By Christine Mouser
For a lot of families, beach houses and European vacations just aren’t in the budget this year. But that doesn’t mean you should throw away all your fun for the summer. In fact, there’s plenty to do in Pittsburgh for the day — without spending a fortune. Check out this itinerary for some cheap eats and dollar-friendly (or free!) activities for your mini-vacation.
1197 West Carson Street
Hours: Mon-Sat, 5:30 a.m. – 12: 45 a.m.; Sundays & Holidays, 7:00 a.m. – 12: 45 a.m.
Cost: Children (6-11), $2.20 round trip; Adults (12-64), $4.50 round trip; children 5 & under, free
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You’ve probably seen the Duquesne Incline a hundred times while driving by, but you’ve never actually stopped by for a ride up and down the 794-foot track. So grab the kids and head on over to one of the few remaining inclines in the country. Once you’re on the incline, get ready for one of the best views of the city. When your ride is finished, stop at their gift shop, which features some unique pieces of Pittsburgh that you can’t find anywhere else. The Duquesne Incline’s Upper Station reveals a little museum full of information on Pittsburgh and other inclines. Be sure to grab some family photos on the observation deck!
Once the kids have gotten their fill of the incline, lunchtime beckons. If you’re looking to save money, skip the restaurants on the Upper Station of the Incline. Yes, they’re beautiful and offer fine dining, but they’re also on the pricey side. If you head down to Station Square near the Lower Station, you’ll options that are a lot more affordable. You can even head over to Subway or to Disanto Pizza at the Crossing Court Food Court. Subway offers the usual fare while Disanto offers some pasta, hoagies pizza and more.
Free parking tip: Lower Station of the Duquesne Incline, parking lot located between West Carson Street and the Ohio River
Highmark SportsWorks at Carnegie Science Center
One Allegheny Ave.
Hours: Sunday – Friday, 10 a.m. – 5 pm; Saturday- 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Cost: General Admission: Children (3-12), $9.95; Adults, $17.95
Parking: $5 for non-members
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This destination will be the big splurge of the day—but you’re really getting a lot for your money. Mostly everyone has been to the Carnegie Science Museum, but some of you may have missed out on their other offering—the Highmark Sports Works exhibit. Sports Works is basically a huge warehouse devoted to interactive and fascinating exhibits focused on the world of sports. There are three separate categories the youngsters can explore: LifeWorks, Physics of Sports and Sports Challenge. The kids can ride a simulator through the human body, scale a 25-foot rock wall, take a spin on a unicycle and test their reaction speed against an ice hockey goalie. And that’s just for starters.
Max & Erma’s
Running around will surely make everyone’s tummy grumble. And while, there are plenty of restaurants in the area, choosing a kid-friendly menu is key. One such option is Max & Erma’s on Stanwix Street. It’s a quick five-minute drive from the museum, and it’s got plenty of offerings at moderate prices ($10-$15 per entrée). It’s got your classic American fare, such as burgers, sandwiches and salads. But here’s the most important part: The all-you-can-eat sundae bar, located in an antique bathtub! The kids will have a blast putting together their masterpieces, while you enjoy their banana cream pie or triple chocolate cake.
Cinema in the Park
Hours: Movie starts at dusk
Ok, you’ve had a bustling day. So, the last item on the itinerary will feel like a slice of heaven. Cinema in the Park, provided by Dollar Bank, offers families a free viewing of a movie in one of 6 local parks (Flagstaff Hill, Riverview Park, Grandview Park in Mt. Washington, Arsenal Park in Lawrenceville, Brookline Memorial Park or West End/Elliott Overlook). Make sure to bring a blanket or chairs so you can relax to enjoy a movie under the stars. There are various showings throughout the summer. Be sure to check out their online schedule for details. Some movies: “How to Train Your Dragon,” “Justin Bieber Never Say Never,” “Despicable Me,” “Grown-Ups,” “The Karate Kid” and tons more.
Christine Mouser is a writer, currently residing in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She is set to graduate from Penn State University this summer.