3 historic Pittsburgh buildings that are play perfect

This article is the first of a guest written blog as part of our Member Blog Series, which typically showcases Playful Pittsburgh Collaborative Members' efforts and commitment to ensure that play is a critical element in the lives of people of all ages. Each month, a different member organization will share their take on how play is a part of the work they do. The Playful Pittsburgh Collaborative hopes that these stories of play from our diverse set of member organizations will encourage and inspire leaders in communities, businesses, schools, and families to prioritize play every day. This guest blog written by Brendan Hufford, a veteran teacher who believes creating healthier children starts with play. He writes often about family and fatherhood at BrendanHufford.com.

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Finding the perfect family-friendly place can be tricky. Aside from wanting your children to have a great time while learning, playing and appreciating the trip, you want to enjoy it too. But, it’s possible to get both. Here are a few places that both you and your children can enjoy without having to leave the city.

1. Pittsburgh Children's Museum

The Pittsburgh Children’s Museum is located on the Northside of Pittsburgh in its historic Allegheny neighborhood. The museum is an interactive, hands-on children’s sanctuary housing exhibits, programs and shows throughout the year. Older children will love the MAKESHOP at the Pittsburgh Children's Museum - a space for woodworking, circuitry, sewing and weaving, stop-motion animation, and taking apart appliances to learn how they work. Other activities are centered around creativity, building and technology, and ranging from dance, rocket building, robotics, pottery, Japanese paper cutting, animation to more activities that encourage touch and play. If your little ones are into art, make sure to stop over and check out the museum’s Art Collections including Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood exhibit commemorating the Pittsburgh icon.

For a list of all exhibits, click here. Their Calendar will tell you what’s going on so that you can plan to visit around an exhibit or show you and your family are interested in. For admission and ticket information, check out their Visit Us page.

2. Cathedral of Learning (Nationality Rooms)

Located inside the Cathedral of Learning at the University of Pittsburgh, The Nationality Rooms consist of two floors of 30 beautifully designed rooms with each room depicting cultures from 30 countries. The Nationality Rooms are sustained and preserved by a committee whose mission is to emphasize ethnic identity and the search for one’s ancestral roots. With architecture, artifacts, furniture, archives, photographs and rich details, the Nationality Rooms portray a unique glimpse of the people who immigrated to Pittsburgh decades ago. Photojournalist Brian F. Henry adds, “If your kids want to feel like they’re in a real-life Hogwarts, this is the spot.”

Guided tours are available year-round for groups with a reservation. Self-guided tours are also an option, but only throughout the fall and holidays since these rooms serve as university classrooms. Guided and self-guided tours are $4 for adults and $2 for 6 -18 years. An Open House is also scheduled every year on the first Sunday in December as a celebration of the Nationality Rooms. The Rooms are available for tourism and costumed-guides will lead the way. Admission is free.

Four tour information visit their Touring Options and Requesting Groups Page.

3. Carnegie Museum of Natural History

Carnegie Museum of Natural History is located in Oakland and prides itself in educating the public about evolution, science, nature, and world cultures.

Some family-friendly things to do include daily tours where children will be thrilled to pet wild animals (Live Animal Encounters), discover rare specimens, talk to scientists about cool artifacts and if you’re going on a Saturday, explore a special theme during Super Science Saturdays - a hands-on program designed for families to learn about a natural history topic.

Some of the museum’s most popular exhibitions include, Dinosaurs in Their Time - a display of dozens of fossils from the Mesozoic Era, the Hillman Hall of Minerals and Gems which displays over 1,300 beautiful rocks and specimens from all over the world, Botany Hall, featuring vast plant life from many countries, Age of Mammals, displaying fossils from the Cenozoic Era and many more. “The dinosaurs are always a kid favorite,” says photographer Ryan Zarichnak.

The Museum also offers it’s space for special sleepovers and birthday parties. They also have summer camps available with specialized curricula and programs around natural history.

Additionally, located 55 miles southeast of Pittsburgh in Rector, Pennsylvania, is the Powdermill Nature Reserve - the museum’s environmental research center and a field station and laboratory where researchers do long-term studies of natural populations.

Here, families, can walk around and enjoy the beautiful woodlands around Powdermill, or visit the nature center featuring local wildlife, an indoor stream, and a marsh machine. Powdermill also does Storytime and more - for children ages 3 to 9 on the first Sunday of each month at 2pm. Admission is free at the Powdermill Nature Reserve.

Wrapping Things Up

Pittsburgh historical treasures make for the perfect family escape. Priceless family vacation memories don’t all have to happen elsewhere in the country. We often forget that children love to learn too and that Pittsburgh has many treasures to offer. So why not take your children somewhere local where they get to expand their curiosity, explore the world hands-on, and play?

Photo Credit (used with permission) - Michael Will Photography