How can the region that gave birth to Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood not be a treasure-trove for children? Of course, the region’s abundant outdoor recreation offerings can enhance the health and well being of residents of all ages. On the North Side/North Shore alone are three great venues loved by kids.
The Pittsburgh Children’s Museum aims to provide “innovative museum experiences that inspire joy, creativity and curiosity.” Founded in 1984 in a century-old Beaux-Art post office on the North Side, expanded into the former Buhl Planetarium next door. A striking glass addition connects the two structures, earning the making the structure the largest Silver LEED-certified museum at that time. Temporary and permanent emphasize the use of real tools for exploring rocket building, 3-D printing, quilting, robotics, pottery, silk screening, paper cutting, animation and painting. Outside, the interactive Cloud Arbor sculpture that creates an ever-evolving cloud-like atmosphere.
The Carnegie Science Center is a family‑centered destination for fun and learning that aims to serve as a trusted voice and hub for dialogue on science and its social implications, excite and inspire boys and girls to explore careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). Its Highmark SportsWorks exhibit four floors of interactive exhibits, includes a includes a submarine, and explorations of outer space, the deep sea and the world of robots, as well as live theater and planetarium shows.
The National Aviary is America’s zoo just for birds. Visitors can get up-close and personal with more than 500 birds of more than 200 species from around the world, including owls, eagles, flamingos and penguins
Started by Scots-born coal and steel baron for whom it was named, the Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s collection of mounted, displayed dinosaurs is the third-largest in the United States (behind those in Washington and New York). It offers hands-on opportunities with real and replica specimens, and a quarry for amateur archeologists to explore. The adjacent Carnegie Museum of Art, with its collections across three centuries of paintings and decorative arts, airy atrium and front and rear sculpture gardens with water features are places of fascination and contemplation for old and young alike. Both feature regular engaging, creative programs for kids in which they just might learn a few things along the way. A single ticket gains entry to both, housed in a single facility in Oakland connected to the main branch of the Carnegie Public Library. Both the main location and CPL’s 19 branches throughout the city offer storytimes and special programs for kids.
Dating back to the 1870s -- when dozens of such funiculars were high-tech, practical methods to move people and goods over the region’s many dramatic urban peaks – the Duquesne and the Monongahela inclines connecting Mount Washington and Duquesne Heights with West Carson Street and bridges to downtown are still used by a few thousand commuters each day. They’re also hugely popular curiosities for tourists, especially for kids – who can watch the hoisting equipment and enjoy panoramic views and all for the price of a bus ride.
Amusement parks include West Mifflin’s Kennywood Park, whose name alone strikes joyful anticipation in the hearts of any kid whose ever been there, even in wintriest February. Opened in 1898, it is one of only two amusement parks in the National Register of Historic Places, and offers six roller coasters, 10 classic rides and 14 rides in Kiddieland.
Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Oakland’s Schenley Park is a leader in green building and home to one of the world’s only “living” offers fun hands-on projects that share information about plants, animals and ecosystems, from identifying fall leaves to papermaking. Discovery tables are available year round, while guided tours, story time and seasonal camps round out the offerings. The Pittsburgh Zoo + PPG Aquarium in Highland Park offers programs for kids as young as two, including wildlife tours and encounters, summer zoo camp, youth group sleepovers, and the annual Zoo Boo Halloween celebration.
Senator John Heinz History Center in the Strip District offers tours geared towards K-12 students to explore American history through such events like the British, French, and Indian War, the Lewis and Clark Expedition, the Underground Railroad, and the region’s role as a supplier of materiel for the Civil War and World Wars. The adjacent Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum is a must for Steelers, Penguins or Pirates fans of any age.