Top 12 family-friendly RADical Days events (did we mention free?)

We look forward with excitement to this annual lineup of special offers and free activities from the Allegheny Regional Asset District. This year, in celebration of RAD’s 25th anniversary, the RADical Days calendar of free performances, workshops and events will span 25 days. Get ready to play, be entertained and learn some cool new skills from Sept. 19 to Oct. 13.

Here are our top picks for families, but there are dozens more to check out.

1. Day of dance.

Let’s forget about kids flossing and give them a chance to learn more sophisticated dance moves. On Sept. 21, KST Alloy Studios bring a morning pre-ballet and hip-hop demonstrations for kids ages 3-12. Then hang around for an afternoon of movement for the whole family. Zumba, line dancing and healthy treats are part of the fun.

2. Owl Prowl.

Pint-sized nature lovers will have a blast on the woodsy expedition through Beechwood Farms Nature Reserve. The Audubon Society of Western PA hosts three free Owl Prowl hikes on Sept. 26, Oct. 3 and 10. A professional naturalist will lead kids on a search for local owls while teaching them about these fascinating birds. Registration required.

3. Artful good-bye.

As Contemporary Craft prepares to leave its longtime home in the Strip District, visitors have an opportunity to leave their mark on the gallery walls. How often do kids get a chance to scribble on walls – with permission? On Sept. 28, they can write a message or sketch a drawing, then take part in an artist-led, hands-on art activity.

4. Moonlight moves.

Discover nature after dark with this Starlight Stroll on Sept. 28. Allegheny Land Trust education staff will lead kids through a full moon walk while offering lessons on nocturnal and twilight creatures, astronomy or lore. The hour-long hikes take place rain or shine. Registration is required.

5. Dance, dance, dance. 

First off, we love the name of this energetic afternoon. Hill Dance Academy Theatre offers “5 Twenty-Five Minutes of Dance and Artistic Fun” on Sept 28. Between 1 and 3:35 p.m., the 25-minute segments include African Drumming, Hip Hop HDAT Style and Modern Dance. Drop-in for one session or stay for all five.

6. Makers times two.

A free day at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh and MuseumLab on Sept. 29 gives families a chance to revisit their favorite exhibits and activities, plus visit Pittsburgh’s newest museum for kids ages 10-plus. Kids can tinker in the MAKESHOP, play with plumbing in Waterplay and develop skills in the Art Studio. Across the way at MuseumLab, older kids get hands-on experience in cutting-edge technology.

7. Comedy cafe.

Get your laughs on at Arcade Comedy Theater on Sept. 29. The downtown venue will offer “Bonus Stage,” an evening filled with silly improvisation and comedy teams showcasing Arcade-trained performers. Best for ages 12 and older. Get your free tickets here.

8. An arts buffet.

An open house at Sweetwater Center for the Arts (Oct. 5) gives kids a chance to experiment with culinary arts, ceramics and painting. The event is for all ages, but an adult should accompany kids 12 and younger. RSVP in advance.

9. Pittsburgh children’s author returns home.

As a girl, Pittsburgh-raised Jewell Parker Rhodes always loved reading and writing stories before she decided she wanted to write books herself. Her five children’s books include the Louisiana Girls Trilogy (“Ninth Ward,” “Sugar” and “Bayou Magic”) and “Towers Falling.” Her most recent New York Times-bestseller and No. 1 Kids’ Indie Next Pick is “Ghost Boys.” See her in a free appearance through the Words & Pictures series of Pittsburgh Arts and Lectures on Oct. 6.

Photo by ©Paul A. Selvaggio

10. Decisions, decisions!

Both The National Aviary and Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium offer free admission on Oct. 6. It’s tough to choose between tigers and eagles, but both destinations have penguins – and the cutest babies ever!

11. Play all day.

A day of free workshops, hosted by Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, is scheduled for Oct. 12. All ages can participate in the Sketch Crawl that roves through the Cultural District. Bring your sketchpad, chair and pencils for a stop-and-draw afternoon guided by a teaching artist. Dance Days: Afro-Caribbean Beats will have littles working off energy in two sessions, one for kids 3-4 years and another for those 5-6. Those in 6th to 8th grade will get creative building Magnificent Mega Masks. All workshops are free, but registration is required.

12. Take it to the streets.

High energy excitement is promised at Pittsburgh Musical Theater’s “Dancing in the Streets!” on Oct. 12. Live music and performances are scheduled, along with neighborhood vendors and refreshments. No reservations needed.