Amidst the whites and grays of Pittsburgh’s long winter, comes February. Surprisingly, it’s a month full of colors—the pretty pinks of Valentine’s Day, the rainbow kitenges of Black History Month, the deep reds of Chinese New Year. And although winter’s snowy landscape certainly has its charm, a splash of color is a welcome addition to the scenery this month.
It may be tempting to hibernate in February, but it’s okay to channel the groundhog. Poke your head out a bit. This month is full of educational and fun activities in the city. To help get you started, here’s our Top 10 family adventures this February in Pittsburgh.
Celebrating African culture with Abafasi at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh
This year the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh will celebrate Black History Month in a truly impressive fashion. Offering 28 days of events at libraries throughout the city, the month will kick off with a free family-friendly program with Abafasi at the Squirrel Hill branch on February 1 at 2 p.m.
Abafasi is Pittsburgh’s own female African drum ensemble. Using rhythm, storytelling and movement, the group celebrates the collective African-American experience and its traditions. The ensemble—made up of LaVerne Baker Hotep, Kelly e. Parker and Lois “Toni” McClendon—also redefines gender roles in traditional African-American culture, “where it’s usually the females who are the dancers and the males who are the drummers,” according to Hotep.
On February 1, Abafasi will lead a drum circle for families at the Squirrel Hill Library’s Children’s Department. The ladies will play handmade djembe West African drums while families join in with other percussion instruments. There will also be traditional storytelling and movement activities. Can’t make this performance? The Kingsley Association will also be holding a Black History Month event with Abafasi at the end of the month, although final details haven’t been worked out yet.
Escaping to the rainforest at the Tropical Forest Congo Festival at Phipps
A trip to Phipps Conservatory is always a welcome break from winter’s doldrums and this month it’s especially true. On February 7, Phipps will unveil its new Tropical Forest Congo exhibit. Inspired by the remarkable biodiversity of the Congo River Basin, more than 60 percent of the Tropical Forest Conservatory plant life has been replaced with native African plant species, many never before seen at Phipps. The exhibit also includes education stations and art displays celebrating the cultures of the rainforest. The Conservatory staff dedicated years of research to this exhibit and even ventured into the rainforests of Cameroon to get a firsthand look (you can read about their trip on this fascinating blog).
The exhibit will kick off on February 7 with an Opening Festival from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The day will include African-inspired crafts, storytelling and food sampling. Can’t make it on February 7? Phipps will also be holding Tropical Sundays throughout February with performances by the Tropical Sands Steel Band and tastings of tropical fruits. Wear a tropical flower shirt and you can even get 50 percent off your admission.
Appreciating inner beauty at Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s premiere of Beauty and the Beast
The traditional French fairytale La Belle et la Bete is well-known after Disney’s 1991 interpretation. You’ve seen the movie. You’ve heard the songs. You might have even seen Gemini Children’s Theater’s recent live stage version. But unless you hail from the Bay Area, you probably haven’t seen the ballet. Based on the famous 1950s San Francisco Ballet version, the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre acquired rights to Beauty and the Beast in honor of its 45th anniversary season. The production will premiere at the Benedum Center from February 6-15, and will include two Valentine’s Day performances.
Set to the music of Tchaikovsky, the ballet is a study in contrasts. On the one hand, there’s beauty. Enchanting set designs of castles and forests inhabited by mythical creatures dressed in exquisitely-crafted costumes. And Belle, of course. On the other hand, there’s ugliness. The external disfigurement of Beast and his inner tumult expressed through emotionally-laden choreography. Of course, everyone lives happily ever after. We wouldn’t have it any other way.
It’s easy to appreciate the woods in summer. But in winter? Still and silent, winter’s woods have a beauty that is more muted, more serene. And although it takes a sense of adventure and a bit of fortitude, a trip into Mother Nature’s quieter season is well worth the peace it brings the psyche. This month, you can make just such a trek at Ohiopyle State Park‘s 8th annual Winterfest on February 7 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Sugarloaf Sledding Area.