Family City Guide: A to G
Photo by Chuck Beard
A is for Aviary
The ideal visit to the National Aviary includes more than just a stroll through the exhibits. Plan your trip in advance (there’s a schedule of events on the Aviary’s website) to make sure you don’t miss daily feedings, bird encounters and shows; in the Aviary’s Wetlands exhibit, guests have the opportunity to hand-feed birds. Throughout the Aviary, slow down to spot birds not visible at first glance. “If you take the time to explore and look, you can see and learn so much more,” says Robin Weber, the Aviary’s senior director of marketing and community relations. “It’s a great way for kids to explore, if parents help them.” —SC
★ Insider Tip: Don’t miss the avian care-center window, found in the Aviary’s Eagle Hall. The window offers a close-up look at birds receiving medical care, eggs on the verge of hatching — and, on rare occasions, new hatchlings.
700 Arch St., North Side
photo by douglas duerring
B is for Baseball
Not too far from home plate, a row of children are lined up, bouncing with excitement. At the front of this exuberant queue, kids exchange $1 for a carton of milk and a fresh-baked cookie. It’s a scene you won’t find at PNC Park; while the home of the Pittsburgh Pirates is a great family outing in its own right, one of the finest (and thoroughly affordable) family sports outings nearby can be found at the home park of the independent Washington Wild Things. Promotional games and events take place nearly every half-inning, a play area is tucked beyond the left-field bleachers and no seat in the park costs more than $15. Plus, every Friday-night game features fireworks. —SC
★ Insider Tip: Kids can join the Washington Wild Things Kids Club for $15, which includes a ticket to each Sunday home game and a kids’ meal — nine tickets, nine hot dogs, nine sodas and more for only $15. All junior Wild Things are invited to run the bases on the field after Sundays’ games as well.
One Washington Federal Way, Washington
photo by chuck beard
C is for Carousel
Some may find it odd to come upon a carousel in the middle of Schenley Plaza in Oakland, but the Victorian-style structure adds a bit of whimsy — and plenty of fun. For $2 a ride (or $60 for a family season pass good for two adults and four children) from mid-April through November, you can choose between a triceratops, panther, seahorse, teacup and more as your ride for the duration. Make an afternoon of it and enjoy lunch outdoors at the kid-friendly Porch restaurant before walking over to the main branch of the Carnegie Library to browse the extensive children’s section (and maybe catch a quick glimpse of a dinosaur; see page 19 for more). —LD
★ Insider Tip: Build a monthly tradition without ever opening your wallet: Carousel rides are free from noon-4 p.m. on the second Sunday each month during UBER ATG Kids’ Days in Schenley Plaza.
Schenley Plaza, 4100 Forbes Ave., Oakland
photo by chuck beard
D is for Dinosaurs
When you take your kids to see the world-class dinosaur exhibit at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, be sure to tell them that they’re not just looking at any old Tyrannosaurus Rex — they’re looking at the Tyrannosaurus Rex. The T-Rex at the museum is the type specimen for the world’s most famous dinosaur; that means that it is the original skeleton for which the species was named. Take your time looking through the “Dinosaurs in their Time” exhibit, which immerses the museum’s dinosaurs and other Mesozoic-era fossils in time-appropriate flora and fauna, then let the kids dig up some bones of their own at Bonehunters Quarry, a simulated fossil dig. —SC
★ Insider Tip: Want a quick glimpse of the dinosaurs without making a day of it? Stop at the main branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh in Oakland, under the same roof as the art and natural-history museums; in several spots, the library’s stacks overlook the fossils, allowing you to sneak a peak for free.
4400 Forbes Ave., Oakland
photo courtesy pittsburgh botanic garden
E is for Earth
The Pittsburgh Botanic Garden in Oakdale is brimming with family-friendly activities to connect you and your kids to the Earth: Go for a mile-long Night Hike (don’t forget to bring a flashlight) to see and hear creatures that are most active in the dark. Kids 3 to 7 can get their creative mojo on with the monthly “Block and Rocks” play sessions. “Garden Thursdays” feature themed events such as “Terrific Trees” and “Incredible Insects” designed for youths aged 5 to 9 (accompanied by an adult) to learn about plants, insects and more. And everyone can go on a scavenger hunt through the center’s expansive gardens and naturescapes. —HBK
★ Insider Tip: In a quiet moment at the Lotus Pond, you might hear a sound like a lightsaber. That’s the sound of a male American bullfrog defending his territory. As you walk across the stepping stones, pause and look for the bullfrog and fish inhabiting this once-blighted pond.
799 Pinkerton Run Road, Oakdale
photo by chuck beard
F is for Flowers
From the time you enter the historic glasshouse (circa 1893) and throughout the many indoor and outdoor flower gardens, living color surrounds you at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. Admire the waterfalls in the Tropical Forest Conservatory and explore the Center for Sustainable Landscapes, one of the greenest buildings on Earth. You also won’t want to miss the seasonal flower shows and free-with-admission activities for all ages. Phipp’s Discovery Programs include Make-a-Craft Mondays, Story Time Wednesdays and Pot-a-Plant Fridays. Get hands-on experience with the Discovery Stations throughout the facility, and don’t forget to check out the popular Play Farmers’ Market, where kids can get imaginative with healthy toy foods, shopping carts and cash registers. —JS
★ Insider Tip: There’s always something fun going on at Phipps, no matter the time of year. From April through September, the Stove Room enchants with the colorful Butterfly Forest. In the winter, take the kiddos to see the garden railroad train display.
One Schenley Drive, Oakland
photo courtesy pittsburgh glass center
G is for Glass
Kids and hot objects don’t always mix, unless we’re talking about the Pittsburgh Glass Center. The nonprofit school, gallery and state-of-the-art glass studio in Pittsburgh’s East End is continually hosting live hot glass demonstrations, as well as workshops, summer camps and classes geared toward kids of all ages. For teens ages 14 and older, there are two-hour and one-day workshops, eight-week classes and one-week summer intensive programs. For those 12 to 18, there are after-school classes and a summer camp in July. Little ones ages 5 and up are also encouraged to get creative through various make-it-now activities and private, hands-on experiences. —JS
★ Insider Tip: Don’t miss PGC’s Hot Jam events, held on the first Friday of every month. The open houses feature heat-defying acts of art, including live glassblowing demonstrations and a contemporary glass art exhibition. It’s fun, and free, for the whole family.
5472 Penn Ave., Garfield