We love spending time in Pittsburgh, PA because it has great family friendly attractions and it holds a special place in our hearts. We lived in Pittsburgh for 5 years and have had many great memories there. Last week we took a long weekend and enjoyed a Pittsburgh family weekend.
Pittsburgh Family Weekend(Part 1)
As a surprise for my sons birthday, we decided to take a family weekend away and visit Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh is a great city for families. There are so many family friendly destinations and we visit different attractions every time we visit. We arrived in Pittsburgh late on a Thursday so we could maximize our time in the city.
We were given complimentary admission to Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium and Phipps Conservatory & Botanical Gardens. As always my opinions are honest and my own. You can read more on my disclosure page.
Day 1: Road Trip
We started our Pittsburgh weekend on Thursday after school. The drive from Rochester to Pittsburgh is 4.5 hours and even though we would arrive late we wanted to have an early start on Friday. As soon as everyone got home from school we got in the car and were ready for our road trip. Read more about everything you need for a family road trip. The drive was easy with a little traffic as we drove through Buffalo. For the most part it was traffic free and we arrived in Pittsburgh around 9:30pm. We checked into the Springhill Suites Southside Works and everyone quickly fell asleep.
Springhill Suites at Southside Works is Pittsburgh is a great location to visit many of the family friendly destination in the city. We were within walking distance to restaurants and they had breakfast every morning. We enjoyed the good size pool as well as the spacious suites. The rooms were clean and comfortable. My only concern is the proximity to the train tracks. A few times at night I could hear the train whistle. I suggest asking for a room on a higher floor to minimize this issue.
Day 2: Pittsburgh Zoo & Phipps Conservatory
Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium
I was so excited that our first stop was the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium. This zoo is awesome because it is a zoo and aquarium in one! Both areas are really great and make a day here fun for the entire family.
They have two new exhibits opening this summer and I was hoping to see both of them. The Pittsburgh Zoo is a great size and their exhibits are awesome! There is a lot of walking and a lot of hills so be prepared and bring a stroller if you think your kids may tire out.
Our first stop was to see the Red Panda and the Komodo Dragon. The red panda was walking around and the kids loved it!! I love the flow of the zoo and the exhibits really help you see the animals habitat. We continued through to see the flamingos, rhino and gorillas. The rhino recently had a baby but it was very difficult to see the day we visited. We were able to see them from above. There is an area across from the Beer Den that offers an overlook view.
Next we stopped for lunch at the Jambo Grill. I love this area of the zoo because you can eat while watching the giraffes! So cool!! The day we visited was a little cold so we opted to eat indoors but this area is a really great place for lunch. You can also bring your own to enjoy. There is an opportunity to feed the giraffes for an added fee. We have experienced this at other zoos and it is really fun.
After Jambo grill is the Island and the newest exhibit Jungle Odyssey. I was really impressed with the theme of the Island. It is really fun!! Jungle Odyssey was not open until later in the afternoon and we were unable to visit it. We may have to plan a visit back because it sounds incredible with the addition of hippos, capybaras, and more.
Next we checked out the PPG Aquarium. The highlight of this area is the penguins! They are so playful and you can see them swimming underwater. After the aquarium you can try your luck at the underwater polar bear viewing area. We were not lucky on this visit but I have seen them swimming and it is really cool!
It was a rainy and cold day at the zoo and it stopped us from spending as much time at the kids section of the zoo. There are two playground areas. We didn’t get to enjoy the playground very long because it was wet and cold but on a dry day you could spend hours enjoying it.
There are also two walk through areas to check out at the Pittsburgh Zoo. They have a trail that gets up close to deer as well as a kangaroo area. There is also a petting zoo area, reptile room, and sea lions.
Our final stop was the new exhibit Dinosaurs at the Pittsburgh Zoo. This requires a separate admission ticket. If you have a dinosaur fan in your family I would add this to your must see list. The dinosaurs line a trail and they roar and move. Watch out for a few that surprise you and shoot water!
We didn’t let the rain spoil our morning at the zoo. If the weather was a little nicer we would have spent more time enjoying the playgrounds and outdoor hands-on exhibits but the animals were very active and we had an enjoyable time.
Read More: Best of Pittsburgh for Families
The weather was still cloudy and cool so it was a perfect choice to spend the rest of our afternoon at Phipps Conservatory. Phipps is gorgeous. With themed rooms it is a great place to spend the day with your family. They also have a glass art exhibit called SUPER. NATURAL. Glass Art by Jason Gamrath. So talented!!
We always start by going to the right and weave in and out of the rooms. There is so much to see when visiting you could spend an entire day taking it all in. The Children’s Discovery Garden is a family favorite because it gives the kids a chance to explore and move around. There are buttons to press and fairy houses to discover. I love that Phipps incorporates fun activities to help kids enjoy the gardens.
Our next stop is one of my favorite rooms the Tropical Forest Conservatory. Start at the top and walk the path down to the bottom of the room. Along the path you will find waterfalls and a fish pond. It is so pretty!!
Every garden has its own charm and special attention to details. Make a wish at the wishing well at the Broderie Room. Let your kids “shop for produce” in the sunken garden room. These details make it a great family friendly destination that keeps us coming back.
After a long and busy day we went back to the hotel. Springhill Suites is within walking distance to a few restaurants including The Cheesecake factory and Hofbrauhaus. We ended up at Hofbrauhaus because of the live music and pretzels with beer cheese. The cheese sauce is my favorite!! They also sang happy birthday to my son and we had a great time.
My kids always want to go in the pool at the hotel. After dinner we had a little time to spend at the pool before ending the night. I feel like some of the best moments when we travel are the unplanned ones. Time in the pool allows everyone to relax and unwind.
Check out Pittsburgh Family Weekend: Part 2 for the rest of our weekend. Sign up for my email list and have access to my full family travel library including guides to help plan your next vacation family vacation.
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