by Janet Jonus
Winter Blues getting you down? Get out of the house and head to one of these FamilyFun Free Things to Do in and around Pittsburgh this Winter.
There are several opportunities to express your inner artist for FREE in Pittsburgh this Winter.
1.)The Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse in Lawrenceville has a cornucopia of recycled and upcycled art supplies. From old CD’s and VHS tapes to fabric and buttons to frames and wreaths to the ever-popular trophies, the Center for Creative Reuse has it all. Wander through the store and get inspired or attend the Center’s Creative Conundrum every third Sunday of the month. This FREE event has a monthly theme. January’s theme is “Time Capsule Edition”. January 20th 300-500PM, February 17th, March 17th, and April 21st. Open to all ages. 214 North Lexington Street, Pittsburgh PA 15208 / 412-473-0100 / http://pccr.org/
2.)Assemble – A Community Space for Arts and Technology in Garfield hosts a Youth Maker Night and has a Saturday Crafternoon for kids in Grades K-5. Assemble encourages kids of all ages to explore their creativity, ingenuity, and abilities through hands-on projects and community engagement.
Youth Maker Night is a FREE (RSVP required) workshop for kids in grades 6-8 or tweens and teens ages 10-14 the 2nd Friday of every month. January’s Theme is “Create Your Own Zine”. Youth will create their own mini-magazines using art and technology.
Saturday Crafternoons run from 100-300PM. They are for kids in Grades Kindergarten through 5th Grade. Saturday Crafternoons are STEAM-centered (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math), community-partnered workshops for younger learners to explore, learn, and DIY.
Assemble is located in Pittsburgh’s Garfield neighborhood at 4824 Penn avenue, Pittsburgh PA 15224 / 412-661-6111 / http://assemblepgh.org/
3.)The Society for Contemporary Craft has a Drop-In Studio every day during regular business hours. This FREE daily craft is inspired by the artists of the Society for Contemporary Craft. The Drop-In Studio is open to guests of all ages.
The Society has a FREE exhibition area. The current exhibition is “Transformation10: Contemporary Works in Found Materials”. The exhibition demonstrates the reuse of common items and reused materials in art and in our lives. The exhibition runs through March 23rd.
The Society for Contemporary Craft is located at 2100 Smallman Street, Pittsburgh PA 15222 / 412-261-7003 / https://contemporarycraft.org/
The Society also operates a FREE Satellite Museum inside the Steel Plaza T Station at Oliver and Grant Street. The BNY Mellon Satellite Gallery is located at 500 Grant St, Pittsburgh, PA 15219. The current exhibit is Handwork: Kim Fox. The exhibit features a selection of “Tin Quilts” – art made from metal and wood that honors the style and technique of fabric quilts. The exhibit runs through February 10th. The gallery is open daily through midnight.
4.)Pittsburgh Glass Center celebrates the art and artistry of glass. The Center has an exhibition gallery that is FREE and open to the public. They have a monthly FREE Hot Jam on the first Friday of the month.
The Hodge Gallery at the Center presents the best in modern glass art. The Gallery is open for FREE to the public during regular Center hours. The current exhibition, “All of a Suddens”, explores the seasons of the Pacific Northwest. It runs through January 22nd. “Modern Meaning: New Designs from the Monmade Trade Group” promotes our region’s artists and craftspeople with a look at latest creations. Modern Meaning runs February 1st through February 19th. “Material World” explores our consumerism, luxury, and materialism through art. The exhibit opens on March 1st and runs through May 12th.
The Hot Jam is a FREE monthly Open House at the Pittsburgh Glass Center. Enjoy live glass-blowing demonstrations and tour the current exhibit. Hot Jam dates are February 1st, March 1st, and April 5th from 600-900PM.
On January 21st, the Center has a Family Fun day from 1000AM through 400PM. This open house has glass-blowing demonstrations and hands-on activities demonstrating the importance of teamwork in glass art and creation.
The Center is open from 1000AM-700PM Monday through Thursday and 1000AM-400PM Friday through Sunday. The above events are free to the public but donations are accepted. The Pittsburgh Glass Center is located at 5472 Penn Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15206 / 412-365-4125 / https://www.pittsburghglasscenter.org/
5.)Local Libraries offer many FREE programs for children of all ages. From Storytimes, to Mommy & Me, to exercise classes, to arts and crafts, to games, to homeschooling, to LEGOS, to books, and … well so much more, libraries offer a great place to spend a winter day.
The Carnegie Libraries of Pittsburgh have FREE programs for kids of all ages. Each branch has their own schedule for activities. Just this one week, events range from chess club for tweens and teens to a bird craft activity for kids. Little Learners (18 months to 5 years old) can Learn to Code. Volunteer reading Buddies help middle and high schoolers with their homework. K-5 Homeschoolers have a class with activities. There is something for everyone. Check out the Carnegie Library schedule here: https://www.carnegielibrary.org/events/
Many community Libraries offer their own youth programming. Check with your local library to see what they have on their schedules! Our local library has a Recycling Club, a Chess Club, a LEGO Club, a Homeschool meet-up, tween and teen games nights, craft nights, and book clubs. They have storytime for preschoolers. All for FREE.
6.)The largest Bicycle Museum in the World is right here in Pittsburgh’s North Side. Bicycle Heaven has over 6000 unique, antique, vintage, and modern bicycles. Tour the Museum above the Shop seven days a week from 1000AM through 700PM. The Museum is FREE but donations are accepted. If the weather is warm enough, you can rent a bike and take a ride through the neighborhood or take your own bike in for a tune-up. 1800 Preble Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15233 / 412-734-4034 / https://www.bicycleheaven.org/
7.)Did you know the Big Mac was invented right here, in Pittsburgh, by Jim Delligatti? Mr. Delligatti was an early franchisee of Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonalds. The Big Mac Museum, located in the North Huntingdon McDonalds has exhibits relating to the invention and history of the Big Mac. It also has a large indoor playground and the World’s Largest Big Mac! 9061 US Hwy 30, North Huntingdon, PA 15642 / https://corporate.mcdonalds.com/mcd/our_company-old/mcdonalds_history_timeline/museums/big_mac_museum_restaurant.html
The Cathedral of Learning
8.)The Cathedral of Learning at the University of Pittsburgh is a tribute to late-Gothic architecture and learning. The Cathedral is the highest structure in Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood. It is open to the public whenever the University is in session.
Kids will love the Common Room on the Cathedral’s first floor. The towering architecture, secret passageways, and general awesomeness look like something out of Hogwarts and Harry Potter. University students use this room for studying but your kids may want to bring their wands just in case.
There are thirty Nationality Rooms on the first and third floors of the Cathedral. The rooms represent the art and architecture of the countries pre-1787 when the University of Pittsburgh was founded. Each room honors the history of the countries and heritage of the people of Pittsburgh. The rooms are unique and beautiful. There is a small charge to visit the First Floor ($4.00 per person) that includes an audio tour of the rooms. The rooms on the third floor are free and open to the public when classes are not in session. There is a button next to the light switches inside each room that gives a description of the history and architecture of the room.
Ride the elevator up to the 36th Floor of the Cathedral. There you can look out at a beautiful view of the Oakland neighborhood and the Pittsburgh Skyline.
After you visit the Cathedral, head over to the Heinz Memorial Chapel for a FREE tour. The Chapel is open Mondays through Friday 830AM-500PM and Sundays 1200PM – 500PM. Fridays weddings may close the Chapel to the public. For more information, http://www.heinzchapel.pitt.edu/
The Cathedral of Learning is located on the University of Pittsburgh campus at 4200 Fifth Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15260 https://www.tour.pitt.edu/tour/cathedral-learning and https://www.nationalityrooms.pitt.edu/directions
9.)What better way to spend a few hours and learn more about our hometown than on a free walking tour? There are several free self-guided tours for you to choose from.
Rivers of Steel has TourAnytime Tours. These Free walking tours are self-guided. Just download a printed PDF guide from the Rivers of Steel website and then use a cell phone to call into a number to hear the recorded history of the tour site. The tours can be taken at anytime. Tours currently available are Grant Street, The Frick, Mellon Square, Sprout Public Art, and the Battle of Homestead and the Homestead Steel Works. (Look for the FamilyFunPittsburgh review of the Homestead tours coming soon!) For more information, check here: http://www.touranytime.org/
The Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation has free, downloadable, self-guided walking tours of Pittsburgh. The PHLF has six self-guided tours: Gateway Center, Grant Street, Market Square, Penn-Liberty, Fourth Avenue, and Pittsburgh’s Bridges and River Shores. Each Tour takes 60-90 minutes. The downloadable PDF Guides include details and information about the buildings and points of interest. The Gateway Center Tour takes you through the heart of Downtown Pittsburgh near the Point. The Grant Street Tour covers the area near the US Steel Building and the County Courthouse. The Penn-Liberty Tour explores Pittsburgh’s Cultural District. FamilyFunPitsburgh loves these tours! For details and downloads, https://phlf.org/education-department/self-guided-walking-tours/
The Fort Pitt Blockhouse and Point State Park
10.)The Block House is the oldest building in Pittsburgh. The Block House is all that is left of the original Fort Pitt. Built in 1764, the Block House was an important part of Fort Pitt. The building was built by the British as a part of the defense of the Fort during the French and Indian War. The British abandoned the Block House in 1772. It became a trading post and then a single-family home after the Revolutionary War. During the 1800’s the Block House became a multi-family tenement. In 1894 the Block House was gifted to the Fort Pitt Society of the daughters of the American Revolution who still own the Block House today. The DAR restored the Block House to its original form. Visitors can view the Block House in Point State year round for free.
The Block House is open Friday through Sunday 1030AM – 430PM from November 1- March 31. Admission is free. The Block House is located in Point State Park. For information call 412-471-1764 / http://www.fortpittblockhouse.com/
Point State Park was built during the 1950’s and 1960’s as a part of the urban renewal of Pittsburgh. It is now the crown jewel of Pittsburgh. Located on the “point” at the confluence of the three rivers, Point State Park is a mixture of history and urban park.
The outlines of Fort Duquesne, established in 1754 by the French and destroyed by the French prior to its fall to a British force in 1758, is outlined by granite bricks in the grassy area of Point State Park. The outline of the British Fort Pitt is also outlined in granite bricks. The Flag Bastion and the Monongahela Bastion have been rebuilt. The rebuilt Monongahela Bastion is home to the Fort Pitt Museum. The original shoreline of the three rivers is also marked by granite bricks.
Families can explore the granite traceries of the Forts, relax and play on the Great Lawn, and walk along the riverfront but the FamilyFun favorite is the Fountain at the Point. The Fountain at the Point sprays water up to 150 feet in the air depending on weather conditions.