Pittsburgh’s National Aviary with a Toddler

IMG_0023-2Will is currently progressing from an obsession with dogs phase to an obsession with dogs AND birds.  The National Aviary was a perfect place to switch it up from our normal zoo visits, and I had never been there myself so I was excited to check it out.  It’s one of the only dedicated bird zoos of its kind in the United States and it’s located in Pittsburgh’s Northside neighborhood.  If you time your arrival right (usually right at the opening) the Aviary has a small parking lot right next to it’s entrance that’s super convenient and only $5 for the day.  Parking is also free to members.
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When we entered through the West Entrance by the parking lot, we first visited the Steller’s Sea Eagles and Bald Eagles before making our way to Penguins Point.  The exhibits were easy to see from the stroller and Will loved being able to get close up to the huge sea eagles (which I learned are one of the largest species of eagle in the world.)  From there, we went to the indoor/outdoor Penguin Point.  The exhibit is home to 20 South African penguins, which were seriously the most friendly and interactive penguins I’ve ever seen.  Its set up so that kids of any size can be eye level with the penguins by going right up to the pool, and there’s also a “Kids ViewTube” on the inside to squat down against the pool.  The penguins all have their names on their tags so you can pick out your favorite, and I have to say that Kris the penguin was literally playing with Will and bumping up against the glass even more each time Will got more excited.   If your kids love penguins you can also do a private penguin feeding or penguin encounter for extra time with these fun little water birds.


The Tropical Rainforest is one of the newest exhibits at the aviary and had the coolest selection of birds in addition to being where Wookie the sloth spends a lot of his time during the day.  I didn’t catch him on camera since he was really hard to see, but one of the staff members was keeping an eye on his moves so she could point him out to those seeking him out.  Ironically, out of all the birds in the rainforest, Will’s favorite part of the room was the 3 little ducks that were aimlessly walking around.  He was laughing hysterically the entire time as he was trying to chase after them (and this momma is just thankful they didn’t chase him back!)  The birds fly around you the entire time but its totally safe as long as you pay attention and follow the rules (i.e. no snacks for the kiddos in the open exhibits unless you want a birdie snatching it unexpectedly.)  After the rainforest we walked through the Wetlands exhibit for a quick visit with the Flamingos, another one of Will’s favorites.

We saw the Amazing Amazon show at 11:30am in the Helen M. Schmidt FliteZoneTM Theater for a small additional fee.  It included free-flying birds doing tricks and a chance to see an armadillo and sloth in addition to learning about macaws, toucans and other birds.  Will loved seeing seeing all the birds fly above him, but in hindsight we probably should have waited until he was a just tad bit older (or looked for one that didn’t fall right around his early lunch time.) He was getting a little restless even though it was only about 15-20 minutes long, but least there were there adults there to just pass Will back and forth and keep him entertained while we were enjoying the show : )

Before venturing outside, we walked through the Grasslands, which was an enclosed, natural habitat. It was a fairly small room but it seemed like there hundreds of tiny, brightly colored birds including doves, finches and other species that are typically found in the grasslands.  We also took a stroll through Canary’s Call, which is a series of pictures and the history of birds throughout changes in the world.  We hurried through the exhibit, although I’m not sure if it was because of Will’s fading attention span or the creepy bats that were housed there.  Either way, I’m sure it’s worth taking the time in the future to read through everything when the little guy lets us!

IMG_0031The Butterfly Garden was nestled outside in the rose garden.  At the time it was a little low on butterflies, but the staff there told us the best time to go is Friday since they re-stock their butterflies on Thursdays, so we’ll need to keep that in mind for next time.

We ended up spending about 2 hours at the Aviary, which felt was the perfect amount of time to see everything and keep the attention of a 14 month old.

After the Aviary we took the time to check out the nearby Federal Galley for lunch; the newest dining concept from the owners of Smallman Galley.  The four of us had yummy lunches from the Provision Pittsburgh and Supper restaurants– I would love to go back next time I’m in Northside!

We just scratched the surface for this first visit and I can’t wait to explore the Aviary again in the future.


Know Before You Go

  • Hours: Open Daily from 10am- 5pm
  • Admission: $16 for Adults/ $14 for Kids/ Children under 2 are free// Amazing Amazon & Soar shows are $5 extra
  • Membership: Packages vary.  Tip: Admission fee for your visit can be credited toward the price of membership.
  • See Plan Your Visit on the Aviary’s website for more info.

Children’s Book Inspiration: Penguins Waddle by Rebecca Glaser

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Pittsburgh's National Aviary


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