8 things to do with kids this week in Pittsburgh, from pick-your-own apples to a dino driving tour

With the start of the school year and the stress of both at-home and in-person classes, free time is more critical than ever. Happily, Pittsburgh never fails to present new and entertaining activities for families. Here are our top picks for things to do with kids this week.

1. Track down dinosaurs (in person)

Even though dinosaurs became extinct about 65 million years ago, you can find lots of them in Pittsburgh. Remember back in 2003 when the Carnegie Museum of Natural History unleashed 100 dinosaur statues upon the world? Artists and other creative types decorated each Tyrannosaurus, Stegosaurus and Torosaurus as part of DinoMite Days. The dinos were auctioned off, but many remain on display throughout town. The museum devised a cool Dino Statue Driving Tour that takes about 2 hours, including photo-op stops, that your kids will love.

2. Engage all five senses (in person)

The Garden of the Five Senses welcomes kids to Pittsburgh Botanic Garden. The new $1.7-million project invites visitors to connect to nature in a variety of ways, including hands-on activities. “Eye Spy” includes a kaleidoscope that dials up colors and shapes. “Sniff and Savor” includes the Pizza Garden with all those delicious herbal scents. “Digging In” puts the focus on healthy soil, while “Soothing Sounds” allows kids to play a marimba and flower drum or just sit quietly and listen to the garden music of insects and birds.

3. Cruise through the zoo (in person)

The popular Zoofari Drive-Thru returns to the Pittsburgh Zoo this weekend, from Friday, Aug 28, through Sunday, Aug. 30. Each vehicle costs $60 for the hour-long drive that’s accompanied by an audio tour. Buy your timed ticket in advance online and bring binoculars to help view your favorite animals. Cars move through at a calm 2 mph, allowing the best views along the way. Drinks and snacks will be available for purchase or bring your own. Check the website for the rules of the road and safety protocols. The fundraiser benefits the zoo’s Emergency Operating Fund.

4. Munch on movie concession snacks (at home)

Row House Cinema continues inventing clever ways to support this local movie theater through its Curbside Concession Pick-Up from 2-8 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 28. No matter what films you and your kids decide to watch this weekend, the aroma of fresh-popped popcorn will add to the experience. Among the three movie night packages, the Family Movie Night ($25) includes a giant bag of popcorn (about as much as four large popcorns), four Red Ribbon Sodas and four family-friendly movie Bingo cards. Packages must be ordered in advance online.

5. Perform with a very personal hand puppet (at home)

Kids can make hand puppets starring their little hands through this Pittsburgh Cultural Trust Creative Connections video. Arts educator Susan Swarthout talks kids through the lesson, for ages 7-11 years. Once they build and add eyes to their hand, they can lip-synch to songs or make up a fun story performance. Or they can go crazy and use both hands! All that’s needed is paper, a marker, a bit of glue and a pipe cleaner or twist ties. We love how a few simple supplies add up to a whole lot of fun.

6. Go apple picking (in person)

Apple season has arrived at Triple B Farms with Ginger Golds and Gala. Pick-your-own apples run from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 29, and Sunday, Aug. 30. Fill baskets with this sweet, crunchy fruit and dream of hot pies and crisps topped with melting ice cream. More apple varieties – like Fuji and Honey Crisp – will be ripe soon. And check out pick-your-own sunflowers, too! Click here for health and safety precautions.

7. Meet bird expert Dr. Fish (at home)

The National Aviary in Pittsburgh launches a new series, “A Day in the Life…of a Zoo Veterinarian,” at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 28. The first speaker is Dr. Pilar Fish, senior director of Zoological Advancements and Avian Medicine. She will share behind-the-scenes stories about the aviary’s Teaching Hospital and offer a sneak peek into her busy schedule caring for 550 birds and animals. Each monthly lecture in the series will cover different subjects. Watch for the upcoming “Conservation in the High Andes” and “How to identify Birds by Sight and by Sound.” Click here to register for tickets priced at $15 per household.

8. Rent a pontoon (in person)

Round up the kids and those in your pandemic bubble for a private cruise on the Three Rivers. Pittsburgh Luxury Cruises rents pontoon boats that can seat up to 12, including the driver. Not sure about those boating license requirements? A Designated Driver can be hired, too. Boats are rented by the hour and for 4-hour or 8-hour cruises, from sunrise to sunset. It’s a tremendous fresh-air outing for kids of all ages.