Karen Bumbaugh January 19, 2019
Pittsburgh has long been known as a kid-friendly city. It’s even taken on the nickname, “Kidsburgh”, to further illustrate the city’s fondness for the youngest generation. During the summer, there are the obvious attractions, such as amusement parks and playgrounds, that make the city a favorite destination for families. However, the city stays alive in the winter with many indoor attractions which cater to kids. Let’s explore some of them here:
Carnegie Science Center – This top-notch science center is a prominent building along the waterfront and a popular place to find educational, kid-friendly fun. With four floors of interactive exhibits for varying interests, it’s easy to find something for everyone to enjoy.
One of the most popular rooms is robotics themed. It’s the largest permanent robotics exhibit in the world, where you can learn how technology allows robots to think, sense, and react. Watch a robot shoot basketball hoops or get in on the action by playing air hockey against one. This exhibit even includes replicas of robots made famous by the movies, such as C-3PO and HAL 9000.
For the younger children in your family, the Little Learner Clubhouse at Carnegie Science Center is the place to be. This is a special section for children six years and younger. My three-year-old’s favorite spot in this area is the fishing pond. With fishing pools, magnetic fish, and a pond that forms from a rippling brook, the toddlers and preschoolers surrounding me could not get enough. The Science Center knows kids like hands-on activities, so they’ve provided waterproof vests and a dryer for when they’ve finished their fishing adventure. The Clubhouse also includes a climbing structure, a soft play area for toddlers, a submarine with books and toys, and a tomato exhibit to practice sorting.
Other popular areas of the Science Center include the Highmark SportsWorks where kids can put the laws of physics into action as they participate in sports activities. The Miniature Railroad and Village, an immersive Giant Cinema, planetarium, live science shows, and a quick-service restaurant round out the offerings of the Science Center.
Admission to the Carnegie Science Center is $19.95 for adults, $14.95 for seniors (age 65+), $11.95 for children, and children age two and under are free.
Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh – An award-winning museum in the city, the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh features permanent exhibits and one rotating exhibit located on the first floor. Their focus is to provide high-quality exhibits to inspire children to create and explore. Upon entering the museum, the first activity you’ll see is a guaranteed hit with the kids. It’s called Limb Bender, and it lives up to its name. It is a climbing maze which takes up an entire wall and features seven levels of climbing platforms. No worries, it’s enclosed so there is no risk of falls. Tip: Don’t attempt to enter the maze as an adult. A few parents who entered had to contort their bodies into uncomfortable-looking positions in order to navigate the maze.
If your child likes to design, build, and test, the Maker Space at the Children’s Museum will be the perfect place for them. For your child’s artistic side, there’s an area to experiment with different types of painting as well. Looking for some more physical play? Take the kids into the Garage where they can pretend to drive, wash, and gas up a Smart Fortwo Car. They can also climb to a second-story overlook where they can launch parachutes into the air. A twist slide and rope climber round out the fun play opportunities in this room.
Younger children may find the second floor of the Children’s Museum more geared toward their interests. The main area on this floor is called the Nursery, and it has toddler-friendly exploration activities. Sand play, train tables, a padded play area, and ball mazes are just a few of the activities on this floor. We loved how the exhibits were just the right height for a toddler’s arms reach; everything on this floor of the museum was made just for them.
Saving the best for last, the top floor of the Museum is our favorite. The Waterplay area is located in a bright, colorful space. Tip: Changing rooms are available on this floor, as you may want to bring swimsuits and towels for the kids. Getting soaked while participating in Waterplay is almost unavoidable, but it’s also a whole lot of fun.
The Museum has an onsite cafe with plenty of kid-friendly food options. We spent so much time there, it was inevitable that the kids would need more food than the snacks that we brought with us. In the cafe area, take some time to notice the historical aspects of the building that houses the Museum, as it’s actually made up of two historic buildings, one of which was formerly a post office.
Admission to the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh is $16 for adults, $14 for seniors (age 60+) and children. Age two and under are free.
National Aviary – Located in Pittsburgh’s North Side and within easy walking distance to the Children’s Museum, the National Aviary is the perfect destination for children to learn about birds from various parts of the world. With over 500 birds from more than 150 species, the Aviary offers exhibits ranging from the tropical rainforest to Penguin Point. Feedings and special shows are also available, including an interactive live presentation with birds of the Amazon.
Many birds you’ll encounter at the Aviary are free to fly and walk about the exhibit. This unique experience puts you within reach of birds, and we spent a lot of time interacting with them. Seeing the birds in their habitats and watching their behaviors is quite interesting and a great learning experience for children.
For an extra fee, there are encounters available with some of the birds and animals of the Aviary, including a popular resident of the Aviary, the two-toed sloth. These up-close experiences allow you to learn more about your favorite bird or animal, as an expert will explain how to best interact with them. This unique, personalized experience is best scheduled before your visit.
Admission to the National Aviary is $17 for adults, $16 for children (ages two through 12) and seniors. Age two and under are free.
Duquesne Incline – The Duquesne Incline is a staple of the itineraries of families visiting the city. It’s hard to miss its presence in the city when taking in the fabulous views of the rivers. The Duquesne Incline is also a historic landmark and still functions as a mode of transportation for commuters. There’s a large parking lot at the base of the Incline ($5 fee to park), with a series of steps and a bridge over the highway to access the historic Duquesne Incline’s lower building. It’s easiest to have the exact fare in cash to drop into the tin, but you can pay in large bills at the booth.
Incline cars run every ten minutes or so, and they take on the mountainside at about 6 miles per hour. There are benches along the parameter of the car to relax and enjoy the scenery during your ride. For the best view of the cityscape, sit at the front of the car to see the famous three rivers and the stadiums, skyscrapers, and bridges that make up the famous skyline. At the top, continue to take in the view from a stationary overlook and explore the history of the Incline by checking out all of the contents of the display cases in the Incline building.
A round trip ride on the incline is $5.00 for adults, $2.50 for children (ages six to 11), and children age five and under are free.
Enjoy your winter trip to the city of Pittsburgh by visiting these wonderful indoor attractions. As the weather turns warmer, even more, kid-friendly options are available including Kennywood Amusement Park, Pittsburgh Zoo, and many more. Your kids will love it because Pittsburgh is Kidsburgh!