things to do over holiday break

10 places where kids can keep busy during winter school break in Pittsburgh

Photo of Naomi McKivigan having fun at Snapology used by permission.

Will you be spending the winter school break in Pittsburgh? Days off may delight kids, but winter break can be stressful for parents — whether you work outside the home and need childcare, or you’ll be at home trying to entertain young kids during some of the coldest days of the year. We’ve rounded up some options to attend with your kids (and some places to drop them off) to make the 2021 winter break both fun and survivable.

Sen. John Heinz History Center: FREE admission for the entire month of December for anyone 17 and younger (Howard Hannah sponsorship). Details here.

The Heinz History Center is a fantastic showcase of local history with plenty of interactive exhibits, a special area for kids to move and run, and an interactive model of the city in the lobby with a Liberty Tubes tunnel slide. (We love the name, by the way: Kidsburgh.) The Christmas in Pittsburgh exhibit will evoke childhood memories for parents, too.

Photo courtesy of Heinz History Center.

Carnegie Libraries and county libraries : Various locations

Across the city, dozens of libraries exist thanks to funds provided by Scottish millionaire and famous Pittsburgher Andrew Carnegie. In the suburbs, the Allegheny County Library Association operates more than 70 locations as well. Libraries are vibrant, active, engaging community hubs for children that are free to access thanks to tax dollars and generous donors. They have packed event calendars and plenty of quiet nooks to read on a cold day. For city libraries, check out the list here. And for elsewhere in Allegheny County, click here. Kidsburgh spoke to several librarians across the region, and with COVID mitigation plans in place, we’re told families can come in and enjoy toys, games, crafts, storytime and more. You might even get a chance to grab a comfy chair and read a novel while the kids entertain themselves.

Beechwood Farm Nature Reserve: Audubon Society, Fox Chapel

While it’s cold this time of year, with the proper gear there is no reason to not get outside and explore all the natural elements of our city. Winter hiking is fabulous and accessible at Frick Park, Schenley Park, and Riverview Park within the city limits. Don’t miss Beechwood Farm, though. Their natural play area and easy trails are a great option to wear kids out for an easy bedtime. (For access to cold-weather gear, consider Project Bundle Up.) Details here.

Photo courtesy of Beechwood Farms Nature Reserve.

Soccer Shots Arctic Animals camp: Various locations

While Soccer Shots is known for its year-round leagues and classes, they also offer a winter break camp to give parents a hand. For kids ages 4-7, there are both morning and evening options at several locations around the region. These camps offer more than just soccer, such as crafts and fun daily themes. Details here.

Fort Pitt Museum: FREE admission for the entire month of December for anyone 17 and younger (same sponsorship as Heinz History)

Though it’s part of the Smithsonian family along with the Heinz History Center, a lot of little ‘burghers haven’t toured this museum located on the Point. It’s an interesting place for kids who can read or enjoy being read to — tons of mini models and neat visuals can be found. This museum also provides a great opportunity to talk about colonization of the Pittsburgh region and our complicated history. While you’re there, it’s a quick walk to Market Square for hot chocolate at Starbucks and to watch skaters around the tree in PPG plaza. (Note: Skating at PPG is best for experienced skaters and not young children).

Admission to Fort Pitt Museum will be free for kids over this year’s holiday school break.

Fun Slides Carpet Skate Park: North Hills

Did you know that Pittsburgh is home to the world’s only indoor carpet skate park? (Have you ever even heard of a carpet skate park before now?) Your kids can slide, scoot, and run around for hours at some pretty affordable prices. Also included are a ninja warrior course, Nerf wars, bounce houses, dodgeball, and carpet hockey. Check out their 30-day pass, which is a physical card that would make a great stocking stuffer. Great spot for kids to run their energy off during the daytime on winter break, so they sleep soundly at night. Details here.

Snapology: Bridgeville (day camp, workshops, and free play) and various locations across the city for workshops

Photo courtesy of Fun Slides.

Snapology is a national franchise of STEAM exploration centers founded right here in Pittsburgh by two local moms. Whether you want to take your kids for an hour or two to build creatively, or drop them off for full- or half- day camps over break, it’s a great option. Bonus: you don’t have to clean up the Lego’s (or step on them). Check out their events here.

Carnegie Science Center: Holiday camps and more

At $50/day, these camps are some of the more affordable of the nonsubsidized childcare options in the city for winter break. Alternatively, take your kids to see the touring Pompeii exhibit and explore the main science center, as well. Don’t forget that for families with EBT/Medicaid Access cards, the museum offers a discounted membership of $3 per person for up to four people. Teachers also receive free admission, as do teenagers. And families can also now sign up for a $20 membership for the year, as the museum seeks to remove financial barriers to enjoying their facility. See the full list of affordable options here.

Hunt Armory Ice Rink: Shadyside

An attempt by the Pittsburgh Penguins to make skating more accessible, the new Hunt Armory in Shadyside has a goal of including more kids in hockey and skating. For $10 per participant, it is a great option to fill an afternoon on break. In addition, many workshops or lessons are available. Shuttles from different locations around the city transport participants to skate, as well. Details here.

Neighborhood North Museum of Play: Beaver Falls

This fun space is new for our region, and to celebrate the opening, admission is free through January 31, 2022. A collection of local community stakeholders and educators designed the space to foster a love of music, science, art and more. They offer a variety of classes and workshops, as well as free play time. They have several days of closure over the winter break, but are hosting a New Year at Noon party on December 31 (preregistration is required). Details here.

Whether you need to drop your kids off or want to squeeze in some time with them while school’s out, this city never disappoints with a range of options at a variety of price points. In addition to what we’ve listed here, the region’s mall play areas are open again as a warm place to run around, and all Carnegie museums are operating. (Just remember: They are closed on Tuesdays!)

Want more family-friendly fun? Check out our guides to the coolest holiday light displays in Pittsburgh, all the holiday events for familiesbeautiful miniature railroads and more cool things happening throughout December.