FREE! RADical Days welcomes Pittsburgh kids with open doors

Who doesn’t like free? The idea that started 16 years ago as a free weekend to thank Allegheny County residents for their sales tax dollars has grown to a month-long celebration of cultural activities.

From Sept. 22 through Oct. 15, families will have the opportunity to enjoy 51 free admission events and more than two dozen special performances and art experiences as part of the Regional Asset District’s RADical Days.

Freebies range from admission to the National Aviary, a Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra concert at Heinz Hall, and tours of Heinz Field and PNC Park.

“Last year, 60,000 people came out for RADical Days,” says Dan Griffin, RAD board chair. “We’re hoping for even more this year.”

Participating organizations welcome RADical Days for many reasons:

“We look forward to the opportunity to open our doors to first-time visitors and find that many return after their initial experience here,” says Robin Nicholson, executive director of The Frick Pittsburgh, which has participated since the introduction of the program in 2004.

“We love RAD Days at the History Center,” says Andy Masich, president and CEO of the Heinz History Center. “It’s typically among our most-attended (non-event) days of the year. It’s great to see Pittsburgh families turn out and having fun with history.”

sea lions
Who is watching who at the sea lion tank? Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium

“RAD Day is a way for us to be able to thank all those who support the Zoo year-round,” says Teresa Gaspard, special events manager at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium. “We are excited this year for our visitors to experience Jungle Odyssey and meet giant anteaters, capybaras, and our pygmy hippo.”

By the end of 2017, the local 1 percent sales tax paid by residents of and visitors to Allegheny County will have resulted in a nearly $3.6 billion investment in the region’s public libraries and parks, museums, cultural organizations, major regional facilities, and local municipal services such as police and roads.

Before you go: Here is the calendar of the most kid-friendly RADical Days events. Some require reservations, while others are first come first served. Plan ahead to get the most out of these free activities.

SEPT. 22

Pittsburgh Cultural Trust: Gallery Crawl in the Cultural District takes place from 5:30-10 p.m. This quarterly showcase of art and entertainment is held at galleries and various venues in the Cultural District.

Attack Theatre: 7 p.m. performance of “Some Assembly Required” at Society for Contemporary Craft, Strip District.

RADical Days
Come face to face with a dinosaur at Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Photo by Sally Quinn

SEPT. 23

Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History: See “20/20: The Studio Museum in Harlem,” then explore the world-famous dinosaurs.

Society for Contemporary Craft: Experience “Shelter: Crafting a Safe Home” to explore pressing public issues of human displacement and housing insecurity. Meet artist-in-residence Ryder Henry, and get creative making your own handmade paper.

North Hills Arts Center: Participate in four autumn-themed art projects: clay leaf tray, fall bandana, fall tree watercolor, and fruit and leaf printed note cards.

Allegheny County Parks: Hartwood Hay Day and Family Green Fest. Activities include hay rides, hay maze, arts and crafts, petting zoo, puppet shows, games and more. The Family Green Fest features educational and informational activities focused on the environment, as well as the I Made It! Market.

Pittsburgh Musical Theater: The annual outdoor extravaganza, Dancing in The Streets, offers performances by the school’s conservatory program, attractions, and refreshments.

SEPT. 24

Sen. John Heinz History Center and Western PA Sports Museum: Exhibits include the original TV set from “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” Pirates’ legend Bill Mazeroski’s bat and uniform from Game 7 of the 1960 World Series, and the world’s oldest Jeep. Music performances include South Hills Chorale, Pittsburgh Youth Chorus, and Allegheny Brass Band.

National Aviary: Walk through free-flight rooms, enjoy immersive exhibits, and get up close to more than 500 birds from around the world including African Penguins, flamingos, eagles, owls, and parrots.

Union Project: Explore words and language while creating clay in an all-ages drop-in workshop in the ceramics studio. Plus, check out locally-created zines, comics, and chapbooks at the 7th Annual Pittsburgh Zine Fair.

Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh – Main: World Kaleidoscope Presents The Flow Band, Pittsburgh’s premiere Reggae Dance Band.

Natural beauty abounds at Phipps. Photo by Paul G. Wiegman

SEPT. 25

Phipps Conservatory & Botanical Gardens: Find nature combined with glass art, historic sculptures, and waterfalls in 13 beautiful indoor gardens and six outdoor gardens. Experience one of the greenest buildings in the world, the Center for Sustainable Landscapes

Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum: The nation’s only military memorial dedicated to honoring the men and women of all branches of service, from all generations and conflicts.

Tull Family Theater: Enjoy a screening of the classic 1974 film, “The Great Gatsby,” based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow. Rated PG.

SEPT. 26

The Andy Warhol Museum: Bring the whole family to The Warhol for a unique day of art and fun. Visit The Factory underground to create your own work of art and don’t forget to make your own screen test.

Heinz Field: Tours of Heinz Field provide a behind-the-scenes look into the FedEx Great Hall, clubs, Luxury Suites, Press Box, and field.

SEPT. 28

Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania: Owl Prowl offers lessons about our local owls. Registration required.

SEPT. 29

David L. Lawrence Convention Center: Take a special tour of the environmentally-smart Gold/platinum LEED-certified building with breath-taking views and a suspended roof structure. Reservations required.

RADical Days
Kids can play in the mud in the Sweetwater Center’s ceramics shop.

Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild: MCG’s Inspiring Makers interactive exhibit features live jazz music, gallery talks, and hands-on design arts activities.

SEPT. 30

Sweetwater Center for the Arts: The ceramics open studio day allows you to get your hands dirty and have some fun under the guidance of a ceramics tech. Registration required.

Carnegie Music Hall, Carnegie: Family concerts and activities include Tuesday Musical Club, make your own musical instrument, interactive family story time, and Chatham Baroque.

New Hazlett Theater and Texture Contemporary Ballet: Texture presents excerpts from “Boundless” followed by interactive games.

Ropes Challenge and Zipline at Carnegie Science Center offer indoor excitement.

OCT. 1

Carnegie Science Center: Discover the science behind Pittsburgh’s rivers in H2Oh! Defy Gravity on the Ropes Challenge, try to score against Hockey-bot, and tour an authentic submarine.

Fort Pitt Museum: Visit Pittsburgh’s birthplace at the Fort Pitt Museum in historic Point State Park.

Prime Stage Theatre: Visit Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh – Main for a sneak preview of the season featuring selections from “All Quiet on the Western Front,” “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” and “The Diary of Anne Frank.”

Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures: See Newberry Medal-winning Katherine Applegate.A book signing will follow this lecture. Reservations required.

Pittsburgh Savoyards: Watch a live orchestra rehearsal with cast members of “HMS Pinafore,” Gilbert & Sullivan’s best-loved operetta.

Take a behind-the-scenes tour of PNC Park. Photo by Julie Goetz

OCT. 2

PNC Park: Take a behind the scenes tour, including the Legacy Theatre, batting cages, dugout and press box. First come, first served.

OCT. 3

Pittsburgh Cultural Trust: StoryCorner features “Crocodile Beat,” by Gail Jorgensen, with interactive movement, and puppets.

Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra: The concert includes Rossini’s Overture to La gazza ladra, Mascagni’s intermezzo from Cavalleria rusticana, and Bizet’s Suite No. 1 and Suite No. 2 from Carmen. Reservations recommended.

OCT. 4

Pittsburgh Botanic Garden: Explore 3.1 miles of trails through 60 acres of woodlands, meadows, and gardens.

OCT. 5

Audubon Society of Western PA: Owl Prowl. See details on September 28th.

Pittsburgh Glass Center presents “heat defying acts of art.” Photo by Ya Momz House Inc.

OCT. 6

Pittsburgh Glass Center: A day of “heat defying acts of art” in the flameworking and glassblowing studios, plus the opening of “Embodiment,” a glass-wearables exhibition co-sponsored by 3 Rivers Glass Beadmakers.

Silver Eye Center for Photography: “The Notion of Family,” is a solo show by Braddock’s LaToya Ruby Frazier, who explores the legacy of racism, the working class, and economic decline in America’s small towns.

OCT. 7 

The Frick Pittsburgh: Explore Clayton mansion, view fine and decorative art in the museum, and experience “Elise Adibi: Respiration Paintings,” a multi-sensory installation in the greenhouse.

Allegheny County Parks: South Park Hay Day and Public Safety & Health Day includes hay rides, hay maze, arts and crafts, petting zoo, puppet shows, and games.

OCT. 8

Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium: Thousands of wild animals represent every continent.

Mattress Factory: The contemporary art museum and experimental lab feature site-specific installations created by artists in residence from around the world.

South Park Theatre: “Vintage Hitchcock – A Live Radio Play” features spies, murder, love and other trademarks of Alfred Hitchcock in the style of a 1940s radio broadcast.

OCT. 9

Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum: See Sept. 25 for details.

OCT. 12

Pittsburgh Cultural Trust: A Family Engagement Workshop takes place at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh – Lawrenceville. Teaching artist Amber Fantini will engage families through music and movement while they explore the story “Oh No George!”

RADical Days
The Children’s Museum is the spot for two days of Maker Faire Pittsburgh.

OCT. 14

Children’s Museum: Maker Faire Pittsburgh takes over the Children’s Museum and Buhl Community Park with an all-ages festival of tech enthusiasts, crafters, educators, tinkerers, engineers, science clubs, artists, and startups.

Saturday Light Brigade: Visit the broadcast studios for a behind-the-scenes tour and an opportunity to be on the radio.

Pittsburgh Cultural Trust: Ghost Stories: Storyteller Alison K. Babusci shares spine-tingling and funny tales.

Pittsburgh Opera: Brown Bag Concert: The Pittsburgh Opera Resident Artists will present a variety of opera favorites and selections from upcoming operas. After the performance, meet the Resident Artists at an informal reception. Reservations required.

OCT. 15

Children’s Museum: Maker Faire

Saturday Light Brigade: Tour