10 top events for Pittsburgh kids in January (plus one just for moms)

This article first appeared on NEXTpittsburgh.com, a media partner of Kidsburgh. Sign up here for NEXTpittsburgh’s free newsletter filled with all the latest news about the people driving change in our city and the innovative and cool things happening here. Photo above courtesy of Kellie Makar. 

Lovely as the holidays can be, it’s kind of nice that the holiday craziness is almost behind us. Come January, it’s time to enjoy family free time with fresh air excitement outdoors, along with diverting indoor activities. There’s lots of wildlife, hands-on art-making and theater performances on the calendar. Scroll on for the top January events for kids in Pittsburgh.

Be sure to pack your masks and visit each organization’s website and social media to stay updated about Covid safety protocols and guidelines.

1. Now through Feb. 27: Penguins on Parade, Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium

We love watching those tuxedoed birds waddle and hop down the trail at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium. Catch the Penguins on Parade at 11:30 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays outside the PPG Aquarium. The penguins usually spend about 30 minutes playing and posing for their adoring fans. Penguins on Parade is included in the zoo’s off-season admission price of $14.95 for ages 2-13 and seniors, and $15.95 for grownups.

Photo by Sean Carroll.

2. Open daily from Dec. 26: The Factory, The Andy Warhol Museum

The Andy Warhol Museum’s newly renovated Factory art studio, closed since the pandemic, reopens Dec. 26 with a revolving assortment of activities. Join the all-ages, hands-on workshops, led by the museum’s artist-educators, to create sculpture, collage and paintings inspired by Warhol exhibits. Kids can print silkscreen artworks on paper for free, or add their designs to a tote bag, T-shirt or notebook for an extra charge. A visit to the basement Factory, open Wednesdays through Mondays, is included with general admission.

Photo by Alexandr Podvalny.

3. Jan. 1: First Day Hike, Point State Park and area state parks  

Start the New Year off right with an invigorating fresh air hike through one of our local state parks. The closest one is Point State Park, where park staff will lead an easy hike along the paved trail and offer insights into the park’s history. Other First Day Hikes include a more vigorous 3-mile outing at Raccoon State Park and a leisurely 2-mile hike along the lake at Laurel Hill State Park. Moraine State Park offers choices, too: At the Sunken Garden Trail, pick the 2-mile or 3-mile loop. The 2-mile Pleasant Valley Trail can be extended by adding the 3-mile Hilltop Trail. Registration for all the First Day Hikes is free but required. Follow the individual park links to reserve your space.

Photo by Lindsey Shuey.

4. Jan. 5 to May 27: Tropical Paradise, National Aviary

The National Aviary will dedicate much of 2022 to celebrating its 70th anniversary. The party begins with a trip to the lush warmth of the Tropical Paradise exhibit, where exotic birds like Toco Toucans, Hyacinth Macaws and Victoria Crowned Pigeons peek out from the jungle canopy, walk alongside you and fly overhead. Daily interactive programming includes the Tropical Rainforest Feeding and the Tropical Bat Hangout with Mayan Flying Foxes. You can even get up close and personal with one of the Aviary’s resident creatures, like a parrot, sloth or armadillo. The activities are included with general admission ($14.95 for kids, $16.95 for seniors and $17.95 for grownups).

“Squirrels Leap, Squirrels Sleep” book cover.

5. Jan. 9: Story Hike: “Squirrels Leap, Squirrels Sleep,” Frick Environmental Center

Squirrels! We see them everywhere, running across fence tops, zipping up trees and stealing seeds from bird feeders. At the Frick Environmental Center’s Story Hike, kiddos ages 3-8 years will learn more about these fluffy-tailed critters through a reading of “Squirrels Leap, Squirrels Sleep” by April Pulley Sayre. Then, they take a hike with a naturalist educator and see how many squirrels are active in Frick Park. Registration is free but required.

Photo courtesy of Carnegie Museum of Natural History. (Note: This photo was taken pre-pandemic. All visitors older than 2 must be masked.)

6. Jan. 15: Super Science Saturday: Polar Party, Carnegie Museum of Natural History

January is the perfect time of year to throw a Polar Party. This episode of Super Science Saturday helps kids discover how animals adapt to and flourish in cold climates. They’ll help a polar bear pack its lunch, embark on a scavenger hunt using frosty clues and imitate penguins playing hopscotch. Activities are included in Carnegie Museum’s general admission ($11.95 for ages 3-18, $14.95 for seniors and $19.95 for grownups). Kids younger than 3 are free.

Photo courtesy of the Schenley Park Ice Rink.

7. Jan. 15: Mascot Skate, Schenley Skating Rink

So many mascots, so little time. The annual Mascot Skate at the Schenley Skating Rink gathers a full legion of Pittsburgh’s favorite costumed mascots. Fuzzy and foamy creatures like Kenny Kangaroo, Pitt Panther and the Smiley Cookie will hit the ice for a glide around the rink and lots of fun photo snaps. Tickets are sold online only for this special event and are priced at $3 for kids 17 and younger, $4 for seniors and veterans and $5 for grownups. Skate rental is $3.

Photo courtesy of Carnegie Science Center.

8. Jan. 15-16: Locomotion Weekend, Carnegie Science Center

Come on, baby, do the locomotion at the Carnegie Science Center during a special weekend dedicated to train fanatics. Locomotion Weekend ventures beyond the Miniature Railroad & Village with train displays set up throughout the building. Train devotees from organizations like the Fort Pitt Hi-Railers, Train Collectors Association and Steeltown “N” Scalers will operate displays in a variety of scales. Locomotion Weekend is free with general admission of $11.95 for ages 3-12, $14.95 for seniors and $19.95 for teens and grownups. Kids younger than 3 are free.

Photo courtesy of Gemini Theater Company.

9. Jan. 15-30: “Jungle Book,” Gemini Theater Company

In Rudyard Kipling’s classic story, Mowgli is raised by wolves in the jungle among friends like Baloo and Bagheera. But other creatures, like Shere Khan, hate the boy for being a human. In Gemini Theater’s production of “Jungle Book,” kids will become part of the jungle and learn how difficult it can be to keep peace within the animal community. Though written more than 125 years ago, the story continues to capture the imagination of young audiences. Tickets are $15 for performances running Saturdays and Sundays.

Image courtesy of the Kelly Strayhorn Theater.

10. Jan. 17: Give Me Liberty: East Liberty Celebrates MLK Day, Kelly Strayhorn Theater

The annual day of hands-on family activities and performances in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. is planned at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater. BOOM Concepts is collaborating on curating the afternoon with presentations from The Alloy School, PearlArts and vocalist Anita Levels. This year, the theme focuses on ways we can use our voices and stories for justice. Tickets, available on Jan. 6, are priced at pay what you wish.

Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

11. Jan. 30: “My Name is NOT Mom,” Byham Theater

OK, this show isn’t for kids. It’s for all of those moms whose little darlings have pushed them to the limit once or twice. The comedy threesome of Tiffany Jenkins, Meredith Masony and Dena Blizzard share their hilarious take on motherhood through “My Name is NOT Mom.” Expect some adult content, audience interaction and stand-up comedy, plus personal stories and videos from their online community. If anything, this outing will remind moms that they are not alone. Tickets start at $36.50.

Bonus events:

Through April 10: Monster Fish, Carnegie Museum of Natural History

Through April 23: Pompeii: The Exhibition, Carnegie Center

Jan. 7 and 21: Wingspan Game Night, Powdermill Nature Reserve

Jan. 11: Virtual Nature Story: “Animals Don’t Wear Pajamas,” Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy

Jan. 12, 19 and 26: January Wild Wonders: Pollination Investigation, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

Jan. 12 and 29: Preschool Adventures, Carnegie Science Center

Jan.14, 15 and 16: Park After Dark: Full Moon Hike, Allegheny County Parks

Jan. 28: Dancing with the Stars Live, Benedum Center