Amidst the whites and grays of Pittsburgh’s long winter, comes February. Surprisingly, it’s a month full of colors—the pretty pinks of Valentine’s Day, the rainbow kitenges of Black History Month, the deep reds of Chinese New Year. And although winter’s snowy landscape certainly has its charm, a splash of color is a welcome addition to the scenery this month.
It may be tempting to hibernate in February, but it’s okay to channel the groundhog. Poke your head out a bit. This month is full of educational and fun activities in the city. To help get you started, here’s our Top 10 family adventures this February in Pittsburgh.
Celebrating African culture with Abafasi at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh
This year the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh will celebrate Black History Month in a truly impressive fashion. Offering 28 days of events at libraries throughout the city, the month will kick off with a free family-friendly program with Abafasi at the Squirrel Hill branch on February 1 at 2 p.m.
Abafasi is Pittsburgh’s own female African drum ensemble. Using rhythm, storytelling and movement, the group celebrates the collective African-American experience and its traditions. The ensemble—made up of LaVerne Baker Hotep, Kelly e. Parker and Lois “Toni” McClendon—also redefines gender roles in traditional African-American culture, “where it’s usually the females who are the dancers and the males who are the drummers,” according to Hotep.
On February 1, Abafasi will lead a drum circle for families at the Squirrel Hill Library’s Children’s Department. The ladies will play handmade djembe West African drums while families join in with other percussion instruments. There will also be traditional storytelling and movement activities. Can’t make this performance? The Kingsley Association will also be holding a Black History Month event with Abafasi at the end of the month, although final details haven’t been worked out yet.
Escaping to the rainforest at the Tropical Forest Congo Festival at Phipps
A trip to Phipps Conservatory is always a welcome break from winter’s doldrums and this month it’s especially true. On February 7, Phipps will unveil its new Tropical Forest Congo exhibit. Inspired by the remarkable biodiversity of the Congo River Basin, more than 60 percent of the Tropical Forest Conservatory plant life has been replaced with native African plant species, many never before seen at Phipps. The exhibit also includes education stations and art displays celebrating the cultures of the rainforest. The Conservatory staff dedicated years of research to this exhibit and even ventured into the rainforests of Cameroon to get a firsthand look (you can read about their trip on this fascinating blog).
The exhibit will kick off on February 7 with an Opening Festival from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The day will include African-inspired crafts, storytelling and food sampling. Can’t make it on February 7? Phipps will also be holding Tropical Sundays throughout February with performances by the Tropical Sands Steel Band and tastings of tropical fruits. Wear a tropical flower shirt and you can even get 50 percent off your admission.
Appreciating inner beauty at Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s premiere of Beauty and the Beast
The traditional French fairytale La Belle et la Bete is well-known after Disney’s 1991 interpretation. You’ve seen the movie. You’ve heard the songs. You might have even seen Gemini Children’s Theater’s recent live stage version. But unless you hail from the Bay Area, you probably haven’t seen the ballet. Based on the famous 1950s San Francisco Ballet version, the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre acquired rights to Beauty and the Beast in honor of its 45th anniversary season. The production will premiere at the Benedum Center from February 6-15, and will include two Valentine’s Day performances.
Set to the music of Tchaikovsky, the ballet is a study in contrasts. On the one hand, there’s beauty. Enchanting set designs of castles and forests inhabited by mythical creatures dressed in exquisitely-crafted costumes. And Belle, of course. On the other hand, there’s ugliness. The external disfigurement of Beast and his inner tumult expressed through emotionally-laden choreography. Of course, everyone lives happily ever after. We wouldn’t have it any other way.
Reveling in the winter wonderland of Ohiopyle’s Winterfest
It’s easy to appreciate the woods in summer. But in winter? Still and silent, winter’s woods have a beauty that is more muted, more serene. And although it takes a sense of adventure and a bit of fortitude, a trip into Mother Nature’s quieter season is well worth the peace it brings the psyche. This month, you can make just such a trek at Ohiopyle State Park‘s 8th annual Winterfest on February 7 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Sugarloaf Sledding Area.
The afternoon is a chance to “show people that state parks are open even when it’s cold out. And they’re beautiful!” says Barbara Wallace, environmental education specialist at Ohiopyle. Filled with opportunities to frolic in the wintery woods, families can try out snow-shoeing and cross-country skiing. There will also be sledding, horse drawn sleigh rides, fort-building, snowman-building and many traditional winter games including ice cube hunts, human sled dog racing and hillbilly curling. The Friends of Ohiopyle will also have food and hot chocolate available for purchase and there will be a heated dining tent to get your circulation going again.
Cuddling up for $1 Family Films at The SouthSide Works Cinema
A cold winter’s day is the perfect time to head to the movie theater and cuddle up for a family-friendly film. And you’re in luck this month. The SouthSide Works Cinema will once again offer its winter $1 Family Films beginning February 14. Held Saturday and Sunday mornings at 11 a.m., the movie theater will screen contemporary and classic family films for only $1 per ticket. The series starts with Ice Age 2 on February 14-15. On February 21-22, The Boxtrolls will be playing. Based on the children’s novel Here Be Monsters by Alan Snow, the movie is an Oscar nominee for Best Animated Feature. Other movies include Rio 2 and Mr. Peabody and Sherman.
Tickets to $1 Family Films can be purchased at the door and historically haven’t sold out. But I recommend purchasing in advance for peace of mind.
Spreading the love at Little House Big Art’s Valentine’s Day Open House
Located in a seriously funky space in Spring Hill, Little House Big Art is a kid-friendly arts studio galore and a Pittsburgh family favorite. With very reasonable prices, supplies for practically every crafty hobby out there and a “Let’s get messy!” philosophy, Little House Big Art is a great place to let your children’s imaginations run wild.
Little House Big Art celebrates its third birthday on Valentine’s Day and owner Elizabeth Bashur invites families to a festive Open House from 12-7 p.m. on Feb. 14. “Our Open House celebrates not just romantic love, but all other types of love, too. Love for your family. Love for your friends. Basically, we want kids to know that making things for other people is a really wonderful way to show your love,” says Bashur.
Open House visitors can spread their love by making valentines or other gifts, munching on homemade cupcakes and celebrating the studio’s birthday with Bashur. “Opening Little House Big Art three years ago on Valentine’s Day was really significant for me,” says Bashur, “This studio was a huge undertaking for me and it has definitely been a labor of love all along.”
Also, Bashur will be offering kid-friendly art activities at the I Made It! Mine indie marketplace at the Southside Works on February 7.
Laughing out loud at the Arcade Comedy Theater’s Penny Arcade
The Arcade Comedy Theater in Downtown Pittsburgh also celebrates a milestone this month. In honor of its second birthday, the city’s premier comedy venue will be holding a number of events, including a family-friendly Valentine-themed Penny Arcade show at 1 p.m. on February 14.
The monthly Penny Arcade is the only improv comedy show in the city just for families. Each show begins with collaboration stations, where “Penny Players” guide kids through interactive activities designed to generate ideas for the live show. This month’s collaboration stations will include special Valentine’s Day activities such as collaging “mixed phrase” valentine cards using different sentiments on cut strips of paper. Kids will also help create the stage set using pink, red and white markers and crayons. As Tessa Karel, producer of Penny Arcade says, “The themes of our scenes are dictated by the improvisers, so you can bet there will be a lot of scenes themed around Valentine’s Day and different kinds of love.”
Relishing winter’s dreams at Fiddlesticks
As mentioned in Kidsburgh’s recent article, the Fiddlesticks Family Concert Series by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra is a wonderful way to introduce even the youngest Pittsburgh kids to the beauty of classical music. These 45-minute concerts feature the full orchestra playing three- or four-minute classical pieces. The concerts are also preceded by a unique educational experience—Discovery Time Adventures—where families can meet the orchestra musicians, watch instrument demonstrations, sing, dance and craft.
This month the PSO will hold its second Fiddlesticks concert of the season entitled Winter Dreams on February 21 at Heinz Hall. The orchestra will play winter-themed pieces, including selections from Tchaikovsky’s First Symphony and Vivaldi’s Winter. Plus, some familiar kid’s cult classics like Let It Go from the movie Frozen. No big deal. My kids are just going to freak when they hear it.
Falling in love with Lilly at the Pittsburgh International Children’s Theater
The Pittsburgh International Children’s Theater‘s season continues this month with Omaha Theater Company‘s production of Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse. Based on the award-winning children’s book by Kevin Henkes, the play introduces live audiences to the lovable Lilly, an effusive and dramatically-inclined little mouse.
Lilly’s zest for life knows no bounds. She relishes using chalk at school, riding her bike, wearing band-aids, playing with her new little brother and especially getting to know her new teacher, Mr. Slinger. But when Mr. Slinger confiscates her new prized purple plastic purse, Lilly’s sunny outlook starts to go downhill. Will Lilly get her purse back? Will she be able to turn that frown upside down? The Omaha Theater Company answers these questions and more in this 60-minute production best suited for 4 to 9 year olds.
The show opens at the Byham Theater on February 22 and then will travel to Penn Hills High School, Marshall Middle School, Hopewell High School, Mellon Middle School and Seneca Valley Senior High School over the following week.
Connecting with our rivers at H2Oh!, the Carnegie Science Center’s new special exhibit
February comes to a close with a chance to explore the Carnegie Science Center‘s new special exhibit, H2Oh! Why Our Rivers Matter, opening on February 28. Located in the mezzanine gallery overlooking the Ohio River, H2Oh! will help families connect with the majesty and the might of our city’s three rivers.
Part biology, part physics, visitors to H2Oh! will come to appreciate the science at play in our waterways—their diverse habitats and the species that call them home, their watersheds and how they affect our everyday lives, their fluid dynamics and their important place in the water cycle. Kids can even see—in real time—the pH level, temperature and other water-quality indicators of our rivers courtesy of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.
We hope you have a wonderful February filled with colorful adventures and lots of love. We’ll see you back here in March!
Looking for adult events? Check out our Top 8 Pittsburgh events not to miss in February feature.