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A Road Trip to Pittsburgh is a Must for D.C. Families!

zoo

My family recently went on a road trip to Pittsburgh and found out exactly why Pittsburgh is kidsBURGH – the ultimate destination for family fun! We had never visited before so naturally we were excited to explore some place new. It was a fairly quick drive from D.C.; we made it in a little under 4 hours which included 2 stops. It felt like an easier trip than driving to the beach since traffic was not an issue. Once we arrived in the city, it was non-stop fun and so easy to keep the kids happy and entertained. The team at Visit Pittsburgh put together an amazing itinerary for us. Read on to see why you should start planning your family’s next summer getaway to Pittsburgh!

Day 1

We left D.C. at 7:30am and arrived at our hotel by 11:30am. After we checked in and unpacked we headed off to lunch at Primanti Bros. – a Pittsburgh classic. Founded in 1933, the chain is known for its signature sandwiches of grilled meat, an Italian dressing-based coleslaw, tomato slices, and French fries between two pieces of Italian bread. It was delicious and definitely a must! We visited the original location in the historic Strip District neighborhood.

Primantis

After lunch we went to the Carnegie Science Center and experienced the world’s largest exhibition of LEGO art. The Art of the Brick exhibit showcases the incredible artworks by artist Nathan Sawaya.

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After touring the awe-inspiring exhibit, kids get to discover their inner architect in the free-play and hands-on activity area, Science of the Brick!

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There are so many other areas in the museum to explore too. We could have easily spent most of the day here but we only had 2 hours so we just scratched the surface. After the LEGO exhibit, my girls choose to tour the USS Requin Submarine and also check out the fantastic H2Oh! Why Our Rivers Matter exhibit.

We ended the first day of our tour with a Pittsburgh Pirates game at PNC Park. It is located along the shore of the Allegheny River and from the park you can enjoy amazing views of the downtown skyline and riverfront. Inside the park there is a playground area where you can take your little ones if they get restless in their seats.

PiratesGame

Day 2

We started Day 2 with Breakfast at Kelly O’s in the Strip District. This diner has been featured on the Food Network and is known as a one-of-a-kind greasy spoon that is a classic Pittsburgh spot for breakfast. Everyone in my family loved the food! My girls devoured their pancakes and bacon, my husband enjoyed his breakfast sandwich on Italian bread, and I had excellent eggs and home fries. We also tried their famous grilled cinnamon roll and that was incredible! You really can’t go wrong with anything on the menu here – it was all delicious!

KellyO

After breakfast we headed to Pittsburgh’s North Side and visited the Children’s Museum. This is one of the best that we have been to and I can definitely see why it was named one of the nation’s top 15 children’s museums by Parents magazine in 2015. There are three floors of innovative experiences where kids can play and inspire joy, creativity, and curiosity. Also, this summer there are two other fantastic exhibits on view: Thomas & Friends: Explore the Rails and The Pigeon Comes to Pittsburgh: A Mo Willems Exhibit.

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The day just kept getting better! After the Children’s Museum we were off to Kennywood – known as America’s finest traditional amusement park. This was the stop on the tour that my girls were most excited about. Rides and games, plus fried food and sugary jumbo treats is a dream come true for them! Kennywood opened in 1898 and was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1987. It has a mix of the old-school favorites and the new thrill rides like Black Widow.

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Kennywood was so much fun, it was really hard to leave but we needed to head back to the hotel to freshen up before dinner at Hofbrauhaus in the South Side neighborhood. The restaurant is modeled after the legendary 400+ year-old Hofbräuhaus in Munich and it really felt like we were in Germany. When we walked into the bier hall there was a musician playing the accordion and it had such a unique ambiance. The food was delicious and the kids menu offered up plenty of the popular dishes like cheese pizza, hot dogs, and chicken tenders. The restaurant is located on the bank of the river so after dinner we walked along the South Side Riverfront Trail and took in the amazing city views during sunset.

Hofbrauhaus

After dinner we stopped at The Milk Shake Factory for treats. At this premier dessert destination you can create your own milkshake from the extensive list of flavors or choose one of the classic or signature milkshakes on the menu. This was a sweet ending to fun-filled day!

Day 3

We started the day with a delicious breakfast at Waffles Incaffeinated in the South Side. My girls were super excited to build their own waffles from the large list of signature ingredients. We all left happy with full bellies!

Our next stop was Mount Washington where we took in the panoramic skyline views of the city. USA Today named the view from Mt. Washington one of the 10 most beautiful views in America. And we agree – it’s simply stunning!

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MtWashington

The original plan for the next destination was a visit to the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium but with rain in the forecast we played it safe and instead went with an indoor option – the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. This is a great museum for kids with an incredible dinosaur exhibit including T.rex and other towering fossils. Our time here was short but we also made sure to see the Hall of African Wildlife, Hall of North Amerian Wildlife and the Walton Hall of Ancient Egypt where my girls were fascinated with the mummies!

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Our last stop on the tour was brunch at The Porch at Schenley Plaza. The menu features local and fresh ingredients used in new recipes as well as the classics with a twist. The food was amazing and the location was perfect too! After dining you can take your kiddos over to the nearby PNC Carousel for a spin or enjoy the beautiful green space.

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My family had the best time in Pittsburgh and didn’t even get to see everything on our first visit. We will most definitely make a return trip to spend more time at the places we loved and also check out the places we didn’t have time for like the zoo, the National Aviary, and the Duquesne Incline. We were pleasantly surprised with all the family friendly and affordable attractions Pittsburgh has to offer!

Disclosure: My family was hosted by Visit Pittsburgh for the purposes of this post. All opinions are my own. 



Theodore Roosevelt Island

Theodore Roosevelt Island
Washington, DC 20037
http://www.nps.gov/this/index.htm
 

After living in the DC area for over 10 years, I finally made it to Theodore Roosevelt Island a few weeks ago. I had always wanted to check it out, so I decided to make it a priority and took my girls with me for a fun little adventure before the school year started.

First of all, you should know that it is only accessible from the northbound lanes of the GW Parkway. So, if you are coming from the north, you will have to loop around. We went during a weekday in the late morning, so there were plenty of parking spaces available. But I have heard that the parking lot fills up early on the weekends. After parking we walked (or danced in Clara’s case) across the bridge.

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My girls spotted a few ducks at the end of the bridge, so we stopped to feed them.

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Once you cross the bridge and arrive on the island, there are three different paths you can take. Left (north), straight (east into the center of the island towards the Memorial Plaza), or right (south). I decided to first go to the plaza. My girls spotted the monument and took off running towards it yelling “We found Teddy”.

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This memorial doesn’t look as nicely maintained as the others on the national mall. It’s a little more run down but the plus side is there is way less people here. The day we visited it was just us, Teddy, and maybe four other people.

From here we took a path going south to meet up with the main trail (Swamp Trail) that goes along the perimeter of the entire island. The path leads by the highway 66 bridge and as we approached this area Clara asked if any bad guys were under there! I assured her it was completely safe and as we were standing there a deer walked right by us, probably only about 6 feet from us. She still talks about that deer! She had never been that close to one, so it left quite the impression on her.

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We continued walking, now headed north on the east side of the island and this is where the boardwalk begins in the marshland. We saw lots of wildlife in this area of the island: herons, ducks, fish, lizards, and turtles. My girls also found wildflowers to pick. Along this part of the trail there are several benches so it’s a good place to stop for a water/snack break.

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Once we were at the northern part of the island we took a smaller side trail leading down to the Potomac river. We were directly across from the Georgetown Waterfront Park. My girls took their shoes off and jumped around in the water. Then they decided it would be fun to collect rocks and throw them into the river. This simple activity kept them entertained for quite a while! It was nice for me to sit and relax while watching them play together.

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From this part of the island there are a few different ways to get back to the entrance. My girls were tired at this point, so we took the Upland Trail and cutback through the Memorial Plaza and headed back to the parking lot.

I loved our visit to this island. The peacefulness makes you feel like you are not in a city. The summer was a great time to visit but I think this fall will be even more beautiful so I’m hoping we can make it back for another hike.

 

Good to Know:

• The island is open from 6am to 10pm.
• Bring a stroller for kids under the age of 5 or so. My four year old made it around the entire island without riding in a stroller but she did complain a lot towards the end! If you take the Swamp Trail all the way around it’s 1.5 miles.
• The only bathrooms are located on the south part of the trail.
• Dog friendly.
• Bikes are not allowed on the island. There is a rack for them at the entrance.
• The trails on the island actually show up on the map on the iphone. This makes it very handy to figure out where exactly you are on the island during your hike.



BusyBees Indoor Playground

BusyBees
6110 D Arlington Blvd
Falls Church, VA 22044
www.busybeesplay.com
 

Busybees is the newest, coolest, and most unique indoor children’s playground that just opened last week in Falls Church, VA. The owner contacted me a few months ago to tell me about her new business she was working on opening. I was immediately very excited! I started telling all my friends about this new play space that would be especially perfect for those days when it’s raining or too hot or too cold to play outside. Then last week I had the opportunity to preview the space and play with my girls at Busybees for the first time. I can honestly tell you, there is really nothing like this in our area! You must check it out if you have small children under 4 feet tall.

As soon as you step in the door, Busybees will put a smile on your face. The space is designed so beautifully in crisp white with pops of blue and green. It’s just the right size – not too big and not too small; so it’s easy to look after multiple children here. The structures in the playground are so incredibly unique – everything spins, moves, or flies.

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My girls especially loved this little space filled with flying balloons. Pure joy in here!

Busybees4IMG_9164Also, the staff members at Busybees were all very friendly. When we entered the play space the attendant asked for my girls names and made an effort to remember them. And they were there to help the kids climb up or get down from a structure when needed.

And as Busybees states, here are 7 reasons to love them:

  1. Everything at BusyBees moves, spins, or flies!

  2. We offer the most Funtabulous parties!

  3. In-N-Out-N-In… $15 all day play

  4. Adults and kids under 1: Always free

  5. Sparkling Clean every 3 hours!

  6. Complimentary coffee/tea for the sleep deprived

  7. And of course, there is free wifi

Definitely lots to love about Busybees. This is a place we will be returning to many times!