1. The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium- hands down, no competition. The zoo is my absolute favorite place to take the kids. The only stipulations are we have to arrive no later than 10:00am and leave before nap and it can't be raining. (Too far from the car to walk with soaking wet underwear.) If you go on the weekday in the morning, you will find a quiet zoo with a few other moms/families and young kids. No crowds, no tweenies saying swear words and acting like zoo animals. There are many interesting sights and sounds. The bathrooms are evenly spaced so you can make a quick pit stop at toddler-sized intervals. There are benches and picnic tables for resting and snacking, there are two playgrounds, and many places for the under-three-foot crowd to get up close and see! The path is paved and stroller friendly. (Although, this is Pittsburgh, so you have to deal with hills, but you should be used to that, right?) There are refreshments for purchase (most of the time), but you are also allowed to bring in your own food and drinks. Parking is free. I recommend the family membership for locals. You will get your money's worth and then some. And if you're going- send me a message!
2. Round Hill Farm Park- It's just a short drive to this park where you'll find farm animals to look at, playgrounds, ducks to feed, and a splash park! Bring your own lawn chair to sit next to the sprinklers at the spray park. It only has pit toilets and porta-potties, so if that's not your thing, you might want to reconsider. It was not a problem for us last summer. You have to pack your own food and drinks as there is no place to purchase them. All in all though, it's the perfect place to spend a day with your young children!
3. Soergel's Orchard- Located in Wexford. We love all the farms/orchards in our area, but Soergel's has, by far, the best amenities for young children. Not only is there delicious fruits and vegetables, but also a pirate ship to play on, a mini-town to stroll through, a petting zoo, and many other activities. During fruit-picking season, you even get a tractor/wagon ride up through the field to the fruit! I don't recommend going on a weekend if you can avoid it, because of the insane crowds, but on a weekday morning it is delightfully busy with moms (and dads and grandparents) with young children.
5. The Aviary- When we were still Buffalo zoo members, we could go to the Aviary for free and it was wonderful. I've heavily considered buying a membership so we can go as often as we choose. I find their single-day admission a bit hefty for a big family. On the other hand, it's great fun for the kids! You can get up close and personal with a wide variety of birds. Their penguin exhibit is the best I've ever experienced. One morning each week (used to be Wednesdays when we were going) they do Tot Time. A staff member reads a story and then the kids get to have a hands-on experience, like feeding chickens. Ian loved going to the Aviary during his 2nd & 3rd years! We haven't been there in awhile, but I'm sure we'll be back soon. Parking is by donation. Sometimes we donated, sometimes we didn't.
I didn't write about any outdoor playgrounds intentionally. There are too many to talk about so I am preparing a post on Pittsburgh's best playgrounds. You may have also noticed I did not include the Pittsburgh Children's Museum on my list. It is not one of my favorite things to do with my toddlers. We were members previously and what I learned is that I can't take the kids there by myself and I don't actually think it is very kid-friendly at all...and definitely not worth the admission/membership price. And it's not free to park.
What are your favorite toddler destinations? (Pittsburgh or elsewhere...I'm always up for new ideas!)
I recently learned that My Little Outback has closed and is supposed to be reopening in a different location. Boo! That really stinks because we loved it there!