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8 cool ways kids can explore Pittsburgh after dark

Stephanie Hacke
January17/ 2018

Bedtime? What bedtime?

When the sun goes down, there’s still time for excitement for Pittsburgh kids. After dark, the outdoor adventure starts with stargazing and moonlight hikes. Inside, kids build their own robot or take a virtual trip around the world. The truly adventurous can bed down among dioramas of leopards and bears, or unroll sleeping bags below viewing tunnels of sharks and sea lions.

Here are our top choices for an after dark kid’s night out:

after dark
Mom and Dad can enjoy the sleepover fun at Carnegie Science Center. Photo courtesy of Carnegie Science Center.

Carnegie Science Center Sleepovers

Kids can head to Carnegie Science Center for an all-out night of fun geared around their topic choice, from learning what it takes to be an astronaut to playing a piano made of fruit.

Each Science Sleepover – there are 11 planned in the next seven months! – comes with its own theme and correlating activities. And each comes with an educational STEAM component, based on what’s been most popular with kids in the past.

Kids will love to challenge their friends to build the best tower during the Engineering Challenge Sleepover or learn how our ancestors kept time during the Medieval Science Sleepover. And, of course, making their own robot during the Robot Roundup night is always a hit. For some, the best part is the 3D movie in the new Rangos Giant Cinema. For others, it’s the laser show.

Kids get a late-night snack before lights-out and a continental breakfast. Included in the sleepover admission is a full day of fun at the Science Center and Highmark SportsWorks. Sleepovers are geared to kids age 6 to 12. But younger kids from 2 to 6 years can be eased into the experience with Almost Overnighters that end at 9 p.m.

after dark
The full moon at the end of January adds to after dark activities for families.

Full Moon Action

Frick Park Full Moon Hike: Leave the flashlights at home and let the moonlight guide you on an evening hike through Frick Park. Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy and naturalist educator Stephen Bucklin will lead the way through the park as you catch the full moon on a cold winter night. Families should dress for the occasion in lots of layers and shoes with good treads, so you’re not slipping and sliding as you take in the views. Registration is required for the Jan. 31 hike which starts at Frick Environmental Center.

Full Moon Snowshoeing: Allegheny County rangers will teach you and your kids the ins and outs of snowshoeing right in our county parks. On Jan. 31, the full moon will light your path on a 1.5-mile to 2-mile hike through outings at two county parks – Hartwood Acres and White Oak – for Full Moon Snowshoeing. Snowshoe rentals are available. But if the snow doesn’t cooperate, the event will turn into a hike.

Boyce Park Full Moon Hike: Let the full moon be the guide as kids look to the starry skies and late-night critters at Boyce Park on Jan. 31 for a hike hosted by Venture Outdoors. Illuminated by the full moon, the hike is rated a moderate trek of 3 to 4 miles. The easy pace will work for older kids and teens but is probably too much for those under 12. Snowshoe rentals will be available if needed.

after dark
You can’t snuggle up to a polar bear, but you can learn all about them at the Polar Pajama Party. Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium.

Polar Pajama Party Sleepover

Ever wonder how polar bears, sea otters, and elephant seals survive the bitter cold? Kids will learn it all while snuggled into pajamas at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium’s Polar Pajama Party overnight adventure.

This weekend’s overnight program will teach kids ages 6 to 12 and their adult chaperones all about life for these arctic creatures. North Pole-style fun will include games and hot chocolate, plus pizza and other snacks. Then, it’s time to bundle up in sleeping bags at Water’s Edge where they’ll snooze near the aquarium’s underwater viewing tunnels.

This program sold out early, but watch for additional overnight events at the zoo. Scout troops and YMCA groups can schedule sleepovers. And Krazy Kritters Overnight parties can be planned for groups of 24 to 40 kids in search of zoo excitement.

Nature Night Out

Mom and dad can head out for the evening while the kids have their own fun at Fern Hollow Nature Center.  Kids ages 5 to 10 years can enjoy monthly Nature Night Outs with an outdoor hike, crafting and nature exploration.

Programs are scheduled from Jan. 26 (Come dressed for a hike in the snow.); Feb. 16 (The Great Backyard Bird Count is on!); and March 16 (St. Patrick’s Day Party time). Online registration is required.

Powdermill Nature at Night

Bundle up and venture away from city lights to embrace the brrr for an evening of stargazing at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s Powdermill Nature Reserve. Powdermill hosts a free family-friendly program on the third Wednesday of every month that includes a short talk in its nature center, followed by outdoor exploration.

The cold, winter nights are great for stargazing through the crystal clear sky. The next program, Starry, Starry Night, planned for Jan. 17, will coincide with a new moon. Amateur astronomers can bring along telescopes for an extra spectacular view. Popcorn will be served during the show hosted by Mother Nature.

Next month’s Nature at Night is planned for Feb. 21.

after dark
Pay no attention to that vicious creature over your head! Nothing is scary when you have fuzzy jammies and good friends at hand. Photo courtesy of Carnegie Museum of Natural History.

Carnegie Museum of Natural History Sleepovers

Carnegie Museum of Natural History offers the chance for kids to invite up to 80 of their closest friends to sleep among the dioramas of bears, moose, and leopards. It’s a  fun opportunity for a birthday party, Scout troops or church groups.

This big slumber party includes three hours of games. Kids can choose from scavenger hunts, where they identify skulls in the North American and African Wildlife halls, or a private, interactive live show with Dr. Dino and Spiny, a 15-foot-long, 10-foot-high spinosaurus puppet. They can take a fossil jacketing course, too, and get a fossil replica to take home.

The overnight extravaganza is geared for youngsters 6 years and older, with one grownup for every five kids. Reservations are required a month in advance.

Stephanie Hacke

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