Everyone can be an artist when the Roving Art Cart comes to the park. Photo courtesy Citiparks.

Summer is in full swing with long-time favorite July events like the Three Rivers Regatta, the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix and the Butler County Fair. Beyond the big events this month, our top family adventures in July guide also offers creative, old-school ideas for fun. Want to mini-golf your way around the city? Explore public art at a pool party? Make African-inspired crafts to the sound of music from the Congo? You can do all that and more.

Boat racing on the rivers Photo courtesy Three Rivers Regatta

Ride the Ferris wheel at the EQT Pittsburgh Three Rivers Regatta

One of the most exciting places to be over the 4th of July weekend is the 38th annual EQT Pittsburgh Three Rivers Regatta. With a backdrop of Point State Park and a view of Pittsburgh’s three rivers, the event offers tons of fun for the whole family.

There are a variety of thrilling water-themed activities like Formula One power boat racing, Jet Ski stunt shows, a vintage power boat exhibit, Dragon Boat races, the very popular Anything That Floats boat-building competition and a Lighted Boat Parade. Beyond the water, there will be music concerts on five stages, the I Made It! Market on the Roberto Clemente Bridge, living history presentations at the Fort Pitt Museum, the Muttley Crew Flying Dog Show and stunt performances by the Monster Energy BMX Team.

New this year is the Wheel of Lights, a huge Ferris wheel standing about 90 feet tall with 16 multi-passenger carriages. At night, the Ferris wheel becomes nothing short of magical as 12 different patterns of LED lights are choreographed to music. The SandSational Sand Sculpting returns to wow crowds as 150 tons of sand is transformed into a vision of Pittsburgh Steelworkers.

In the Cool Off Kids Zone, there will be a man-made beach where kids can build their own sandcastles plus the Carnegie Science Center and Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh will lead water-themed crafts and activities like the Fire & Ice Show and the Anything That Floats: Kids Edition. On Independence Day, don’t miss the U.S. Air Force Heritage of America Band perform as the sun sets then prepare for the amazing EQT Flashes of Freedom Fireworks, considered by many to be one of the best fireworks shows in the country.

Celebrate a small-town Independence Day with a parade. Photo courtesy Midland 4th of July.

Celebrate a small-town Independence Day

Now in its 37th year, the Midland 4th of July in Beaver County is cherished by local residents and visitors alike. In addition to live music and a car show, this celebration features a parade with floats, marching bands, tractors, Uncle Sam on stilts, horses and fire trucks. Kids will love riding the small carnival rides and watching the fireworks that end the celebration with a bang.

If you enjoy living history, then try out the Meadowcroft Independence Day Celebration in Washington County. Meadowcroft is a National Historic Landmark which features a variety of ways to learn about how people lived over the past 500 years. Like a living history time machine, the site is home to a 16th-century Indian village, an 18th-century Frontier Trading Post and a 19th-century village. Highlights include historical demonstrations, a pie eating contest and a reading of the Declaration of Independence.

Head north of the city in Butler County to celebrate in Zelienople. This quaint little town will host a 4th of July parade where it’s not uncommon to see unicycles, horses and go-karts following behind more traditional parade staples like marching bands. Enjoy food, games and inflatables in the town’s community park after the parade. There will be free swimming all day at the park pool, also the site of the annual Derby Duck Race. Zambelli fireworks cap off the night but the party continues on July 5 with the Lewis & Clark Circus.

Enjoy carnival rides, games and more at a county fair. Photo courtesy Big Butler County Fair.

See a tractor pull and pet farm animals at the Big Butler County Fair

Thousands of people come from all over to enjoy the incredible slate of attractions at the Big Butler Fair, which is celebrating its 160th year. From July 3-11, families can enjoy anything from carnival rides, concerts and midway games to tractor pulls, bull riding and amazing 4th of July fireworks.

Highlights of the fair this year include the Gator Boys Road Show, which will entertain the crowd with a wide variety of reptiles like rattlesnakes and alligators. While petting the alligators isn’t the best idea, children are encouraged to enter the Petting Zoo where they can interact with goats, rabbits, pigs and more. Another activity for little animal lovers is the Agricadabra “Magic of Agriculture” Show, a 25-minute, highly interactive opportunity for kids to learn about agriculture through the lens of healthy eating, science and recycling.

Aside from eating fair food, playing games and enjoying carnival rides, here are some other entertaining family-friendly events to check out: chainsaw wood carving, a school bus demolition derby, square dancing in the barn, an antique car cruise, camel rides and  much more.

Here are some more county fairs to check out during the summer: Westmoreland, Bedford, Fayette, Washington, Somerset and Stoneboro.

Enjoy 30+ flavors of ice cream at the DreamOn Music & Ice Cream Festival in Market Square. Photo courtesy DreamOn Festival.

Play and learn with the whole family in Market Square

The fun is nonstop this summer downtown in Market Square. First up is the DreamOn Music and Ice Cream Festival from July 3-5, which offers a perfect warm weather combo: 30 ice cream flavors, 15 live music acts and three DJs. The free festival features face painting, a photo booth and the satisfaction that your ice cream purchases will support the development of business and leadership skills in local youth.

If you have preschool-age children, then bring them to the free KidsPlay weekly programming on Tuesdays. Throughout July and August children can participate in a wonderful variety of activities that will keep them moving and learning. Highlights this month include kids’ yoga, robotics fun, creative movement, musical theater with the Pittsburgh CLO Academy, crafts with Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh and a visit from Santa. Christmas in July? Sure!

And don’t forget the Summer Concert Series which promises live music each Wednesday at noon or pick up some fresh produce at the Farmers Market on Thursdays.

Enjoying opera just for kids at Opera Theater of Pittsburgh. Photo courtesy Kaitlyn Clem.

Encourage an appreciation of classical performing arts

July marks the beginning of Opera Theater of Pittsburgh’s SummerFest, which will offer a children’s opera called the True Story of the Three Little Pigs. With a kid-friendly 40-minute running time (no intermission) and post-show activities, this event provides a perfect opportunity to introduce your children to opera. The performance space is casual and the songs are sung in English making it easy for kids to follow along. Tickets are very affordable at $5 per child and $10 per adult with discounts for groups of 8 or more. Shows are held Saturday mornings on July 11, 18 and 25 and on August 1.

This month also offers a variety of opportunities to enjoy the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, including free performances at Hartwood Acres and South Park. On July 11, the Symphony will host a new event called Classical BBQ that has been thoughtfully planned as a family-friendly evening of music with relaxed house rules. After some delicious food in the Heinz Hall Summer Garden, the Symphony will give a casual performance for about an hour where patrons are free to come and go as needed. Drinks are allowed inside, too. Have a child interested in studying music? After the concert, musicians from the orchestra will be on hand to mingle and answer questions. Tickets are general admission and $30 per person covers the concert, food and musical entertainment in the garden before and after the show.

Everyone can be an artist when the Roving Art Cart comes to the park. Photo courtesy Citiparks.

Swim, play, walk and bike to discover public art outside

From walking tours and whimsical art houses to pool parties and roving art carts, Pittsburgh has a variety of creative ways to explore art. Best part for families? Most of these options are free!

First, on July 25 from 3 to 6 p.m., the Office of Public Art will host a pool party in Brighton Heights at the Jack Stack Pool, home to the abstract marine animal sculpture called Aquarius by Anthony Vitale. The purpose of the event is to encourage people to recognize and appreciate the art all around them. The event is free and so are the snacks. Can’t make it in July? There will be another art pool party at the Highland Park Pool on August 15.

Other events hosted by the Office of Public Art include bike tours in the city and walking tours. You can download free, self-guided walking tours of Oakland, the Cultural District and Grant St. if you want to venture out on your own. One of the best walking tours for families is found in the Northside Guide because it includes a lot of art concentrated around the Children’s Museum.

If you want to create art yourself, go to the playground! Throughout July, the Citiparks Roving Art Cart will visit local playgrounds around the city to lead creative activities. While geared toward kids ages 5-12, the activities can work for younger kids with the help of a caretaker. Inspiration for projects comes from famous artists like Warhol and Matisse and art materials are varied. Feeling lucky? On some days, the Art Cart features entertainment and special guest artists!

Lastly, check out our 7 best places to see street art for even more ideas for exploring art outside.

Learn about ecology at the Tropical Forest Congo Festival. Photo courtesy Paul G. Wiegman.

Learn about ecology and African culture at the Tropical Forest Congo Festival

Celebrate with Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens on July 11 at the Tropical Forest Congo Festival. The event will offer a variety of activities (all free with general admission) that will be a delight for your senses. Café Phipps will have tropical fruit tastings while Duquesne University School of Music will provide Congo-inspired entertainment. An ecology education station will get you up close and personal with plants from the Congo.

Children will especially enjoy the hands-on African-themed crafts and the opportunity to pot their own plants to take home. For any budding botanists in the family, the festival will feature an inside look at how and why Phipps supports plant research. Don’t miss the presentation at 1:30 p.m. about the medicinal uses of plants from the African rainforest.

Cheer on the racecars at the Vintage Grand Prix. Photo courtesy Eddie Edwards.

Cheer on race cars at the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix

The 33rd annual Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix is a must-see for kids who love cars and trucks. Cheer on the vintage cars as they race through the streets of Schenley Park or walk through a dizzying display of over 2,000 vehicles on display at the International Car Show.

For the past 10 years, the Neighborhood Ford Store has sponsored a Kid’s Pit Stop tent offering free activities, including the 6th annual Ford Junior Grand Prix where kids build a race car out of interlocking building bricks and race their creation against others to be crowned champion. There will be an EcoBoost Wheel to spin for prizes and a photo booth where kids can get a customized postcard of themselves with their favorite Ford vehicle. New this year is an educational interactive nutrition game and a chance for kids to make smoothies in a blender by pedaling a bicycle. Work up an appetite? Food vendors will be there to serve you. Check the website for best places to watch the races and info about parking and shuttles.

Get a hole-in-one at mini golf spots around the city. Photo courtesy Jim Cichra.

Mini golf your way around Pittsburgh

Do you remember the feeling of getting a hole-in-one? The joy of sinking a putt never gets old and, thankfully, good mini golf spots can be found all around the city and each offers something unique.

RMU Island Rapids Miniature Golf on Neville Island is set along the Ohio River, with nice sunset views and the sounds of trains traveling by in the background. On Monday, it’s “Buy 1 Round/Get 1 Free” and kids will love to go on Wednesdays when everyone gets free ice cream after a round of play. Speaking of sweet treats, The Windmill in Aliquippa offers both ice cream and an 18-hole mini golf course. Make sure to visit in the fall, too, when the course becomes haunted with spooky Halloween decorations.

Two of the area’s oldest mini golf courses are north of the city and they still offer tons of nostalgic charm. Since 1930, Kneiss’ Miniature Golf has hosted generations of Pittsburghers to its two 18-hole courses. Highlights include trying to putt through bumper cars, a miniature wooden Ferris wheel and all sorts of quirky decorations. A hole-in-one on the 18th hole still earns you a free game. North Park Miniature Golf, now in its 54th year, is home to a small, naturally-landscaped 18-hole course that challenges guests to putt through a miniature church and get a ball past the blades of a rotating windmill.

Par 2 Golf in Monroeville has three, 18-hole courses with fun features like waterfalls, a lighthouse and a big giraffe (and an elephant, too) looking over all who play. One of the newly carpeted courses is handicapped-accessible and every day Par 2 offers a “Buy 2 Rounds, Get 1 Free” deal, which allows the third round to be played on another outing with no expiration date.

At Family Funscape in Elizabeth, the Copperhead Canyon course has a 12-foot waterfall that splashes down around natural rocks, many filled with fossils waiting to be spotted by little archaeologists. This Christian faith-based business shares inspirational scriptures on little signs throughout the course and if guests bring a church bulletin from within the past seven days, they can get $1 off the regular rate.

Which spot will be your favorite? Here are some other locations worth checking out on your mini golf tour around the city: Sunset Mini Golf, Scally’s Golf Center,Wildwood Highlands and Cool Springs Sports Complex.

Celebrate all things pickle related at the first ever Picklesburgh. Photo courtesy Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership.

Try pickle flavored ice cream and popcorn at Picklesburgh

If you really love pickles, we suggest two quirky things: one, visit the Heinz History Center where you can view a jar of 160-year-old pickles and the first iconic Heinz pickle pin from the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago; two, get your photo taken with the giant Heinz pickle balloon at Picklesburgh on July 17-18. Organized by the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, the festival will take over the Rachel Carson Bridge to celebrate, you guessed it, all things pickles.

With the help of local vendors and restaurants, the festival will feature an array of pickle-themed merchandise and foods such as sauerkraut pierogies, pickled ginger, corned beef, and sauerbraten. You’ll want to try the pickled-flavored ice cream just to say you did and maybe even a deep-fried pickle, too. Whole Foods Market will host a demonstration area where festival-goers can learn about canning, pickling and cooking with pickles. A music stage will feature ongoing live performances and there will be a children’s area with activities for even the youngest pickle-lovers. What about a pickle juice drinking contest? Yes, it will happen.

Hey, it’s okay if pickle festivals aren’t your thing. Check out the Greek Food Festival Guide and try Greek food at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Ambridge July 14-18. What about Ukrainian food? The St. Mary’s Ukie Fest on July 22-25 is a good bet. And if your family just likes to keep it simple with a good summer corn roast, then head to Soergel Orchards any Sunday during the summer starting July 19.

Experience a musical trolley ride through Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. Photo courtesy Idlewild.
Experience a musical trolley ride through Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. Photo courtesy Idlewild.

Spend a fun-filled day at an amusement park

Are your kids big fans of the PBS animated preschool series, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood? If so, they will love the trolley ride through his neighborhood at Idlewild. New at the park this year, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood ride takes families through the Neighborhood of Make-Believe to visit with Daniel Tiger and his friends from the show. In addition to the trolley ride, guests can enjoy a musical stage show called Daniel’s Grr-ific Day which features Daniel Tiger and Katerina Kittykat. Kids can meet with the characters after each show. Idlewild plans to roll out a new event called “Daniel Tiger’s Neighbor Days” next month.

Other special events at Idlewild this month include Marvel Super Hero Days (photos with Spider-Man and Captain America, anyone?), Christmas in July and Princesses in the Park.

Have your big kids tried Kennywood’s newest ride, the Black Widow? The pendulum motion swings riders up to a height of 146 feet, providing a unique view of the whole park. Even if that ride isn’t for you, perennial park favorites like the Jack Rabbit and the Racer still provide plenty of thrills. If you love Italian food and entertainment, plan to visit Kennywood on July 12 when the park celebrates Italian heritage in Western Pennsylvania. The Summerfest Parade closes out the month on July 31.

For amusement park thrills with a local carnival feel, try the St. Sebastian Parish Festival and Flea Market from July 6 to 11. And, for even the youngest kids, don’t forget about the PNC Park Carousel in Schenley Plaza. Which animal on the carousel is your child’s favorite? We love the Eagle and the Sea Dragon.

Want even more ideas for fun in July?

Family Fishing Derby: July 4

Western Pennsylvania Balloon Quest: July 15-18

Be a Diver Tour at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium: July 17-19 (for kids age 10+)

The 21st Annual Blues Festival: July 24-26

Looking for adult events? Top 10 Pittsburgh Events Not To Miss in July

Looking for music events? Sound Picks: 10 can’t-miss Pittsburgh concerts in July

Mandy Yokim

Mandy moved to Pittsburgh for grad school and fell in love with the city. She is contributing editor of Ultimate Pittsburgh Trivia and Bridges of Pittsburgh. Her freelance work has appeared in a variety...