With the release of A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, you just might notice more than a red cardigan trend. Fred Rogers, aka Mister Rogers, was not only the man behind the iconic children’s show, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood (which aired from 1968-2001) he was also a proponent of kindness, imagination and helping children understand the importance of expressing feelings. Across the country, and even the world, there’s a renewed interest (and need) to stay true to Mister Rogers message.
“Try your best to make goodness attractive. That’s one of the toughest assignments you’ll ever be given.”—Fred Rogers
There’s no better place for a family vacation then Rogers’ own neighborhood—the city of Pittsburgh and nearby Latrobe, Pennsylvania are home to the Fred Rogers Trail. We spent three perfect days exploring it, and we can tell you we can’t wait to go back and do it all over again. Read on for our top favorites in and around Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.
Day 1: Mister Rogers’ Childhood: Latrobe, PA
Head out to Latrobe, PA. This small town just under an hour from downtown Pittsburgh is the birthplace and final resting place of Fred Rogers and this is the perfect spot to start your journey along the Fred Rogers Trail. Depending on the time of year you visit, this is either a full day or a half day. If you are visiting from May to September, allow for a full day so you can explore Idlewild & Soakzone Because it’s closed from late October through early May, you can explore Latrobe in a little less time if you wish, although we think it’s easy to spend a day ambling the streets of this adorable town.
Start Here: Fred Rogers Center
Make a stop at the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning & Children’s Media (300 Fraser Purchase Road, Latrobe, PA) at St. Vincent College. Staying true to his legacy, the Fred Rogers Center is an early childhood education center at the college, but the general public can peep the archival library of artifacts from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. There’s a small interactive exhibit for kids as well.
Upstairs you’ll find a display that follows the life of Fred Rogers in chronological order, from his family’s legacy in Latrobe to the people who helped Fred learn about children and children’s education. There are artifacts on display here, as well, including those famous Sperry topsiders he wore.
Don’t Miss: The Upsidedown Mural by Roman Verostko on the way down (or up) the stairs.
Fun fact: St. Vincent is also home to the football field where the Pittsburgh Steelers have held their summer training camp every year for the last 75 years. The campus is small enough to explore on foot, and the Basilica is breathtaking.
Take a Seat & Stay Awhile
Head into downtown Latrobe and stop by the Fred Rogers Statue in James H. Rogers Park (212 Main St, Latrobe, PA). This little city park, named for Fred Rogers’ father, has a beautiful memorial bench with a life-sized, bronze statue of Fred on a bench. Sidle up and stay a while, and snap a few family photos.
Up around the corner you’ll find the Latrobe Art Center (819 Ligonier Street, Latrobe, PA). Inside the Rogers building you’ll find an art center (co-founded by Fred Rogers sister, Laney aka Elaine) which is a hub for the town of Latrobe. There’s a fabulous array of art on the walls all done by local artists and members of the center (and much of it for sale). The center also offers a selection of classes for kids and grown-ups alike. The gift shop is onsite and has plenty of Fred Rogers memorabilia along with impressive locally crafted cards, jewelry and more.
Eat lunch at the cafe right on site, too: Ricolita’s Cafe. We highly recommend the gooey grilled cheese and a cup of soup or the popular “Neighborhood Salad” which includes seasonal fruits like strawberries, and veggies galore.
Don’t Miss: Just a couple doors down from the Latrobe Art Center you’ll spot a VERY large Banana Split sculpture, marking the spot where the first Banana Split was ever made.
The Latrobe Area Historical Society (416 Weldon St., Latrobe, PA) has a number of interesting artifacts from its famous citizens throughout the years. Here you can see a modest display of Fred Rogers items, along with his high school yearbooks from all four years. The Society is small, so a stop won’t take too much of your time, and because it’s all volunteer run, it’s always worth those minutes (and a few dollars of donation; admission is free).
Tip: Kids will enjoy the many shelves of interesting items but it’s a small place so plan ahead if you have little ones and jot down a quick scavenger hunt for them. For example, ask them to find the oldest item there, something or someone wearing a red sweater, something a soldier would have carried, something they don’t recognize (a dial telephone!), etc. This place is an I-Spy dream!
photo: Amber Guetebier
Take a Little Drive
The Latrobe Presbyterian Church (428 Main St., Latrobe, PA) where Fred Rogers attended church as a child is also right next to a small garden with a preserved school bell from the Second Ward School which once stood on the site, the school where Fred Rogers’ attended elementary school.
The original high school where Fred Rogers attended is located at 1501 Ligonier St., Latrobe. However, it is now a privately owned building. The current high school does have a large display of items from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood but is only open to the public during scheduled school activities. You can still get a view of the school and let the kids know that Fred attended high school here where he was yearbook editor and student council president.
Fun fact: The famous golfer Arnold Palmer was also from Latrobe and was a year behind Fred in high school.
“When we love a person, we accept him or her exactly as is: the lovely with the unlovely, the strong with the fearful, the true mixed in with the façade, and of course, the only way we can do it is by accepting ourselves that way.”—Fred Rogers
Author’s Note: Fred’s final resting place can be found at Latrobe’s Unity Cemetery, in a family mausoleum along with his father, James Hillis Rogers, and his mother, Nancy McFeely Rogers. If you’re interested in finding it, click here for more detailed info. It’s a beautiful, clean place and a quiet place to reflect on Mister Rogers legacy, so leave only kind thoughts and wishes behind (no teddy bears, please).
Don’t Miss: Idlewild
If you are visiting from May to September, don’t miss: Idlewild & Soakzone (2574 U.S. Route 30, Ligionier, PA). It’s been dubbed the “Best Children’s Park in the World” and includes Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood area where you can ride a real trolley car. Kids will love exploring this park and be sure to pack a bathing suit to play in the water park SoakZone on a hot day. Check the park calendar for opening hours and days.
Spend Days 2 & 3: In and Around Mister Rogers’ Pittsburgh
“In every neighborhood, all across our country, there are good people insisting on a good start for the young, and doing something about it.”—Fred Rogers
Day 2: Head to the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh and Museum Lab
While it’s possible to spend just an hour at the Children’s Museum of Pittburgh, we recommend allocating most of your morning if not your entire day here, especially if you have kids under 10. We’ve been to hundreds of kids museums across the country and this is one of the best ones we’ve visited!
“You’ll find the Fred Rogers’ spirit in everything we do,” says Bill Schlageter, the museum’s Director of Marketing. “Meaning innovative museum experiences that inspire joy, creativity and community.”
The museum had a very close relationship with Mister Rogers and developed many exhibits over the years with him, including the Daniel Tiger exhibit that is currently traveling the country. Throughout the museum you’ll find Mister Rogers artifacts, such as his sweater, photos and even the original puppets from the show (located in the Museum Lab).
This museum includes innovative Maker Labs, an entire space of water play including lots of thoughtful nooks for parents to relax (great for babes in arms, too), an area of play just for the little ones with water, sand and more and tons of interactive exhibits including a number of exhibits encouraging you to get to know your neighbor (think sound activated displays that require holding hands).
The Museum Lab is located just a quick walk from the museum’s main entrance and is included with admission. The Museum Lab is designed for kids ages 10 and up, although all are welcome. Here you will find a more sophisticated Maker Lab, interactive art and recording exhibits and more. Housed in what was once an 1893 Carnegie Library, there is currently a weaver on site creating a climbable art installation in “The Stacks.”
Spend time here connecting with your kids and fellow familles and really embody the Fred Rogers spirit yourself.
End your day with a vertical trolley trip: Duquesne Incline
While it’s a fantastic view any time of the day, locals all swear (and we can, too!) that taking this neighborhood trolley incline in the evening will make you never want to leave Pittsburgh. You’ll fall in love with the glittering city that Fred Rogers and his family called home. Park in the lower lot and ride it both up, and down. There’s a gift shop on site but be aware that tickets require exact change (adults are $2.50, one way).
Day 3: The Senator John Heinz History Center
“Love and trust, in the space between what’s said and what’s heard in our life, can make all the difference in this world.”—Fred Rogers
A multi-story museum, the Heinz History Center houses the original set pieces and artifacts from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood including the entryway and living room, King Friday XIII’s Castle, Henrietta Pussycat and X the Owl’s Great Oak Tree, Picture Picture, Mr. McFeely’s “Speedy Delivery” tricycle and more.
In addition, Discovery Place includes a “television” where kids can watch Mister Rogers Neighborhood on the screen. This is a great area to get out the wiggles, too, with lots of touchable items and building features all exploring the history of Pittsburgh’s industry and people.
Tip: Follow the spiral staircase above the museum’s cafe to visit the small display called Kidsburgh. You can take a slide back down to the lobby!
Don’t Miss: The Heinz History Center gift shop has some of the best Fred Rogers swag in town.
A Giant Among Men
Visit the Tribute to Children statue on North Shore Drive. This 10-ft tall statue of Fred Rogers sitting down and tying his sneakers overlooks the river and his beloved city. Not only is it impressively giant, you can even hear him singing.
If You’re Up for It: About 45 minutes from Pittsburgh proper you’ll find the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum, where you can explore the history of “Neighborhood Trolleys” in the and the legacy of streetcar lines in the area. You’ll also Discover where Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood filmed the iconic episode “Grandparents.”
Stop By The Studio
Take a detour for a quick selfie outside WQED Studios, (4802 Fifth Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA) where Mister Rogers Neighborhood, was produced and filmed.
Where to Stay
The Ace Hotel Pittsburgh
Located in East Liberty the Ace Hotel Pittsburgh (120 S Whitfield St, Pittsburgh, PA) was once a YMCA. A daily lap swimmer, Mr. Rogers was a member and supporter of YMCAs and YWCAs throughout his life. This kid-friendly, pet-friendly hotel has ridiculously comfortable beds and a bustling, happening lobby with a top-notch restaurant, Whitfield, as well as a lobby bar and a coffee bar. Some suites even have turntables and records from Fred Rogers’ own label, Small Word Records!
Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel
The Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel (107 6th St., Pittsburgh, PA) is currently offering a “Won’t You Be Our Neighbor?”package which features a welcome gift, including a Mister Rogers’ style cardigan to wear around town, and a copy of Life’s Journeys According to Mister Rogers; two adult tickets to the Heinz History Center; discounted valet parking; daily credit of $35 toward breakfast onsite at Braddock’s Rebellion. A portion of the proceeds for this package goes to supporting Heinz History Center’s preservation of the Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood set so future generations will be able to continue to explore.
As parents, we spend a lot of time hurrying and worrying. We hope this trip will give your family a blend of action, activities, and reflection on the big picture.
“What really matters is helping others win, too, even if it means slowing down and changing our course now and then.”—Fred Rogers
This trip was hosted by Visit PA but all opinions expressed here are the authors own. The writer would also like to express deep gratitude to Kelly Nguyen at the Tierney Agency, Julia Millman at Visit Pittsburgh, and Anna Weltz at Visit Laurel Highlands, along with the many wonderful, gracious people of Pittsburgh!