July feels like the heart of summer to me and my family. The long, beautiful days lend themselves to a carefree, easygoing pace to our lives. We wander through the city and its surrounding countryside, embracing an outdoorsy lifestyle and feeling more connected to the people and places around us. By the time July comes to an end, I am reminded of two things: I love this month and it always goes by way too fast.
To get you started on your own adventures this month, here’s my “Top Ten Family Adventures this July in Pittsburgh.”
1. The EQT Three Rivers Regatta
Pittsburgh kicks off the month of July with the EQT Three Rivers Regatta, a 3-day affair at the confluence of the Three Rivers. Running from July 2-4, the Regatta is one of the largest summer events in the region and is considered the “official” celebration for the Fourth of July in Pittsburgh. The Regatta includes world-famous events like the F2 North American Championship of Powerboat Racing and the World Championship of Extreme Pogo-Sticking. It also has some uniquely kid-friendly aspects to it, including the Colcom Kid’s Zone and the Regatta Beach, an honest-to-goodness manmade beach on the shores of the Allegheny, complete with buckets, shovels, and seashells. The Regatta culminates with the EQT Flashes of Freedom Fireworks on July 4th, widely considered to be one of the Top Ten July 4th Fireworks displays in the country.
2. Other Fourth of July Celebrations
Besides the Regatta, there are many other family-friendly celebrations for the 4th of July in Pittsburgh. Both Heinz Field and the Carnegie Museum of Science host Independence Day events with front-row viewing of the fireworks from the North Side. Venture Outdoors offers a nautical Fourth of July adventure, giving participants the chance to view the city’s fireworks from their solo or tandem kayaks. Many local communities also hold their own events throughout the holiday weekend, including Lawrenceville’s 70th Annual Independence Day Celebration in Arsenal Park on July 5th. This event has music, food, children’s races, a petting zoo, train rides, pony rides, an exotic animal show and a Zambelli Fireworks show starting at 9:30pm. For a more extensive roundup of Fourth of July events in our area, please check out my blog’s recent “Family-Friendly Celebrations for the Fourth of July in Pittsburgh.”
3. The Big Butler Fair and Other County Fairs and Festivals
County fairs and festivals are synonymous with summertime in my mind. I’m happy to report that there are several of them in our region during July. The Big Butler Fair is the largest fair in Western Pennsylvania, running until July 5. Only about an hour drive from Pittsburgh, this event has everything you would want in a traditional fair experience: carnival rides, games, music, greasy food, livestock shows, tractor pulls, demolition derbies, a beauty pageant, and even a Fourth of July Fireworks Display starting at dusk.
The first week of July also hosts another well-known county festival, the acclaimed Westmoreland Arts & Heritage Festival at Twin Lakes Park in Greensburg from July 3-6. This Festival is a celebration of local visual arts, performing arts, traditional craftsmanship, and history. The Festival organizers also work hard to include families in the event, offering kid-friendly performances on the “Children’s Stage,” kid-friendly activities at the “Family Zone” and a “Creative Movement Tent.”
Other Southwestern PA County Fairs in July include the Bedford County Fair and the Fayette County Fair,
4. Idlewild and Other Local Amusement Parks
For my family and many others, a trip to Idlewild in the Laurel Highlands is a favorite summer tradition. Repeatedly named the “Top Amusement Park for Young Children in the World,” Idlewild is ideal for families with little kids. Some of my family’s highlights at the park include 1) The Storybook Forest, where your children can explore life-sized replicas of their favorite classic stories and nursery rhymes 2) Raccoon Lagoon with its array of kiddie rides appropriate for small children and 3) SoakZone, a full-sized adjacent Water Park. Idlewild has several special events during the month of July, including a large Independence Day Celebration with Fireworks (July 4), Marvel Super-hero Week (July 7-11), Princesses in the Park (July 14-18), and Christmas in July (July 25). Make sure to pick up discount coupons at Giant Eagle before making the trip!
If you have older children, Kennywood is another fun alternative. During July, Kennywood holds its annual Celebrate America event with nightly fireworks and its Summerfest later in the month.
5. Doo Dah Days: The Stephen Foster Music & Heritage Festival and Other Living History Experiences
Each July, Pittsburgh celebrates Stephen Foster’s birthday at the annual Doo Dah Days Festival at the Allegheny Cemetery in Lawrenceville. This year’s event will be held on July 12th and will feature four folk bands specializing in Stephen Foster-era music, trolley tours of the Allegheny Cemetery, costumed re-enactors, and activities designed to educate attendees about life in pre-industrial Pittsburgh.
Also, if your family particularly enjoys living history experiences like Doo Dah Days, I would suggest checking out Fort Pitt’s Revolutionary Fort Pitt Events on the Fourth of July weekend, Meadowcroft Village’s Independence Day Celebration on July 4th and An American Celebration at Old Economy Village on July 13.
6. The Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix
The Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix roars into Pittsburgh during the second and third weeks of July, bringing the largest vintage sports car racing event in the nation to our city’s streets. The Grand Prix runs from July 11-20 and includes a number of special events, including the Waterfront Car Cruise, the Downtown Parade and Car Cruise, and the well-loved International Car Show and Race Day in Schenley Park. All of these events promise to give your littlest car enthusiasts a close-up view of some of the most impressive vintage wheels on the road.
7. Kid-Friendly Cruises on the Gateway Clipper Fleet
For many families, taking a cruise on the Gateway Clipper Fleet is another time-honored summer tradition. This experience can be a unique, special and surprisingly kid-friendly way to connect with our city’s rivers. During the month of July, the Gateway Clipper Fleet offers many family-friendly cruises, including a Good Ship Lollipop Cruise with an Onboard Pirate Adventure on Saturdays and Sundays, an Ice Cream Social Cruise on Sundays, a Princess Cruise on July 12th, and a Superhero Cruise on July 26. Using the online PROMO Code KIDS114, you can also enjoy the $1 Kid’s Weekend during the July 4th weekend.
8. Summer Corn Roasts at Soergel’s and other Local Farm Fun
Soergel Orchards is one of the largest farms in our region and a favorite outing spot for many families. The Farm offers a variety of child-friendly activities throughout the year, including seasonal festivals, pick-your-own produce excursions, a free weekly storytime, a barn animal petting zoo, and an Old West-themed outdoor play space. This month, they are kicking off their weekly Corn Roast series on July 13th from 11-4pm. Each Sunday until mid-September, they will be roasting the farm’s own sweet corn outdoors, pairing it up with yummy farm food, and running tractor rides for the kids.
For many local farms, July is all about berries. Although the strawberry season is coming to a close, the pick-your-own blueberry and raspberry season is rapidly approaching, likely beginning the first week of the month. Soergels will be offering pick-your-own blueberries, Reilly’s Summer Seat Farm will have pick-your-own raspberries and blueberries, and Triple B Farm will be pairing up their weekend pick-your-own raspberries with a new Pop’s Farmyard program for kids. Please call to confirm pick-your-own berry availability before making the trip because daily crop fluctuations are common.
9. The Pittsburgh Blues Festival
Another favorite annual event in July is the Pittsburgh Blues Festival, running from July 25-27 at Hartwood Acres. The Pittsburgh Blues Festival is the largest fundraiser for the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, raising approximately $2 million to support this organization’s efforts to end food insecurity in Allegheny County. The Pittsburgh Blues Festival features several nationally-known blues bands including the Spin Doctors, Dr. John, and the Ben Miller Band. The event also includes a KidZone, where children can learn about the Food Bank’s mission through creative and educational activities. Other kid-friendly highlights of the event include tethered hot air balloon rides, a Kids Cook Demonstration, and more. Please note: if your family brings a grocery bag full of non-perishable items to donate on Friday evening, you can all get free admission. Also new this year is an official shuttle, bringing festival-goers back and forth to Hartwood Acres from the Waterfront, Bakery Square, and Station Square.
10. Raccoon Creek State Park and Other Regional State Parks
For my family, being active in the outdoors is one of the biggest parts of the month of July. We frequently make the 45-minute drive westward to Raccoon Creek State Park for a whole host of adventures, including tent camping at modern campsites, swimming and picnicking at the sandy Raccoon Lake beach, and short hiking treks. Raccoon Creek State Park also offers boating (and boat rentals), hunting, fishing, equine trails, mountain bike trails, cabins, and rustic camping.
In addition to Raccoon Creek State Park, we also venture northwards to Moraine State Park and McConnell’s Mills State Park. While both of these parks offer hiking, fishing, hunting, boating, and picnicking spots, Moraine also offers a range of overnight accommodations and swimming spots and McConnell’s Mills offers rock climbing and whitewater rafting.
Finally, you can also make the journey eastward to Keystone State Park with its full assortment of overnight accommodations, swimming, boating, and hiking.
If you are looking for some more ideas for outdoor fun in Pittsburgh this month, please check out my recent article, “Top Ten Outdoor Educational Activities for Kids this Summer.”
I hope this article has given you some ideas to shape your family’s adventures this month. Wishing you all a festive Fourth of July and a happy, healthy, and fun July in Pittsburgh!