Where did the summer go? There are just a few more weeks before school bus pickups and homework assignments control family time.
Make the most of what’s left of summer with a full lineup of fun activities to help your family enjoy the carefree days before the school bells ring.
1. Aug. 1-31: 3 for Free: Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, Heinz History Center and The Andy Warhol Museum
What a bargain! Three Pittsburgh museums won national honors in the recent USA TODAY 10 Best Readers’ Choice Awards. To celebrate that distinction, the Allegheny Regional Asset District supports free admission for all three museums throughout August. Head to the Children’s Museum (voted 2nd for Best Children’s Museums) for the Wild Kratts: Creature Power! exhibit and pop into MuseumLab to climb through the Gymlacium. Check out the Discovery Place at the Heinz History Center (voted 2nd for Best History Museums) and stroll through “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” The floating metallic balloons of the “Silver Clouds” installation is a popular draw for kids at The Andy Warhol Museum (4th for Best Art Museums), where kids love the hands-on workshops offered in the Factory. The best way to guarantee entry for your visit is to reserve tickets online.
2. Aug. 5-6: Moraine State Park Regatta
By land or sea — well, lake — the Moraine State Park Regatta offers eco-adventure activities that you are sure to enjoy. Head to the Lake Arthur Lily Pad for free land-based, kid-focused happenings. Learn about wildlife from the Stormy Oaks Nature Conservancy and get close to tetrapods with Reach Out Reptiles. Lowes will offer hands-on “handyman projects” complete with kits and tools. Kids ages 10 and older will receive instructions in archery basics, then can practice target shooting with bows and arrows. Plus, there are free lessons in kayaking, standup paddleboarding and sailing. Take a plunge in the lake for an afternoon swim. Purchase a butterfly in advance for a massive release of native Monarchs. The whole family can chill during a Saturday evening of live music followed by fireworks. Check out the complete schedule.
3. Aug. 7-16: “Cinderella Caterpillar,” South Park Theatre
The Children’s Theatre summer season at South Park Theatre has been a wonderful romp through fractured fairytales and spoofs on familiar tales. The “Cinderella Caterpillar” production follows that same silly style. This adaptation presents a modern-day bug story about a caterpillar named Cinderella. This clever, fast-paced comedy will be a joy for kids and grownups, too. Picnics and lawn chairs are welcome in front of the outdoor stage. Tickets are $5 (free for ages 3 and younger).
4. Aug. 11-Oct. 29: Asian Lantern Festival: World of Wonders, Pittsburgh Zoo & Aquarium
Pittsburgh Zoo & Aquarium celebrates its 125th anniversary with a special theme for its annual Asian Lantern Festival. This year’s focus is World of Wonders, which highlights a global reach in its glorious display of color and light. Wander through the zoo to marvel at brilliant, larger-than-life lanterns. Your adventure takes you through jungle settings, over mountains and under the sea. And along the way, you can learn about conservation efforts to protect these habitats and creatures. Visitors will have the opportunity to choose between walk-through or drive-through nights. The festival runs on select dates, Thursdays through Sundays, with tickets sold in advance.
5. Aug. 12: Super Science Saturday: Land of the Giants, Carnegie Museum of Natural History
We love big stuff! This month’s Super Science Saturday explores the Land of the Giants, which looks at the museum’s largest specimens. Of course, T. rex will be included, along with massive mammoths, huge sequoias and giant geodes. Part of the lesson is learning about how the Earth supported these enormous creatures through geologic time and another part is considering how humans measure up. Super Science Saturday activities are included with museum admission.
6. Aug. 12: MessFest, Carnegie Science Center
This annual event is a blast for anyone who loves science and doesn’t mind a bit of chaos. The interactive, hands-on experiments offer lessons in scientific principles along with a crazy mess. Kids can smash strawberries and then use chemistry to extract DNA. They will engineer individual contraptions to allow an egg to drop 16 feet (fingers crossed!) without cracking its shell. The Science Dunk Tank provides an opportunity for kids to test hand-eye coordination and science knowledge. And is there anything messier than slime? Children can even make a personal batch of the goop. Next young scientists will learn about surface tension to produce bubbles larger than a car. Every messy session is included in Carnegie Science Center’s general admission. Buy your tickets in advance to prevent sold-out FOMO.
7. Aug. 12: Story Saturday: “I Want to be a Vase,” Carnegie Museum of Art
“I Want to Be a Vase” is a story that’s silly, insightful and thought-provoking in all the best ways. Author Julio Torres is a comedian who has written for “Saturday Night Live” and is the creator of HBO’s “My Favorite Shapes.” In this book, chosen for the latest installment of Story Saturday, Torres explores the shapes of unsung household objects that dream of more significant lives beyond their predestined roles. Plunger takes the starring role wishing to defy his shape and become a beautiful vase. A reading of the giggle-inducing story will be followed by a hands-on craft activity. This event is best for kids ages 12 and younger and is included in admission.
8. Aug. 12: High Tea, Schenley Park Cafe and Visitor Center
The best part of high tea must be the hats! We love dressing up in pretty clothes and finishing off the look with a chic chapeau. High tea at Schenley Park is the perfect opportunity to channel our inner “Downton Abbey” style. Mana Meals caters for the event. Hot chocolate can be substituted for tea for those with more discriminating palates. Registration is $50 for grownups and $20 for kids. Proceeds from ticket sales support the city’s parks. Pinkies up!
9. Aug. 24: Sloth Birthday Celebration, The National Aviary
You are cordially invited to a very special birthday party for Vivien and Wookie, a pair of Linnaeus’s two-toed sloths at the National Aviary. Learn more about these lovable creatures at the Sloth Talk & Birthday Treat in the theater, sign a birthday card, get crafty with a maker project and work on coloring sheets. Birthday party activities are included with aviary admission, which is free for ages 2-12 throughout August. Advance tickets are suggested. Can’t get enough of sloths? Book a Sloth Animal Encounter or sign up for Brushes and Birds: Sloth, where ages 8 to adult will create sloth portraits with artist Maria DeSimone Prascak.
10. Aug. 26-Oct. 1: Pittsburgh Renaissance Festival, West Newton
Huzzah! Revel in 16th-century merriment led by good King Henry and Queen Anne at the Pittsburgh Renaissance Festival. Themed weekends include a Pirate Invasion, Love and Romance, plus a Children’s Weekend. The entertainment is nonstop: interactive stories with the Topolino Sisters, a mix of comedy, juggling and high-flying stunts performed by Rin Tin Thoms Circus, and displays of the ancient art of falconry conducted by Knightwings. And no one wants to miss the Knights of the Noble Cause competing in jousting and combat. The full day of fun includes plenty of food options — giant turkey legs for all! Tickets are $25 for grownups, $12 for ages 5-12 and free for ages 4 and younger.
Aug. 13: Summer Reading Extravaganza, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh — Oakland
Aug. 17-27: “Willie Wonka Jr.,” Little Lake Theatre Company
Aug. 19: Vintage Base Ball Day, Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village
Aug. 19: Junior Garden Bugs, Frick Environmental Center
Aug. 26: SkyWatch, Carnegie Science Center