With Labor Day behind us, my family will change gears this month. We will step out of free-spirited summertime mode and into another, busier lifestyle–complete with bagged lunches, school days and the beginnings of autumn. Although I’m sad to see this summer go, I can feel a morning chill in the air and it energizes me. Fall is a wonderful time for families in Pittsburgh!

Here’s my “Top ten family adventures this September in Pittsburgh.”

Apple Picking! 

The Western PA apple season will start by the first week of September. This quintessential fall fruit is a favorite of our family, especially when we pick our own. Thankfully, there are still several local farms that offer apple picking in their orchards.

Simmons Farm is located south of the city in McMurray, PA. It is a favorite apple-picking destination for our family for several reasons. First, they have semi-dwarf apple trees in their orchards–small enough for even the littlest hands to reach. Also, their farm is quiet, peaceful and remote, not commercialized in the same sense as some other local farms. They also have a large barnyard petting zoo where little ones can get up close to chickens, ducks, goats, pigs and sheep. Finally, they have a wonderful Fall Festival running 7 days per week starting September 20th.

Other local destinations for apple-picking include Triple B Farms (south), Norman’s Orchard (north) and Half Crown Hill Orchard (southwest).

2007 Pittsburgh Irish Festival

Irish Step Dancers at the Pittsburgh Irish Festival. Photo by All Points Images and Jim Hambrick

Celebrating Celtic Culture at the Pittsburgh Irish Festival

Started by two sisters in 1991, the Pittsburgh Irish Festival has become a favorite “Halfway to St. Patrick’s Day” celebration for Pittsburgh’s Irish and non-Irish alike. Drawing nearly 25,000 visitors during the weekend, this fun and educational festival celebrates the beauty of Celtic heritage through music, dance, food, games and activities geared toward the whole family. As festival co-founder, Maura Krushinski says, “The sustainability of the Celtic culture depends on involving the entire family in celebrations like the Irish Festival. For that reason, we have created an event that is fun across all generations.”

Some family-friendly highlights: numerous big-name musical acts like The Willis Clan, an Irish family band made up of 12 siblings ranging in age from three to early 20’s, a Children’s Irish Dance performance, traditional Celtic story-telling, an Irish dog tent and a dedicated Children’s Area with varied (and free) Irish-themed crafts, 25 cent games and a nearby playground. Oh–and a giant, life-sized chess board–which promises to amuse little ones.

The Pittsburgh Irish Festival will be held on September 5-7th at the Riverplex at Sandcastle. Adult tickets cost $12 in advance and $14 at the door. Children under 12 are free.

Alphabet Trails and Tales

Alphabet Trail and Tales. Photo courtesy of Citiparks

Wandering down the Alphabet Trail with Citiparks

Each September, Citiparks closes out the summer with their annual Alphabet Trail and Tales at Frick Park. This free event is an early and elementary-aged literacy adventure and–trust me–it’s a blast! Families are invited to follow the “Alphabet Trail” through Frick Park where gigantic, colorful letters serve as landmarks to guide them. Along the way, kids will also find handpainted storybook sets with book readings by authors, craft and activity stations, a petting zoo, pony rides, a trackless train, a puppet show by Pittsburgh Puppet Works and lots more. Kids will even get a healthy snack to fuel their explorations.

Alphabet Trail and Tales will be held on September 13th from 10am-1pm at the Blue Slide Park.

Trying a drop-in dance class at The Alloy School

With the cold weather approaching, I’m looking for indoor ways to keep my children active and healthy. I’m even considering registering them for an organized dance or creative movement class. That being said–I have my apprehensions about signing on for a semester’s worth of pricey classes when I’m not sure they’ll like it or not. For that reason, I was thrilled to learn about the Kelly Strayhorn Theater’s The Alloy SchoolThe Alloy School provides an inclusive and high-quality introduction to the performing arts for children ages 3 to 12 years old at the very reasonable rate of $5 per class or $30 per six-week session (see top photo).

Held on Saturday mornings, the Alloy School classes are taught by professional dancers, musicians and actors. The fall semester runs from September 13-October 18th and will include creative movement, contemporary movement, ballet, hip hop, improv theater and steel band music programs. You can elect to register your child for the entire semester, or simply pop in for a single class (space permitting). At the end of the semester, the entire family can enjoy a fun recital.