A woman holds money to order an ice ball at Gus & Yiayia's.
Find Gus & Yiayia's on West Ohio Street in Allegheny Commons Park in the North Side. Photo by Tanya Maggs.

Let me just say it right off the bat — I am part of the minority of people who don’t love summer. Though I’m more of a fall and winter gal — nothing beats Halloween and the holidays — each season in Pittsburgh is full of special events and fun things to do that make it something to celebrate. 

During the last few weeks of each season, I make a bucket list of places to visit, activities to do, foods to try and more for the upcoming season. Between work, family events, hobbies and other responsibilities, it can be hard to make time to really savor the summer like we did as kids. I like to decide what I want to do and make the time to do it before summer passes by.

This is my personal list based on where I live and what I like to do (or haven’t yet done), so don’t hate me for leaving off some Pittsburgh summer staples. Use my list or make your own; just be sure to make the most of summer before it’s over!

A tandem kayak with a woman and a girl moves through the water at North Park.
Kayak rental at North Park is available through Kayak Pittsburgh. Photo courtesy of Allegheny County Parks.

1. Kayak in North Park

I don’t do it as often as I’d like to, but I really love kayaking. It’s tranquil, beautiful and a great way to get exercise without having to stand up. Because I live in Sharpsburg, I have access to the Allegheny River, and I’ve glided across it quite a few times now thanks to the boat rentals in Aspinwall, Sharpsburg and the North Side. I have visited North Park, but I haven’t been to the boat house or kayaked on the lake — this is the year! 

2. Watch a baseball game

We all know half (or maybe even more than half) of the fun of a baseball game is chit-chatting over nachos, right? I’m not picky about which team I watch, but I want some peanuts and Cracker Jacks. My husband’s family loves to watch the Washington Wild Things — so I think I’ll start there. The Frontier League team plays at Wild Things Park in Washington, and last year the team won the division championship. Like the Pirates, the Wild Things have theme nights, fireworks, kids-eat-free days and more. 

People sit on blankets and camping chairs at the outdoor amphitheater at Hartwood Acres
The outdoor amphitheater at Hartwood Acres. Photo courtesy of Allegheny County Parks.

3. Go to an outdoor concert or music festival   

Outdoor concerts are one of the best parts of summer (assuming the temperature doesn’t climb above 85 degrees). There are plenty of free options to choose from: the Allegheny County Summer Concert Series is in full swing at South Park and Hartwood Acres and shows at SouthSide Works are every Friday. You can never go wrong with more than one outdoor show, especially when there are so many top-tier acts coming to Pittsburgh this year. On my list of possibilities: Weezer at Stage AE on July 11, Shania Twain at Star Lake on July 13, Soccer Mommy at Hartwood Acres on Aug. 6 and the Four Chord Music Festival at Wild Things Park on Aug. 12-13.

4. See a movie at a drive-in theater

I have many fond childhood memories of falling asleep in the backseat of my parent’s minivan during the second movie at the drive-in. Unfortunately, this quintessential summer activity has become more challenging with fewer drive-in theaters available. Evergreen Drive-in in Mt. Pleasant, the theater I frequented growing up, is still open, as are a few others: Dependable Drive-in in Moon, Starlight Drive-in in Butler, Riverside Drive-in in Vandergrift, Brownsville Drive-in in Grindstone and the Comet Drive-in in Dunbar. “Barbie,” out on July 21, seems like a perfect drive-in flick

People sit on picnic blankets and watch a movie under the stars in Schenley Park.
Cinema in the Park at Schenley Park in Oakland. Photo courtesy of the City of Pittsburgh Office of Special Events.

5. Watch a movie in a park 

The car is great, but watching a movie under the stars with a picnic or takeout from your favorite restaurant is an unmatched experience. This summer there are even more outdoor movies than ever — the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy announced its own Movie Nights in the Park series, alongside the city’s Cinema in the Park lineup and Allegheny County’s Movies in the Park program. Though you won’t see any films that are new or still in theaters, some of this year’s picks are award-winners from the last few years, including “Top Gun: Maverick,” “Encanto,” “Turning Red,” “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” “Elvis” and “The Batman.” The best part? They’re all free and you can bring your dog.

A girl rides a waterslide at Sandcastle Water Park.
Photo courtesy of Sandcastle Water Park.

6. Spend the day at Sandcastle

For those days when it is unbelievably hot and humid, one of our many public swimming pools is nice but a trip to Sandcastle Water Park can be even better. Climbing the stairs to the top of a tall water slide takes you right back to childhood. The park opened a new slide last year: Bombs Away is a “free-fall slide” where riders step inside an enclosed capsule and the floor falls out from beneath them. 

Dancing Gnome is open at 1025 Main St. in Sharpsburg every day but Monday. Photo courtesy of Dancing Gnome.

7. Visit one of the Sharpsburg breweries 

As a resident of Sharpsburg, I am ashamed to admit I have not been to the new Dancing Gnome location on Main Street yet. Sharpsburg is home to two breweries, and they often have food trucks parked outside to accompany the brews. I’m not much of a beer drinker, but I can’t wait to try some grub from the Blue Sparrow pizza bus. Pizza on the patio sounds like an ideal summer dinner al fresco to me.

8. Grab a snow cone at Gus & Yiayia’s 

I haven’t been able to get my hands on an ice ball from the famous orange cart on the North Side yet, but I’m making a pact with myself to change that situation this year. Another classic sign of summer in Pittsburgh, the Gus & Yiayia snow cones are nostalgia in a paper cup. Operating hours are posted on the front of the cart and on their Facebook page.

9. Head to the Bellevue Dog Woods

My new puppy is going to love this one. When she’s finally up to date on her vaccinations and ready to start hanging with other dogs — what better place is there to visit than the woods? The Dog Woods is an off-leash area with high perimeter fencing and a separate area for small dogs. There are structures for the pups to climb and there is also a water feature for cooling off. I’ve been to many other Pittsburgh dog parks in the past, but this one is at the top of my must-try list.

  • A golden retriever swims into the pool with his owner.

10. Take my pup to Pooches in the Pool 

OK, I’ve got one more dog-centric activity on my list. Each year at the end of summer, Allegheny County pools close down the season with a Pooches in the Pool event. The photos from previous years speak for themselves — it looks like pure joy. (There’s even a video on the Allegheny County Parks Facebook page). Check the Allegheny County Parks website or social media for this year’s schedule, but last year the event was held at North Park and South Park pools, Boyce Park and Settlers Cabin on Labor Day. 

Cristina Holtzer is NEXTpittsburgh's Digital Editor. When she’s not laughing too hard at TikTok, Crissy can be found working on her novel or playing the Sims. Read her work in Everyday Health, The Kitchn, Pittsburgh Magazine, Inc and more.