Another snowfall and subzero temps might bring (yet another) case of cabin fever this winter but there are plenty of family-friendly places to go and shake off the winter blues.
First stop? The Children’s Museum to see their fun, inventive and powerful new project called XOXO An Exhibit About Love and Forgiveness.
Here kids can explore and better understand emotions in a number of ways, from writing down a loving message and pressing it into a token to keep or give someone, to drawing angry thoughts on a paper and then sending it through a shredder. The best way to explore this creative exhibit is to do together, taking your child from from one station to the next. As one message in the exhibit reminds us, “Giving someone your full attention makes them feel important and loved.”
Nothing is more fun than bundling up and facing the elements, especially if it involves sledding or skiing a snowy park. Willam D. Boyce Park near Monroeville is the closest ski area, where gentle hills and short lift rides provide great terrain to teach young ones how to ski and snowboard.
With its 160-foot vertical drop, Boyce Park offers all the amenities of a higher-priced ski resort without the lift lines. Group and private lessons and ski and snowboard rentals are available. Resident season ski passes are one of the best deals in town at $60 for adults and $40 for youths.
Current conditions report a base of 24-48 inches and all five trails are open. Check the 24-hour snow conditions hotline before you leave home: 724-733-4665.
To the north, Wildwood Mountain Snow Tubing in North Park makes its own snow, which has hardly been necessary this year.
The park opens at 11 a.m. and runs 250 snow tubes up two tow ropes all day for two-hour sessions. Prices are $19.95 for adults and $17.95 for children nine and younger and tickets can be purchased before you arrive. Children must be at least 42-inches tall to ride, and those under nine years old must be accompanied by an adult.
“We get everyone from young children to grandparents,” says MaryBeth Rutledge, co-owner. “And we have a fire pit where people can watch or just warm up. It’s a great family activity.
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If ice skating is more your family’s style, head to the rinks at North or South Park or Market Square where skates may be rented and sessions are available in the afternoons, evenings and weekends.
North and South Park offer a special “Family Skate” deal every Wednesday for the bargain price of $10. Free learn to skate sessions take place on selected weekends, check the website for further details.
What child wouldn’t want to be a trapeze artist for a day, powered by their own earthly exuberance? SkyZone, a nationwide operation, opened a massive, indoor trampoline park in 2013 in Leetsdale, an easy drive from the city.
This is the first of several jumping parks planned in the region. Picture a sea of trampolines that connect to form one massive launch pad inside a large former industrial warehouse. The vaulting is more than just vertical. Angled trampolines allow bouncers to ricochet off the walls. The facility has 34 9-foot by 9-foot jumping pads, large enough to accommodate 95 jumpers at one time; each holds up to 400 pounds.
SkyZone offers public jump fests, parties and special events, says Desiree Dulski, assistant events manager. Five courts are available including a dodge ball and basketball courts and a foam zone where jumpers can swan dive into a pit of soft foam blocks. Reservations are advised.
Safety is strictly enforced and parents are advised to hold the hand of younger jumpers, says Dulski. Everyone who enters the trampoline area must pay a fee. Prices range from $12 for 30 minutes to $22 for a120-minute open jump. Skysocks are supplied.
What child doesn’t love riding a real train, especially if it’s a vintage model like those found at the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum.
This charming museum in Washington County has been a local favorite for locomotive-living tykes and their older children since it opened in 1946 as part of the Pittsburgh Electric Railway Club.
No wonder. The trolley museum offers a trip for every season. At Halloween there’s a pumpkin patch ride which transitions into the Santa Trolley and escapades with the Easter Bunny in the spring. During the winter months, families board one of several wooden street railway cars that have been painstakingly preserved and take an entertaining four-mile ride through the surrounding countryside.
Adults will appreciate the beautifully told story of public transportation in Pittsburgh and the role it has played in the emergence of modern-day suburbs. The museum itself houses more than 50 wooden street railway cars; guided tours are available by appointment.
The collection includes historic streetcars from Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and even the famous “Streetcar Named Desire” from New Orleans.
“Kids love most the chance to ride on an historic trolley car,” says Scott Becker, executive director. “Sometimes they even get to ring the bell.”
From Thanksgiving through December the museum mounts a room-sized train and village display, including an original Lionel train collection circa 1930s, are on view. Avid train collector Lou Redman created the tiny town of Plasticville and collected the Lionel trains with the help of several local collectors.
Looking for a little retro fun with plenty of physical action? If so, there’s nothing like old-school bowling to bring out the competitive edge in a family. Arsenal Lanes in Lawrenceville offers 10-pin bowling 1960s-style, down to the antique wooden pins and vintage décor.
Family bowling hours run from noon to 9 p.m. each day, offering plenty of time for kid parties and group events. Once the clock strikes nine, however, Aresenal turns into a night club for the 21-and-older crowd with live bands, deejays and karaoke right on the lanes.
“Winter is a big season for bowling and we get tons of people every night of the week,” says Matt Mihalko, assistant manager. “Is bowling making a comeback? I don’t think it ever went away.”
Bowling prices depend on the time of day, he says, with the earlier shift costing $3.75 per person. Bumper lanes and shoes are extra. The weekends attract mostly families and Friday nights from 6-8 p.m. are the real deal: $8 a person for all you can bowl, including shoes, a soda and a slice of pizza.
“The atmosphere here is what sets it apart from other lanes,” says Mihalko. “Arsenal is not big and showy with lots of bright lights. It’s very calm, for bowling.”