11 *actually* free things to do at the Pittsburgh Home & Garden Show

Pet dogs. Sip wine. Meet some robots.

home and garden collage
Rossilynne Culgan / The Incline
Rossilynne Culgan

It would be easy to quickly drop several thousand dollars at the Pittsburgh Home & Garden Show.

Hot tub? Need it. A dozen plants? Add to cart. A cedar pavilion for the yard I don’t even have? Yes, please.

Instead of blowing my savings account, I set out to determine how to have fun for free at the two-week-long expo of all things home, from dining room tables to home stereo systems to pool tables to patios to decorative palm trees.

But first, a few tips for first-timers.

Parking

Parking in the Convention Center’s garage ($12 per car) fills up fast. If it’s full, try the Mellon Square Garage, a short walk away. Or park on the North Side for $7 and take the expo’s free shuttle.

Coat check

Learn from my mistakes. Don’t balk at the $2 for coat check because you’ll regret it when you’ve walked 6,000 steps in a parka inside a stuffy building.

Admission (and re-admission)

Admission costs $10 for adults. Before you leave, stop by the re-entry booth where an attendant will mark your name on your ticket, so you can come back again and show your ID to get in for free any day during the show.

And now, here’s what to do for free (after your admission fee, of course) at the Pittsburgh Home & Garden Show.

Meet Blue, who is adoptable !!!

Meet Blue, who is adoptable !!!

Rossilynne Culgan / The Incline

Pet adorable dogs

Walking into this expo is overwhelming, like navigating the aisles of Ikea. But if you start in the downstairs garden section, you’ll soon be met with some very chill dogs whose energy helps fade away the stress of this place.

Be sure to meet Blue, an eight-week-old adoptable beagle-bluetick coonhound mix, whose ears nearly drag on the ground and whose puppy energy can’t properly be caught in a photograph. Find him at the Humane Animal Rescue booth.

Gold star behavior award.

Gold star behavior award.

Rossilynne Culgan / The Incline

A few booths down, say hello to the dogs from Going Home Greyhounds and the extremely well-trained German shepherd from Sit Means Sit Dog Training who happily posed for this photo.

You can even buy some treats for your furry friends back home. Find the pet booths in row 100.

Like a Roomba — but for your lawn.

Like a Roomba — but for your lawn.

Rossilynne Culgan / The Incline

Gawk at a robotic lawnmower

Think of it like a Roomba for the outdoors. This robotic lawnmower trims the lawn in small increments often — so small you don’t even have to rake the clippings or empty the mower. Check it out in booth 211.

A garden oasis.

A garden oasis.

Rossilynne Culgan / The Incline

Escape to a garden retreat

Explore lush garden displays, like Gardenalia’s swoon-worthy smattering of ferns, tulips and daffodils in booth 525.

Or check out Bidwell Training Center’s fanciful florals arranged in mugs, on window frames and even inside instruments in booth 1239.

Earn your green thumb here.

Earn your green thumb here.

Rossilynne Culgan / The Incline

Hone your gardening skills

Whether you’ve got a green thumb or you want to start a houseplant collection, learn the skills of the craft from the experts in presentations at the Everybody Gardens Stage.

Outside, a railroad bridge. Inside, a railroad display.

Outside, a railroad bridge. Inside, a railroad display.

Rossilynne Culgan / The Incline

Be a kid again

The intricate miniature railroad displays in booth 30 are sure to bring up some childhood glee.

Set in the shadow of an actual railroad bridge, check out ornate neighborhood displays, and watch as model trains speed by.

Humans vs. Robots.

Humans vs. Robots.

Rossilynne Culgan / The Incline

Challenge a robot to a game of ping pong

Humans vs. Robots: Ping Pong Edition. Sorry to say, but the robot seems to have an advantage here at this booth presented by the Pittsburgh Table Tennis Club. Either way, test your table tennis talents and have a friend take a video for you at booth 3841.

Because wine is an important part of both home and garden.
Rossilynne Culgan / The Incline

Sample some Pennsylvania wine

You’re probably going to want a drink after that ping pong game, so stop by one of the wineries serving up free samples. Pro-tip: Though Pennsylvania wines are often sweet, the Chambourcin from Mazza Vineyards is a solid dry red (find it at booth 3042).

You might know her from "Auction Kings."

You might know her from "Auction Kings."

Rossilynne Culgan / The Incline

Get your treasured item appraised

Bring your treasured heirloom, collectible or antique to booth 3821 and hear an appraisal from Dr. Lori, of Auction Kings during her appraisal comedy show. Showtimes are at noon, 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays; noon and 3 p.m. Sundays; and 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Be sure to arrive 30 minutes before showtime with your item for appraisal.

#KitchenGoals
Rossilynne Culgan / The Incline

Find some #KitchenInspo

So many marble countertops. All the custom cabinets. Every updated appliance. #KitchenGoals.

Note to self: Remember to take these bags to the grocery store.
Rossilynne Culgan / The Incline

Pick up a bunch of cloth tote bags

Lots of vendors are giving them out. Now, the real test: Actually remembering them when you go into the grocery store.

Clock a few thousand steps

Even just a cursory walk around the 10-acre exhibit space will put you at about 6,000 steps — a good way to beat cabin fever on a chilly day.

Find some inspiration at the Home & Garden show

It's a little like HGTV irl at the Home & Garden show, which comprises 1,800 exhibits across 10 acres. Check out the technology at the Dream Home Innovation Center and ask all your plant questions at the Garden Resource Center. The show runs daily through March 11. Pro-tip: If you buy your tickets online, you get a free one-year subscription to Better Homes & Gardens magazine. Before you go, check out our list of 11 *actually* free things to do at the show, including sipping wine, petting dogs and gawking at robotic lawn mowers.

Where: David L. Lawrence Convention Center at 1000 Fort Duquesne Blvd. (Downtown)

When: March 3, 2018 at 10:00 a.m. to March 11, 2018 at 10:00 p.m.

How much: $10