Fall is officially here. Whether you’re looking for some quintessentially October events (cue monster pumpkins) or the chance to step out of your social comfort zone, we’ve got a dozen events you need to know about. So layer up, get out there and carve out time for fall fun.
1. Doors Open in Downtown Pittsburgh: Oct. 1
Image strolling into the mayor’s office, striking a pose on the Heinz Hall stage and getting a panoramic 360-degree view of the Downtown skyline. Doors Open is here to let you do it all and more. Get nebby during the seventh-anniversary event presented during Pittsburgh Architecture Week. Step into 35 buildings rarely open to the public — from sacred spaces, swank clubs and chic hotels to government offices and urban landmarks. Choose your own adventure and set your own pace with the self-guided format. Docents will be on-hand to share fascinating stories and context. See the Union Trust Building’s breathtaking stained-glass dome, tour Pittsburgh’s first skyscrapers and check out 13 Tiffany windows and an organ with 4,400 pipes at First Presbyterian Church. New additions include the Joinery Hotel, Allegheny County Law Library and Pittsburgh Playhouse. Two guided tours are also available: Mark Houser’s popular Antique Skyscrapers Tour and a new waterfront walk with Riverlife. New family attractions include a Kids’ Photo Safari and a reading with children’s author Angela D. Moss. Buy tickets.
2. FlyBy 5K, a 2-Mile Fun Run/Walk at Pittsburgh International Airport: Oct. 1
Don’t just gaze up at airplanes soaring overheard, race against them. OK, not technically, but we can pretend. If you’re looking for a new runner’s thrill you literally can’t get anywhere else, join this action right on the runway. Your heart rate will rise as the one-of-kind airfield course leads you past hangars and taxiways where a Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker, a C-17 Globemaster and an Army Reserve Humvee aircraft are parked. FlyByers will get an up-close vantage point that few ever see, along with access to post-race festivities. Anyone can earn their wings with two race options: a timed 5K and an untimed 2-Mile Fun Run/Walk. Taking flight at 10 a.m. the event benefits the Allegheny County Airport Authority Charitable Foundation. Prepare for takeoff here.
3. Reel Q at Row House Cinema: Oct. 6-15
A documentary about Christian mothers who choose their LGBTQ kids over the church. A world premiere about a female soccer star written and directed by Pitt graduate Sam McCoy. A fresh take on queer barbershop culture featuring Pittsburgher Devan Shimoyama. These are just some of the powerful stories that will light up the screen at the region’s only LGBTQ+ — and Pittsburgh’s longest-running — film festival. Reel Q celebrates its 37th anniversary with in-person and virtual offerings, including an impressive lineup of 15 features, 40 queer shorts, a local indie production and its largest-ever selection of international films. Don’t miss opening night featuring Matt Carter’s newest movie, “In From the Side,” dubbed “The gay rugby film we’ve all been waiting for.” Reel Q closes with a documentary about trans actors, a 25th-anniversary screening of Wong Kar-wai’s landmark film “Happy Together” and a reception. Buy tickets.
4. Festival of Combustion at Carrie Blast Furnaces: Oct. 8
The furnaces might not produce molten iron anymore, but the creativity will burn bright when Rivers of Steel’s signature event unveils its expanded footprint. From 1 to 9 p.m., get immersed in this nexus of industry, culture and nature at the National Historic Landmark. Paint graffiti art, glaze a raku-fired vase and carve a scratch mold that’s cast before your very eyes. Create a Fiestaware mosaic, get a sizzling tattoo and watch glassblowing, welding and metal fabrication demonstrations. As magic hour glows, sparks will light up the sky during a performance iron pour. New this year is the Heritage Craft Tent with distillery samples and blacksmiths at work. For the first time at the event, visitors can see the sprawling Mon Valley from a tethered hot air balloon. The explosive extravaganza includes an artisan marketplace, food and drink purveyors, and live music. The dramatic complex will be bathed in fireworks to cap off the night. Buy tickets.
5. Steel City Big Pour at Rockwell Park: Oct. 8
With more beer and food than ever before, this beloved Burgh festival could be rebranded as the Steel City Huge Pour. There’s a lot that’s new — and to love — about the event’s milestone 15th anniversary. For the first time, the froth fest is setting up shop behind Construction Junction, at the newly renovated Rockwell Park Apollo Building for one afternoon session from 2 to 6 p.m. Featuring 40 breweries and 20 food vendors, the granddaddy of Pittsburgh beer festivals includes a pig roast with Blackberry Meadows Organic Farm and a zero waste strategy. The craft theme extends to local art with demonstrations by Pittsburgh Glass Center, Protohaven and area makers. It’s a critical fundraiser for Pittsburgh’s premiere reuse nonprofit, which will be open for shopping, recycling and donations. Buy tickets.
6. Fall Flower Show: Blooms Under the Big Top at Phipps: Oct. 8
Leaves are turning brown, pumpkin spice blends are brewing and sounds of Friday night marching bands can be heard in the distance. Another sign that fall has arrived is this quintessential Pittsburgh tradition. Since 1894, Phipps has created chrysanthemum-themed seasonal shows and its Fall Flower Show is the longest-running in the country. Step into the big top where bright yellow and red fabric drapes overhead and rooms burst with circus-inspired and carnivalesque botanical displays. See magical mums never before available to the public, giant disbuds and awe-inspiring cascades adorned with whimsical pinwheels. From the hand-carved wooden carousel to a menagerie of topiary animals, Blooms Under the Big Top will set the autumn mood and capture your imagination. Meet a larger-than-life ladybug family, interact with funhouse mirrors and say hello to a huge rubber duck. The show is the result of an entire year of horticultural planning, so don’t miss out.
7. Good Fest at Goodlander Cocktail Brewery: Oct. 8 & 9
Breweries are not just for beer anymore. Nestled in Larimer, Goodlander Cocktail Brewery excels at crafting highball-style drinks that are sold in reusable, returnable kegs and growlers. If this piques your palate, don’t miss this two-day taste fest. Teaming up with Flyspace Productions, Goodlander will transform Hamilton Avenue into a fall block party. With DJs Arie Cole and Huny behind the decks, the free festivities also include brews from nearby East End Brewing and KLVN Coffee, an artist market, and offerings from Old Thunder Brewing, Soul Biscuit, Los Gallitos and Mr. Nick’s Chicken.
8. Historic Pittsburgh Fair at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh – Main: Oct. 15
If you’re fascinated by Pittsburgh stories, you’ll love this unique fair shedding light on the countless art, media and archival resources available to Pittsburghers. It’s a rare chance to meet local experts and engage with rare collections our city has to offer. History buffs, avid archivists, passionate collectors and curious citizens alike will converge for panel discussions, scavenger hunts and historical tours — and it’s all free from 1 to 4 p.m. More than 18 exhibitors will share their favorite finds, including universities, libraries and special collections, conservation and preservation entities, and historical societies and heritage centers. Don’t miss the Steel City Railway & Locomotive Historical Society, Pittsburgh Queer History Project, Western PA Genealogical Society and the library’s Music Archives. Rick Sebak’s “Questions & Curiosities” talk will be the perfect kickoff.
9. Donut Fest at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral: Oct. 22
Pierogies, pickles and tacos and have nothing on donuts. Sorry! Whether you’re a dipper, a cream-filled fanatic or a cake purist, you need to clear your schedule — and your plate — for this newcomer on the culinary scene. Though technically held in a church, this isn’t your grandma’s church basement lunch. Serving up “their most superlative deep-fried delicacies” will be a selection of family-owned Burgh bakeries and restaurants, including Madsen Donuts, Scratch & Co., DeAngelis’s Donuts, Baked True North, Lasko’s Little O’s and more coming soon. Running from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., the inaugural Donut Fest takes place in The Cathedral Room at the landmark church. Donut devotees will vote to help crown one decadent delight as the “Best Donut in Pittsburgh.” Ticket proceeds benefit Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. And since these sweet snacks made from leavened fried dough go best with coffee, you can bet that local coffee roasters and artisan cafes will be on hand to pour the mud.
10. The Scary Furnace Halloween Party at Carrie Furnaces: Oct. 22
Who needs a haunted house when you can dress up and wander through a massive steel mill? Get spooky under the looming smokestacks and step into the long shadows of the Carrie Deer sculpture when Pittsburgh’s most iconic industrial site morphs into The Scary Furnace. In the factory’s courtyard, Beers of the Burgh will host a two-hour mini-festival starting at 4 p.m. with 12 local breweries showcasing seasonal styles we all crave — from harvest ales to pumpkin stouts. As the sun sets on this titan of industry, it’s time to pump up the volume, embrace the darkness and shift into dance mode. Brew Gentlemen will pour award-winning beers alongside local food truck offerings. Beauty Slap will headline the outdoor stage illuminated by the moon, while Title Town brings the soul and funk to the Historic Power House. Buy tickets.
11. Nightmare On Baum Boulevard in East Liberty: Oct. 22
Baum Boulevard becomes Elm Street for one very spooky night. Not just any other costume party, the eerie enchantment takes place right on the bustling East Liberty corridor where a haunted warehouse will greet revelers at 5738 Baum Blvd. starting at 7 p.m. Curated by Miley Gyawali and LGBTQ+ Chamber Of Commerce Executive Director Cynthia Oliver, the Halloween pop-up happening features drag shows, a live karaoke band, an art sale and a photo booth. And of course, plenty of ghoulish attractions and boos and brews. You don’t want to suffer from FOMO, so buy tickets now. Costumes are required, duh.
12. Benefit Auction at Silver Eye Center for Photography: Oct. 22
Don’t fret if you missed Silver Eye’s Auction Preview Party, because the main event is the place to score a fabulous photograph for your collection. When you place a bid you’re not only bolstering the arts economy, you’re supporting free exhibitions and programs at this cultural gem. Curated over several years, the auction represents the most prolific and creative artists working in photography today. Works span a range of media — from archival inkjet prints and silver gelatin photos to cyanotypes, 3D laser-cut images and collages. Sale prices range from $500 to $1,500, and some photos can fetch up to $6,000. Standouts include a vintage serigraph of Andy Warhol by Billy Name and a portrait of Burt Reynolds by Duane Michals. The live bidding excitement starts at 6 p.m. when auctioneer Alison Oehler takes the crowd through 70 lots donated by artists and estates. The silent auction features 30 works by established icons and rising stars in the field. Auction-goers will be treated to Sprezzatura cuisine and Sokolin wines. Buy tickets.