Usher in the season of vibrant foliage, fall festivals, spooky haunts, glowing fire pits and cozy layers. It’s the best time to explore the city at these top 12 events.
Be sure to pack your mask and visit each organization’s website and social media for updated Covid safety protocols.
1. Highmark Blues and Heritage Festival at the August Wilson African American Cultural Center and Highmark Stadium: Oct. 1 & 2
The blues will rule when this two-day music festival kicks off the fall concert season. Getting this party started on Friday night will be legendary singer, actress and activist Mavis Staples, who will fill the August Wilson Cultural Center with her powerhouse voice and soulful sounds. The Grammy-winning Hall of Famer is back on the road after releasing her 14th album, “We Get By,” in 2019. The righteous sounds kick into high gear on Saturday outdoors on the South Side with an impressive lineup boasting Robert Cray Band, Robert Randolph & The Family Band, Morris Day & the Time, Third World, Rare Essence and Dumpstaphunk. Buy tickets.
2. Row House Cinema Drive-in at the Strip District Terminal: Oct. 1-30
You’ve heard of pop-up shops, markets and festivals — but have you ever been to a pop-up movie theater? Fresh on the heels of its triumphant reopening in Lawrenceville, Row House Cinema is transforming one of the city’s newest mixed-use developments into a fall drive-in destination. Back with a spooky season lineup all month long — and a bigger screen for your viewing pleasure — the series pairs movies under the stars with a rotating selection of local breweries — such as Necromancer, Stick City and Cinderands. The silver screen in the sky kicks off with “E.T.” and “The Wiz” and wraps up with Halloween heavy hitters “The Birds” and “Night of the Living Dead.” Buy tickets.
3. RADical 50th Anniversary Party at Contemporary Craft: Oct. 2
Contemporary Craft has a lot to celebrate — beautiful new digs in Lawrenceville, a new executive director and a five-decade milestone — and you’re invited to the party. Help Contemporary Craft mark its achievements and ring in its next chapter at its 50th-anniversary party held in conjunction with the region’s RADical Days series. Take a tour of the new exhibition, Food Justice: Growing a Healthier Community through Art, featuring 18 works by 15 contemporary artists working in a variety of craft techniques and forms. Attendees can also participate in hands-on ceramics activities, join a scavenger hunt and watch fiery demonstrations by Pittsburgh Glass Center.
4. Reel Q LGBTQ+ Film Festival: Oct. 8-16
A documentary about a 1980s lesbian punk gang in London. An autobiographical movie that’s described as “Wes Anderson meets gay Russians.” A drag queen’s relationship with his feisty grandmother starring Cloris Leachman in her final role. These are just some of the captivating stories you’ll experience when Reel Q brings the best of Queer cinema to Pittsburgh. The majority of the 14 features and 60 shorts are presented online and will be augmented by in-person screening events with Q&As, dance parties and performances at True T Studios and The Warhol Museum. Opening night at Central Outreach Wellness Center features a drive-in screening of Alex Liu’s new documentary “Sexplanation,” plus drag shows and food trucks. Don’t miss the wrap party at Row House Cinema with a screening of “Kiss Me Kosher” and a reception at Beirport. Buy tickets.
5. Fall Flower Show: Happy Troll-O-Ween at Phipps: Oct. 9
For the country’s longest-running exhibit of its kind, Phipps’ Fall Flower Show is outfitting its beloved trolls for Halloween and taking the chrysanthemums to new creepy crawly heights. Whimsical new displays will be surrounded by tens of thousands of breathtaking blooms from plants that have been in training all year long. Encounter a 10-foot gnarled tree inspired by Sweden’s troll forest, inspect Bridget the bridge troll’s spooky cave and gaze into Leif’s flickering jack-o’-lantern. Witness a trio of trick-or-trollers, wave to Bjorn the grumpy troll and solve autumnal riddles. The delightful boo-tanical bash will burst with autumnal wreaths, floating islands of deep red mums and costumed trolls. Come dressed in your finest Halloween threads. Buy tickets.
6. Enter the Quantinuum Q Ball at Roselea Farm: Oct. 9
For its momentous 30th anniversary festivities, Quantum Theatre is taking the Q Ball revelry outdoors and on the road to Coraopolis. Reimagining its popular gala as an open-air farm dinner, the bucolic Q Ball experience will showcase hand-crafted food from chef Jamilka Borges. Surrounded by inspiring scenery, Q Ballers will be treated to music by Buffalo Rose, DJ Riel and Steel City Soul Club, and can bid on silent auction items displayed alongside Bass & Bennett Trading Co. imports. The evening under the stars (think farm-friendly cocktail attire and comfy shoes) will wind down with dessert, dancing and a toast around cozy fire pits. Proceeds will support the company’s new season of site-specific shows. Buy tickets now before the event sells out.
7. Marisol and Warhol Take New York at The Warhol Museum: Oct. 14
One of the leading Pop Art figures is a name that should be as recognizable as Andy Warhol. Now, a new touring exhibition making debuting at The Warhol Museum will present a much-deserved examination of Marisol’s creative practice and career. Born in Paris in 1930 to Venezuelan parents, Marisol (née Maria Sol Escobar) was a pioneer in the NYC art world, yet she’s often excluded from white male-dominated Pop Art narratives. Charting the emergence of Marisol (1930–2016) and Andy Warhol (1928–1987) in NYC during the early 1960s, the exhibition features Marisol work from major global collections, rarely seen films and archival materials, and Warhol’s silent films depicting the trailblazing artist. Visitors will also explore themes shared by both artists: iconic Pop Art subjects like Coca-Cola and the Kennedy family; Warhol’s queer paintings and Marisol’s exploration of the female experience; their influence on the NYC gallery scene and much more.