Goodnight Moon photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

We’re fortunate in Pittsburgh to experience the beauty of all four seasons and October exemplifies the best of autumn. The leaves twirl from the trees, pumpkins are ready to be carved and we can finally enjoy the Halloween candy that has teased us from store shelves since August. This month in our guide to the Top Family Adventures in October, you’ll find superheroes, garden trains, wooden ships, science fun, fall festivities and more. Here’s hoping your Halloween tricks don’t outnumber your treats. Happy fall!

Photo courtesy The Columbus Foundation.

Learn from the past through living history events

In the late 15th century, Christopher Columbus sailed across the Atlantic Ocean with hopes of discovering new lands. While opinions differ about his historical legacy, no one can deny that the opportunity to see replica ships of the Niña and the Pinta is an opportunity not to be missed. From October 1st – October 12th, the Columbus Foundation offers Pittsburghers the chance to step onboard these “floating museums” and learn about the type of ship (called a caravel) Columbus used to log thousands of miles in search of lands new to him.

The Niña vessel on display is generally considered to be the most historically accurate Columbus replica ship ever built. Families can purchase tickets at the dock at Station Square for a self-guided tour of both ships. Highlights include seeing firsthand the design and materials used to craft the ship, educational exhibits about the building of the ship, how it was navigated and the history of the time period when it sailed. For more information about the replica ships, click here.

If your family loves living history events, check out Fort Ligonier Days on October 9th – 11th. This festival commemorates the Battle of Fort Ligonier (fought in 1758), an important engagement during the French and Indian War.

Photo courtesy Feld Entertainment.

See your favorite superheroes at Marvel Universe LIVE!

Who are your children’s favorite superheroes? Chances are very good that at least a few of them will be featured in Marvel Universe LIVE! at Consol Energy Center from October 8th – 11th. With over 25 Marvel characters represented, including Spider Man, Incredible Hulk, Captain America, Iron Man and Black Widow, this live show sets up a classic “good vs evil” theme as heroes battle villains for the powerful Cosmic Cube.

Throughout the show, families can watch the Marvel characters perform all kinds of action-packed aerial stunts, motorcycle stunts and martial arts. A car chase will have kids on the edge of their seats while special effects and pyrotechnics keep the show’s intensity high.

Make the event extra fun for kids—let them wear the costumes of their favorite characters. Find ticket information and showtimes here.

Photo courtesy Maker Faire Pittsburgh.
Photo courtesy Maker Faire Pittsburgh.

Get inspired to create at Maker Faire Pittsburgh

Join crafters, scientists, garage tinkerers, tech enthusiasts and like-minded DIYers at the Maker Faire Pittsburgh on October 10th and 11th. People of all ages and backgrounds are welcome at this family-friendly event highlighting invention, resourcefulness and creativity.

Get ready to learn and be inspired by over 50 tech exhibits, ranging from 3-D printing to robotics, and more than 20 arts and crafts demonstrations including everything from glassmaking to Japanese painting. In between presentations and workshops, there will be time to enjoy a robotic petting zoo, live performances, a bite to eat from the food trucks and a stroll through 30+ vendors selling their creations. Proof that the planners thought of everything? There’s even a designated Quiet Space where Faire-goers can take a break from the sensory-rich activities. Wow!

For more info. about this amazing community event, check out our article about how the Pittsburgh Maker Faire promises to be a game changer.

Photo courtesy Phipps Conservatory.

Interact with the Garden Railroad at Phipps Conservatory

All aboard! The Garden Railroad at Phipps Conservatory is back this year with a whimsical theme that children are going to love. Opening on October 17th in conjunction with the Fall Flower Show, the Garden Railroad will take guests on an imaginative journey through scenes from classic tales such as Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk and The Little Engine That Could.

Thanks to interactive features engineered by staff members, visitors can make the railroad display come alive. For example, kids can push a button and make a crocodile follow Captain Hook’s ship around Neverland Island. Green thumbs will appreciate that all the plants and flowers surrounding the railroad are grown specifically to match the size of the trains and other features.

While the Fall Flower Show will have a limited run through Sunday, November 8th, the Garden Railroad will be on display through February 28th. For hours and admission prices, click here.

Photo courtesy Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium.

Trick-or-treat among the animal exhibits at ZooBoo

Looking for an alternative to neighborhood trick-or-treating? Just want to get more wear out of the Halloween costumes? Head to the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium for its annual ZooBoo weekend events on October 17th and 18th and October 24th and 25th.

Trick-or-treating stations will be set up throughout the zoo for candy giveaway and Halloween-themed games. The animals will join in the fun, too, with pumpkin treats and decorations. The Monster Mash area will have crafts, games, music and dancing.

ZooBoo will feature two family-friendly haunted houses, one run by Gymkhana and the other by zoo volunteers. No worries about little ones getting frightened-these spaces are all about fun. Kids are encouraged to wear a Halloween costume. There will be a parade and costume contest. Please bring your own trick-or-treat bags.

Can’t get enough of celebrating Halloween with animals? Check out the National Aviary’s Owl-o-ween events during October. Don’t forget to wear your costumes and take fun Halloween photos with different birds. Trick-or-Tweet!

Photo courtesy of Venture Outdoors.

Celebrate the season with fall festivities and Halloween activites 

Venture Outdoors is all about getting outside and being active. This fall, Venture Outdoors offers several activities perfect for families who want to combine the beauty of the season with some good exercise. On October 18th, kids can take a discovery walk in North Park and then decorate a pumpkin while munching on yummy snacks. For families who like a little bit of spookiness (but still family-friendly), try the Ghost Stories and Campfire Hike in Moon Park on October 24th. Roasted marshmallows included! Finally, have your younger kids wear their costumes for the Tyke Hikes Halloween Party in Schenley Park on October 31st. Trick-or-treating and crafts will take place after the hike.

Photo courtesy John Altdorfer for Kelly Strayhorn Theater.

If you’re looking for a free fall activity with all the bells and whistles, head to South Park for Allegheny County’s Hay Day Celebration on October 17th. Just like last month’s event at Hartwood Acres, this celebration will include pony rides, bounce houses, crafts, a trackless train, petting zoo, hay rides and more. Food trucks will offer lunch options for purchase. Hay Day is an affordable way for the whole family to welcome the fall season.

For a Halloween event that fits the whole family, try the 7th Annual Halloween Mayhem at Kelly Strayhorn Theater on October 24th. This spooky day of activities includes dance and music performances by local youth groups, a costume parade, puppets, refreshments, photo booth, face painting and activity stations run by community organizations.

Lastly, find even more ways to enjoy the fall season in Kidsburgh’s 10 family-friendly farm adventures in Pittsburgh this fall article.

Experience a family-friendly live theater show or symphony performance

Photo courtesy Wade Massie.

October marks the opening of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s 2015/2016 season of the Citizens Bank Children’s Theater Series. Showcasing imagination, creativity and fun, this family-friendly series features six shows with run times around one hour, making them ideal for introducing young children to theater. Specifically staged for children, the shows often include simple set designs, interactive elements and catchy songs.

This season opens on October 18th with the show, Alexander, Who’s Not Not Not Not Not Not Going to Move, about a boy who doesn’t want to move when his dad gets a new job in another city. The season schedule includes more shows from popular books, including Junie B.’s Essential Survival Guide to School, Big Bad Wolf and the classic Goodnight Moon and Runaway Bunny.

In addition to being affordably priced, these shows travel to multiple locations around the city making it super convenient to attend and usually free to park. Click here for more info about locations, ticket prices and show descriptions.

If you’d like to introduce your children to the symphony, check out the opening show of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra’s Fiddlesticks Family Concert Series presented by Macy’s on October 24th. These three Saturday morning concerts last about 45 minutes and are perfect for children ages 3 to 8. Themes for the shows this season include Sing!, Dance! and Play!.

Photo courtesy Carnegie Science Center.

Have fun learning about chemistry at Carnegie Science Center’s ChemFest

Imagine a cauldron of spooky liquid being stirred by a witch. Could she be a chemist? Sure, but chemistry is not limited to crazy mixtures in laboratory beakers and cauldrons. Find out how chemistry helps us learn about the world at the Carnegie Science Center’s ChemFest, a celebration of National Chemistry Week in partnership with the American Chemical Society.

Free with admission, the Science Center will offer dozens of hands-on demonstrations and exhibits. Professionals from local companies and representatives from area colleges will lead the activities making this a great opportunity for kids to meet people in the field and ask questions. The whole family can learn about the chemistry of fireworks, food, rainbows, natural dyes and more. Plus, your young scientists can experiment with fluorescence, phosphorescence and chemiluminescence. Science rocks!

For a Halloween-themed science activity, try the Creepy Crawly event that’s part of the Super Science Series at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Free with admission, the event on October 24th and 25th will include investigating creepy creatures in the museum, trick-or-treating around the dinosaurs and hearing spooky tales from around the world.

See you back here in November for more family adventures in Pittsburgh!

Looking for adult events? Check out our 11 Pittsburgh events not to miss in October feature.

Looking for live music? Don’t miss our Sound Picks: 10 can’t-miss Pittsburgh concerts in October feature.  

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 of publications including Parents Magazine and Blue Ridge Country. She blogs about Pittsburgh family fun at