June kicks off the dreamy days of summer when the city is filled to the brim with adventure-worthy things to do and places to explore. This month, in addition to highlighting some amazing singular events, we created this Top Family Adventures as a guide you can refer to again and again as you plan your summer.
Want some ideas for exploring the city with fresh eyes like a tourist would? We have them. Want some ideas for finding outdoor music, movies, frozen treats, strawberry festivals and creative ways to get wet? Everywhere you turn this month, there’s something exciting going on. Enjoy!
Experience free music and art at the Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival
The Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival is a Pittsburgh treasure, exemplifying the city’s commitment to celebrating both the visual and performing arts. Best part? It’s all free! From June 5-14, the festival will feature events and activities in three downtown locations: Point State Park, the Cultural District and Gateway Center. It’s helpful to download a daily schedule of events and a festival map since there’s so much going on.
Start with the Giant Eagle Creativity Zone where local art and outreach organizations will set up hands-on activities and demonstrations. This year, to honor the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, activities will help educate visitors about deafness and sign language, including a performance by student group Signshine from the Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf. Other Creativity Zone highlights: The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh will lead a huge, collaborative art mural project, the Pittsburgh Glass Center will do glassworking demos and the Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse will help families make art out of materials like old CDs, bottlecaps and fabric scraps.
Other cool events for families include: a Hip Hop Yoga class, a breakdancing exhibition by Hidden Characters and The Get Down Gang, a 3D printing demo at the CREATE Festival (an art/tech festival that’s part of the main festival), the Miniature Marina, where kids can set wooden sailboats adrift on a transformed water fountain in One Gateway Center, and, if your kids love drums, the midday show by Caribbean Vibes Steelband.
Beat the summer heat with delicious frozen treats
Celebrating the beginning of summer with a cold, sweet treat is a fun way to welcome the season. (Each year on the summer solstice, my kids and I eat our dessert first.) If ice cream is your frozen treat of choice, look through our listing of some of the best ice cream spots around the city.
If you prefer your summer treats with a side of Pittsburgh tradition, then a flavored icy ball from Gus and Yia Yia is your best bet. At this small treat stand on West Ohio Street by the tennis courts in the city’s Northside neighborhood, Gus Kalaris and his wife Stella (known best by her Greek nickname of Yia Yia) have been offering up hand-shaved icy balls with a wide choice of flavors to generations of Pittsburghers and visitors. Gus has owned the stand since he was a young 18-year-old in 1951. This iconic Pittsburgh spot was featured in Rick Sebak’s North Side Story, and, back in 2012, the Pittsburgh City Council even proclaimed April 25 “Gus and Yia Yia Day.” It’s totally worth the trip.
Speaking of trips, if your family is game for a little summer car ride up I-79 North, then you can experience one of the area’s newest and most whimsical options for frozen treats. The Snowman in Portersville, a shaved ice stand in the shape of a giant, smiling snowman, is about a 40-minute drive from downtown Pittsburgh. Try the Yeti which is a mix of flavored shaved ice and ice cream topped with whipped cream. The whole family can fit on the swing that overlooks the horse pasture. And when you’re done with your treat, spend an afternoon at McConnells Mill State Park or Moraine State Park just a short drive away.
Celebrate literacy at the 15th Annual Summer Reading Extravaganza
Even though most schools wrap up in June, studies show that it’s smart to keep kids reading throughout the summer. On June 7, the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh kicks off its summer reading programs in a big way with the 15th Annual Summer Reading Extravaganza.