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Best Winter Family Places in Pittsburgh

Updated on June 2, 2016

National Aviary


Indoor Activities

If your family is planning on visiting Pittsburgh during the winter, but cannot (or do not want) to acquire Penquins tickets, don't worry! There are still plenty of places to visit! Here are some ideas to consider:

1. If your family only consists of younger children, many people have recommended the "Children's Museum" in Pittsburgh. Although this is probably one of two places, in Pittsburgh, that I have not visited, I have heard many good things about this museum.

2. The Carnegie Science Center- This museum is definitely one of my child's favorites! This museum consists of two buildings, as they added their second building several years ago. Therefore, it now has the main museum, a "Sportsworks" center, and a submarine!

The Science Center (main building): this building contains four floors. Each floor has a different theme, but the first floor seems to change its exhibits frequently. It currently has various animals in tanks, with information about each of them. Additionally, there is a ball/water experiment table, and some toilets! The second and third floors, I believe, are complete with interactive robotic devices, space tools, sports, and a truly unique train exhibit! I think the younger children's play area is on the fourth floor, which is also truly fun!

SportsWorks Center: this building is simply devoted to physical activity/exercise. It has a virtual roller coaster, a rock wall, a high tight-rope bicycle activity, a racing track, a hockey game (similar to fusball, but it's hockey), a trampoline, a batting cage area, and more! This center can get quite busy, which means long lines, so I recommend heading to this building first. If you wait until the end of the day, you may end up waiting in long lines for nothing, as the building usually closes at 5:00.

The Submarine: if you are interested in seeing this, it is outside, in the back of the museum's main building, and you should keep in-mind that the submarine usually closes around 4:00, so you should either head to it first, or after the SportsWorks center (but before the main building).

If you have a child who would absolutely love the Carnegie Science Center, you might want to consider planning two days to visit this location! It also might be worth purchasing a family membership, as it only costs about $150-200 for a family with four children, and is good for an entire year! Even if you only plan on visiting once or twice, this pass may save you money in the long-run, as if you have a large family, the general admission could end up costing you the same (or more than) as a membership. There are some other membership options for families of other sizes, but with this pass, you also gain access to three-four other museums around Pittsburgh, as well as about 60 other places in other areas of the countries. Also, the Carnegie Science Center also has a fast-food restaurant/cafeteria in its main building, on the lower floor (but if you have a membership, make sure you show the restaurant your card, so you can receive your discount).

3. The National Aviary- This aviary is right in Pittsburgh, and if your child/children prefer only a few hours of activity (rather than an entire day, such as at the Science Center), and love animals, then this is the place for them! The aviary has about three-four different themed rooms; wetlands, grasslands, tropical rain forest, and another section that includes bats and lorikeets. Your experience could be different during each visit, depending on the options you choose to explore. Shows are offered for an extra fee, and lorikeet-feeding tickets are also sold for about $2.00 (I think), in which each person who purchases a ticket will be able to enter the lorikeet enclosure, and feed them! If this is something your children want to do, you should probably get in-line about 20 minutes before feeding time, as they eventually have to stop the line when the birds are fully fed, but also, so you don't have to be at the end of the line, waiting for a long time! The aviary also has special days, in which it provides creative art projects in the lobby. The drawback to this location is the extremely small parking lot. You may end of walking far distances, from your car to the aviary, so if you are visiting during winter, you may want to make sure you are dressed accordingly!

4. The Heinz History Museum- I have never actually been to this location, but my peers have, and they had nothing but good things to say! One of my friends said, "there was plenty to keep my kids occupied, including a giant chess set!"

5. If regular museums are more of your family's interest, visit the Carnegie Museum of Art and the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Located right in Pittsburgh, these two museums are connected. If you have a child who loves dinosaurs, the Carnegie Museum of Natural History is a "Can't Miss" location for him/her! If you plan on visiting these museums, as well as the Carnegie Science Center, you should definitely buy a family membership, which will give you access to all three museums, as well as the Andy Warhol Museum (but I have not been there yet), and most likely be cheaper than paying daily admission for your whole family (because with daily admission, you would have to pay separate admission prices at each location)

6. Robert Morris University Island Sports Center- this is located in Neville Island, PA, slightly northwest of Pittsburgh (but only about a 20-30 minute drive from Pittsburgh, depending on traffic). This complex offers indoor activities such as roller skating and ice skating, as well as virtual golf! I recommend visiting their website at your time of planned travel, in order to view the current availability/schedule for various activities during your stay. Also, if you choose to visit this location, you may also want to visit the "Paradise Bowl" bowling alley, which is quite close to the RMU Island Sports Center. Just remember to call the bowling alley ahead of time, to see if there is open bowling when you would like to go.

7. If you plan on staying northwest of Pittsburgh, and only want to experience "light" activities, I suggest the items in number five, as well as "The Clay Café" in Sewickley, PA. There, both adults, and children/teens are able to enjoy painting pottery, but the catch is that you have to come back a week later to pick up your items. This wouldn't be a problem if you are staying in the area for a full week, and come to this location at the beginning of your trip. As much as I like this location, it can get quite expensive, especially for a full family. There is a $7.00 studio fee for each person who plans to paint, and each item has a different price. My one annoyance at this business is that if you want to know the price of several items, they are not marked (not even with signs), so you have to ask the person working to look up each item, which they have to do in the computer. I don't always want others to know that I am counting every dollar in my head.

8. If you enjoy skiing, you should head one hour southeast of Pittsburgh, and go to the Seven Springs Mountain Resort. Our family does not consist of skiers, but many people from Pittsburgh head to this resort for mini-vacations.

8. If your family needs a "wind-down" activity at the end of the day, Pittsburgh also has plenty of movie theaters, but I suggest the Cinemark Robinson Twp and XD, in Settler's Ridge.

9. If you are a SPORTS fanatics, don't get your hopes up too high, unless you have connections! Steelers tickets are almost impossible to get, as they are only sold on one day each year, but if you are lucky enough to win them, or get them from a friend who has them, then you should go! Penguins tickets are slightly easier to purchase, but are still expensive. If you would like to attend a sports game, but don't have enough cash for the Steelers or Penguins games, then I suggest attending a University of Pittsburgh basketball game!

Pittsburgh is full of great places to visit, and this list only discusses great places to visit during the winter, but there are even more than this, and an equal amount of great places to visit during the summer. If you would like to learn more, please read my article called Best Summer Family Places near Pittsburgh, PA.

Carnegie Science Center's Sportworks Building
Carnegie Science Center's Sportworks Building
Carnegie Museum of Natural History
Carnegie Museum of Natural History
Carnegie Museum of Natural History
Carnegie Museum of Natural History

Pittsburgh, PA


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