“The view of the city from the Monongahela Incline is a huge sight for little eyes to see.”
That’s why Lela Checco of Imperial drives to Mt. Washington to take her young nieces on a sightseeing ride down the slope of one of Pittsburgh’s most prominent hills.
And that’s why you may want to consider doing the same thing.
Buying gifts for the kids in your life is one thing. Keeping them busy and entertained during their holiday break is something entirely different. Whether you’re a parent tending to your own children, or are hosting young guests, you want to make sure that the season’s magic doesn’t wear off after the last gift is unwrapped.
So why not hit Pittsburgh for some fun? A trip to the city can be a big deal for a young'un who spends most of his or her days in a suburban setting.
Here are a few great ideas for activities to do in Pittsburgh, which will keep the holiday spirit alive and keep your kids on their toes:
1. Monongahela Incline & Station Square. Grab the kids and head up to Mt. Washington for a ride on the Monongahela Incline. As you descend the 635-foot-long track, your kids will surely be amazed by the panoramic view that unfolds before them.
The incline’s lower station is right across the street from Station Square, where numerous festive and retail experiences await.
Stop in the Freight House Building to gawk at Gingerbread Lane, a showcase of 138 gingerbread houses made entirely out of edible components. The exhibit is open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from 12 p.m. to 5 on Sundays.
Gingerbread Lane closes for the season at 5 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 8. Starting at 2 p.m. that day, the exhibit will be deconstructed and visitors can take parts of the lane home with them for free.
If you visit Station Square on a weekend afternoon, hop on the Station Square Express kiddie train. Parents and kids can ride around the Freight House for $1 per person.
Take some time to explore Station Square’s myriad shops. Get a bite to eat at any one of the complex’s many eateries, such as Hard Rock Café, where you can grab a killer burger and school your kids on the fundamentals of rock 'n' roll.
2. Plenty at PPG Place. Go to the heart of Pittsburgh for some winter-themed fun at PPG Place. Try your hand, or foot, at ice skating in PPG’s 104-square-foot rink, which is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 12 a.m. Friday and Saturday; and noon to 8 p.m. on Sundays. Admission is $7 for adults, 6 for kids and seniors. Skate rental is just $3.
Step off the rink and into PPG’s indoor Wintergarden, where you’ll find some awesome holiday exhibits.
Spirits of Giving from Around the World showcases life-size Santas with original paintings depicting holiday scenes from around the globe.
Also on display in Wintergarden is Home SWEET Home, a display of gingerbread houses encircled by a holiday train.
Various musical acts will perform in the winter wonderland throughout the month of December.
The Wintergarden displays are free to view. So stop by any time from 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Fridays; 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturdays; or 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sundays.
Hungry? Visit one of PPG’s dining spots. From pizza at Sbarro to a filet at Ruth’s Chris Steak House, you’ll be able to find something to curb your appetite.
3. Carnegie Science Center. Just because the kids are taking a break from school, that doesn’t mean they have to stop learning. The science center offers various day camps for kids of different age groups throughout December—so, you can drop the kids off and go on your way. Visit the website for more information and pricing.
If, however, you’d like to explore the center with your young ones, there’s plenty of fun to enjoy together. Tiny trains, big robots, aquatic ecosystems, food chemistry, air power and water play—the list goes on and on.
From Dec. 26 through Jan. 1, all six of the Steelers’ Super Bowl trophies will be on display. You’ll want to bring your camera for this one!
Admission to the center is approximately $18 for adults and $12 for kids (ages 3-12). Members of the military get in for half price, and Pennsylvania ACCESS/EBT cardholders pay only $1 for admission.
Included in the cost of admission is access to the USS Requin submarine parked on the shore and to Highmark SportsWorks, where several interactive exhibits will put a smile on your kids’ faces.
If you want to check out an Omnimax flick, it’ll cost ya’ extra. But Batman fans won’t mind paying the price, since a six-minute movie trailer for The Dark Knight Rises plays before select Omnimax shows.
While you’re in Pittsburgh’s North Side, throw The Bus some business. Dine at Jerome Bettis’ Grille 36, and see why it’s been voted Pittsburgh’s best sports restaurant every year since it opened. If you’re daring, try to tackle the 36-ounce, bone-in New York strip steak.
4. The Strip District. Take the kids for a stroll through Pittsburgh’s Strip District. Shop street vendors selling unique crafts, unofficial Pittsburgh sports apparel and items, and name brand knockoffs. Ethnic food stores, markets and specialty stores abound.
The Strip is the closest thing Pittsburgh has to big city vending districts, so it’s a must-see for kids who’ve only ever shopped in malls and box stores.
For a true taste of Pittsburgh, hunker down for a sandwich at Primanti Bros. on 18th Street. Experience what has made this fare an “almost famous” staple of the ‘burgh diet since 1933.
Craving more Pittsburgh flavor? Walk over to the Senator John Heinz History Center on Smallman Street. The 275-square-foot museum is the largest history museum in Pennsylvania.
Six floors of historical exhibits, including the popular Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum, document 250 years of Pittsburgh history.
Admission is $10 for adults, 5 for children (ages 4 – 17), and 9 for senior citizens. Hours of operation are from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.