Category : Travel with Kids
Category : Travel with Kids
Four kids, a week off of school & the need to “get out of dodge” for a few days. Why not visit Pittsburgh? It’s a pretty drive into the hills of Western Pennsylvania, and we were lucky that our NY February Break from school didn’t coincide with the PA vacation week! So, that meant we had plenty of choices on where to stay and which sites to visit without battling potential crowds.
We have brand loyalty in our house for Marriott. (This isn’t a sponsored post, we just almost always stay there). We’ve found that the Residence Inn brand offers the best bang for your buck when travelling with more than 2 kids. We stayed in a 2 bedroom suite which offered a kitchen, (small-ish) dining area, living area (the couch pulled out into a bed) and the 2 bedrooms with en suite baths. This set up makes it easy to get take-out for a meal when the kids are not in the mood for a restaurant, and the indoor pool was a hit too! Another benefit is the included full breakfast. Avoiding the headache of taking sleepy/grumpy/hungry kids into a diner for breakfast is a real WIN.
Our 8 & 6 year olds share one bedroom, the 4 year old is put to bed in the other bedroom with the baby in a pack in play (provided by the hotel) in the same room. My husband and I enjoyed some wine & Olympics on the TV for the evening, which is SO MUCH BETTER than everyone sharing a traditional 1 room hotel! Once the adults were ready for bed, we moved the 4 year old to the sofa bed. (Carefully holding our breath & saying a little prayer he stayed asleep – which he didn’t, but after a quick potty break he happily settled in the living room).
For this trip, we stayed at the Residence Inn Pittsburgh University/Medical Center 3896 Bigelow Blvd, Pittsburgh 15213, offered a convenient spot to get to all the attractions without much traffic delay. It has been recently updated, and offered free parking in the enclosed parking garage. Highlights from the Kids’ viewpoint? Riding the elevator, arguing over who gets to push the button next time and swimming in the pool before bedtime each night.
TIP: Look at your local museum memberships for reciprocal admissions! Our local science museum is an ASTC member which meant we visited both of these Pittsburgh Musuems for FREE!
Museum hours are generally 10-5. We visited from 1-5pm and felt that we had embraced the entire 1st & 2nd floors. The 3rd floor features a water/splash exploration park. We weren’t prepared with our suits and decided not to visit it, although my husband said it looked like a LOT of fun!
On the main floor there’s the Art Studio where the kids learned Screenprinting.
TIP, visit the Art Studio early on so your project has time to dry before you travel home
The older children (8,6 & 4 yrs) enjoyed the ramped wall, which was fully enclosed but went up 2 stories in the air! It was a bit of a puzzle to figure out how to go up and come back down again, but once they figured it out we spent a lot of time watching them explore it.
The Maker Studio offered interactive projects featuring music and a Candlemaking workshop when we visited. The staff throughout the museum were extremely friendly and helpful, offering suggestions on how to interact with the exhibits. We had some great conversations with several staff members!
The Garage was my favorite area. It is a massive space, formerly a planetarium. Clever uses of pulleys and wires creates a living sculpture that launches beach balls up to the top and on tracks around the room. There are areas to create your own vehicles & drive them in a skate-park-esque and an interactive station to create your own bicycle spokes then race them against others down a ramp. A wind room had blowing scarves that even our baby enjoyed crawling through and there were many other activities which used a muscle power to move. A rope ladder and twisty slide helps burn off a LOT of energy too. I can say our kids slept VERY soundly that night.
The travelling exhibit when we visited featured the work of Mo Willems. “The Pigeon Comes to Pittsburgh” had something for all ages, from drawing stations to mixed up blocks creating funny heads/torsos of classic characters from the books. There was a video presentation, the “bus” you don’t want to let the pigeon drive and a fun flipbook to see how the drawings of Pig & Elephant seem to move through the books.
We had arrived after lunch time, but there is a large dining area off the main lobby featuring some delicious looking healthy fare. Even if you don’t dine there, it’s worth walking in and checking out the HUGE brass & marble trimmed pendulum. It knocks over metal dowels showing how the earth moves over time, and is the most decorative pendulum I’ve ever seen!
TIP: Check their website for the Visit Us Tab, and look at their “Field Trip Forecast” to avoid crowds!
We happened to visit during a special Engineers interactive week, which meant both tables with professional engineers doing demonstrations and at times, larger school group crowds. Fortunately the Science Center is quite large and it wasn’t a problem. Highlights for our kids included the miniature train room, which was so detailed that we went back and strolled through several times. The robotics floor, including a contest to see who could get more baskets, people or the robotic arm, as well as the talking/moving robot you could program from a console for everyone to enjoy.
There was a large indoor playground/activity center which was still under construction when we visited, but should be open before this summer. We also missed out on touring the submarine outside in the river – we’ll definitely want to check that out next time!
As we were leaving (literally 30 mins before the center closed!), we noticed the Sportsworks building next door. It is included in your Science Center admission, and if you have kids that are either active or sports-centered make sure you don’t miss it!! I was so impressed by the level of staffing, and their professional demeanor toward everyone. Our kids and my husband really enjoyed climbing the rock walls (while professional harnessed, and with the expert staff giving encouragement and tips), and I even got to get in on the action taking our 4.5 year old up on the “Sky Walk.” This is an obstacle course of sorts, several stories up in the air – including a zip line across the room!! It was memorable and fun.
Hint: Plan to arrive late in the day after the school groups have left on a weekday, or first thing in the morning when the science center opens.
We enjoyed this so much we came back for a second session the next morning! It was a great little getaway for our family, and I expect that we’ll be back again to check it out this summer!