Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix brings high-octane adventures for kids

Hey, kids, start your engines!

Even if you’re not old enough to have a driver’s license, there’s plenty to do at the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix. Events run from July 11-21, with the biggest fun for kids reserved for the final weekend.

In its 37th year, the Grand Prix includes the nation’s largest vintage street race, car shows, parties, parades and motorsport events. The calendar is loaded! Kids with a passion for Hot Wheels will love seeing the life-size race cars during a series of car cruises and parades taking place Downtown and in Squirrel Hill. Pirates fans will get a kick from seeing the newly restored 1972 Dodge Charger awarded to Roberto Clemente as the MVP of the 1971 World Series.

Parents and kids work together on activities from Science Tots in the Kids Tent.

But on race weekend, the Kids’ Tent, sponsored by Ford, will be the best high-octane adventure for young attendees. Open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 20 and 21 in Schenley Park, the 20-by-40-foot space is more than crayons and crafts, it’s filled with state-of-the-art technology meant to inspire the next generation of automotive engineers.

Ford Performance mascots Shelby and Turbo McBoost.

The myriad stations incorporate STEAM (science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics) activities. In addition to checking out Vintage Grand Prix’s marquee cars – the Shelby and Mustang – kids can learn how to code on iPads or put on a pair of virtual reality glasses. Ford Performance mascots Shelby and Turbo McBoost, who are making their first stateside appearance, will join in the fun.

“When we look at activities, we want the kids to have a great time, but there also has to be learning involved,” says Nancy Lewis, public relations manager for Neighborhood Ford Store, a group of 80 Ford dealers in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland and West Virginia. “The parents are learning, too. It’s a benefit for everybody.”

Science Tots, a Pittsburgh-based nonprofit organization founded in 2016, is behind the wheel of the activities, which are aimed at everyone from babies to teens.

“This year, we’re really excited to bring developmentally appropriate virtual reality and augmented reality activities to the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix,” says Erica Peterson, Science Tots founder and president. The organization’s certified educators and volunteers will model how to incorporate the new technologies into every day early childhood play.

“All of our activities are hands-on,” she says. “And this year, we’ll have a lot more take-home activities than the previous two years so that parents can continue conversations about science, tech, engineering, art and math at home.”