Our guest tour guide, Katy, is a true rookie mom who just returned to work after spending her maternity leave with baby Miles. You might think Katy is totally confident since she’s letting me post a picture of her with a nursing bra strap showing, but she wrote that she has “never, ever felt more lost or inadequate and simultaneously awesome in my whole life.” She has embraced our “get out of the house” mentality and has provided a suggestion for each weekday, should you find yourself in Pittsburgh with a little sidekick.
Monday: Schenley Park
Schenley Park, the “green gem” of Pittsburgh, has something awesome to do no matter what the season or the age of your kiddo. The public pool is just $4 in the summer, the ice skating rink is FREE! in the winter, and the Frisbee golf course always has flexible tee times. If the weather turns dreary (or even if it doesn’t), the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens are a must-not-miss feature. The model train, hands-on children’s garden and interactive water features keep older kids excited while the fragrant, peaceful benches help moms chillax. Bonus: the Conservatory has lots of secluded nooks to give new nursing moms some practice at the fine art of public breastfeeding. Afterwards, get something yummy to eat in the local, organic café in the lobby (the smoothies are the bees knees).
Spend the day at the Pittsburgh Zoo and Aquarium. It almost goes without saying that baby elephants and primate displays are a hit for pretty much everyone. The Pittsburgh Zoo has an added advantage of hilly terrain, so mom gets a pretty intense workout pushing or toting kids up to the aquarium. The recently remodeled shark exhibit now includes a tunnel—visitors can walk right up under the toothy fish en route to the penguin display.
After everyone is tuckered out, hit up the refreshment stands in the zoo or even the Zebra Station softserve stand with a great river view…OR you could drive a mere 30 blocks westward down Butler Street to Dozen Bake Shop. The bakery serves sandwiches and sweet treats, but their crowning jewels are on the cupcake menu. Flavors like vegan chai to green tea pomegranate to Earl Grey Lemon will make you glad you pushed the jogging stroller up to the petting zoo earlier.
Not sure what to do with a screeching baby? Take him to the National Aviary and let the squawking, hooting birds drown him out…or perhaps make him feel better! A running list of regularly scheduled educational shows/presentations will keep even repeat visitors interested and if you time your visit right, your little one might get to feed worms to the birds in the tropical rain forest. As an added bonus, the new penguin display lets you get up close and personal to the birds in giant plastic tubes, so even if you missed the emperor display at the zoo, you can still watch these waddlers go swimming.
After checking out the birds in the captive displays, you might want to ogle one of Pittsburgh’s many flocks of wild turkeys that meander up Mt. Washington. Take a ride on the Duquesne Incline for breathtaking views of the whole city while you keep one eye glued to the foliage for your turkey hunt. When you’re at the top, the free “museum” lets kids stare at the cable car gears while moms can check out historical photos of the days when Pittsburgh really was a gritty city. Spend some time walking along Grandview Ave on Mt. Washington before you head back down.
Thursday: Take a Hike!
Hilly though the streets may be, Pittsburgh is a very walkable city. Pick out a neighborhood and spend the day recreating one of the Pittsburgh Urban Hikes. These scavenger hunts through various neighborhoods are free and fun for the whole “team” even years after the original hikes. Tackle the South Side and learn about the long gone steel with mini-breaks at REI (free climbing wall for kiddos) or the Cheesecake Factory. If you’d rather eat than learn, head to the Strip District and mange your way through Penn Ave (don’t miss the biscotti from Enrico’s…you should probably eat lunch there, too. The owner makes everything from the bread to the olive oil to the wine himself!).
If you prefer more organized adventures, you can spend the day hiking with an Urban Baby Tours. Meet up with other moms (some local, some visiting) and troll around the downtown area, check out the bridges, and let your tots run free in Point State Park. Definitely hit up Sree’s Indian restaurant for lunch. This super cheap, vegan-friendly joint is located in the triangular building at the corner of Smithfield and 7th Ave. The mango lassi is the perfect end to an active afternoon.
Friday: Carnegie Science Center
The Carnegie Science Center could easily occupy curious little minds for an entire week. Kids (and parents) can learn about dental care by climbing around a giant mouth, or settle in to the Omnimax Theater to watch marine life in 3D. The hands-down crowd favorite is the RoboWorld exhibit where real life roboticists talk about their research and sports enthusiasts can square off to play basketball against a ‘bot.
After all that stimulation, everyone will probably enjoy a relaxing afternoon strolling along the Allegheny River in North Shore Riverfront Park. Take a load off near the water steps or watch the kayaks and barges glide past…if you sit there long enough and the Pirates are winning, you might see some fireworks after dark! Check out the Pirates schedule for SkyBlast dates.