October is not all about picking pumpkins, sipping pumpkin spice lattes or monster pumpkins (though you should check them out too). Whether you’re looking for quintessential fall events, great ideas for social outings or the chance to explore the city’s cultural gems, we’ve got 11 ways to make the most of the season — and kick FOMO to the curb.
1. Pittsburgh International Literary Festival: Through Oct. 15
Get lit at this dynamic festival celebrating cross-cultural exchange and freedom of creative expression. Spanning 16 days, 17 programs and 20 nations, the fifth annual lineup explores topics such as the translation of Indigenous writing, global queer experiences, womanhood, identity and marginalization from 50 writers. LitFest is packed with panel discussions, workshops, author interviews, storytelling and concerts — plus programs for children and teens. Even better? All events are free with in-person and virtual options. Schedule.
2. Reel Q at Row House Cinema, Andy Warhol Museum and Trace Brewing: Oct. 6-15
Pittsburgh’s longest-running film festival is also the world’s sixth-oldest LGBTQ+ film festival. The cultural staple returns with 50 shorts, 17 features, special events and virtual offerings. From a drama about being trans and Latinx to an Egyptian horror film to a “surreal romance” set to music by the Indigo Girls, the iconic lineup brings unforgettable queer stories to Pittsburgh’s big screens. Don’t miss the opening night presentation of “Our Son” starring Pittsburgh icon Billy Porter, the world premiere of a documentary about Pittsburgh singer Carla, featuring a talkback with director Mara Rago and a performance by local chanteuse Phat Man Dee. Reel Q goes out in style with a drag queen brunch plus a screening of “Queen Tut.” Schedule and tickets.
3. Fall Home Show at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center: Oct. 6-8
Why wait until spring for the next Home & Garden Show when you can get a jump on your projects now? The Fall show’s main attraction is florist Laura Dowling, who was the award-winning chief floral designer for the White House from 2009 to 2015. Pop into the Ultimate Game Room to check out the latest ideas for creating your very own home entertainment complex. Meet purveyors from area wineries, distilleries, meaderies and breweries, watch cooking demonstrations, and join gardening classes led by green thumb guru Doug Oster. Learn about specialty crops, “agritourism” and CSAs. The Farm to Table Buy Local Expo will highlight local farmers and food producers. Whether you want to build a patio, connect with contractors or design your dream kitchen, the Ask the Interior Designers section has all the answers you need. Schedule and tickets.
4. Festival of Combustion at the Carrie Blast Furnaces: Oct. 7
The towering furnaces along the Mon don’t produce molten iron for the global steel industry anymore, but they do spark creativity and curiosity. With eight hours of hands-on experiences from 1 to 9 p.m., the National Historic Landmark will morph into a glowing showcase of industrial arts and American crafts. The heartbeat of Rivers of Steel’s unique festival — drawing inspiration from the iron-making legacy of the site itself — will be a variety of hot metal pours offered throughout the day. Beyond the spectacle of spark, the storied grounds will host immersive offerings including live music, flame performances, a maker marketplace, food trucks and of course, fireworks. Tickets.
5. Steel City Big Pour at Rockwell Park: Oct. 7
Raise a glass to the beer festival that jumpstarted it all when Construction Junction first let the taps flow inside its North Point Breeze warehouse. At nearby Rockwell Park, beer enthusiasts, foodies and festival fans will converge at the culinary fest offering samples from 45 craft breweries, 20 local restaurants and five non-alcoholic beverage purveyors. To mark the sweet 16th and final Big Pour, a special photo display will showcase the event’s lively history. VIPers can start imbibing at 4 p.m.; the main event runs from 5 to 8 p.m. Tickets.
6. Fall Flower Show: Hometown Harvest at Phipps: Oct. 7
As our surroundings are transformed by a new season, it’s the perfect time to take an autumn excursion to Phipps Conservatory. What started in 1894 as a chrysanthemum-themed exhibition is now the country’s longest-running Fall Flower Show, which requires an entire year of horticultural planning. Watch bees make honey and take flight, stroll through a purple-infused grape harvest and gaze at the luminous harvest moon. Be soothed by the calming sounds of crickets, visit the Phipps Cider Mill and see mums never before available to the public. Learn the fascinating science behind color-changing leaves as you welcome the autumn season. Tickets.
7. Untitled (Art Party) at Carnegie Museum of Art: Oct. 13
Carnegie Museum of Art is leaving the title of this night entirely up to you — so make your mark, make the most of the night and craft your own experience. Forget superstitions, it’s time to celebrate the creative side of Friday the 13th surrounded by art aficionados, exceptional art, museum lovers and artists. Gather in the elegant Carnegie Music Hall Foyer for a glamorous fall soiree. Toast the world-class institution at this inaugural benefit bash supporting upcoming art exhibitions and public programming as you dance the night away to live music provided by You Pick Entertainment. Tickets.
8. TITANIC: The Artifact Exhibition at Carnegie Science Center: Oct. 21
Witness a slice of history when the world’s most famous ship “docks” on the North Shore. Even after more than 110 years, the Titanic remains a truly gripping catastrophe. View a replica of a boarding pass and take a chronological journey from the ship’s construction to life onboard, and ultimately to the horrific sinking and modern-day recovery efforts. Experience the grandeur of the RMS Titanic as you step into re-created cabins appointed with artifacts recovered from the shipwreck 2.5 miles below the sea. Visitors can even touch a simulated iceberg cooled to the same temperature as the water on that fateful April night in 1912. Also this month at CSC, don’t miss the Geek Out Gala on Oct. 5. Titanic tickets.
9. Scary Furnace Halloween Party & Beer Fest at Carrie Furnaces: Oct. 22
Haunted houses are spooky but nothing beats a haunted steel mill! Beers of the Burgh and Brew Gentlemen join forces to present this frothy fright fest as the perfect way to pre-game Halloween. Sip seasonal favorites — of course, plenty of pumpkin beers — along with Angry Orchard cider, Captain Morgan cocktails, and offerings from favorite local breweries and food trucks. Stop by the tarot card booth for a reading and visit other witchy craft vendors as you embrace the evening’s spiritual and surreal surprises. As the sun sets along the Mon, the eerie event shifts into dance mode with live music and DJs. Make the night even creepier by upgrading your ticket to include a VIP Ghost Tour led by Brew Gentlemen founder Matt Katase, who will dust the cobwebs off rare beers to share along the way. Tickets.
10. Dirty Dozen Bike Ride starting in Highland Park: Oct. 28
For a different kind of “scary” outing over Halloween weekend, how about attempting to conquer Pittsburgh’s 13 steepest hills … on a bike? Just watching this brutal test of endurance might be butterfly-inducing for some spectators. Riders will tackle precipitous roads spanning 50 miles — from Aspinwall to Mt. Washington to Hazelwood. It wouldn’t be “dirty” without the world’s steepest public street — Beechview’s Canton Avenue, with its staggering 37% gradient — where Audi filmed a heart-pounding commercial. Offering four competitive heats and five non-competitive heats (sign me up for the Party Bus!), the 40th epic edition starts at the Rhododendron Pavilion in Highland Park and ends with a much-deserved awards ceremony at East End Brewing. Register.
11. PGH Vintage Mixer at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center: Oct. 28
Vintage lovers have a lot more to fall in love with when this shopping staple returns bigger than ever to debut its new HQ. After 11 years of nurturing Pittsburgh’s vintage and antiques community, the event is mixing things up by expanding its footprint to welcome 100-plus vendors. More hours to thrift, haggle and bargain hunt from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. means more keepsakes for you. There is an always-welcoming vibe of communal shopping at this family-friendly event, which includes food and drink offerings. More event details on Facebook.
Find more things to do in Pittsburgh, including outdoor recreation, farmers’ markets, live music, movies and family activities.