After being gifted a Carnegie Museum membership last Christmas, the Carnegie Science Center quickly became one of our favorite things to do with a toddler in Pittsburgh. The Carnegie Science Center is huge, and it’s one place in Pittsburgh you could really spend the entire day and not get bored. One of the best things about the Carnegie Science Center is that is caters to both kids and adults of all ages. So if you’re like us and still have little ones with a regular nap schedule, it’s still totally doable.
Below are our tips for exploring the Carnegie with young children to make the most of your visit.
Tip #1 Arrive at the Carnegie Science Center Right When it Opens
The Science Center draws a lot of crowds for good reason. Getting there when they open right at 10am will help maximize your time before the kiddos get tired. On the weekends when the Carnegie Science Center is the busiest, that early arrival will also help ensure you get a spot in the front parking lot right across from the entrance. (Always a plus when you’re carrying ALL of the stuff that goes along with having little kids!)
Tip #2: Explore the 4th Floor of the Science Center First
The 4th floor is home to the new Little Learner Clubhouse, and it’s a great place to start your visit to the Carnegie Science Center. This clubhouse is tailored to kids 6 and under and their families. It’s also self-contained, making it the perfect spot for kids to explore. There’s even an adorable baby garden area for babies of any age to safely explore.
At 2 years old, my son’s favorite things to do at the Little Learner Clubhouse include:
- Splash in the water tables and fish with the magnetic poles.
- “Paint” with water on the huge chalkboard.
- Hit the light up buttons that control different sounds and actions in the clubhouse. Look out for the one that makes it rain!
- Sort the green and red tomatoes and using the pulley system to load up the huge bin.
- Play with instruments and other activities found in the backpacks hanging on the center tree.
- Build things with the blue foam blocks.
- Climb the steps of the clubhouse and take in the view.
The 4th floor also contains the Exploration Station Exhibit. This open space has some great tables and stations set up for kids to learn more about energy and forces of natures. There is even an “Earthquake Cafe” that gives you a realistic perspective on what it would be like to sit through an earthquake. My son’s favorite is the “shaking table.” Here you can build creations with blocks and see if they’re sturdy enough to withstand the table’s shaking.
Tip #3: Stop by the Miniature Railroad & Village Exhibit Early During Your Visit
Pittsburgh is home to some great model trains, but the Carnegie Science Center has one of my absolute favorite train displays for little kids. The train table and fence around it are the perfect height for toddlers. (This is great for parents since the kiddos can pretty much see the whole thing without being carried the whole time!) While you’re at the train display, be sure to have your little one:
- Look out for Thomas the Train pulling Annie and Clarabel.
- Spot the cows and horses in the farm display.
- Hit the big train horn button, located next to the “conductor” at the table on the end.
- Check out the old Pirate’s baseball stadium.
- Find the Duquesne Incline moving up and down the mountain.
- Look for the hot air ballon and plane in the sky.
- Watch the miniature Kennywood theme park complete with a ferris wheel and rollercoaster.
Note: The lines going into and around the train display can get pretty long on the weekend. Be sure to go either soon after it opens or later in the afternoon to avoid a lot of standing and waiting.
Tip #4: Interact with the Robots at Carnegie Science Center’s Roboworld®
Roboworld® is another hands-on exhibit for kids to learn all about robotics at any age. Favorites of little kids include the following:
- Have Andy, the “RoboThespian®” sing to the tune of “singing in the rain.”
- Watch the robotic arm make a perfect shot in the basketball hoop each time.
- Play air hockey against a robot.
- Sit at the tables in the Robot Lounge to build something with blocks.
- Roll a ball down a ramp to play music based on a color chart.
- Use a joystick to make the robot rovers move.
Fun Fact: Roboworld® is the largest permanent robotics exhibit in the world. Right here in Pittsburgh!
Tip #5: Learn About the Human Body at the BodyWorks Exhibit
While much of this 3rd floor display is may seem geared toward older kids and adults, there’s still a lot here for little kids. My son’s favorite displays at BodyWorks include watching a heart beat, moving arm joints and listening to your heart in the form of a drumbeat. And no visit to the BodyWorks exhibit is complete without stopping by the bodily sounds display. (A.k.a. the “fart machine.”) This machine lets kids push a button to pick the sound they want and jump on a stool to make the machine go.
While you’re at BodyWorks, be sure to check when the “Move It, Move It” show is airing at the Bodystage. My son and his little friend recently attended this live show and they loved it from start to finish. It was great for teaching them about different ways to exercise and how the human body works. The presenter was also great at getting them involved and interacting the whole time.
Tip #6 Don’t Leave Without Checking out the H2Oh! Exhibit
This main floor exhibit is dedicated to the rivers that are so important to Pittsburgh and the animals that inhabit them. The exhibit is uniquely set against a view of the rivers in the spot where Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers converge. Our favorite part of this exhibit is the area full of fresh water fish tanks, making it almost like a mini aquarium. My fish-obsessed son’s favorite things to do here include:
- Pull a stool up to the fish to get up close.
- Climb around in the tree trunks with some of the river animals (which also makes a cute photo op!)
- Play at the water tables to learn about how dams work and water flows.
Tip #7: Use the Stools so Your Little Scientists Can Get Up Close to Displays
You’ll find that there are stools of varying heights all throughout the Carnegie Science Center. The stools are super helpful with allowing even the littlest kids to interact with the displays on their own without being held. If your child needs a stool and you can’t find one, just ask one of the super helpful and friendly staff members and they’ll likely be able to track one down. These are especially great at the BodyWorks and Exploration Station exhibits that have some higher displays.
Tip #8: Check out Munchkin Mondays at the Carnegie Science Center
There are several activities on Mondays specifically designed for little ones. This includes activities to make and take things home and shows throughout the day. Plus, Munchkin Monday is one of several unique story times in Pittsburgh, where you can listen to stories under the stars in the Buhl Planetarium.
If you can’t make it on a Monday, be sure to ask any employee for a daily schedule when you visit. There are several special shows and exhibits offered every day of the week, including several Planetarium shows offered on a regular basis.
Note: The Sports Works is an amazing section of the Science Center that helps both kids and adults learn about the physics and science of sports through hands-on physical activity. It’s primarily geared toward kids who are beyond the toddler years as well as adults. (Hence, my reason for leaving it off here.) Definitely something we’re looking forward to enjoying as our son gets older!
Know Before You Go: Additional Tips for Visiting the Carnegie Science Center
- Location: Pittsburgh’s North Shore: One Allegheny Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA
- Tickets: For General Admission, Adults are $19.95 (65+ is $14.95), Children ages 2-17 are $11.95 and Children under 2 are FREE. This does not include certain special exhibits and the Rangos Giant Cinema.
- Hours: 10am-5pm daily (Note: Due to parking limitations, the Carnegie Science Center is closed during home Steelers games and major events at Heinz Field.)
- Parking: Parking is $5 per vehicle after 9:30am. (Note: You can pay for parking at any time during your visit. We usually pay at the pay station inside the Science Center right when we get there.)
- The USS Requin submarine is closed during the winter. If this is something you’re interested in, be sure to visit from March- December when it’s open.
- There’s an on-site cafe called Riverview (named for the great views of the river!) It carries a number of fresh, healthy food options.
- There are ramps and an elevator available to reach all floors of the Science Center. These definitely make it easy for strollers and wheelchairs to get around.
- There are bathrooms located on each floor that are equipped with changing rooms.
- For more, visit the Carnegie Science Center’s website here.
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