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.
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.
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 them. SIX!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!