International travel is rewarding and you should do it at every opportunity. Until then, or in between trips, don’t forget to explore the world right here in Pittsburgh. Take the kids for Ukrainian food, marvel at fancy Italian cars, learn Greek dancing and go back in time to 16th century England. While you’re globe-trotting around the city, just remember you’ll still be home sweet home at bedtime. Bon voyage!
Travel Itinerary Stop 1: Mango Festival in the Tropical India Rain Forest at Phipps Conservatory
Date: July 12
Every year India has an International Mango Festival showcasing hundreds of varieties of mangoes. Can’t make it to Delhi to celebrate? Just head over to the Phipps Conservatory to see a real mango tree and learn about the vital role mangoes play in Indian culture. Kids can pot a basil plant at Discovery tables or try their hand at Rangoli, a traditional Indian folk art often using rice, sand or flower petals. Families can watch chefs cook with mangoes, take home recipes and participate in educational programs about Indian tea. And, of course, there will be samples of fresh mango and mango splash drinks. The festival runs from 11am-4pm in the Tropical India Rain Forest Exhibit. Activities are free with admission.
Travel Itinerary Stop 2: International Car Show at the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prixin Schenley Park
Dates: July 19, 20
The 32nd Annual Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix is the place to be if you and your kids love cars and trucks. The vintage races through the streets of Schenley Park are simply thrilling to watch. And with over 2,000 vehicles on display at the International Car Show, it will be hard to pick a favorite. Will it be a Japanese Mitsubishi, British Aston Martin, Italian Lamborghini, German Porsche or American Chevrolet? When you return from this virtual trip around the world of cars, take a break for some free activities in the Kid’s Pit Stop hosted by the Neighborhood Ford Store. Families can construct cars out of building bricks and race them down a track to compete for prizes in the 4th Annual Ford Junior Grand Prix. Kids can help paint a 30-foot long truck mural or dance to Radio Disney. In its 31 years to date, the Grand Prix has raised over $3.5 million for charity. Gates open at 9:30am on both days and car shows run from 11am-4pm. Races will be held from 1-5pm on Saturday and 12-5pm on Sunday. Cost is free to enter as a spectator but donations are suggested since proceeds benefit charity. Public parking on Flagstaff Hill is $15 and free shuttles to the event run every 10 minutes.
Travel Itinerary Stop 3: St. Mary’s Ukrainian Festival in McKees Rocks
Dates: July 23, 24, 25, 26
Share a little bit of Ukrainian heritage with your family at this annual cultural festival. Try Ukrainian foods like holubtsi (stuffed cabbage) and perishke (baked cheese buns). Peruse ethnic collectibles at the vendor tables or listen to traditional songs by the Dzius Sisters. Of course, if you also want typical fair food and entertainment, there will be funnel cakes, bingo and a clown. Music headliners include doo-wop band The Marcels, who had the big hit ‘Blue Moon’ back in the 1960s. The festival runs from 5-10pm every night.
Travel Itinerary Stop 4: McKeesport International Villagein Renziehausen Park
Dates: August 12, 13, 14
If you want to experience the cultures of nearly 20 regions around the world at the same time, this event, started in 1960 and one of the largest of its kind, is a must. Take your choice of ethnic foods like German spätzle, Lebanese tabbouleh and Mexican quesadillas. While you eat your dinner, your family can enjoy the continuous dance performances held nightly. Which colorful traditional costume is your favorite? For more interactive fun you can participate in cultural crafts, storytelling, games and cooking demonstrations during the 15 minute Ethnic Heritage Workshops. Each nationality represented at the festival is hosting its own workshop and the entire festival is staffed by volunteers who care about sharing their heritage with others. Festival hours are 3-10pm daily with dance performances each night between 6-10pm. Ethnic Heritage Workshops occur each day between 4-6pm. Cost of admission is $2 per person.
Travel Itinerary Stop 5: Little Italy Daysin Bloomfield
Dates: August 21, 22, 23, 24
Since 2002, Little Italy Days has been celebrating Bloomfield’s Italian heritage. One of the highlights of this event is the bocce tournament that is ongoing throughout the weekend. Bocce is a popular Italian ball sport that’s fun to watch while you listen to the music entertainment coming from one of the three main stages. Musical highlights this year include Simona De Rosa from Naples, Italy and Louis Prima Jr. The streets are closed down to make room for people to walk through numerous Italian food booths and activity tables. Local businesses come out to support the neighborhood and many offer giveaways and sidewalk sales. Event hours are 6-10pm on Thursday, 12-10pm on Friday and Saturday and 12-7pm on Sunday.
Travel Itinerary Stop 6: Ypapanti Greek Food Festival in East Pittsburgh
Dates: August 21, 22, 23, 24
After you try the Italian food in Bloomfield at Little Italy Days, make sure to save room for Greek food at the 31st Annual Ypapanti Greek Food Festival which is held the same weekend. This festival is the biggest fundraiser for the Ypapanti Greek Orthodox Church in the East End which will celebrate its 100th year in 2015. Dedicated volunteers start weeks in advance making tasty Greek pastries like baklava. Savory foods like stuffed grape leaves, gyros, spanakopita and moussaka are always crowd favorites. The Grecian Odyssey Dancers (ages 15+) and the Junior Olympian Dancers (ages 7-15) perform authentic Greek folk dancing twice daily in regional Greek costumes. Kids will love interacting with the Pirate Parrot on Friday night and taking an impromptu dance lesson. The Greek Company Orchestra will play music nightly that features the traditional, 12-stringed Greek instrument called the bouzouki. Cost for entertainment and parking is free. Festival hours are 11am-10pm.Travel Itinerary Stop 7: Pittsburgh Renaissance Festival
Dates: August 23-24, 30-31 (also Labor Day and weekends throughout September)
As long as you’re virtually traveling the world, why not travel back in time, too? The Pittsburgh Renaissance Festival takes you back to a 16th century village. The streets are full of interactive performers like knights jousting on horses, fire-eaters, jugglers, escape artists and the occasional encounter with royalty. Add in the medieval music from bagpipes, drums and carillon bells for a truly surreal experience. Try a roasted turkey leg, play medieval games and watch blacksmiths and glassblowers work at their craft. The first weekend of the festival is BOGO with an offer from Wendy’s restaurants and the second weekend is the Prince, Princess & Pirate Party, full of fun activities geared toward kids 12 years and younger. Kids 12 and under get in free on this weekend with a paying adult. Cost is $17.95 for adults and $8 for kids ages 5-12 (except for the 2nd weekend) and kids under 5 are always free.