September is a live-life-to-its-fullest kind of month, hanging onto every last bit of summertime fun while welcoming in the fall season like a champ. This “Top Family Adventures Guide” embodies the spirit of September by offering suggestions that will have you savoring the last, gorgeous days of summer and looking forward to all of your favorite fall festivities. From the Alphabet Trail and Tales to the Junior Great Race and apple picking at local farms, Pittsburgh in September is simply lovely.

Pick your own apples in local orchards

Apple picking is a fun family activity. Photo courtesy Sue Beinlich.

While an apple a day may not always keep the doctor away, it will keep your taste buds happy. Fortunately, several farms around the city open up their orchards for pick-your-own apples starting in early September.

Triple B Farms is one good option, located south of the city in Monongahela, PA. Each Saturday and Sunday, starting around Labor Day, families can walk through the orchard and pick fresh Gala and Honeycrisp apples, with more varieties ripening throughout the fall. The farm offers three different sized bags for filling. In addition to apple picking, kids can roam around Pop’s Farmyard to see the animals, play on the slides, observe bees in action and more. During the first three weekends of the month, the farm is having a family picnic special: for $70, a family of four can pick half a bushel of apples, get passes to Pop’s Farmyard, a Triple B picnic blanket and lunch. Reservations required by calling 724-258-3557.

Other local orchards for apple picking include Simmons Farm, Norman’s Orchard and Half Crown Hill Orchard. Make sure to call ahead for availability.

Families of a feather, flock together at the National Aviary. Photo courtesy of Denmarsh Photography.

Honor grandparents with a special outing to the National Aviary

September 13th is Grandparents Day and the National Aviary has planned special activities over that weekend to help you celebrate. Bring the extended family to the Aviary’s Grandparents and Grand Birds event from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. when intergenerational games, crafts and activities are included with the price of admission. Visitors can learn about the grand birds at the Aviary and take some unique family photos with grandparents, too.

In the Rose Garden on Sunday, for an extra fee, your family can enjoy a delicious Grandparents’ Day Brunch prepared by Atria’s. Children’s activities are planned as well as meet-and-greets with some of the Aviary’s grand birds. There will be seatings at 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Reservations are required by calling 412-258-9445.

Looking for other ways to spend time with grandparents this month? Try the Pittsburgh Zoo on September 13th. When visiting with a grandchild, grandparents receive free admission, tram rides and one free coffee or tea. If you haven’t seen the new Islands exhibit, you’re in for a treat!

Interactive storytelling sessions at Alphabet Trail & Tales. Photo courtesy Citiparks.

Have fun learning outside at Alphabet Trail and Tales

Have preschool or elementary-age children? If so, the annual Alphabet Trail and Tales literacy event presented by Citiparks is a not-to-miss event this month. Truly, one of my favorite Pittsburgh events as a parent.

On September 12th from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., the Frick Park Blue Slide Playground comes alive with gigantic letters and interactive story sets from beloved children’s books. From A to Z, families can follow the half-mile Alphabet Trail to participate in educational games and interactive crafts offered by local kid-friendly organizations. Along the way, you can enjoy live music, storytelling and theater performances, a petting zoo, a puppet parade and even some kite flying and coconut bowling.

The best part about this event is that the kids learn to associate reading with happiness and fun, not even aware that the goal of the event is to inspire them to become lifelong readers. Plus, it’s free!

Bonus tip: take lots of pictures. The hand-painted story sets and big letters make really cool photo opps that will capture special memories of the day.

Irish dance performances are scheduled throughout the weekend. Photo courtesy Pittsburgh Irish Festival.

Celebrate ethnic culture at various festivals and events throughout the city

Want to explore Pittsburgh’s ethnic culture this month? From food and dance to music and games, September offers up several events that will have you globe-trotting without leaving the city.

First, explore Greek culture at Holy Trinity’s Taste of Greece Festival, a Pittsburgh tradition for over 40 years. A wide variety of tasty food options will be available for purchase but it’s free to enter and enjoy the daily music and dancing. Next stop on the travel itinerary is the Pittsburgh Irish Festival, which offers an engaging area just for kids plus everything from food and entertainment to Irish dogs, dolls and Blarney Bingo.

New options this year include the Chinese Cultural Festival in Oakland and free Bhangra dance lessons as part of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s India In Focus programming. Lessons are free and open to all ages but registration is required.

Finally, you can explore German culture at the 17th Annual Pennsylvania Bavarian Oktoberfest in Canonsburg, try some Eastern European food at the Ukrainian Food Festival in Carnegie or learn about Japanese art with guest artist Fujyo Kato at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh.

Storytelling in the Children’s Tent. Photo courtesy Beaver County BookFest.
Storytelling in the Children’s Tent. Photo courtesy Beaver County BookFest.

Get excited about reading at the Beaver County BookFest

Celebrate reading, writing and the arts at the Beaver County BookFest. Meeting writers in person can be inspiring for kids and, lucky for them, over 50 authors will be on hand to sell and sign books. Best part for families? The engaging, interactive Children’s Tent. This year the theme for the children’s area is Fractured Fairy Tales, where familiar stories are reimagined through crafts, theater and reading activities.

Kids can also join in a yoga class, build castles in the sandbox and participate in a drumming session. Food vendors will offer a big selection of fair foods if you get hungry. Don’t leave without getting a balloon animal and having your face painted! BookFest will be held on Saturday, September 12th from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and admission is free. It’s worth the trip!

Photo courtesy Chatham Baroque.

Interact with musicians at the Chatham Baroque Peanut Butter and Jam Sessions

Chatham Baroque’s lively 17th – and 18th century music is perfect for … preschoolers? That’s right, this month the musical ensemble opens the 2015/2016 season of Peanut Butter and Jam Sessions, which are highly interactive opportunities for young children to explore music.

Each month from September to April, preschoolers with an accompanying adult can enjoy an informal concert where moving around is totally acceptable and encouraged. Led by a certified Kindermusik instructor, children will learn about baroque music through dance, games and hands-on activities. They might even be able to pluck the strings on an instrument.

Peanut Butter and Jam Sessions are held at Calvary Episcopal Church in Shadyside once a month on Saturday mornings at 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. Tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for children.

And, they’re off at the Junior Great Race. Photo courtesy Citiparks.
And, they’re off at the Junior Great Race. Photo courtesy Citiparks.

Race through Point State Park at the Dollar Bank Junior Great Race

While runners will hit the streets for the Richard S. Caliguiri City of Pittsburgh Great Race on September 27th, kids 12 and under get their turn in the Dollar Bank Junior Great Race on Saturday, September 19th.

What a fun event for families to be active together! The race offers three options and all are $10 per child. Parents do not need to register to run with their children. The Family Fun Run (consisting of a one-mile course in Point State Park) is for kids ages 5-12. The Tot Trot (a 50-yard walled chute just for them) is for kids four and younger. Lastly, the Diaper Dash, using protective mats, is for the youngest runners who really just crawl.

All participants will receive a medal and souvenir photo, a hot dog and a Smiley Cookie. Local mascots will cheer runners to the finish line and festivities at Point State Park will include inflatables, face painting, crafts, entertainment and food vendors. Registration deadline is September 16th. The Family Fun Run starts at 12 p.m. and the other races start at 12:15 p.m.

Enjoying the Frick Art Museum for free on a RADical Day. Photo courtesy Frick Art & Historical Center.

Explore Pittsburgh’s cultural treasures for free on RADical Days

Beginning on September 19th, over 50 of Pittsburgh’s regional attractions will offer free admission on select days. As a “thank you” to Allegheny County residents and visitors for their tax dollar support, the Allegheny Regional Asset District partners with regional organizations to host RADical Days.

In addition to free admission days at places like the Children’s Museum, the Pittsburgh Zoo and Phipps Conservatory, RADical Days also offers musical concerts, theater performances and other special activities. This initiative provides a wonderful opportunity for Pittsburghers to explore the county’s cultural assets at no cost. New this year will be a Pittsburgh Musical Theater Community Day and a greater collaboration with the county’s network of libraries. Click for the full RADical Days schedule.

Connect with the past through living history events

Roasting squash over the fire during a cooking demonstration. Photo courtesy Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village.

If your family enjoys learning about Pittsburgh’s history, try any one of these living history events this month for a realistic look back in time.

First, Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village will host its annual American Indian Heritage Weekend on September 26th and 27th. Through reenactments and demonstrations, visitors will learn about a variety of Native American life skills including cooking, fishing, trapping, skinning and tanning hides and making wampum. There will also be demonstrations of European settler skills such as blacksmithing and hornsmithing. All activities are included with the price of admission.

Other living history options this month include Autumn Fest at Old Economy Village, the Penn’s Colony Festival, Pittsburgh Botanic Garden’s Pioneer Day, the Pittsburgh Renaissance Festival and the Annual Pow Wow hosted by the Council of Three Rivers American Indian Center .

Enjoying the animals at the petting zoo during the Hay Day Celebration. Photo courtesy Allegheny County.

Kick off the fall season at Allegheny County’s Hay Day Celebration

Lastly, we couldn’t conclude this list without mentioning the Allegheny County Hay Day Celebration on September 26th at Hartwood Acres. Best part about this fabulous fall event? All activities are free! Come rain or shine to enjoy pony rides, hay rides, bounce houses, crafts, a trackless train, petting zoo and more. Food trucks will have lunch for purchase. Hay Day is an affordable way for the whole family to welcome the fall season.

Can’t make it to Hartwood Acres on September 26th? Try joining in a repeat of all the fun at South Park on October 17th.

Face painting at Pirates of the Mon. Photo courtesy Shawn Hopkins Photography.

Still want more ideas for September? Check out these events:

Tour the USS LST-325 Ship Memorial

See Pirates on the Mon by Gemini Children’s Theater

Support a local charity at the Great American Water Balloon Fight

Participate in a Children’s Festival Theater Workshop

Practice teamwork at Family Game Night at the Zoo: Princesses & Pirates

Looking for adult events? Check out our Top 12 Pittsburgh events not to miss in September feature.

Looking for live music? Don’t miss our Sound Picks: 11 can’t-miss Pittsburgh concerts in September 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...