Summer in the city: Much to do for fun, relaxation

Summer in the city: Much to do for fun, relaxation

After being hammered for months last winter with snow, freezing rain, sleet and Arctic temperatures, Pittsburghers are more than eager to embrace the dog days of summer.

While temperatures may be climbing into the 90s, for many locals it is nonetheless a huge relief just to go outside without having to shovel the driveway or reserve a parking spot with a folding chair.

Some might say, “Dayenu!”

But summer in Pittsburgh offers so much more, from the banks of the city’s three rivers to its parks and festivals, and, of course, the Pirates. Just about everyone is happy to head outside to take advantage of the ample array of open-air options in the Steel City.

“I very much enjoy summer in Pittsburgh and, especially as the Pirates are starting to play well, going to the ballgame with our son, Chaim, and my father,” said Rabbi Mordy Rudolph, executive director of Pittsburgh’s Friendship Circle. “Another fun summer activity is walking around Walnut Street. It seems there’s always something going on — the sidewalk sale, the Vintage Grand Prix. And taking walks around the neighborhood when the weather is nice is something that probably can’t be compared to in any ‘nice weather city,’ as we have such an appreciation for it, and it’s apparent in how everyone acts: People are all in such good moods.”

A local park is a favorite summertime haunt for Zack Block, director of Repair the World: Pittsburgh.

“One of my favorite things to do in the warm weather is to go on a picnic with my family in Schenley Park,” Block said. “We sit on the hill that overlooks part of downtown. There’s a playground right near the hill, and it is a great way to spend a night with family and friends.”

Spending time on the river is the highlight of the summer months for Gabe Goldman, director of Experiential Education and J-SITE at the Agency for Jewish Learning. Goldman enjoys renting a kayak from Venture Outdoors, located under the Sixth Street Bridge, and heading out for an hour on the Allegheny River.

“If you time it right, you can actually kayak to a Pirates game,” he said. “Fun, inexpensive and good exercise all in downtown Pittsburgh.”

For some, nothing says “summer” like an outdoor concert.

Rabbi Aaron Bisno, spiritual leader of Rodef Shalom, looks forward to his congregation’s Garden Parties with live music held in the synagogue’s Biblical Garden (Thursday, July 17 and Thursday, Aug. 21). Bisno also attends the Bach, Beethoven and Brunch concerts in Mellon Park, where Rodef Shalom hosts a kids’ activity tent on Sundays in July and August.

The newly launched Sunday farmers’ market, located in the Beacon/Bartlett parking lot behind the 1900 block of Murray Avenue, is becoming a fast favorite among the Squirrel Hill crowd.

“Each week is better than the last, with more vendors and more shoppers,” said Alec Rieger, founder of the market. The market now even boasts a band, he said.

In addition to Sundays at the market, Rieger also enjoys taking advantage of scenic nearby trails for hiking.

“I love to go long-distance backpacking, and we live in such a beautiful part of the world,” he said. “Every chance I get, I run for the hills. I hope to have a few days this summer to hike the 96-mile North Country National Scenic Trail in the Allegheny National Forest.”

For the less adventurous, Pittsburgh’s diverse neighborhoods provide abundant opportunities for some pretty decent noshing.

Leslie Frischman, a teacher at Community Day School, looks forward to her summers off to visit out-of-the-way food shops with her daughter, Charlotte, a student at Ohio State University. On their hit list for this summer is Pierogies Plus in McKees Rocks and Cafe Kolache in Beaver. The women also plan to take a summer Italian cooking class at Crate on Greentree Road.

David Katz, assistant director of Hillel Jewish University Center, prefers to head to the Strip District for his Sunday morning summer treats.

“I start with a stop at 21st Street Coffee and Tea and a taco from Edgar’s and then move on to purchasing food for the week,” he said, adding that he now also tops off the day with a stop at the Squirrel Hill farmers’ market on his way home.

The Amazing Café and the Double Wide Grill are two restaurants frequented by Kathryn Spitz Cohan, executive director of JFilm. She enjoys stopping at the South Side eateries for lunch during bike rides along Pittsburgh’s three rivers, she said.

Summer would not be summer without a visit to Kennywood Amusement Park, Phipps Conservatory and PNC Park, said Rabbi Alex Greenbaum, spiritual leader of Beth El of the South Hills. “But a relaxing walk around Peters Lake Reservoir or a family hike through Hartwood Acres are even better,” he added.

Simple summer pleasures are often the best, according to Rabbi Scott Aaron, community scholar at the Agency for Jewish Learning.

“I like to go on Shabbat afternoons to the J&R Family Park pool with my family,” he said. “The other thing is to stroll down to the Manor Theatre for an evening movie during the week with one or more of my family. Summer nights allow us to enjoy more night-time events with the kids since they don’t have to get up for school the next day, and the Manor is a lovely local venue for a show.”

(Toby Tabachnick can be reached at

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