendors there, but you’re not obligated to spend any money.


Know of something free and fun in the Burgh this summer that we missed? Tell us in the comments and we’ll add it to the list!

Free Mother’s Day Events in Pittsburgh 2017

Free Mother's Day Events in Pittsburgh! I can't decide between #1 and #4!

Mother’s Day is coming! Seriously, it’s not even two weeks away on May 14th, 2017. Are you ready?

Here are some free Mother’s Day events in Pittsburgh for all of you in the Steel City on a budget.

Free Mother’s Day Admission at the Zoo

Free admission for mom when she brings a paying child!  We did this last year for Father’s Day (same deal, only for dads,) and had a great time. Oh, and also, your child can be grown. They don’t have to be a little one to earn you free admission!
More Info

Free Art Fun at CMOA

Head to the Carnegie Museum of Art on Mother’s Day to catch a fun, hands-on, family-oriented experience in the Scaife Gallery. If you’re a member, ARTventures is 100% free. If you’re not, you only have to pay the regular price of admission. Check out ways to get admission discounts at CMOA at the bottom of this post.

More Info on ARTventures

Wings Over Pittsburgh

It’s baaaaccckk!! For the first time in six years, you can check out the mad skills of the 911th Airmen Wing as they soar over our city’s skies. It’s free, and it’s happening the 13th and 14th–which is the Sunday of Mother’s Day.
More Info

Race for the Cure on Mother’s Day

The Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure happens on Mother’s Day. While this would require the work of either fundraising or helping out the day of the race by volunteering your time, it could be a meaningful gesture to your mother, especially if breast cancer has touched your lives in any way.
More Info

Free Admission to Hartwood Acres Mansion

Moms get a free tour of the mansion when another paying adult comes along on May 14, and if you feel like splurging, you can enjoy Mother’s Day tea for $33/each on May 13.
More Info

Free Photo Exhibition and Meet & Greet with Hannah Price

If you’re down with celebrating on Saturday, check out Hannah Price’s photo exhibition opening May 13th at East Liberty Presbyterian Church. While the exhibition will be free the entire month it’s there, if you go Saturday evening between 7p and 9p, you’ll be able to meet the artist herself. Price’s work focuses on social perceptions, race politics and relationships in general.
More Info

How will you be celebrating your mother?  Or how do you hope to be celebrated yourself?

Tours of Cathedral of Learning Nationality Rooms

So cool that this exists! Frugal tours at Cathedral of Learning Nationality Rooms in Pittsburgh

The door to the Africa room.

Pittsburgh really is an amazing city. It’s beautiful. It’s safe. It’s green.

And it has culture.

A few months ago, we were doing something in the the city’s eastern neighborhoods when we drove by the Cathedral of Learning. My littlest was in awe.

For those of you not familiar with the city, the Cathedral of Learning is a towering, gothic work of architecture that functions as a home for classrooms and admin offices for the University of Pittsburgh. The university is one of the oldest in the country, but it saw one of its biggest booms of growth after WWI.

There was suddenly a shortage of classrooms for all the new students, and there wasn’t a lot of space to build new facilities. To solve the problem, they built up rather than out. The result was a 535-foot tall building–the tallest educational building in the world until Moscow State University built their Main Building in the 1950’s. Today the Cathedral is still holding its own as number two.

cathedral of learning nationality room israeli mosaic

Floor mosaic in the Israel room.

Cathedral of Learning Nationality Rooms

My child was impressed by its height and intricate design, but the Cathedral of Learning hides other treasures inside its walls. Aside from massive study areas that make you feel like you’re at Hogwarts, it also has the Nationality Rooms.

These rooms have been donated to Pitt by ethnic communities in the tri-state area. (That’s western Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio and northern West Virginia.) Some came right around the time of the Cathedral of Learning’s construction. Others are still being built. (Right now, Iran’s room is under construction and the Finnish community is raising funds to make their designs into reality.)

While many of these rooms hold art, artifacts and straight history, the Nationality Rooms are not mini museums. They are, with few exceptions, functioning classrooms.

I told my child about these rooms and all the cultures they could explore inside that dizzyingly tall, cool-looking building. And they wanted to go. Badly.

This week, we finally made it happen. Luckily for us, visiting the Cathedral of Learning’s Nationality Rooms just happens to be insanely frugal.

cathedral of learning nationality room india

The India room.

Cathedral of Learning: Hours and Tours

There are a few different ways you can tour the Nationality Rooms. The first is with an actual guide. In order to do this, you have to have ten or more people and schedule your visit ahead of time.

You can also tour the rooms with an audio guide. You take the headset with you and can learn about each room as you go.

For either of these options, you pay $4 per adult and $2 per kid aged 6-18.

We just walked in and asked if we could look around. While a guided tour may be awesome, my children weren’t ready for all that. They were happy to give us a map of the first and third floor–which is where the Nationality Rooms live–and let us go on our merry way for free.

Related Post: Free Tours of The Allegheny Observatory at the University of Pittsburgh

cathedral of learning nationality rooms france


The Cathedral of Learning is open for tours from 9a to 2:30p Monday through Saturday and 11a to 2:30p on Sundays. If you want to just go look around like we did the rooms are open until 4p.

Because these are functioning classrooms, it’s best to go on a weekend. We didn’t, and we missed seeing about 50% of them because there was a class or recitation in session.

While there’s some we’re excited to go back for, we weren’t disappointed at all by our trip. Fifty percent is still a lot. We saw Israel, Africa, Poland, India, France, Greece, Syria, Armenia and more.

Some of the larger rooms had buttons you could press to get part of the audio tour, but what my kids seemed to enjoy most was sitting in all the different kinds of chairs. Age-appropriate cultural exposure, I suppose. And we were lucky enough to be able to give it to them without leaving our own city–or dropping big bucks.

For more information about the Nationality Rooms straight from the University of Pittsburgh, click here.


Free Date Night Ideas: Stargazing at Observatories

This is one of the coolest free date night ideas I've seen in a long time!

Looking for free date night ideas that are actually fun and romantic? I highly recommend checking out your local observatory–because what could be more romantic that looking up at the stars?

We actually did this last year, and it was really cool. We learned how telescope lenses were made, the history of modern astronomy and got to see the rings around Saturn.

The best part?

It was 100% free.

Free Date Night Idea: Stargazing at Your Local Observatory

We live in Pittsburgh, which just happens to have one of the most important modern observatories in recent history. But we’re not the only city to have an observatory, and we’re not the only city to benefit from free tours.

This is common practice at observatories all around the United States, so if you’re looking for free date night ideas, be sure to look up the one that’s local to you.

Here are some examples. If you don’t find yours on the list, just search ‘free observatory tour [your city here]”.

Allegheny Observatory in Pittsburgh, PA

Like I said, this is one we’ve tried and loved. We learned a ton, including that until the late 90s–when digital imaging became a common thing–every astronomical theory of what stuff was (meteor? planet? alien spacecraft?) and where it was when had to come through this observatory.

Every Thursday from April through October you can join a free tour from 8p-10p. Just be sure to call ahead for reservations.

There is also an extremely popular lecture series that runs throughout the entire year on one Friday per month. The topics are crazy interesting, and the presentation is followed by a tour of the building. All of it is free.

Learn how to make reservations here.

Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, CA

Admission to the Griffith Observatory is free, and the opportunities to visit are more frequent. You can go Tuesday through Friday from 12p-10p or Saturday/Sunday 10a-10p. The observatory is closed to the public on Mondays.

While you’re there, you may notice the planetarium that runs different shows. These shows are not free, but they’re also not mandatory.

If you want to indulge, they won’t cost you much:

  • $7 for adults
  • $5 for seniors and students (bring your ID)
  • $3 for kids 5-12
  • Kids under five get in free as long as they sit on a parent’s lap.

Learn more about Griffith Observatory here.

Maunakea Observatory in Hilo, HI

The observatories at Maunakea are arguably the best situated in the world. That did come at a cost to native Hawaiian’s cultural and religious beliefs–a common theme in our country, apparently.

While the observatories are closed to the public, there is a free event every night of the year from 6p-10p outside of the observatories on the stargazing deck. Telescopes and stargazing pros, who will help guide you, are included.

Learn more about Maunakea’s free events here.

When the Observatory Isn’t Free

Most observatories here in the states are run by a university or other educational organization. They also typically have some type of free event for the public on a regular basis.

Not all of them do, though–especially when you travel outside the US. For example, the Sydney Observatory does offer stargazing tours, but they are not free.

Sydney Observatory in New South Wales, Australia

They are, however, affordable. A couple can get in for as low as $15.30 total, and the cost of admission includes not only telescope viewing but also a show in the planetarium.

The Sydney Observatory also has qualified astronomers on hand to answer any questions you may have during the visit, and a solar telescope–which allows you to look at the sun–for those who are visiting during daylight hours.

This level of affordability is common. Even if you can’t go for free, you can still chalk it up as a super cheap date night idea.



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