9 (mostly free) things to do with kids this week in Pittsburgh
Photo courtesy of Allegheny County Parks.
Let’s get out and celebrate spring break! The lineup of local outdoor activities and events continues to grow. Shake off the winter doldrums and get active with these creative Pittsburgh things to do with kids. Best of all, many are free!
1. Explore mythical creatures (in person)
Cryptids are legendary creatures unsubstantiated by science. They are also the subject of a new interactive outdoor exhibition located throughout the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh and MuseumLab campus. “The Cryptid Critter Crawl” and its eight interactive installations were created by Pittsburgh artist Owen Lowery. Each sculpture includes the cryptid’s backstory, geographic origin, legend and a fun fact. You can get the complete guide on the mobile website, which includes audio tales, a map and supplemental materials like coloring pages. A Squonk, for example, is a sad creature that dissolves into a puddle of tears when frightened. You’ll find Bigfoot’s Lost Shoe and step inside the Mothman’s Chrysalis. The free exhibit will remain on view through the summer. Plan your visit to include a spin on Los Trompos and a balancing walk on ROPE.
2. Join the YMCA scavenger hunt to win prizes (in person)
Throughout the month of April, kids and their grownups are invited to participate in the YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh Family Scavenger Hunt at six local parks. A virtual scoring system allows families to report completing tasks like finding wildlife, photographing landmarks and answering questions. Prizes include a YMCA family membership, a week of summer day camp, pool passes and a Princess Campout event. The more parks your family visits, the more chances you’ll have to win. Register here for free and get moving in the great outdoors.
3. Stroll along the Storybook Trail (in person)
Head north to Jennings Environmental Education Center and the Storybook Trail, featuring an original story, “Habitat Sweet Habitat: Zapo the Jennings Jumping Mouse Looks for a House.” The self-guided activity follows pages on the trail, available from April 2-11. The journey begins on Woodwhisper Trail near the front of the center. The easy hike includes some steps and uneven terrain, which is not stroller-friendly. Masks are required. No registration is needed for this free event.
4. Head down to the farm (in person)
Fill your sunny day aspirations with an expedition to Round Hill Park. Start your adventure at the working farm, where kids can talk to the animals and visit with cows, alpacas, lambs and goats. Watch the ducks and look for turtles at the serene pond, admire the strutting peacocks and pat the bunnies. Pack a picnic for lunch at one of the many park shelters. Then, let your kids run wild at the playground or take to the trails. As part of the Allegheny County Parks system, the entire day is free, free, free!
5. ‘Hop’ to a drive-in (in person)
The entertaining lineup of Allegheny County’s free drive-in movies sets the tone for the season. Beginning with “Hop” on April 2 at Boyce Park and April 3 at Settler’s Cabin, the schedule includes other PG-rated family favorites like “Tangled,” “Zootopia” and “Up” through May 22. Pack blankets and snacks for a cozy evening with showtimes set for dusk on Fridays and Saturdays. Ekernally Yours will be on hand at both locations with popcorn, candy and other treats. Place your order online and receive a text when your order is ready for pickup. Easy peasy!
6. Experience the Experience Kits (in person)
Allegheny County Library Association offers a terrific program that connects museums and historical sites to families. The free Experience Kits can be reserved through your local library for pickup on specific weeks. The kits offer a museum pass for four people, brochures, activities and other info to make the most of your visit. Choose from locations like the Heinz History Center, Pennsylvania Trolley Museum and the Quecreek Mine Rescue Site. Just go to your online library catalog and search for “experience kits.” The many destinations are a terrific way to tour around the region and learn a little history along the way!
7. Get to know your parks (at home)
Join Allegheny County Park Rangers for these Lunch and Learn webinars that highlight all the cool parts of North Park and South Park. See how to navigate trails, discover hidden gems and check out the rangers’ favorite spots. The sessions will enhance your appreciation of the parks and boost your family’s interest in getting outdoors. Register by April 6 for the North Park sessions on April 7. Register by April 7 for the South Park webinar on April 8. Registration is free. Look for other park Lunch and Learns scheduled over the next month.
8. Move to Playful Pop-ups (at home)
Wiggly fidgety kids will have a ball in the energetic Playful Pop-up sessions from Let’s Move Pittsburgh and Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. Beginning April 7, the weekly series engages kids ages 5-8 and their grownups in virtual programming that combines education with movement and games. Subjects range from learning about pollinators to forest animals to butterflies and exotic birds. Playful Pop-up ends with a glorious Full Bloom Ballet session that’s sure to entertain. Registration for the complete four-week series is $28.
9. Take an art class in the Garden of the Five Senses (in person)
The weekly Young Artists in the Garden program returns to the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden on April 3. Every Saturday, kids can join art educators in the Weisbrod Learning Pavilion in the Garden of the Five Senses to make a craft, play games, read a book or color. Young Artists sessions are scheduled from 10 a.m.-noon on Saturdays and are free with admission. Enhance your visit to the Botanic Garden with a Nature Passport and Tree Times activity sheet. And this week, you can have bragging rights as one of the first visitors to check out the new welcome center. Buy your timed tickets here.