October brings my favorite time of year in Pittsburgh–fall! As the weather cools and the trees change, there’s an unmistakable energy in the air. On the home front, I start decorating, cooking comfort foods and getting crafty. Citywide, the museums, farms and parks celebrate the season with a variety of special events for kids. To guide your family’s adventures over the next month, here’s my Top Ten Family Adventures this October in Pittsburgh.
I start this guide with a selection of fall-themed activities to share with your kids.
Taking a Hayride to the Pumpkin Patch at Shenot Farms
No October would be complete without a hayride to the pumpkin patch to choose this year’s jack-o-lantern candidates. We usually visit Shenot Farm and Market in Wexford for our annual pumpkin patch trip for a few reasons. First, it’s small and has been owned by the same local family since 1854. It is also one of the only farms in the region that offers FREE hayrides. You just hop onto their tractor, munch on a free apple and take the scenic ride to their large pumpkin patch and its adjacent free corn maze. Last year, we even brought our own picnic and ate it in the shade of an adjacent orchard. As co-owner Mary Lou Shenot says, “Everybody that comes to Shenot once, comes back again every single year.” I would definitely agree.
A Trip to the Fall Festival at Triple B Farms
Triple B Farms in the South Hills hosts another well-loved fall adventure each October–its Pittsburgh’s Finest Family Pumpkin and Apple Festival. If you only have the chance to do one “fall-style” outing, I would highly suggest visiting Triple B Farms. You can pick apples, take a hayride to the pumpkin patch, explore a corn maze and even visit a mildly scary Big Blue Boo Barn.
Plus, Triple B’s has Pumpkinland! What began as a couple quirky pumpkin-headed characters around the farm store, has evolved into the wonderland known as “Storybook Pumpkinland.” It houses nearly 350 pumpkin-headed characters from well-known nursery rhymes, Disney movies and TV shows.
Taking a Fall Nature Hike at “Bump in the Night” in Frick Park
Each October, my kids love exploring the forest as it busily prepares for the coming winter. This month, the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy will offer a chance for families to both get into nature and celebrate Halloween at its Bump in the Night event in Frick Park on October 10-11th and 17-18th from 7-9pm. Families can take a guided nature hike through Lower Frick Park, see and learn about nocturnal creatures, carve a pumpkin, participate in a sing-along and more. Please note: this event is geared toward children 3 and over and advance registration is strongly recommended.
Also, another great Halloween-themed, outdoorsy adventure this month is Creatures of the Night on October 24-25th at Beechwood Farms in Fox Chapel. Led by naturalists in firefly costumes, families can take a short nighttime nature hike, hear stories from a larger-than-life Great Horned Owl and find other costumed nocturnal creatures along the trail. There are also fall-themed crafts and refreshments to enjoy.
Exploring the Fleeting Fall Flower Show at Phipps
The Fall Flower Show at Phipps Conservatory is always a breathtaking, but fleeting, way to experience the beauty of the season in Pittsburgh. This year’s show opens on October 18th and runs only until November 9th. It will feature chrysanthemums in shades of yellow, red, purple, orange and green intermingled with model train displays celebrating the “Gold Rush” era of American history. The show will also highlight bees and honey with hands-on activities for children.
Phipps’ annual “Halloween Happenings” is an extra special evening to explore the Fall Flower Show. At this event, kids are encouraged to come in costume and go trick-or-treating for healthy snacks throughout the Conservatory. This year’s “Halloween Happenings” is on October 24th from 4-8pm.
Trick-or-Treating with the Animals at Zoo Boo
Eat N’Park Zoo Boo at the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium is another great way to get your money’s worth for your kids’ Halloween costumes and see some cool animals, including the four new cheetahs that joined the Zoo family this July. The event features trick-or-treating throughout the Zoo, crafts, a costume parade and contest and the mildly scary Docent Haunted House and Gymkhana Haunted Hideaway. There will even be a scuba diver carving a pumpkin underwater! Zoo Boo runs on October 18-19th and October 25th-26th from 11-4pm.
Visiting the Haunted Hundred Acres Manor
For those parents with older children, I also wanted to mention a “big kids” Halloween activity this month. Each year, South Park hosts the frightening Hundred Acres Manor, the region’s largest haunted house and allegedly one of its best. The manor has six haunted attractions, including a “Dead Lift” plummeting elevator, a 7500 square-foot maze, a “Brine Slaughterhouse,” a”Torture Tank,” and a terrifying fall-out shelter known as “The Family Unearthed.” Hundred Acres Manor has received rave reviews from industry giants, including Haunt World Magazine and Top Haunts Magazine. Even the Travel Channel called it “one of America’s scariest Halloween attractions.”
My favorite part about Hundred Acres Manor? It’s actually a nonprofit. To date, it has raised over one million dollars for Animal Friends and the Homeless Children’s Education Fund. Tickets to Hundred Acres Manor start at $18 and I would highly recommend buying in advance to skip the general admission line. Also, if you’re feeling really brave, you can spend a little extra for a Zombie Paintball experience.
Celebrating Fall with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra at Fiddlesticks
This month, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra kicks of the 22nd season of its kid-friendly Fiddlesticks concert series with its production of Fall Festival on October 18th at Heinz Hall. The concert will feature fall and Halloween-themed musical selections, including the well-loved “Harry’s Wondrous World” from Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone. The show will also debut Fawzi Halmor as the new conductor.
We particularly love the Fiddlesticks concert series because of the pre-concert “Discovery Time Adventures” for kids from 10-11am. During this special time, families can visit with the Orchestra’s musicians as they give instrument demonstrations throughout Heinz Hall. Kids can also participate in interactive games, do a craft activity and practice their dance moves with the friendly folk from City Music Center. Another special happening at this particular concert–Baron Batch will be doing a live painting of Fiddlesticks. For more information on Baron Batch, please see NEXTpittsburgh‘s recent article on this former Steeler turned creative maven.
Fiddlesticks concerts run 45 minutes with no intermission. Tickets start at $12. There are also a limited number of discounted or free tickets for families who can’t swing this price. If you would like more information on upcoming Fiddlesticks shows or season tickets purchases, click here.
Also, the month of October brings some other non-Fall themed special events that also promise a great time:
Catching the first show of the Pittsburgh International Children’s Theater’s Season
The Pittsburgh International Children’s Theater‘s season also begins this month with Theaterworks USA‘s production of the musical, SkippyJon Jones, running from October 19 to the 26th. The show is based on the well-loved book by Judy Schachner about an imaginative little kitten with big ears and bigger dreams. Although I haven’t seen this particular production before, I’ve never been disappointed by the Pittsburgh International Children’s Theater and look forward to seeing this month’s performance.
Started by a small group of South Hills parents in the 1960’s, the Pittsburgh International Children’s Theater has grown into one of the city’s most valuable cultural assets. The Theater’s vision for itself has always been rooted in accessibility. Tickets are quite affordable at only $9.50 in advance and $11 at the door. Discounted season tickets are available. Also, the Theater has a very unique “traveling” model. Each of this season’s productions begin at the Byham Theater in Downtown Pittsburgh. The troupe then spends the next week traveling in all directions into the suburbs for the remaining productions.
Check out the rest of the Pittsburgh International Children’s Theater‘s schedule for this year here.
Exploring the New BOUNCE exhibit at the Children’s Museum
The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh will launch its new special exhibit “BOUNCE! Inspired by the World’s Most Amazing Ball” on October 11th. This exhibit is a celebration of the original Super Ball, created by chemist, Norman Stingley, in 1965. Known as the “bounciest of balls,” the SuperBall has entertained generations of children with its unique qualities.
The exhibit is a very cool partnership with Henry Simonds, a Pittsburgh-born artist and collector, whose fascination with the Super Ball began during his own childhood. As an adult, he has been inspired to explore the aesthetics, physics and historical context of the ball through his many artistic pursuits. He connected with the folks from the Children’s Museum during his Super Ball gallery show at the Mine Factory last winter and the exhibit grew from there. As Henry says, “When you take something like the Super Ball, which you can buy for 25 cents at the grocery store, and you elevate it in a way that makes people think about it more deeply–you give them an opportunity to appreciate it in a very special way.”
The BOUNCE exhibit will include a gallery space showcasing Henry’s 2-D art work, videos and Superball memorabilia. It will also include a “Laboratory,” where children can explore the behavior and properties of the ball through custom-made interactives and a “Testing and Play Area” where kids can get their hands on “the coolest ball ever.” BOUNCE will be at the Children’s Museum until March.
Celebrating Oakland’s 175th Anniversary at Oakland Forever
One of my favorite Pittsburgh pastimes is exploring its many neighborhoods–each with their own distinctive personalities and interesting quirks. This month, one of my favorite parts of town will celebrate a very special landmark–the 175th Anniversary of Oakland at the family-friendly Oakland Forever on October 10-11th.
This community-driven event came to fruition thanks to the passion of the Oakland Task Force, a unique partnership of community members, institutions, organizations, businesses and public agencies working together to improve this Pittsburgh neighborhood. Oakland Forever celebrates the history, culture and diversity of the area with neighborhood tours, musical performances, exhibitions, retrospectives, discussions and children’s programming. The event has several kid-friendly highlights, including free admission at the Carnegie Museums of Natural History and Art, free guided tours of the Cathedral of Learning, performances by the Squonk Opera and much more.
I hope you enjoy this most beautiful month of October in Pittsburgh! We’ll see you back here in November as the city grows colder and the fun moves indoors.
Also, please be sure to check our Events section regularly for other family-friendly events around town.