A Conservatory and Botanical Gardens may not always the first thing you think of when looking for things to do with kids. Just one visit to Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, however, and you’ll quickly see why it’s one of the best things to do with kids in Pittsburgh. From the bright and beautiful flowers to the displays and activities geared specifically toward children, it’s the perfect indoor and outdoor oasis to take your children. Keep reading below for our 7 tips for visiting Phipps with kids.
Leave Ample Time for the Gallery Room and Play Farmer’s Market
The Gallery Room is space is specifically dedicated to the youngest visitors at Phipps Conservatory. The Phipps Produce Market located within this room has a huge selection of play food, complete with mini shopping carts and checkout counters that kids love. There’s also an adorable play kitchen that includes a stove, refrigerator and table for kids to pretend to make food with the produce they “purchase.” On Mondays and periodically throughout the week, there are also make and take crafts available with a theme for the day. You’ll quickly find that your kids won’t want to leave! Phipps also places a large emphasis on healthy eating in conjunction with Let’s Move Pittsburgh. You can find more information on those efforts in the Gallery Room as well.
Visit a Few Times Throughout the Year to Catch the Special Displays
While Phipps is amazing all year round, the Holiday and Spring shows in particular are two that shouldn’t be missed. The Holiday Show at Phipps is magical, with many Christmas themed decorations throughout as well as a light show in the evenings. The train, available in the fall and winter, is definitely a highlight at that time of year. This past year, there was a new train display in the South Conservatory that captured the history of Pittsburgh and Phipps in an interactive way.
The Spring Flower Show at Phipps is beautiful, with the brightly colored flowers and displays. This past year, the theme was Gardens of the Rainbow. In addition to the beautiful flowers, there were kaleidoscopes and displays featuring all colors of the rainbow. My son loved the water and sound feature that combined sounds and water with brightly colored prisms. The Butterfly Forest is another family favorite that runs from April to September each year. This huge assortment of butterflies can be found in the Stove Room.
Find the Wildlife Throughout the Conservatory
There are a few spots in Phipps for kids to see fish and other marine life. The fish tank in the Tropical Rainforest is pretty big with a large glass display that makes it perfect for little ones’ viewing. The Orchid Room has a small pond as well, and if you’re outside you can find fish in the Japanese Courtyard Garden. The Lagoon, located within the Center for Sustainable Landscapes Environs, contains turtles and fish. Birds can also be found throughout the Conservatory, and my son loves looking for them among the flowers.
Explore the Children’s Discovery Garden in the Warmer Months
The children’s garden at Phipps is dedicated to kids and has a number of fun features throughout. There’s a tree stump that kids can play under and climb on top of. Plus there’s also a sensory garden for kids to explore the sights, sounds and colors of nature. The flowers and plants are also specifically selected to attract birds and bees, making it fun for kids to search for wildlife. During the warmer months, Phipps’ story time is held outdoors as well.
Get a picture at the Cuban Car in the Tropical Rainforest
The entrance to the Tropical Rainforest section of Phipps has a real antique car in the style and era that Cuba is known for. It’s the perfect spot to open the door and get a quick photo with the Latin music playing in the background to feel like you’re really there. Throughout the rainforest display, there are also little huts for kids (and adults) to learn more about what it’s like to live in the rainforest first-hand.
Participate in one of several Discovery Programs offered for kids at Phipps
Throughout the week, Phipps Botanical Gardens and Conservatory offers Discovery Programs for children that are included with admission. Current offerings include:
- Make-A-Craft Mondays from 10:30am-12pm
- Story Time Wednesdays at 10:30am and 1pm (one of a few unique story times in Pittsburgh)
- Plant-A-Pot Fridays from 10:30am-12pm
There are also “discovery stations” offered sporadically throughout Phipps that include activities with corresponding books. On our most recent trip there, my son made daffodils with paper, beads and pipe cleaners for his Grandma and I at a station in the Gallery Room. He also learned more about bird sounds at another station in a different room.
Don’t Leave Phipps Without Making a Wish
Did you know that Phipps has an official wishing well? While visitors are discouraged from throwing coins in the other points to protect the flora and fauna, this spot is aimed for making a wish with your coins. Head to the Broderie Room to find it and make your wish!
Know Before You Go- Additional Tips for Visiting Phipps with Kids
- Phipps Botanical Gardens and Conservatory is located at One Schenley Park, Pittsburgh, PA
- Phipps is open daily from 9:30am-5pm, with the exception of Fridays when it’s open from 9:30am-10pm
- Try to arrive at Phipps right when they open to score a free parking spot in the center island across the street on Schenley Drive
- Children under 2 are free; admission is discounted for children 2-18
- Phipps has a Cafe with really good, fresh food and a kids’ menu with healthy options
- Phipps is stroller friendly and accessible in most areas of the conservatory
- Backpacks are prohibited at Phipps (something to keep in mind if you typically carry one for your diaper bag!)
- For more information on visiting Phipps, see the website here
**Phipps is currently running a promotion from now until September 30, 2019 that offers a 10% discount off ticket prices if you sign up for their email list. See here for more information.
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