It’s about 400 miles from Pittsburgh to the nearest Atlantic Ocean shoreline. That’s just far enough to make a weekend escape to the beach into a trek. Beyond the distance, there’s a lot of luck involved in pulling off a successful beach vacation. Despite the most careful planning, plenty can go wrong — from the weather to the traffic — and nothing is worse than a week of cloudy skies and chilly temperatures after a long road trip. Thankfully, there are a number of freshwater alternatives close to home. Blow up your beach ball, slather on the sunscreen and pack the beach blankets: here are the best public beaches and reservoirs to spend a summer day in Pittsburgh.
Settlers Cabin Park
1225 Greer Road
Pittsburgh, PA 15205
Settlers Cabin was named by a group of archaeologists from the Carnegie Museum after the discovery of a log cabin there that dates back to the 1780s. Although the area was once ravaged with oil and gas lines, these days the 1,600-acre park is more closely associated with summer fun. Although there is no natural beach here, there is a wave pool, a dive pool, countless picnic areas, renowned botanical gardens and more nature trails than you could experience in a year. If the kids need to brush up on their swimming abilities, the park hosts free lessons each week starting in July. With something for everyone, it’s the perfect summer recreation spot near the city. The pools at Settlers Cabin are open from the first Saturday in June until Labor Day and admission for adults is $5.
Raccoon Creek State Park
3000 State Route 18
Hookstown, PA 15050
Want a real, if miniature, beach experience right here in the Pittsburgh area? Raccoon Creek State Park is situated on more than 7,500 acres along State Route 18 near Hookstown, Pa. Raccoon Lake occupies about 100 acres of it, and although it is comparatively small, it is among the most popular destinations at the Park. Countless Pittsburghers travel there each summer to lie in the sun along its 500-foot beach shore. The beach is ADA accessible, with adjacent bath houses and food and refreshment stands. It’s open from mid-May through late September annually and is a 30-mile drive from downtown. There’s boating, fishing, hiking and more than 400 picnic tables available to the public. This is the perfect place to bring friends for a get together in the sunshine!
1000 Sandcastle Drive
Pittsburgh, PA 15120
Price: $31.99/General Admission
Located near Pittsburgh’s Waterfront, Sandcastle is the best beach-style fun within city limits. With 14 major water slides, the Mon-Tsunami wave pool, hot tubs, amusement park-style food vendors and an old-fashioned boardwalk connecting it all, Sandcastle offers a true beach shore experience right here in Pittsburgh. June is typically the best time of year to visit the park and discount coupons are available and admission tickets are available at Giant Eagle. Bonus: the park hosts various events throughout the summer to encourage kids and adults to get moving, get fit and get wet in the process.
Marcel Tourdot is a freelance writer from Pittsburgh. His work can be found at Examiner.com.