A giant purple hand reaches to the sky.
Squonk performs "Hand to Hand" as part of the Three Rivers Arts Festival entertainment lineup. Photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

As schools close their doors for summer, parents look eagerly for June activities to keep kids entertained and engaged. These top events for kids in Pittsburgh cover the gamut, from history and culture to theater and science.

1. Through Sept. 5: Laser Taylor Swift, Carnegie Science Center

As Swiftie excitement builds leading to Taylor Swift’s two Pittsburgh concerts on June 16 and 17, the Carnegie Science Center feeds the machine with a new laser show. Laser Taylor Swift takes Swift’s biggest hits and brings them to life with dazzling laser lights and special effects. The 50-minute show has been described as “an intergalactic visual feast.” Just lean back and enjoy the ride. With more than 200 million records sold, 12 Grammy Awards and a legion of fans, Taylor Swift is one of the biggest pop stars in the world. Haters gonna hate, but fans will love this brilliant, immersive experience. Tickets are $7. Check out the Tiny Taylor Swift Takeover in the Miniature Railroad Village, where miniature Tay Tays, dressed in her many eras, are hidden. The scavenger hunt, scheduled for June 16 and 18, requires Science Center admission.

Children play with musical instruments provided by Unisound.
Unisound entertains and educates kids with its Musical Instrument Petting Zoo. Photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

2. June 2-11: Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival, Downtown

Enjoy 10 days of free family fun with live music and activities specially designed for kids at the Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival. Create a unique piece of art from repurposed materials at Reuse-A-Palooza. Use tissue paper and glue to build a large-scale artwork inspired by “Mikayla’s Voice.” Make music with the Kuumba Drum Circle and go crazy at the glow-in-the-dark Family Glow Zone. Beyond the hands-on fun, the whole family will be entertained by performances like Squonk’s “Hand to Hand” show and the energetic TRAF Dance Battle 9. You will never catch it all in one visit. Plan to return multiple times to make the most of the festival’s many offerings.

Discover the historic tribes that once called Pittsburgh home and learn how they lived in the 18th century during the American Indian Living History Weekend. Photo courtesy of the Fort Pitt Museum.

3. June 3-4: American Indian Living History Weekend, Fort Pitt Museum

Gather at the Fort Pitt Museum’s lawn for a living history program about the historic tribes who made their home here during the 18th century. Shideezhi Emarthla, a citizen of the Seneca-Cayuga Nation, leads a cooking demonstration and discusses the interactions between the tribes and the newcomers. The weekend activities dovetail nicely with the current exhibition, “Guyasuta: The Life and Legend of a Seneca Chief,” which runs through Sept. 4. The exhibit showcases Guyasuta’s relationship with George Washington and how he sought peace before the French and Indian War. Outdoor events are free, with admission required for a museum visit.

Image courtesy of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.

4. June 3-4: Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” in Concert Live to Film, Heinz Hall

Hans Christian Andersen’s ageless tale recounts how a mermaid makes a deal to become human and win the love of a prince. The story continues to enthrall audiences with new productions, including the just-released live-action movie. This Heinz Hall performance shows Disney’s beloved 1989 animated film on the big screen while the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra performs the soundtrack. The experience is an excellent introduction to the symphony and the way music helps tell stories with suspense, joy and danger. Tickets start at $25.

Illustration courtesy of Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

5. June 6-24: Find Your Voice: Summer Reading Kickoff, Carnegie Library locations

Carnegie Library’s Summer Reading program kicks off with events at neighborhood libraries throughout the month. This year’s theme is Find Your Voice, a celebration of self-expression. Performing arts groups will add to the delight with performances by Color of Song, Azure Family Concerts Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Musical Theatre Superstar Squad at various branches. Mad Science, Josh and Gab’s Kindness and Anti-bullying Concert and Attack Theatre play roles as well. Track your books using the Beanstack Tracker App between June 11 and Aug. 6 for automatic prize entries. The big party comes at the end of the program with the family-friendly Extravaganza! on Aug. 13. Prizes will include family passes, gift cards, tickets and unique experiences. And remember, reading is a great buffer against the summer slide.

Illustration courtesy of South Park Theatre.

6. June 12-21: “Rats! The Story of the Pied Piper, the Musical,” South Park Theatre

South Park Theatre opens its children’s summer season with the return of “Rats! The Story of Pied Piper, the Musical.” The town of Hamelin is swarming with an infestation of rats. The townsfolk are in a panic when the mysterious Pied Piper appears, promising to solve their problem for a small fee. Performed for the fourth time at South Park, this popular production of the Pied Piper story is told with a fast-paced wit, catchy songs and charming characters. The outdoor stage offers a spacious lawn where the audience can sprawl out on blankets or bring lawn chairs. Picnics are welcome, too. Tickets are $5 (free for ages 3 and younger).

Making art is part of the appeal of Inside Out, a free summer series of music and performances. Photo courtesy of Carnegie Museum of Art.

7. June 15-Aug. 19: Inside Out, Carnegie Museum of Art

Carnegie Museum of Art invites visitors to the third year of Inside Out, a free summer series running on Thursday evenings and Saturday afternoons in the Sculpture Garden. The series highlights Pittsburgh’s cultural panorama with performances, workshops and art activities. Opening day on June 15 includes free museum admission. Thursday evenings lend themselves to the nightlife scene, while Saturday afternoons are more family-friendly with hands-on activities and site-specific performances. Mark your calendar for July 20, when the Summer Exhibitions Celebration parties are held inside and outside with free admission to the museum. Catch the full lineup of artists, musicians and performing arts organizations here.

African American culture is at the heart of the Juneteenth Celebration. Photo courtesy of WPA Juneteenth.

8. June 16-19: Western Pennsylvania Juneteenth Homecoming Celebration, Point State Park and Downtown

This family-friendly event will fill Point State Park and Market Square with live music, speakers and African American culture. Dozens of minority-owned small businesses, artisans and other vendors can be found in the plaza along Penn and Liberty avenues. The Juneteenth-Voting Rights Parade takes place on June 17 as a reenactment of the 1870 Jubilee of Freemen Parade and Pittsburgh’s 1914 Women’s Suffrage Parade. The lineup begins at Freedom Corner on Centre Avenue, then heads to Point Park via Fifth and Liberty avenues. Catch an assortment of music from the likes of hip-hop artist KRS-ONE, Sammie Deleon Afro-Cuban Band and R&B singer Carl Thomas & Band. The U.S. Army Jazz Band and Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra will also take the stage. The party ends, as most Pittsburgh celebrations do, with fireworks on June 19.

On a dark night, children sit around a fire in front of a boxcar they call home.
“The Boxcar Children” illustration courtesy of Prime Stage Theatre.

9. June 16-25: “The Boxcar Children,” New Hazlett Theater

The Prime Stage Theatre Sprouts Series presents “The Boxcar Children,” a play based on the Gertrude Chandler Warner novel published in 1942. Her “Boxcar” series of books has taken on a life of its own and has grown to more than 160 titles. This beginning story presents four orphaned brothers and sisters who run away to avoid living with their grandfather because they think he is cruel. They find an abandoned railcar, which they make their home. Along the way, the kids deal with suspenseful mysteries, manage to survive and stay together. Tickets are $14 for students and $24 for grownups. A pay-what-you-wish performance is set for June 16. This production is best for kids from third grade through adults.

Kids compete against adults with innovative skills and know-how in the Kids Vs. Adults Science Challenge. Photo courtesy of Carnegie Science Center.

10. June 28: Kids Vs. Adults Science Challenge, Carnegie Science Center

This after-hours science smackdown (also happening July 26 and August 23) challenges kids and grownups in a battle of wits with a series of challenges. Kids can see how their STEM knowledge helps put them over the top with tasks such as designing and building contraptions, deciphering brain teasing puzzles and competing in a high-energy scavenger hunt. Will grownups be able to keep up with their kids’ problem-solving skills? Tickets are $20 for grownups and $12 for kids.

We can almost smell the aroma of funnel cake and deep-fried Oreos along the midway. Photo courtesy of The Big Butler Fair.

11. June 30-July 8: The Big Butler Fair, Prospect

Now in its 167th year, The Big Butler Fair is really big — the biggest festival in Western Pennsylvania. The nine-day fair program ranges from the School Bus Demolition Derby and country music concerts to midway games and carnival rides. Kids will be entertained by the Agricadabra agricultural magic show, the exotic petting zoo and the Hot Diggity Dog Show. Cast a line in the First Bite Fishing Tank or be mesmerized by the Brad Matchett Comedy Hypnotist. Visit the livestock exhibition to see award-winning horses, cattle, cuddly rabbits and adorable pigs. Admission is $7-$9 (free for ages 6 and younger). Ride-all-day packages are available.

Bonus events:

Through Sept. 4: Superheroes of the Sky, The National Aviary

June 4: BioBlitz Family Fun Festival, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

June 8: World Ocean Day, Pittsburgh Zoo & Aquarium

June 22-25: Pogopalooza, Market Square and Wilkinsburg

June 24: SkyWatch, Carnegie Science Center

Sally Quinn is a Pittsburgh-based editor and writer who writes about food, entertainment, kid stuff, pop culture, cocktails!