9 Reasons to Visit Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Museum of Natural History & Carnegie Museum of Art with Kids

We’re fortunate that Pittsburgh, PA has no shortage of great museums, thanks primarily to Andrew Carnegie and other titans of the steel industry. One of the great things about the Carnegie Museum of National History and the Carnegie Museum of Art (CMOA) is that they’re connected within the same building. That makes visiting them together the perfect outing for your family and very doable at the same time. The best part is that you get access to both amazing museums with just one admission fee.

And if you’re worried your child may be too young, don’t be! There are so many fun things to discover when visiting either Carnegie museum with kids of any age. After several visits to both museums, below are top 9 reasons to visit the Carnegie Museum of Natural History and the Carnegie Museum of Art with kids.

The Dinosaurs in Their Time Exhibit has an Amazing Collection of Dinosaurs

I have yet to meet a child that hasn’t gone through a dinosaur loving phase at some point. The Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh has one of the best selections of dinosaurs I’ve seen. In fact, it houses the biggest collection of jurassic dinosaurs in the world and one of the largest exhibits of dinosaurs on display in the US. In addition to the floor to ceiling dinosaurs, there are several kiosks throughout the exhibit with touch screens for you to learn more about each dinosaur you’re viewing. The kids also love being able to sit inside the Sauropod footprint, touch the Diplodocus thighbone and touch a real piece of a Tyrannosaurus Rex bone.

Dinosaurs Carnegie Museum of Natural History Pittsburgh with a Toddler

The Discovery Basecamp is a Completely Hands-On Exhibit for Kids

The Discovery Basecamp is an awesome area for kids on the first floor of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. While several displays around the museums are for viewing only, this section actually encourages kids to touch every single thing in the room. (You can even touch the African Lion and Brown Bear!)

The Life Lab is a central focal point of the room, and it encourages kids to explore the various animals and objects found in nature. The entire camp site area is filled with tackle boxes, and each holds a book and object for kids to learn about a variety of plant and animal species.

Other fun things for kids to explore at the Discovery Basecamp include:

  • A bug-themed play area for little kids to climb and jump around, complete with a running reel of bug videos
  • A diorama display for kids to both learn about the art of dioramas and apply what they learned by making their own habitat diorama
  • A light up table with colorful shapes to make designs
  • Examine a number of animal species up close and under a microscope
  • Play dress up with butterfly and bird wings

Note: There is also a private breastfeeding area located within the Discovery Basecamp in the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.

Discovery Base Camp Carnegie Museum of Natural History Things to do in Pittsburgh with a toddler

Kids Can Dig for Fossils at the Bone Hunters’ Quarry

The fossil digging area of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History is one of the highlights for kids. Children under 10 area able to dig for fossils like a real paleontologists, using a chisel, paintbrush and goggles. Our son loves going from bone to bone trying to dig them out, and there is seating available for the parents to sit and observe while the kids are having fun.

Fun Fact: The fossil digging area is modeled after the Dinosaur National Monument in Utah. (The site where several dinosaurs at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History were found.)

Fossil Digging Carnegie Museum of Natural History with a toddler

The Wildlife Halls at the Museum of Natural History Include a Hige Variety of Animals

There are several different sections throughout the Carnegie Museum of Natural History with wildlife of several different species and climates. You can find anything from birds to polar bears to animals from the african savannah. There are also exhibits dedicated to Ancient Egypt, American Indians and precious gems. (Note: The Bird Hall was somewhat enclosed in a narrow hallway and scared my son a bit when he was last there at 18 months. Something to be mindful of if you’re visiting the Carnegie Museums with small children under 2!)

Carnegie Museum of Natural History with kids

There’s an Entire Gallery of Miniature Rooms

The contrast between the huge and ornate marble in the Halls of Sculpture and Architecture at Carnegie and the tiny features of the Miniatures Gallery won’t go unnoticed. This adorable hallway display has several miniature rooms filled with furniture and accessories. The attention to detail is pretty amazing, and kids will love seeing these miniature rooms brought to life. The Miniatures Gallery is located on the first floor of the Carnegie Museums.

Miniature Gallery Carnegie Museum of Art Pittsburgh

Even the Littlest Kids Can Enjoy the Art Galleries at CMOA

It can be easy to overlook a prestigious art museum as something kids may not be interested in. I definitely encourage you to carve out time for the amazing art galleries on the second floor of the museum. Even if you’re visiting with younger kids! My son’s first visit to the art galleries within the Carnegie Museum of Art was when he was 20 months old. He loved the aesthetic appeal and bright colors of the Carnegie International artwork at the time. Not only are the rotating exhibits amazing, but there are so many beautiful and interesting pieces of art to look at any time of year. Plus, with both museums being connected, it’s easy to spend as much or as little time in the art galleries as your child’s attention span will allow.

Tip: I definitely recommend having a stroller or baby carrier if you’re visiting an art museum with a baby or young toddler. That way if your little ones are running around or trying to touch things you can continue the tour with them contained. (Definitely speaking from experience here!) If you choose a baby carrier, it must be forward facing as the Carnegie Museum policies prevent anyone from carrying things on their back.

Carnegie museum of art in Pittsburgh with a Toddler

There are a Few Spots Throughout the Carnegie Museums to Get a Bite to Eat or Take a Break

Whether you’re spending a half day or a full day at the Carnegie museums in Pittsburgh, there are a few areas to either dine at or take a quick break.

  • The Fossil Fuel Cafe, located in the basement of the museum, offers kid-friendly food and drinks in a cafeteria style setting.
  • The Cafe Carnegie, located by the entrance to the Carnegie Museums, offers upscale-casual dining along with a wine bar and espresso bar.
  • The Anthropocene Living Room on the 3rd floor of the Museum has tables and couches to relax and read one of several books for both children and adults. Here you can also find the Jurassic Overlook, which has a great view of the Dinosaurs in Their Time exhibit.
  • The Carnegie Museum of Art also has a reading room next to the Contemporary Galleries. The room contains books for both adults and children of all ages. It’s the perfect spot to sit down and take a quick break while learning about the art around you.
Carnegie Museum of Art Reading Room

There’s a Fun Play Structure Outside of the Carnegie Museum

This small play sculpture is a fun way for kids to experience art brought to life. The play structure is called a Lozziwurm, which comes from Switzerland and is essentially a tunnel and slide combined. Having just turned 2, my son doesn’t get far past the tunnel entrance, but my 4 year old niece absolutely loved it during our last visit. This great little play area is enclosed in a fence, allowing the kids blow off some steam while their parents can sit and relax.

Fun Fact: The Carnegie Museums boast the first Lozziwurm in the United States. It was first installed in 2013 as part the Carnegie International exhibit that year.

Carnegie Museum of Pittsburgh Play Structure Lozziwurm

There are So Many Family-Friendly Programs at the Carnegie Museums

There are several programs and activities for kids at both the Carnegie Museum of Art and the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh.

Programs for kids at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh include:

  • ARTventures: Art gallery activities for all ages, from 11:30- 4:30pm on Saturdays and Sundays.
  • Baby and Me Yoga, which takes place once a month from 10am-12pm. After a yoga session with your child under 3, theres a stroller art tour geared toward geared to be more relaxed for the tiny entourage and their parent or caregiver. Current fees are $20 per parent/ child pairing, with a discount for members. (Drop in yoga is also offered periodically at CMOA for participants 18+.)
  • Summer Camp at CMOA for ages 4- High School. See here for more information on summer camps at the Carnegie Museum of Art.
  • Third Thursdays at CMA, which is an 18+ event from 8-11pm, makes a great date night activity for parents.
Carnegie Museum of Art with Toddlers Carnegie International

Programs for kids at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History include:

  • Super Science Saturdays: Monthly event at Carnegie MNH for kids and their families. The activities are included with admission and held from 12-4pm. See here for upcoming Super Science Saturday programs.
  • Nature 360: Offers hands on nature labs for kids ages 8-13
  • Live Animal Encounters: A chance to meet some of the animals that live at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Encounters take place at 1:30pm by the Discovery Base Camp and cost $3 for children and adults over 3.
  • Birthday Parties, Sleepovers and Camps are also offered at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. See here for more information on all program offerings.
Discovery Base Camp Carnegie Museum of Natural History with kids

Know Before You Go: Visiting the Carnegie Museums of Natural History and Art

  • Location: Carnegie Museum of Natural History and the Museum of Art are located in the Oakland area of Pittsburgh at 4400 Forbes Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15213.
  • Hours: The Museums are open every day but Tuesday from 10am-5pm. On Thursdays, hours are extended until 8pm (and occasionally later for after hours events.)
  • Admission: Both of these Carnegie museums can be visited with one admission ticket. As of May 2019, Adults are $19.95, Adults 65+ are $14.95, Students and Children 3-18 are $11.95 and Children Under 3 are FREE.
  • Parking: There’s a large parking lot and garage for the museums and the library next door. Parking is discounted if you’re visiting the museum. Be sure to have your ticket validated at the front desk and pay for your parking before you leave.
  • Membership: Allows for unlimited access to the 4 Carnegie Museums, including the Andy Warhol Museum and the Carnegie Science Center. For more on Carnegie Museum memberships, see the membership page here.
  • Additional tips:
    • Both the Carnegie Museum of Natural History and the Museum of Art have great gift shops.
    • Be mindful of what can or can’t be touched, especially as a parent of small children. (I learned this the hard way when my son *almost* touched a piece of art made with animal feces. Try explaining that to a 20 month old!)
    • Like most museums, there are limitations to where you can eat and drink as not to damage the artwork or displays. Save the snacks and drinks for the dining areas.

Related Post: Visiting the Carnegie Science Center with Little Kids

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11 thoughts on “9 Reasons to Visit Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Museum of Natural History & Carnegie Museum of Art with Kids

  1. We lived in Pittsburgh when I was in elementary school and spent hours and hours in this museum (and the gift shop)! It definitely set the bar high for natural history museums for me for sure! This brought back so many great memories. Thanks for sharing!

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