A PITTSBURGH FAMILY SUMMER FUN PRIMER
by Doina N. Locke
(Sigh.) "What to do? What to do?" When the Summer doldrums, the dog days, cabin fever, the blahs, the "I'm bored, Ma!" set in, it's time to do a Family Thing! Here are some (by no means all) of the obvious and some of the not-so-obvious fun things for families to do in and around Pittsburgh throughout the Summer...or all year long.
A * AVIARIES are for the birds, right? For the best way to visit 250 species in a single, climate-controlled habitat, visit the National Aviary in Pittsburgh on the North Side. "Walk-through" exhibits make life a little more exciting. Be sure to wear a hat. Open daily from 9am to 4:30pm. Call (412) 323-7235.
B * BIKE HIKES are great for seeing the sights and getting plenty of fresh air in the bargain. If you don't have your own with you, you can rent bicycles near some terrific bike trails. Remember: state law requires helmets for everyone age 12 and under.
Hike 'N Bike, 504 Valleybrook Road, McMurray. Call (412) 941-9293. Bring your own helmets; one pull-behind child cart is available for rental, child helmets provided free with cart. Bicycles are to be used on the nearby Rails to Trails conversion path.
North Park Sports Shop, Ingomar & Kummer Roads, Allison Park. Call (412) 367-7959. Helmets provided. Shop is adjacent to North Park bike and jogging trail around lake.
V.I.P. Picnic Place, 30 Corrigan Drive, South Park. Call (412) 833-5258. Bicycles, outdoor roller skates, in-line roller skates and picnic pavilion available for rent. Swimming pool and miniature golf. Admission.
C * COUNTY FAIRS capture the fun of a carnival, the sounds of the farm, the taste of the exotic and the smell of all those and more rolled into one. Here are some scheduled for August each year and only a short drive away from downtown Pittsburgh:
Butler Farm Show, Butler- (412) 482-8000
Greene County Fair, Waynesburg- (412) 627-9160
Washington County Agricultural Fair, Washington- (412) 225-7718
Westmoreland County Fair, Greensburg- (412) 423-5005
D * DRAGONS, myths and super-heroes in all shapes and forms can be found at Sword & Sorcery, the only store in the Pittsburgh area with 2 in-store gamerooms available for collectible card games, role-playing games, tournaments and on-the-spot instruction. Comic books, games manuals and supplies will enchant your older children; loony, cartoon-y stuffed animals, mugs and stuff will put smiles in your family picture. Find the magic at Babcock and Siebert Roads in the North Hills. Call (412) 367-2818.
E * EXPERIENCE daily life of the 19th century at Old Economy Village, cruise back into our country's history with the whole family. In Ambridge. Call (412) 266-1803.
F * FARMS provide a fresh way to follow some of our favorite foods directly to their roots. Here are a few that welcome visitors:
Trax Farms Inc., Route 88 South, Finleyville (minutes from Bethel Park). Call (412) 835-3246.
Soergel Orchards and Garden Center, 2573 Brandt School Road, Franklin Park. Call (724) 935-1743.
Roundhill Exhibit Farm, Roundhill County Park, Elizabeth. Call (412) 384-4701.
G * GOLFERS! It's never too early to introduce your family to the basics. Try one of these on for size in the miniature range:
Golf World, Harts Run Road and Saxonburg Boulevard, Call (412) 767-4320.
Kniess' Miniature Golf, 3005 Babcock Boulevard, North Hills. Call (412) 931-2772.
Mars Bethel Golf, Route 228, Mars. 20-hole miniature carpet golf, 9-hole pitch & putt and driving range. Call (412) 625-2759.
North Park Miniature Golf Course & Batting Range, Ingomar Road, Allison Park. Call (412) 366-5960.
Putt-Putt Golf Course, 4259 Northern Pike, Monroeville. Open year 'round. Call (412) 373-0063
Puttersburgh for indoor miniature golf year 'round, Freeport and Guys Run Roads, Harmarville. Call (412) 828-1100
Vic's 19-Hole Miniature Golf, 2800 Woodstock Avenue, Swissvale. Call (412) 351-0886
H * HIGH ABOVE downtown Pittsburgh, on a platform on Mount Washington, you can imagine that you're a Master of your own Universe. The observation platforms are great for sightseeing, taking pictures and maybe feeling just a little awestruck. The Duquesne Incline is a great way to get up there. Fare.
To expand your family's appreciation of other modes of transportation, you can take the T (downtown subway and light rail system) all the way to the end of the line at South Hills Village Mall. Downtown, free; fare charged beyond downtown area.
And then, you and your family of experienced travelers, ready for another thrill, could ride the PL & W Railroad in Negley, Ohio. Try the one-hour, 10-mile ride in a remodeled 1926 vintage passenger railroad car. At the station, there's a wooden train and playground for the little ones, a concession stand for food, a picnic area, and a Company Store for souvenirs. Open from the last weekend in May through November; Saturdays from 11am until 6pm; Sundays from 1 to 6pm. The Friday Special leaves at noon for the Rogers, Ohio, Flea Market and returns at 7pm. Admission. Only 45 minutes from the Greater Pittsburgh International Airport. For more information and directions, call (216) 482-1088.
I * INDOOR SKATING, whether on in-line roller skates or regular 4-wheelers, is great exercise and fun even for beginners. Of course, the experts can always dance on their skates to some really great "oldies." Here are just a few area rinks:
Ches-A-Rena III, 1216 Pittsburgh Street, Cheswick. Open to public Thursday through Saturday. Closed week of July 4. Call (412) 274-8181
Great Southern Roller-Ice Arena, 341 Washington Boulevard, Bridgeville. In-line roller skates only. Open to public Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Call (412) 221-7111.
Romp 'n Roll, 1661 East Sutter Road, Shaler. Call (412) 486-4117.
ShadySkates, 7501 Penn Avenue, Point Breeze at The Factory. Skate park for skateboards and in-line roller skates only. Call (412) 731-5400.
And for those who are too cool to roll: Blade Runners Ice Complex, 66 Alpha Drive, Harmarville. Call (412) 826-0800.
J * JUNIOR SCIENTISTS are inspired to make great discoveries at Pittsburgh's "amusement park of the mind," The Carnegie Science Center. Interactive exhibits, demonstrations of natural phenomena, robots, lasers, a planetarium and observatory, and an Omnimax theater are just some of the thrills in store for your whole family. All this and a World War II submarine docked in front, waiting to be toured by your boarding party. On the North Side near Three Rivers Stadium. Admission. Call (412) 237-3400.
K * KENNYWOOD PARK means Summer fun to Pittsburghers and out-of-town visitors alike. The gate, a brand-new replica of the original, opens on Kennywood Park's 98th season on May 11. The Steel Phantom is ready to thrill the socks off you! Open daily, mid-May to late August, noon to 10 p.m.; Monday through Friday, late August to Labor Day weekend, 5 to 10pm in West Mifflin. Admission. Call (412) 461-0500. Directions: Take I-376 to the Swissvale Exit, then follow the signs (or the other carloads of kids).
L * LIGONIER is the site for Idlewild Park, an amusement park with theme sections, such as: Hootin' Holler for old-fashioned Western fun, Jumpin' Jungle for the Tarzan in you, Storybook Forest for walking through and visiting with costumed nursery rhyme characters, Mister Rogers Neighborhood of Make-Believe for everybody in the family. You'll also find miniature golf, a swimming pool, waterslides and picnic areas. Open Tuesday through Sunday at 10am, Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day. Closing times vary. Closed August 29 through September 2. Admission. Call (724) 238-3666. Directions: 2.5 miles west of Ligonier on US 30.
On another outing, visit Fort Ligonier, a major British stronghold during the French and Indian War. Open daily, April through October, Monday through Saturday, 10am to 4:30pm, Sunday noon to 4:30pm. Admission. Call (412) 238-9701. Directions: US 30 at SR 711.
M * MEADOWCROFT MUSEUM of Rural Life in Avella lets you and your family step back in time to the 19th century. Workshops for adults and a day camp for the kids make history fun. The Meadowcroft is also the site of the Meadowcroft Rockshelter, an important archaeological dig which yielded artifacts of human habitation in the area about 12,000 years ago, give or take a few months. Open last week in May through October 31. Hours: 10am to 5pm Wednesday through Saturday, and 1 to 6pm on Sunday. For information on special programs, hours or admission charges, call (412) 587-3412. Directions: Parkway West to I-79 South to Exit 11 (Bridgeville). At ramp, turn left on Route 50 West. Follow Route 50 for approximately 25 miles to Avella.
N * NORTH PARK, South Park, Boyce Park are part of the countrywide system of parks. Picnic, hike, swim or bike; it's your choice at any of the parks in this surprising array of Allegheny County facilities. For information on programs at county parks, call the county parks general information at (412) 350-7275 or call these parks:
Boyce Park- (412) 733-4656
Deer Lakes Park- (412) 265-3520
Harrison Hills Park- (412) 295-3570
North Park- (412) 935-1971 or 1766
Roundhill Park- (412) 384-8555
Settler's Cabin Park- (412) 787-2750
South Park- (412) 835-5710
White Oak Park- (412) 678-3774
O * OUTDOORSY TYPES can enjoy 5 miles of walking trails at Beechwood Farms Nature Reserve. With 134 acres to explore, the whole family can learn and enjoy the wonders of nature. Beechwood Farms is also the home of the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania. Located at 614 Dorseyville Road in Fox Chapel. For information about programs and camps, call (412) 963-6100.
P * Phipps Conservatory in Schenley Park actually encases 2.5 acres in glass. Stormy weather can't dampen enthusiasm for the Japanese Courtyard Garden, the Perennial Garden, the Victorian Rose Garden, the Aquatic Garden and the Children's Garden. Nourish the gardener within and feast your eyes on the beauty. Hours: Tuesday through Sunday 9am to 5pm. Closed Monday. Guided tours Tuesday through Saturday at 11am and 1pm, September through June; at 1pm July and August. Admission charge. For information call (412) 622-6914.
While you're there in Oakland, take a mini-walking tour to the Cathedral of Learning (can't miss it). The 42-story University of Pittsburgh structure is said to be the tallest skyscraper college building in the Western Hemisphere. While you're there visit the 23 Nationality Rooms. Tours Monday through Saturday from 9:30am to 3pm and Sunday 11am to 3pm. Guided tours April through August. Call for reservations 2 weeks in advance. Admission charge. For information, call (412) 624-6000 or inquire at the Information Center on the first floor. You can grab a snack on the basement level and then wear off the little ones' pent up energy with a run (or walk) in Schenley Park.
Q * QUINTESSENTIAL PITTSBURGH at the turn of the century comes to life for children at The Frick Art & Historical Center, 7227 Reynolds Street. Family Day at Clayton is an interactive program for children ages 6 to 11, held on the first and third Saturdays of every month, 9:30am to noon. Call (412) 371-0600.
R * RICH & FAMOUS YET? No matter; you can still tour the Mansion at Hardwood Acres Park for a glimpse of splendor. Later, sample the splendor in the grass as you enjoy a free outdoor concert and picnic. Revel in dance festivals, hayrides or the Theatre at Hartwood. Middle Road, Hampton. Fee for Mansion tour and Theatre. Call (412) 767-9200 for events schedule or (412) 767-4738 for theatre tickets.
S * SANDCASTLE SPLASHES open on Memorial Day weekend. Take the plunge through some awe-inspiring water slides, then relax by tubing on The Lazy River or strolling along the boardwalk. In West Homestead at 1000 Sandcastle Drive. Call (412) 462-6666.
T * THREE RIVERS REGATTA brings annual excitement to the Point, first weekend in August; for details call (412) 261-7055.
Try a Gateway Clipper Fleet cruise for the family or take The Good Ship Lollipop for the younger family members. TGSL opens another season on The Three Rivers with weekend cruises in May; TGSL runs daily from the first week in June. At the Station Square Dock. Call (412) 355-7979 or 7980.
U * UNDERGROUND, deep in the bowels of the earth, you'll find that you get a ver-r-ry funny feeling as you walk tunnels coal miners spent their lives in. At the Tour-Ed Mine and Museum in Tarenthum, you can also check out a 1789 log home, a sawmill operation, a strip mine operation, an old-time barbershop and a general store. Guided tour; admission charge. Open Memorial Day through Labor Day from 1 to 4pm; last tour at 3pm. Closed Tuesday. Call (412) 224-4720. Directions: Take Route 28 to Exit 14, then left on Bull Creek Road about 500 yards and you're there.
V * VENTURE FORTH into The Pittsburgh Children's Museum, home of the versatile Stuffee, an oversize mascot so eager to teach his version of anatomy, he turns himself inside out! Your children's view of human physical and social development will be enhanced by the interactive exhibits, storytelling sessions and puppet shows. Located in the Old Post Office Building at Allegheny Center. Admission. For details about special programs, call (412) 322-5059.
W * WAVE POOLS beckon to the wet and the wild. Don't you wish you were there? These pools are open for weekends Memorial Day through mid-June, daily through Labor Day. For information, call the county parks department at (412) 350-2445 or the pool.
Settlers Cabin Park Wave Pool. Admission. Call (412) 787-2667.
South Park Wave Pool. Admission. Call (412) 831-0810.
Boyce Park Wave Pool. Admission. Call (412) 325-4677.
X * X-ACTLY WHAT DID YOU EXPECT for X? X-rated movies? Hardly family fare. But I will clue you in on an X-ceptional attraction in Pittsburgh, with X-hibits ranging from amethysts to zoological specimens. The Carnegie, an institution in Pittsburgh, a cultural complex for complex cultures. Art, children's theater, viewing galleries. Call (412) 622-3172.
Y * YOUNG PEOPLE'S THEATRE is the perfect way to introduce children to the stage. Thrill to "the roar of the greasepaint, the smell of the crowd." Here are a few to try with your family:
Conservatory Children's Theatre, Corrigan and Brownsville, South Park. Call (412) 831-8552.
Johnny Appleseed Theatre at the Apple Hill Playhouse, Westmoreland County. Call (724) 468-5050.
Looking Glass Theatre at the Little Lake Theatre, Route 19 South, McMurray. Call (412) 745-6300.
Red Barn Theater, McCully Road, Hampton. Call (412) 487-4390.
Z * ZOO-OPHILES and just plain zoo-lovers, big and little, love the Pittsburgh Zoo's newly redesigned Children's Zoo. While you're there, enjoy the Aqua Zoo, the insect gallery, the Tropical Forest, the Asian Forest and the African Savanna. Open daily from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day from 10am to 6pm; rest of the year from 9am to 5pm. For general information, call (412) 665-3640. Admission. Directions: Take Route 28 to the Highland Park Bridge Exit, cross bridge, go west a half mile on Butler Street, then turn left onto Baker Street. Kids really love the outdoor escalating steps. (So do I.)
[Whew! Thank you, Doina!]
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