27 (free!) reasons kids will love this year’s Three Rivers Arts Festival

Unisound entertains and educates kids with its Musical Instrument Petting Zoo. Photo above courtesy of Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

From June 2 through June 11, the 14-block Cultural District will be filled with music stages, art installations and food vendors during the Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival. While grownups flock to the concerts, art exhibits and the artist market, kids tend to be more about making art than looking at art. This festival has it all, so the whole family will find many opportunities that await their creativity.

With so many organizations appearing on different days, return visits to the festival will bring new experiences. Here’s where to find the best family-forward fun (all of it free!) throughout these 10 days of excitement.

Bang on a drum and make music with the Kuumba Drum Circle. Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

Trust Oasis, at 7th Street

Here, the Giant Eagle Creativity Zone hosts a variety of daily activities for kids with hands-on projects from local organizations. The lineup will include:

The Jewish Family and Community Services table will feature family-fun activities for kids on June 2. Their grownups can learn about the services these organization provides and explore volunteer opportunities.

Riverlife’s program welcomes all ages to provide creative ideas for our riverfronts. Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

A festival named after our three rivers wouldn’t be complete without Riverlife. The organization celebrates Pittsburgh’s riverfronts and works with developers, landowners and neighborhoods on issues of access, design and programming. Join the team from Riverlife for cool activities on June 2 when the Sister Bridges Experience allows you to have a voice in what you’d like to see in the future.

Hands-on creative projects will be offered by Strong Women, Strong Girls on June 2 and 3. The organization champions the aspirations and potential of girls and women by connecting three generations through mentorship. The effort bolsters the confidence and skills of girls and young women.

With Sweetwater Center for the Arts’ multidisciplinary approach to nearly 400 creative classes and workshops, they’ll be bringing engaging activities to the Three Rivers Arts Festival. Catch their offerings from June 2-4.

Learn the basics of chess playing or improve your strategy as Queens Gambit Chess Institute of Pittsburgh offers chess activities for all levels of players on June 3. And join the YMCA’s Y on the Fly for an inclusive art project celebrating Y’s work around diversity, equity and inclusion. The excitement is scheduled for June 3, 4, 10 and 11.

With the idea that artistic exploration and expression are essential to a community’s growth, Pittsburgh Center for Art and Media offers a creative pursuit for kids on June 4.

Pittsburgh Center for Creative Use brings Reuse-a-Palooza to inspire creativity, conservation and community engagement through reuse. Participants will create a work of art from a variety of reused materials. Reuse-a-Palooza (even the name is fun!) operates from June 4-9.

Learn how the Allegheny Park Rangers work as ambassadors for our county parks while offering educational and interpretive programming for visitors. Park Rangers will be on hand to share their programming and activities from June 5-9.

Connect with The Andy Warhol Museum for a creative project inspired by the Pittsburgh-born artist on June 6 and 7.

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre hosts the Bluebird Make or Take Craft Table. Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

Pittsburgh Ballet hosts the Bluebird Make or Take Craft Table where kids can work on a bluebird craft that connects to “Sleeping Beauty.” Catch information on ballet classes at PBT School and community engagement.

Work with others to build a large-scale artwork using tissue paper and glue. The artwork is inspired by a scene from Mikayla’s Voice, a series of four diverse books written and illustrated by kids for kids with disabilities. This project happens June 6-8.

UniSound brings its musical instrument petting zoo to the festival on June 9. Check out the collection of strings, percussion, and brass instruments and give them a test drive. The UniSound team will be on hand to answer any music-related questions.

Send a message to the moon via the Moonshot Museum. Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

Plan to stop at the Moonshot Museum table on June 9 and 10 to write or draw a message to the Moon, which will be taken aboard a future lunar mission. View images of the lunar surface in 3D and learn more about the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and how artists help bring the images to life.

Join the fun at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History table on June 10 for an inspired hands-on activity.  Will it involve dinosaurs, pollinating honeybees or Egyptian mummies? Stop by to find out.

Participate with Steel City LUG, Pittsburgh’s adult LEGO group, to help build a mosaic using LEGO bricks on June 10 and 11. While there, be sure to browse the amazing LEGO works of art built by local LUG members.

Head to the House Party Pop-up photo booth and box office offered by Kelly Strayhorn Theater and learn about the hottest party of the summer. You can also explore the Alloy School summer season and register for classes. The House Party Pop-up will run on June 10 and 11.

Take a mini class in floral arranging with the Pennsylvania Floral Academy. The hands-on lesson, taught by graduates of the academy’s professional courses, will take place on June 11. While there, take time to admire the floral installations in the tent.

Walk-through art, such as “We Are All Connected To Each Other Through Nature,” brings a more immersive experience. Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

The Backyard, at 8th Street

For Laurie Shapiro’s large-scale artwork, “We Are All Connected To Each Other Through Nature,” she built a walk-through installation made from water-based paints and screen-printed drawings on vinyl, constructed over a metal truss with handmade lighting. The effect is magical. Experience the piece from June 2-11.

“Utterance,” by Jim West. Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

Check out “Utterance,”by artist Jim West. This symbolic sculpture explores how to break through the chaos of noise to hear the message. “Utterance” uses illumination and volume control that shows how we need to really listen and how to use our voices to communicate. It’s a helpful lesson for kids as well as grownups. The exhibit will be up from June 2-11.

Pittsburgh Glass Center will roll its Hotwheels mobile glass hot shop into the Backyard for glass-blowing demonstrations on June 3. It’s always exciting to see molten glass transformed into a beautiful object.

Watch competitors in TRAF Dance Battle 9 compete for a first-place $300 prize, $100 for second place and $50 for third. DJ Inception will be spinning for the high-energy All Styles battle scheduled for June 10.

Squonk’s enormously entertaining “Hand to Hand” is a can’t-miss feature. Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

Squonk returns its touring Hand to Hand production to the Arts Festival. Ever a crowd pleaser, Squonk’s fantastic visual design, humorous staging and high-energy original music deliver an uplifting visual extravaganza. Performances run on June 10 and 11, followed by backstage tours.

Green Mountain Energy Stage, at 7th Street

Make music in the Kumba Drum Circle with the Ibeji Drum Ensemble while learning about the African Diaspora. This all-ages activity, presented by Trust Arts Education and Kuumba Inc, is planned for June 4 and 5.

Catch glow-in-the-dark excitement at the Family Glow Zone. Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

Trust Arts Education Center

Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company presents “12:52 The Mike Webster Story” on June 2, 3 and 4. The 90-minute, two-act play covers the life of this famous Pittsburgh Steeler. Audiences will be seated on a first-come, first-served basis.

Light up your festival experience at the Family Glow Zone on June 3 and 10. Miss Cassidy leads the glow-in-the-dark fun that includes a live DJ. Kids can design their own glow-in-the-dark snap bracelet and participate in creating a giant glow mural.

819 Penn Ave.

Baby moms can take a relaxing break at The Anthropology of Motherhood: Feeding Room, offered throughout the festival from June 2-11. This hybrid exhibition, now in its eighth year at the arts festival, is designed as an art space, an interactive amenity and a spot where families can take a breath with their littles. The AoM art exhibition includes works that cover motherhood, from caring and nurturing to maternal labor.