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Top 8 Pittsburgh activities to share with your kids, before they fly the coop

Mandy Fields Yokim
August18/ 2014

Remember when your child first learned to walk? Now fast forward 18 years and that same child will be ready to take some big, first steps into the world without you. Whether they’re leaving for college, the military, a new job or maybe just an apartment on the other side of a tunnel or bridge, your kids will eventually fly the coop.

Here are eight crucial, Pittsburgh-inspired ways to send them off on their own with good advice and the best thing you can give them—quality time with you.

1. Don’t be Scared to Take Chances

Go Ape Treetop Adventure Course at North Park

At Go Ape, ziplining is fun, by doing it together with your kids can be life changing. Photo by Erika Gidley.
At Go Ape, ziplining is fun, but doing it together with your kids can be life changing. Photo by Erika Gidley.

Getting outside of your comfort zone can be hard, but taking chances (and even making a few mistakes) is imperative for learning new things. Be an example of bravery and take your child ziplining in North Park. Go Ape’s Treetop Adventure Course makes it fun to face any fears you may have of swinging like Tarzan through the trees, climbing rope ladders or walking across narrow bridges high above the ground. Don’t worry, you’ll have harnesses and safety training before you take the leap, but the experience is still thrilling. You’ll want your child to remember that feeling the next time they need to gather strength and take a chance at something new.

Check course availability and rates at Go Ape’s website. If you go on your birthday, you automatically get a 10% discount when you show your ID. 

2. “Try to Help Others

Pittsburgh Cares

None of us is an island. It will be important for your child to know how to ask for and accept help when needed. And, just as important, they’ll need to understand the value of helping others, too. Plant the seeds of civic engagement by volunteering together as a family. Pittsburgh Cares offers a calendar full of local opportunities to help your neighbors, from packing at food pantries to landscaping in local parks and assisting at community events. You’re sure to find something that you can sink your heart into.

Register as a volunteer and sign up for opportunities at the Pittsburgh Cares website. Call 412-471-2114 or email info@pittsburghcares.org with any questions.

3. Keep an Open Mind

Surf Pittsburgh

Personal growth often comes from opening your mind to new ideas and new experiences. How does surfing Pittsburgh’s three rivers sound for a completely different experience in a familiar place? With your personal flotation device safely fastened, you will get a thorough training session and then have a chance to try surfing the wake from the boat (while still holding a rope, if needed). But odds are very good that, by the end of your adventure, you and your child will ditch the rope and be able to say that you’ve surfed the Mon, the Al and the O.

Check the Surf Pittsburgh website for current packages, rates and contact info. Watch a cool Surf Pittsburgh video here to get an idea of what it’s all about. 

4. Work Hard

Duquesne Incline

Consistent hard work and dedication can help your child prepare for a lifetime of success. Maybe you’ve already shared a ride on the Duquesne Incline, but have you taken the tour to see how it all works? The Duquesne Incline opened to the public way back in 1877 and some of the original equipment is still being used to move the car up and down multiple times every day of the year, including holidays. How’s that for hard work and longevity?

The Duquesne Incline is open Monday through Saturday, 5:30 a.m. to 12:45 a.m., and on Sundays and holidays from 7:00 a.m. to 12:45 a.m. Check their website for tour info.

5. Don’t Take Life So Seriously All the Time

Andy Warhol Museum

The Warhol Museum promotes adventurousness in art for kids and adults. Photo by Erika Gidley
The Warhol Museum promotes adventurousness in art for kids and adults. Photo by Erika Gidley

While sometimes it’s important to stay heads down and focused on hard work, it can be just as important to take a break, dream and get your head in the clouds. Visit the Andy Warhol Museum’s 5th floor and lighten up in the Silver Clouds exhibit, a room full of floating silver “pillows”. Take time downstairs in the Factory to create art together with your child, using Warhol techniques like blotted line drawing and silkscreen printing. Share a few laughs (and gasps) in the Warhol Store and make sure to check at the front desk about the daily gallery talks. Don’t leave without commemorating your visit together in the old-school black-and-white photo booth downstairs.

The Andy Warhol Museum is open 10am-10pm on Fridays and 10am-5pm on all other days, except Mondays, when it is closed.  

On the Factory Floor at the Warhol. Photo by Erika Gidley.
On the Factory Floor at the Warhol. Photo by Erika Gidley.

6. Stay Connected to Family and Friends

Bike the GAP

Your child could eventually be miles away, but with social media, email, texting, good old phone calls and hand-written letters, you’ll find ways to stay connected. But before you need to start video chatting, try biking together on all or part of the Great Allegheny Passage. The GAP is a 150-mile dedicated bike trail that connects Pittsburgh to Cumberland, Maryland. Then from Cumberland, you can bike the C&O Canal Towpath into Washington, DC. The full trail can take about 6 or 7 days to complete. But if that’s too much of a good thing for you, you can still experience the trail in a 2-day or 3-day trip. Bike the GAP takes care of all the details, including bike rentals, lodging, shuttles and food, so you can just focus on making memories.

Explore trip options and rates at Bike the Gap’s website.

7. Remember Where You Came From

Frick Art & Historical Center

When your child encounters people who’ve never visited Pittsburgh, he or she will discover that some still associate the city with the smoky, dirty town it used to be, during the height of steel production. As residents, we know we’re not perfect, but we know we are far from that kind of city now. It’s important to remember that people like Henry Clay Frick and the steel industry they built are significant parts of Pittsburgh history. Visit Frick Art & Historical Center and learn Frick’s history, take a tour of his family home, and view some of their spectacular art collection. Save time for afternoon tea at the Café, where you can discuss how the Pittsburgh we know today is both similar to and different from the city the steel magnates, and the steelworkers, knew.

The Frick Art & Historical Center is open Tuesday-Sunday from 10am-5pm. Click here for info about tours and it’s best to make reservations for afternoon tea by calling 412-371-0600.

8. We’ll Always Be Here for You

Point State Park

Ultimately, you’ll want your child to simply know that you will support them and love them. So after all the fun adventures together exploring the city, just keep this one simple. Take a picnic dinner and a blanket down to Point State Park and enjoy the view. This park contains one of Western Pennsylvania’s oldest buildings, the Fort Pitt Block House (built in 1764), and also just last year hosted the Rubber Duck Project, a giant 40 foot inflatable duck, which made its US debut in Pittsburgh. The old and the new work well together in this area that has seen strife, prosperity, disrepair and revitalization. Through all the changes, the Point still remains one of Pittsburgh’s most cherished landmarks. Make sure to snap a picture together in front of the fountain. This one will be frame-worthy.

Mandy Fields Yokim

Mandy Fields Yokim is a nationally published writer and editor based in the Pittsburgh area. Her work has appeared in Parents Magazine, Blue Ridge Country Magazine, NEXTpittsburgh, Kidsburgh, TEQ Magazine, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and nearly 20 parenting publications across the United States and Canada. Her blog posts have appeared online at Pittsburgh Magazine, Kid World Citizen and Wonderaddo, the global education initiative she founded in 2013 to encourage kids and families to explore the world in Pittsburgh. She is contributing editor of regional books such as Grit, Smoke and Steam, Ultimate Pittsburgh Trivia and Bridges of Pittsburgh.

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