We’re fortunate that Pittsburgh, PA has no shortage of great museums, thanks 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 is that they’re connected within the same building. That means you get access to both amazing museums with just one admission fee. Keep reading for our 9 reasons for visiting Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Museums with kids.
Note: The Carnegie Museums are currently operating at limited capacity with timed tickets required in advance. Many high touch exhibits and the cafeteria are also closed, and masks are required throughout. Check the Carnegie Museums website for more health and safety related changes due to COVID-19.
Dinosaurs in Their Time Exhibit
What kid doesn’t love dinosaurs? The Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh has one of the best selections of dinosaurs around. 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. Dinosaur skeletons at Carnegie Museum of Natural History include Tyrannosaures Rex, Diplodocus, Triceratops and Apatosaurus. (Just to name a few!)
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.
Hands-On Exhibits for Kids at Discovery Base Camp
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 learn about the art of dioramas and make their own.
- 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.
There is also a private mother’s room at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History located within the Discovery Basecamp.
Note: Due to healthy and safety precautions, the hands on displays and fossil digging are currently unavailable.
Fossil Digging 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.)
Wildlife Halls at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History
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 is enclosed in a narrow hallway and scared my son when he was younger. Something to be mindful of if you’re visiting the Carnegie Museums with small children under 2!
Unique 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.
Interesting Art 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. My son’s first visit to the art galleries within the Carnegie Museum of Art was when he was 20 months old. He loved different textures and bright colors of the Carnegie International artwork at the time. With both museums being connected, you can spend as much or as little time in the art galleries as your child’s attention span allows.
Tip: I 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 (like a painting made with animal feces) you can continue the tour with them contained.
If you choose to bring a baby carrier, it must be forward facing. Carnegie Museum policies do not allow backpacks or backpack style baby carriers.
Several Spots Throughout the Carnegie Museums to 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.
Note: As of October 2020, the cafes at Carnegie Museums are currently closed.
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.
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. Be sure to check each museums website for the most up to date information on current offerings.
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.
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.
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 October 2020, 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.
- 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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