The Children’s Museum in Pittsburgh is a gem. There are very few places that offer the diversity and value of the museum, and there is certain to be something there that will have every child (and maybe some adults) begging to come back. If you have a child that needs to get out of the house, this is the first place I would go.
The museum is built into two historic buildings. The first is a gorgeous old post office, complete with a gigantic green dome on top, and the second is the adjacent planetarium building. Today, both buildings server to provide educational interactions with children from around the area. In between the buildings is a new section built to house the entrance and a number of great exhibits.
As soon as you walk in, you will see Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood in front of you. Mr. Roger lived in Pittsburgh, so I suppose you were in his neighborhood already, but this area houses an area where kids can recreate their own stories in the Land of Make-Believe.
There is even an area to pretend to record the show, trying on your own cardigan sweater and playing on the piano. You can also watch a selection of his old factory videos. There is also a real-sized trolley to ride in and a Land of Make-Believe puppetry and fun area. Having grown up in Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, I got a kick out of the adult touches and history that is recorded in the room.
For kids who take stuff apart, there is a “Garage” where kids can play with gears, wheels, and whirligigs galore. This allows them to play adults and learn about how the things they see every day really work. The “Attic” room houses animatronic puppets, phosphorescence displays, and the somewhat alarming gravity room.
This is a room built to exploit our perceptions and fool our sense of gravity. Even with a complete understanding of what is going on, it is a bit vertigo-inducing if you aren’t ready, but kids love it. There is room for interactive electronic art. Interactive electronics are a specialty of the local universities and are a subject of continuing study around the world, so this lets you get a feel for how computers see you and how you can make art with motion and projection.
The post office houses studio space for creative play, so if making arts and crafts is your kid’s cup of tea, this is the place.
There is a theater and radio station in the basement of the planetarium, allowing you to see how music is made as well as providing a performance space for various acts. On Saturday mornings, the Saturday Light Brigade broadcasts live from that space, and you can come in and see them and possibly even be on the radio. Finally, there is the water room, a space to play with water by moving it, blocking it, and spraying it. Also, there are always traveling exhibits coming through, so check back frequently.
If your child is the type who likes to have fun, then this is the place. If they aren’t, they are unlike any child I have ever met. Even adults like myself keep coming back because everyone likes to recapture a bit of the wonder of youth, and the Children’s Museum does just that. You can find it on the North Side, just a mile from Downtown on Allegheny Circle.