By Christine Mouser
Hours: Sat-Thurs, 9:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Fri, 9:30 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Admission: Adults, $12; Children & Students (2-18), $11
There probably isn’t a more perfect spot in town to admire the beauty of spring than Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. This Victorian greenhouse has been in existence since the late 1800s, but it has aged gracefully, embracing new-age ideas such as green-building practices, environmental awareness and sustainable gardening.
If you’re looking for a springtime visit, you can choose from 5 different tours: self-guided, docent-led, tropical forest, greenhouse or a green tour. If you’re going the self-guided route, here are some rooms you need to check out. The Tropical Forest Conservatory is one-of-a-kind, featuring over 12,0000 square feet of waterfalls, a fish pond, healer’s hut and more. The orchid room (filled with rare mini orchids) and the Japanese Courtyard Garden (a combo of the Japanese and Bonsai gardens) are both showstoppers. The other rooms also offer some pretty interesting themes and beautiful gardens: Fern, Stove (butterfly forest), Desert (cacti and species from around the world), Victoria (Victorian-style with black or near black plants), Broderie (French gardens) and Botany (Mediterranean-inspired blue and yellow gardens). Of course, with the recent arrival of spring, you have to check out the outdoor garden, complete with benches, fountains, walkways, gardens, plants, perennials and more.
Springtime events to look out for:
Tropical Forest India Exhibit (Opens February): The Tropical Forest Conservatory exhibit opens and showcases an ayurvedic garden (or a type of healing garden) in addition to spice and tea market displays and an interactive display
Spring Flower Show (March 17-April 15): Celebration of different cultures throughout the world through the display of exquisite flowers
Butterfly Forest (April 22-September 3): The Stove Room comes alive as butterflies take over
Hours: Open daily, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Admission: Adult, $13; Children, $11
One great perk to living in Pittsburgh for nature lovers is definitely the National Aviary, which is located right here on the North Side of the city. And there is definitely no better time than the spring to check out the more than 600 different birds featured here. So what might kind of majestic birds might you come across? Parrots, penguins, crows, flamingos, bald eagles, doves, pelicans, herons, toucans, ducks, owls, woodpeckers and more.
But for more hands-on fun, here are some exhibits you need to check out:
Raptor Experience ($100): Anyone interested in these birds of prey will certainly not want to miss this. This three-hour program allows visitors to prepare food for hawks, falcons, eagles, vultures and owls as well as learn all about what makes them great hunters.
Penguin Connection ($30): For just $30, you can get up close and personal with perhaps the most adorable bird in the world, who coincidentally serves as the mascot for the best hockey team in the world as well. You can check out their meals or take pictures of this unique opportunity. Ages 12 and up.
Flamingo Connection ($30): You can walk among these beautiful birds, learn about them and then feed them their favorite food
Parrot Connection ($30): You can take home a new painting, masterfully created by one of the Aviary’s Blue-fronted Amazon parrots, live in person!
Powdermill Nature Reserve
Hours: Fri 6:30 p.m. check-in; Sat 9 a.m. departure
Price: $40 per person, including chaperones; payment required 4 weeks in advance
If you and your whole family are total nature freaks, then a Family Overnight Trip at the Powdermill Nature Reserve is the perfect plan. The earliest spring trip this year falls on April 20 and is titled Spring Life at Powdermill. Powdermill Nature Reserve is the environmental research center of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, and during this trip, everyone will have the opportunity to learn about the reserve’s nocturnal animals.
Nocturnal animals: check out the cool sounds that the insects, birds, amphibians and mammals make as you try to identify animal species.
Cool activities: Night hike without any light through various trails and learn about nocturnal animals; explore vernal pools (springtime woodland puddles) that the local animals use
Food time: Sit around the campfire, trade nature stories and chow down on some hot dogs, s’mores and popcorn
Going to the park is the perfect plan for every one of all ages—from children and teens to adults. Here in Pittsburgh, there are some great parks, but the largest regional one in the area is Frick Park, which measures in at a whopping 561 acres.
Frick Park has distinguished itself as a woodland park with its large amount of trails through valleys and wooded slopes. Located in Frick Park, the Frick Woods Nature Reserve is 151 acres of land solely purposed to house undeveloped wildlife, per Henry Clay Frick’s wishes. Also located here is the The Nine Mile Run Watershed which is a small stream that flows above ground for a little over 2 miles. It was recently restored, giving new life to the stream and its vegetation. Probably the most unique feature of Frick Park is the Bowling Green, or the only public lawn bowling green in Pennsylvania. Two greens of 120 square feet accommodates seven games at a time for bowlers looking for a different spin on the game. The best part? You don’t have to spend a penny.
So what else can you do at Frick Park? Bird watch at Clayton Hill, where over 100 different bird species have been observed. Mountain bike through various trails around the park. Take the kids to the Blue Slide Playground. Get a tennis match or a baseball game going. Don’t forget to check out our “Best of” Guide to Frick Park.
Christine Mouser is currently living in the Pittsburgh area, where she is an editorial intern for Pittsburgh Magazine. She is set to graduate from Penn State University this summer, with a degree in print journalism. She has written for HappyValley.com, Town&Gown magazine and Penn State’s Valley magazine.