Pittsburgh’s convenient TPlus light rail service stops very near the Water Steps at Riverfront Park on the city’s North Shore. That little gem of knowledge clinched my decision to tote a 6 & a 4 year old to the Northside last week for a break from the ennui of our Downtown hotel. The “Water Steps” is actually an impressive fountain consisting of 500 blocks of Pennsylvania’s Butler County sandstone along with shallow pools formed by the cascading water. The water first spills over a 4-foot waterfall before tumbling down, around, over, and through the staggered, multilevel steps. The expansive sloping lawn next to the Water Steps serves as a make-believe beach scene, with scantily clad folks stretching out on towels and blankets to relax and soak up the sunshine.
I found out about the Water Steps from the Pittsburgh Official Visitor’s Guide, which urged the out-of-towner to “play in the water steps near Heinz Field.” From that (and the very inviting full-page photo) I knew it was a family friendly oasis. Once we arrived, it was pretty easy to see that many other families were regular day visitors to this lovely flowing fountain fronting the Allegheny River. The two little ones had an absolute blast playing and splashing in the water, hopping from level to level with their new found friends. As the morning progressed, older kids and adults came to laze around and cool off, too.
I didn’t know this before our visit, but there are no nearby washroom facilities or changing areas at the Water Steps. That certainly began to concern me as the fountain filled up with people of all ages, some accompanied by their furry four footed family members! It also made for some pretty fancy maneuvering to get the kids changed out of their wet clothes!
As we prepared to pack up and head back Downtown for lunch, I was pretty surprised to find a sign way high up near the top outside corner of the Water Steps warning people NOT to swim or wade in the water because of the slipperiness of the steps.
Is this eye-catching fountain just an attractive riverside water feature or is it an an interactive urban splash and play pond? It really doesn’t seem to matter!
Show and Tell: Where do you head for some waterside fun in your favorite beachless town?
Helpful links for other beach-starved visitors to Pittsburgh: