Apple whiskey, sinful sweets, a tribute to the “Godfather of the Dead,” access to the rarely opened “Pittsburgh Vault.” October has something to satisfy all of your senses and cravings.
1. “New Installations: 40th Year” opening reception at the Mattress Factory: October 6, 6 – 8 p.m.
Lush Kentucky bluegrass, 1,000 bars of soap, flies and canaries: These might not seem like things an artist would use, but at the Mattress Factory, these unexpected materials are the fodder for cutting-edge installations. The museum took root 40 years ago, when artists purchased a former Stearns & Foster warehouse. Since then, the pioneering museum has commissioned new works by 650 artists from around the globe. To celebrate, seven artists have returned to dream up new installations and usher in the next four decades. A huge highlight is the focus on Greer Lankton, who passed away in 1996, and is acclaimed for depicting the transgender experience through autobiographical dolls and immersive environments. Lankton’s seminal work, “It’s all about ME not YOU” is part of the museum’s permanent collection. At the free event, attendees will see never-before-shown pieces and hear a talk by co-curator Margery King.
2. Walkabout Apple Whiskey Weekend at Wigle Whiskey: October 6-8
Crisp autumn afternoons and crisp apples are a match made in heaven. Add in locally made whiskey and you’ve got a perfect fall weekend. Revive the pioneering spirit of Johnny Appleseed — who introduced apple trees to Pennsylvania — and get a first taste of Wigle’s latest batch of cider-infused whiskey. The apple action kicks off October 6 at Wigle’s Barrelhouse and Garden, where one of its most highly anticipated releases — Walkabout Apple Whiskey — will debut. Taste the goodness of beautifully-aged American whiskey combined with the flavors of fall apples from local presses, snap a selfie with Johnny Appleseed and participate in apple-themed crafts. Sip samples from Wigle’s soon-to-open Threadbare Cider House, grab BBQ from the Black Sheep food truck and rock out with Black Cat Moan. Head back October 7 for Wigle’s “Walkabout Drinking Buddies” event showcasing the irresistible pairing of Banh Mi sandwiches, craft beer and apple whiskey. Cap off the weekend October 8 at Wigle’s Strip District distillery, where the free fall fun will overflow with whiskey cocktails, apple cinnamon frozen yogurt and live music. View a schedule.
3. Doors Open Pittsburgh: October 7 & 8
Visit a popular Prohibition-era speakeasy hidden inside Pittsburgh’s premier historic hotel. Explore the offices of Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto. Step into a 1930s Art Deco bank vault. Encounter a friendly ghost inhabiting a mansion designed by H.H. Richardson. If this all screams “off limits!” to you, think again. The doors to some of Pittsburgh’s iconic landmarks and newly designed buildings are about to swing open to the public. Back with an expanded lineup and footprint, the unique event will showcase 69 spaces throughout Downtown, the North Side and the Strip. New this year are “Insider Tours” led by experts. Inside the Gothic Revival First Lutheran Church, see 2,000 pipes in the massive Casavant organ, view a 1765 Luther Bible and ring the tower bells. Head to the oldest surviving bank on Fourth Ave. to see the Beaux Arts boardroom, giant lions carved by Max Kohler and vintage accounting machines. Meander through the lagering caves at Penn Brewery, view the City-County Building’s rarely opened vault and peer into a 40-foot Tiffany glass dome inside the magnificent Union Trust Building. Create your own itinerary online, buy tickets and start opening some doors.
4. George Romero celebration at Row House Cinema: October 13 – 19
Ever since the first zombies slithered out of a western Pennsylvania cemetery in George Romeo’s 1968 cult classic “Night of the Living Dead” — spawning a new genre — Pittsburgh has had a love affair with horror films and zombies. One of Pittsburgh’s adopted heroes, George Romero, attended Carnegie Mellon and set up shop here making films with local talent. Over the next 49 years, the iconic director revolutionized the horror industry, inspired generations of filmmakers and solidified Pittsburgh’s place on the moviemaking map. Just three months after the director’s sad passing, Row House Cinema invites rabid Romero fans to celebrate his groundbreaking legacy. Experience select Romero flicks — from “Night of the Living Dead” to “Season of the Witch” to “Martin” — along with spooky special events. Learn to act like you’re undead at ScareHouse’s “mini-zombie school,” watch fantastical makeup and special effects demos, join the #RomeroWasHere scavenger hunt featuring film locations, compete in a horror-themed trivia contests, and more. Buy tickets.
5. Reel Q at the Harris Theater: October 13 – 21
From a Hitchcockian thriller and a lesbian soap opera, to a portrait of Mexican singer Chavela Vargas, Pittsburgh’s festival of LGBT cinema brings compelling stories to the screen. The 32nd annual installment kicks off with a double-header presentation. First up is Jennifer Reeder’s “Signature Move,” a “coming-of-age Muslim melodrama” about a 30-something, closeted Pakistani lawyer who cares for her widowed, TV-obsessed mother, takes up Lucha-style wrestling and ends up falling for a Mexican woman. Also featured on opening night will be Dome Karukoski’s award-winning biopic, “Tom of Finland,” starring Pekka Strang as the homoerotic artist Touko Laaksonen. Afterward, head to the Pierce Studio for the opening night party. At Reel Q’s closing showcase featuring Assaad Yacoub’s “Cherry Pop,” be transported to a “shabby, small-town gay bar that’s home to a bevy of bedraggled drag queens.” What will ensue when an aging and bitter headliner refuses to leave her dressing room, while a newbie anxiously awaits his drag debut? Backstage backstabbing and appearances by “RuPaul’s Drag Race” alums make for one wild ride. Club Tilden hosts the closing party. Buy tickets.