13 can’t-miss October events for kids in Pittsburgh

This article first appeared in NEXTpittsburgh, a media partner that focuses on the people advancing the Pittsburgh region. Zoo Boo photo above by Paul Selvaggi. 

October brings everything from giant monster fish to life-size dinosaurs. Superstar Simone Biles and fellow Olympic gymnasts will vault onto the scene. And Halloween makes its presence known with a month that’s jam-packed with activities for the littlest costumed cuties and full-grown teenage ghouls. Scroll on for October’s top events for kids of all ages in Pittsburgh.

Be sure to pack your masks and visit each organization’s website and social media to stay updated about COVID safety protocols and guidelines.

Fall fun at Kennywood. Photo by Sally Quinn.

1. Oct. 1-31: Phantom Fall Fest, Kennywood Park

The folks at Kennywood Park organized Phantom Fall Fest, a new tribute to Halloween that’s geared to both ends of the family spectrum. During the day, little kids can drive, spin and fly on their favorite amusement rides in Kiddieland and Thomas Town. At 6 p.m., as the sun goes down, the fear factor rises for older kids and grownups. Four scare zones, five haunted houses and Kennywood’s hair-raising rides contribute to the frightful fun. Phantom Fall Fest operates Fridays through Sundays. Buy tickets.

Photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy.

2. Oct. 1-2: Making Your Parks Shine, Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy

Celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy with illuminated installations in six parks around the city. Making Your Parks Shine invites families to a series of free community block parties from 6 to 9 p.m. on Oct. 1 and 2. Expect kid-friendly activities, live music and food vendors for a complete festival experience that promises to be dazzling! Registration is free but required.

Photo courtesy of Carnegie Science Center.

3. Oct. 2-April 23: Pompeii: The Exhibition, Carnegie Science Center

The story of Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii, the city that was frozen in time under layers of ash and lava, will capture the imaginations of all ages. With the opening of Pompeii: The Exhibition at Carnegie Science Center, the people who had disappeared for 1,700 years are brought back to life. The immersive exhibit includes videos, body casts and artifacts that show how the citizens of Pompeii lived, worked and worshipped. Tickets are sold separately from Science Center admission.

Image courtesy of Allegheny County Parks and Recreation.

4. Oct. 3, 9, 10, 16 and 17: Campfire Ghost Stories (and other fun stuff), Allegheny County Parks

A chill in the air and a crackling campfire make the perfect setting for ghost stories and songs. Kids can wear costumes to compete for prizes, too. Registration is free for Campfire Ghost Stories events. Allegheny County Parks hosts a bunch of other free seasonal activities with a family focus. Hay Day offers hayrides, a maze, a puppet show, a magician and a barnyard petting zoo on Oct. 3. Catch “Hocus Pocus” (PG) and Nightmare Before Christmas” (PG) at a Family Drive-in Movie night. At Punkin Chunkin on Oct. 23, thrill to the sight of pumpkins being launched across a field by a full-size trebuchet. And be sure to visit one of the Trunk or Treat events with costumed kids for an afternoon of car cruise trick-or-treat merriment.

Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures.

5. Oct. 7: Elizabeth Acevedo, Schenley Plaza Tent

The author of “Clap When You Land” and “The Poet X,” Elizabeth Acevedo makes a stop at the Schenley Plaza Tent on Oct. 7 as part of the Words & Pictures series presented by Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures. She’s won the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, the Michael L. Printz Award and the Pura Belpré Award, among others. The free lecture can be accessed virtually, too. Registration is free but required.

Zeb Hogan with a 46-inch Giant Eurasia Trout. Photo by Brant Allen.

6. Oct. 8-April 10: Monster Fish: In Search of the Last River Giants, Carnegie Museum of Natural History

The National Geographic Society’s Monster Fish exhibition will wow visitors of all ages with wild fish stories and plenty of interactive splashes. Take a trip around the world with Zeb Hogan, host of the Nat Geo “WILD” series, to discover the river basins where monster fish make their homes. The exhibit includes five life-size sculptures of colossal fish, games and videos. Detailed maps and illustrations highlight the cultural ties between people and fish. Nearly 20 species and their unique freshwater ecosystems will give kids a greater understanding of the importance of these monster fish to the world. Tickets, sold as an add-on to general admission, are $3 for kids and seniors, $5 for adults.

Photo courtesy of Dino Stroll.

7. Oct. 9-10: Dino Stroll, Monroeville Convention Center

Your dino-obsessed kiddos will go crazy for the chance to walk among a towering T. rex, Stegosaurus and a Brachiosaurus that stretches out 60 feet. More than 75 life-size animatronic dinosaurs will take over the Monroeville Convention Center during Dino Stroll on Oct. 9 and 10.  The interactive walking tour gathers a herd of dinosaurs with moving heads and tails, breathing movements and synchronized sounds that make them seem alive. Tickets are $24.99 for ages 2 and older.

Image courtesy of Heinz History Center.

8. Oct. 13: The Slide Rule Phenom, Bertha Lamme, Heinz History Center

Another virtual episode of Hop into History welcomes early learners to discover special people and stories about Pittsburgh. On Oct. 13, the session puts a focus on Bertha Lamme, one of the first women engineers, and how she encouraged other women to work in science. Kids will explore her enthusiasm for electrical engineering, look at some of the tools she used and design a related project. Hop into History is best for kids ages 3 to 5 and their grownups. Registration is free but required.

Image courtesy of the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania.

9. Oct 15, 16, 22, 23 and 29: Creatures of the Night, Beechwood Farms Nature Preserve, Succop Nature Park and Buffalo Creek Nature Park

Costumes are welcome at the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania’s annual Creatures of Night series. Guides are dressed up, too, as larger-than-life nocturnal creatures. Human-sized fireflies direct visitors along trails, where you’ll meet a storytelling great horned owl, an acrobatic flying squirrel and a somewhat batty little brown bat. Choose your location, date and session time for these outdoor nature experiences. Registration is $10 (free for kids younger than 2).

ZooBoo, Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium. Photo by Paul Selvaggio.

10. Oct. 16-24: ZooBoo, Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium

ZooBoo returns this year to the delight of kids who love Halloween without all the fright. The Pittsburgh Zoo hosts the daytime spooktacular with trick-or-treating, hands-on creepy crafts and not-too-spooky haunts. Join in the Halloween parade, costume contest and silly dances. Zoo animals put on a show with their special Halloween treats, too. ZooBoo activities and candy are included in general admission on weekends from Oct. 16-24.

Photo courtesy of The Frick Pittsburgh.

11. Oct 16: Let’s Move Family Fun Day, The Frick Pittsburgh

Make the most of fall weather with a day of free outdoor activities. Let’s Move Family Fun Day at The Frick Pittsburgh provides opportunities for kids to test their skills at croquet and badminton. They can also climb and crawl through a cool obstacle course or visit the art activity station to combine fine motor skills with physical dexterity. No registration is required.

Photo courtesy of the National Aviary.

12. Oct. 16, 17, 23 and 24: Owl-O-Ween and Owl Prowls, the National Aviary and area parks

Who-o-o’s the center of attention this month at the National Aviary? October weekends are for the birds, more specifically, for the owls, with cool indoor and outdoor events. At Owl-O-Ween, kids pick up a trick-or-treat bag and an owl-themed craft kit to take home and get to join a special owl meet-and-greet session — all included with admission. Head outdoors for twilight Owl Prowls with ornithologist Bob Mulvihill. The owl outings are scheduled from 7 to 9 p.m. on select dates through Nov. 13 at area parks. Kids and their grownups will look and listen for owls while learning about their habitats, behaviors and adaptations. Registration is $20. Recommended for ages 7 and older.

Image courtesy of Gold Over America.

13. Oct. 29: Gold Over America Tour starring Simone Biles, PPG Arena

Kids with gymnastic dreams will be in awe of the talent coming to PPG Arena with the Gold Over America Tour on Oct. 29. Superstar Simone Biles headlines the lineup of athletes who made their mark in the Olympic spotlight. Gold, silver and bronze medal-winning gymnasts include Jade Carey, Jordan Chiles, Grace McCallum and MyKayla Skinner. Each gymnast will perform signature routines mixed with personal videos and career highlights in a show that’s described as “gymnastics-meets-pop-concert spectacular.” Tickets start at $25.25.


Bonus events:

Through Oct. 10: RADical Days, multiple locations

Through Oct. 30: Asian Lantern Festival, Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium

Through Oct. 31: HallowBoo, Idlewood Park

Oct. 9: Happy Troll-O-Ween, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

Oct. 16-17: Pittsburgh Monster Pumpkins Festival, Strip District

Oct 17: Children’s Harvest, Oliver Miller Homestead

Oct. 24: Kelly Yang, Words & Pictures

Oct 30: Gateway Clipper Halloween Cruise