10 things to do with kids this week in Pittsburgh, from a tropical escape to a hot cocoa hike

Photo by Miranda Costa.

Winter is the inspiration for many events this week, whether to celebrate and relish the brisk weather or to find a warm escape from the cold. You will find hands-on STEAM activities and virtual storytimes, too. From early learners to high school kids, we have worthwhile entertainment and creativity in this week’s things to do with kids in Pittsburgh.

1. Head to the tropics (in person)

Take the kids on a tropical retreat to the National Aviary, where bright macaws fly in a lush rainforest and flamingos pose in the wetlands habitat. You’ll spot strutting Victoria Crowned Pigeons, Beautiful Fruit-Doves and an Andean Cock-of-the-Rock. Offered twice daily and included with admission, the interactive “Amazing Amazon” bird show will wow the kids as birds fly overhead and hop on by. Check the website for more daily activities and plan a full day of avian adventures, including a peek at the newly hatched baby penguin. Timed tickets are required as part of the Aviary’s safety protocols.

Michelle Obama. Photo courtesy of PBS Kids.

2. Explore more of the EQT Children’s Theater Festival (at home)

Kind of like a P-Funk party that never stops, the EQT Children’s Theater Festival @ Home keeps kids entertained with lively activities and virtual programming running through Jan. 31. You can find the complete lineup here, but check out these events you won’t want to miss:

“The Gruffalo” Read Along: Follow the story as former First Lady Michelle Obama reads from one of her favorite children’s books.

Build Your Own Miniature Town: Upcycle boxes, cardboard tubes and egg cartons to construct a village.

“When Kids Meet a Creature:” This documentary set in Pittsburgh follows kids as they welcome a stranger to their hometown.

3. Learn what happens ‘Over and Under the Snow’ (at home)

Kids will discover how winter weather affects the creatures in nearby parks and woods. They’ll follow along with “Over and Under the Snow,” written by Kate Messner and illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal. The book explains how some animals burrow underground to hibernate and others prance through the snow in their warm fur coats. Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy hosts the virtual event on Jan. 26. Have paper and crayons handy for a hands-on activity, too. The virtual storytime is free, but registration is required.

4. Get pampered (in person)

Kids can use a little self-care after a long week of virtual school. Help them find their zen with a Sugar Plum Parties Spa Day on Jan. 23. The event combines personal pampering with hands-on activities. Wrapped up in a comfy robe, kids will enjoy a sparkly mani-pedi and a fancy hairdo. They’ll make their own take-home sugar scrub, too. Registration is $25, which includes snacks and beverages. Expect Covid safety measures and temperature checks.

5. Party like a Girl Scout (at home)

Girls in kindergarten through high school are invited to a series of virtual parties to make new friends and learn about the Girl Scouts organization. STEAM activities include a Rocket Launch Party on Jan. 21, Robot Building Party on Jan. 25 and Flower Crown Party on Jan. 29. The Girl Scout parties are free, but registration is required.

Photo by Fauxels.

6. Apply to Writing the Tough Stuff (at home)

Allegheny County high school kids have until Jan. 22 to apply to Creative Nonfiction Foundation’s free Writing the Tough Stuff workshop. The eight-week intensive invites kids to write about the difficult topics — bullying, social isolation, sexuality, racism — that make life challenging for teens. Participants will work together while learning the basics of nonfiction writing. Register here for sessions that begin Feb. 4 and run through March 25.

Photo courtesy of Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens.

7. Dance to a Snowy Ballet (at home)

Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens hosts the Let’s Move Pittsburgh Pop-Up Series for kids aged 5 to 8. The five-week virtual series begins Jan. 20 with Snowy Day Ballet, a creative movement class that teaches basic ballet terminology in a snow-inspired dance. Upcoming segments include a Hive Obstacle Course, Sleepy Winter Forest Yoga and Hibernators Winter Games. Registration is $28 for the complete series.

Photo by Brigitte Tohm.

8. Take a Hot Cocoa Hike (in person)

Pull on mittens and wrap mufflers over masks for an easy 2- to 3-mile hike through Schenley Park on Jan. 23. Venture Outdoors hosts the Hot Cocoa Hike, where families can spot deer, birds and natural winter beauty. The invigorating outing ends with warm mugs of cocoa topped with marshmallows. Registration is $8 for grownups, $5 for kids or $20 for the whole family.

Photo by Bess Hamiti.

9. Connect history to fiction (at home)

Dive into Jules Verne’s “Around the World in 80 Days” during the Jan. 24th installment of the Heinz History Center’s Virtual Family Book Club, which connects fiction to real-life history. The adventures of Phileas Fogg motivated journalist Nellie Bly to embark on a whirlwind adventure of her own in 1889. The book club discussion will look at how the story relates to Bly’s journey and how the world has changed since then. You can access a copy of “Around the World in 80 Days” via Hoopla and your library membership. Register your family here for the free Zoom session.

Dr, Pilar Fish. Photo courtesy of the National Aviary.

10. Go behind the scenes at a veterinary hospital (at home)

Kids love learning about animals. On Jan. 26, they can take a virtual, behind-the-scenes tour of the National Aviary’s Teaching Hospital, which adds another dimension to animal care. Dr. Pilar Fish, senior director of zoological advancement and avian medicine, leads the tour. Kids will see how Aviary vets take X-rays, apply bandages and give treatments to resident birds. Specialized care includes designing natural habitats where birds will thrive. Registration for the Zoom tour is $15.