Pittsburgh Family Travel on a Budget

Pittsburgh on a Budget

I love where we live, but sometimes a change of scenery does a body good. It’s always fun to venture to Cleveland for some excitement and culture (not that Akron does not have a healthy dose of that), but it’s not the only option. Did you know that Pittsburgh is just about the same distance as Cleveland, for many of us in the areas east of Akron?

Just like Akron is enjoying a revitalization, so is the ‘Burgh, and doing Pittsburgh on a budget can be as easy as pie. As you may know, I’m a chef, so it goes without saying that I LOVE food. I mean really love it. I love cooking it it, I love smelling it, and I love eating it. Doing the dishes, not so much. As a foodie, I found myself in Heaven in Pittsburgh, and there was plenty to do to keep the whole family entertained without breaking the budget. Pittsburgh on a BudgetI utilized my Priceline hack (see Six Steps to Saving on Travel) to score a hotel room at the Wyndham Grand for only $72/room, rather than the list of $179. It was lovely. Rooms are tiny but nice enough, and the pool and hot tub were vital to keeping my kids entertained between excursions. The location was GREAT! Don’t be fooled into parking in a garage or valet parking. Rather than paying $30/day to park, we parked FREE on the street. Parking is free after 6p and all day Sunday. The only issue we had with the hotel was hallway noise with a large sports team on our floor which got a bit annoying, but the staff were attentive in resolving the problem.

44831_x1muralGetting around Pittsburgh is not all that tough, but did you know there’s a subway system in the city? It’s called the “T,”and it’s FREE (and super clean). Bus service is also free all through downtown. Riding the subway was a fun adventure for our kids, as it made them feel like they were in a “big city.”

Getting to Pittsburgh can be pricey, as there are endless toll booths. Did you know you can avoid them and save $12 or so by just taking an alternate route?   Also, there are only tolls on the way IN to Pittsburgh, not on the way home! Here’s a route that avoids those pesky toll booths.

I can’t believe it’s taken me 41 years to make it to the Strip District in Pittsburgh. If you’ve never been there, you’ve got to check it out. There are blocks of every kind of ethnic grocery store you can imagine. There are food vendors lining the streets, a daily farmer’s market, and all sorts of art, and smells, and magic that you NEED to experience. Take my advice, though, and drive there, because you’ll need the trunk to haul all the booty you take away from this glorious place.

There are SO many good places to eat in Pittsburgh, but the one place you’ve GOT to go to Kelly O’s for breakfast or lunch. kellyos

You may have seen this place on Diners, Drive In’s and Dives. This is a diner that, as a chef, I would be proud to call my own. The place is spotless and the food is SPOT ON. When the police eat there, you know it’s gotta be good. Shout out to our server Rebecca, who found my credit card on the ground, and chased us for blocks waving her hands to return it to me (and she wouldn’t even take a few dollars as a thank you). Seriously good people, making seriously good food!


When you think Pittsburgh, you probably think museums, and that means money, and usually lots of it. To take the family to Carnegie would have run about $65, plus parking. Did you know if you sign up for a membership at a local zoo, history museum, or science center, there’s reciprocal memberships to other like facilities across the country? Rather than pay $65 to go to the museum once, why not pay $90 or so and go for the whole year to a bunch of them? It’s worth checking out.

frick-museumStill too pricey? There is a FREE museum in Pittsburgh that you need to check out, and that’s the Frick Museum, which is an incredible mansion turned art and car museum with a restaurant on the property offering very reasonable gourmet eats. Check out their tea time that offers some very reasonable libations that the big people won’t want to miss, reasonably priced confections to make the kids happy, and then tour the grounds at your leisure, or catch a guided tour. Art lovers will soak in the oil paintings and architecture galore, while car enthusiasts will drool over the automotive portion of the museum.

When you are done there, don’t miss ice-skating in Schenley Park, right next door, for about $5/pp.

Our two days in Pittsburgh was a welcome change in scenery, and we can’t wait to make another trip. For a family looking for some local adventure on a budget, Pittsburgh is a great choice.

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