The 10 Best Free Things to do in Pittsburgh
Most are familiar with Pittsburgh’s industrial history as a hub of coal mining and steel production. Today, the city is just as well-known for its’ professional sports teams, world-renowned Carnegie museums, and technological and medical innovation. While enjoying many of the top activities (cruises, sporting events, museums, restaurants) come with a high price tag, there is still plenty of free fun to be had in “The Steel City.” Featuring one of the country’s most mesmerizing skylines, hundreds of picturesque bridges, many beautiful greenspaces, historic neighborhoods, and a full lineup of free events, you will have no problem finding something free, fun, and fabulous to do during your time in Pittsburgh.
Here’s a look at 10 freebies to add to your Pittsburgh bucket list!
1. Take in incredible views via Mt. Washington
Iconic Mt. Washington is one of the most visited sites in all of Pittsburgh. The 400 foot mountain can be accessed via a historic ride up the Duquesne or Monongahela Incline. To save $5 bucks per person, you could simply drive up to the top. From here you will be able to take in mesmerizing views from the Incline observing area. The views are fabulous day or night, although the most exhilarating on an overcast day. If you do feel like shelling out a few bucks, riding the incline is a Pittsburgh experience like no other. The views are extraordinary – it’s easily one of the best skyline viewpoints in the country.
- Address: 1220 Grandview Ave. Hours: 5:30am-12:30am (7 on Sundays)
- Free street parking on Sundays and after 6pm, Mon-Sat.
2. Hike at Frick Park
To truly get lost in nature, plan for a hike at Frick Park, Pittsburgh’s natural oasis. With miles of woodsy trails to choose amongst, it’s easy to spend some quality time in nature here. When you need a break from the urban congestion, Frick Park is close by, however, once you embark on a hike, you feel a world’s away from the noise, traffic, and pollution. Consider hiking the North-South Clayton Loop trail, a beautiful and relatively easy 1 mile trek. Simply hike the loop as many times as required to feel invigorated, refreshed, and ready to get back into the city. Note: a free educational center, small art gallery, gardens and car and carriage museum are also located with the park.
- Address: 2005 Beechwood Blvd
- Free street parking
- More info on The Frick
3. Explore the world’s largest bicycle shop and museum
Over 6000 vintage bicycle line every square inch of this funky and free museum. The space is cool and retro with as much nostalgic memorabilia as there are bikes. Most notably, they have several of the futuristic looking Bowen Spacelanders, the first fiberglass bike and a rare in-demand bike which sells for insane amounts. Also on-site are a handful of famous bikes from movies and TV shows including Pee-Wee Herman’s quirky ride from Big Adventure, a funky Beatles Yellow Submarine bike, and Elliott’s bike from E.T
- Address: 1800 Preble Ave. Hours: 10am-7pm
- Free parking lot
- Read more about Bicycle Heaven
4. Enjoy mesmerizing skyline views at Grandview Overlook
Grandview is one of many places to take in enchanting views of the Pittsburgh skyline. This one is located nearby a number of fine dining establishments which feature great views of the city including Monterey Bay Fish Grotto and Le Mont. However, no need to pay for a fancy meal to enjoy the grandiose view! Simply take a stroll and enjoy the view free of charge. Consider grabbing a cup of local coffee to go and enjoy a nice 1/2 mile stroll from the Duquesne Incline to Grandview Overlook. This way you get to enjoy the skyline scenery from both viewpoints without the hassle of finding parking twice.
- Address: 136 Grandview Ave.
- Parking is free on Sundays and after 6pm, Mon-Sat
5. Stroll around Pittsburgh’s oldest park
Allegheny Commons is the oldest (est. 1867) and one of the prettiest parks in Pittsburgh. Best of all, it’s quiet and free street parking is easy to find. At this local gem, you will find many mature trees, tranquil Lake Elizabeth, and a number of historic monuments including a WWI and II memorial and George Washington statue. While fabulous anytime of year, this park really shines during the peak of fall as a medley of golden hues dominate the landscape. The charming Mexican War Streets neighborhood provides a picturesque historic backdrop. Consider stopping by one of Pittsburgh’s best local roasters, Commonplace, for a tasty cup of joe prior to your visit.
- Address: East Ohio St. & Cedar Ave.
- Free parking along the street
6. Bike along the Three Rivers Heritage trail
This 33 mile long paved recreational path lies on both sides of the rivers downtown. Featuring great views of the skyline, stadiums, and many notable bridges (including the Warhol and Clemente), it’s one of the country’s top urban bike trails. The best time to plan your ride is Sunday (when parking is free) in The Strip District. From here, you can enjoy a 2 mile, mostly flat trek over to Point State Park. The ride is long enough for a nice weekend workout, yet not totally exhausting. After your ride, take some time to explore the shops in The Strip. Also, The Strip features plenty of affordable coffeehouses if you need a pick me up (La Prima is my personal favorite).
- Address: 2101 Smallman St
- Parking is free on Sunday and after 6pm, Mon-Sat
- Three Rivers Heritage trail map
7. Visit Point State Park
This historic park in downtown’s “Golden Triangle” region, marks the joining point of the Ohio, Allegheny, and Monongahela Rivers. From here, you will enjoy great views of the city, along with iconic landmarks like Heinz Stadium. The iconic fountain runs daily during the warmer months and is one of the city’s most photographed sites. Just taking a walk around the grounds and taking in the scenery and exploring the historic monuments makes for a great day out. Come fall, the trees are all brilliantly colored with the hues of autumn. As an added bonus, you can easily connect to the Three Rivers Heritage bike trail here. Be on the lookout for free events throughout the year.
- Address: 601 Commonwealth Place
- Free street parking on Sunday and after 6pm, Mon-Sat
- Read more about Point State Park
8. Walk across the Andy Warhol bridge
Andy Warhol, icon of the pop art movement, is one of many famous people to come out of Pittsburgh. In fact, there is a 6 floor museum dedicated to his life and art. It’s the largest museum dedicated to a single artist! Near the museum you will find the iconic yellow bridge. The Warhol is one of 3 yellow (officially “Aztec gold”) bridges known as the “Three Sisters.” The other two are the Rachel Carson and Roberto Clemente. The views are particularly stunning from the Warhol. Plus, you can park near the Warhol for free on Sunday and use the bridge to conveniently access the Cultural District without parking again. There are many restaurants, shops, and coffeehouses in this region.
- Address: 117 Sandusky St
- Free street parking near the Warhol Museum
9. Explore Schenley Park
Schenley Park is home to many of the city’s top attractions including Phipps Conservatory, a winter ice rink, and the popular Porch at Schenely cafe featuring the best patio in the city. Many notable city events take place at Schenley including races, food festivals, holiday events, and more. Located in the bustling Oakland neighborhood, many local restaurants and coffeehouses are within walking distance. However, the best thing to do will cost you nothing! The park’s beautiful trail system provides a wonderful rustic escape from the surrounding urban cluster. Consider embarking upon the Double Loop trail, a moderate 5 mile trek through the woods. Also check out the beautiful Schenley fountain and carousel.
In this region you will also find the top rated Carnegie museums (visit on Radical days for free admission) and the beautiful Cathedral of Learning building. Free tours of the Nationality Rooms are offered via advance reservations.
- Address: 101 Panther Hollow Rd (Visitor’s center)
- Free parking on Sundays and after 6pm, Mon-Sat
- Full list of amenities at Schenley Park
10. View historical monuments at Northshore Riverfront Park
Northshore is another great place for new tourists to explore while in the city. Here you will find a number of interesting historical monuments, a Mr. Roger’s statue (the childhood classic was filmed at WQED Station in Pittsburgh), The Water Steps (a unique outdoor art exhibit), war memorials, and more. The beautiful Riverwalk stretches on for miles and offers amazing views of the Pittsburgh skyline, as well as Point State Park. Take a long walk or enjoy a leisurely bike ride – the best way to enjoy all the sights in a short period of time.
- Address: 9 Mazeroski Way
- Free street parking on Sunday and Mon-Sat after 6pm
Free museums – Bank of America members (as part of the Museums on Us promotion) get into the Carnegie Museum of Art/Natural History and The Warhol Museum for free on the first full weekend of each month. I use this promotion all the time – what a great deal! Check the list of participating museums across the US!
Radical Days – Most museums, the zoo, Phipps Conservatory, and many other cultural attractions offer free admission to the public. Advance registration may be required. Stay updated on dates for next year’s Radical Days.
West End Overlook – Another picturesque view of the city. A great quick stop enroute to other city attractions. Address: Marlow St. Free parking.
Randyland – Free outdoor art exhibit. Not my style personally, but a colorful, eclectic display to say the least. Located nearby Allegheny Commons Park and the Mexican War Streets neighborhood. Address: 1501 Arch St. Free street parking.
State Parks – If you are up for a drive, there are many great parks within an hour or so drive. Check out McConnells Mill State Park featuring a historic covered bridge or Ohiopyle State Park featuring several waterfalls. Both are leaf peeping hotspots!
*Also be sure to check into the free event lineup. From outdoor movies in the summer, to holiday festivals, to outdoor yoga, to gallery crawls, there is always something interesting going on in the ‘Burgh.
Strollable Historic districts
As you can park for free anytime of the day on Sunday, this is a great time to explore any of the small downtowns around the metro. A few great choices include:
Sewickley – Charming main street lined with trees. Highlights include a great local bakery (Mediterra), Big Bang Comics, Penguin Books, and a seasonal farmer’s market.
Mt. Lebanon – While the downtown could use more trees, there is lots to see and do. Highlights include Orbis Caffe (great coffee), Badamo (excellent pizza), Sesame Inn (authentic Chinese food), Vinyl Remains (used records), and Celtic Cross (fantastic Irish shop).
Shadyside – This leafy residential area is home to a mix of luxury high end shops like Lululemon and Athleta, as well as local businesses. There are a number of local coffeehouses and restaurants in the area. Beautiful place to spend an afternoon window shopping. If you are up for spending a few bucks, relax with a cup of joe (Coffee Tree Roasters is great) and treat yourself to lunch (Mercurio’s serves great pizza).