9 things to do with kids this week in Pittsburgh, including giant lanterns, free ice cream and a puppet party

Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium.

We love a completely balanced diet of fun that blends learning and excitement in a combination of indoor and outdoor entertainment. This week’s lineup of things to do with kids offers free events and some brand-new activities you won’t want to miss.

1. Wander through the Asian Lantern Festival

Be prepared for brilliant night lights at Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium with the opening of the Asian Lantern Festival, which runs from Aug. 14-Oct. 30. Evenings will glow with vibrant color from handcrafted, steel and silk sculptures. Walk along zoo paths and admire wildlife-themed lanterns, such as a Chinese dragon, a tree filled with butterflies and swimming sea turtles. Entertainment on various dates includes Taiko drumming, origami art, martial arts and Asian dance. Timed tickets are $16.95 for kids ages 2-13 and $19.95 for their grownups.

Photo courtesy of Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village.

2. Visit Meadowcroft Rockshelter for free

All kids 17 and younger receive free admission to Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village throughout August and September. The site of the oldest human habitation in North America includes an archeological dig to a world 19,000 years old. Kids can explore a 16th-century Monongahela Indian village, an 18th-century trading post and a 19th-century village. Meadowcroft is open from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays through Labor Day, then the site will be open from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Adult admission is $15. Buy advance tickets online.

Photo courtesy of Graeter’s Ice Cream.

3. Meet up at the Ice Cream Fundae Treat Tour

One of our favorite annual events, the Pressley Ridge Ice Cream Fundae, makes a comeback this year in a somewhat smaller way before returning to the Pittsburgh Zoo in 2022. The Ice Cream Fundae Treat Tour brings the fun to you via the Graeter’s Ice Cream Truck. Kids can enjoy a free ice cream treat on Aug. 14 at Josh Gibson Field from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. and at Pressley Ridge from 2-4 p.m. Expect revelries like princess visits, music and lots of family fun.

Puppetmaster Tarish Jeghetto Pipkins.

4. Party at Puppets in the Park

Puppetmaster Tarish Jeghetto Pipkins returns to his hometown of Clairton for Puppets in the Park. His unusual storytelling combines puppetry and hip hop with characters made from recycled materials. As the sponsor, GASP (Group Against Smog and Pollution) will offer activities at the clean air education table. Pittsburgh puppeteer Dave English will make an appearance along with his sidekick, Dirty Gertie the Poor Polluted Birdie. The free fun starts at 3 p.m. Aug. 14 at Clairton Park Shelter 3. Bring blankets and chairs for an entertaining afternoon. No registration is required.

Photo courtesy of ALCOSAN.

5. Make a splash at Frankie’s Science Days

ALCOSAN’s Frankie the Fish invites kids in 2nd and 3rd grades to virtual STEAM workshops. Frankie’s Science Days include interactive, hands-on activities in free sessions that run for about three hours. Register for sessions running Aug. 14, Aug. 20 and Oct. 16. Can’t make the dates? ALCOSAN offers a bunch of other hands-on activities that help kids appreciate how to make a difference in the environment.

Image courtesy of Heinz History Center.

6. Last chance: Summer Sidewalk Series

The final episode of Heinz History Center’s Summer Sidewalk Series shines a spotlight on the changing city. Revisit Pittsburgh from the 1700s and compete in games the colonials played. Discover an important building material from the 1800s and examine images of the Burgh in the 1900s. Kids will be challenged to build a collage that shows how the city has transformed over the past centuries and to consider its future. The free Summer Sidewalk Series takes place from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Aug. 14 at the parking lot on Penn Avenue between 12th and 13th streets in the Strip District. No registration is required.

7. Drop in on free movies around town

The week’s free family entertainment continues in local parks. Check out the complete schedules for Dollar Bank Cinema in the Parks, Allegheny County Movies in the Park and Movies on the Mon at  SouthSide Works.

  • “Sonic the Hedgehog”(PG) screens on Aug. 12 at Brookline Memorial Park, Aug. 13 at Arsenal Park and Aug. 14 at Grandview Park.
  • “Jumanji: The Next Level” (PG-13) transforms lives and bodies at Riverview Park on Aug. 14.
  • “Raya and the Last Dragon” (PG) slay monsters on Aug. 15 at Schenley Plaza, Aug. 17 at West End Overlook and Aug. 19 at Brookline Memorial Park.
  • “Monster Hunter” (PG-13) and her elite team of soldiers battle it out on Aug. 18 at Flagstaff Hill.
  • “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” (PG-13) takes it old school at Hartwood Acres on Aug. 18 and South Park on Aug. 21, with family activities beginning at 7:30 p.m.
  • “Dark Knight Rises” (PG-13) gives us a Gotham City that bears a remarkable resemblance to Pittsburgh. The film screens at SouthSide Works on Aug. 18, with music opener Matt Woods at 7 p.m.

    Photo courtesy of MotoAmerica Championship Series.

8. Catch motorcycle race excitement

If your kids are born to be wild, they will thrill to the excitement of the 2021 MotoAmerica Championship Series from Aug. 13-15. The fastest form of motorcycle racing takes place from Aug. 13-15 at Pittsburgh International Race Complex. Racing takes the headline, but there’s plenty more family-friendly fun with stunt shows, motorcycle displays and go-karting. Meet the riders in open race paddock or hang out in the Kids Zone and play free carnival games. Kids ages 12 and younger receive free admission with a paying grownup. Find the details here.

Photo courtesy of Carnegie Museum of Natural History.

9. Splish Splash at Super Science Saturday

This month, Super Science Saturday explores all things aquatic on Aug. 14. The Carnegie Museum of Natural History series takes kids on a deep dive into subjects like the stages of the water cycle and animals that developed aquatic adaptations. Kids will discover how water continues to shape the world in which we live. Along with the lessons, expect a good-sized splash of fun. Super Saturday activities are included in general admission.