For many Pittsburgh families, January is a month to take a long deep breath and recenter. We try to regain a sense of normalcy to our lives after the craziness of the holidays and winter break. We also try to greet the new year with a fresh set of resolutions–perhaps getting healthier, spending more time with our families, embracing a new hobby. In January, we settle into a new reality. It’s cold. It’s wet. It’s not quite as festive. But it can still be fun! From movie nights to live shows to winter sports, here’s our Top 10 family adventures this January in Pittsburgh.

Getting yucky at Mess Fest on New Year’s Day

Since its inception eight years ago, Mess Fest at the Carnegie Science Center has become a favorite New Year’s Day activity for Pittsburgh families. This unique event invites kids to embrace that inner voice begging them to get yucky–through interactive activities designed to be as goopy, gross and gooey as possible. They can plunge their hands into slime and savor the sweet satisfaction of letting it slip through their fingers. They can concoct a combination of tempera paint and plaster of Paris and watch it transform into sidewalk chalk. They can even experiment with “oobleck” a substance with some curious physical properties. Hint: it acts exactly like it sounds. When picked up, it has a solid form. After exposure to body heat, it transforms itself into a liquid that falls right through the fingers and nicely splatters.

Other activities at Mess Fest include finger painting for your littlest ones, an egg drop, a pudding “pi” -eating contest and special theater programs. All activities are included in the price of admission.


Downhill skiing at Boyce Park Ski Area, Photo courtesy of Allegheny County Parks Department

Hitting the slopes at Kids Safety Weekend at Boyce Park Ski Area

The first weekend of January is also the last weekend of winter break. So what? Well, I’m guessing your family might be getting stir-crazy and ready to try a new adventure. Fortunately, the Allegheny County Parks Department’s Boyce Park Ski Area offers a good option–a special kid’s weekend.

Located near Monroeville, the Boyce Park Ski Area is a favorite spot to introduce Pittsburgh children to the winter sports of skiing and snowboarding. It has many perks for families. It’s much closer than larger winter resorts. It’s also quite cheap with slope fees starting at $16 and group lessons starting at $13. With five slopes, several terrain parks and a Four Seasons Lodge, it’s small enough to be manageable with kids while still offering enough variety to suit different tastes.

On January 3-4, Boyce Park will host a Kid’s Safety Weekend. On Saturday, the park will be teaming up with the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and Kohl’s to distribute 100+ all-sports helmets to kids free of charge. They will also be offering a DJ dance party, face-painting, balloon artists and magic shows. Finally, they will be hosting their annual Mini Junior Olympics in skiing and snowboarding for children ages 5-12.

Can’t make it to Kids Safety Weekend? Boyce Park Ski Area is open seven days per week, including New Year’s Day and Martin Luther King Jr. Day and offers half-price slope fees on Wednesdays. The nearby snowtubing area is also a big hit.

Gliding along the ice at Schenley Park Skating Rink’s Mascot Skate

Perched atop Overlook Drive, the Schenley Park Skating Rink offers a breathtaking view of the city in a wooded setting. With very reasonable admission passes and skate rentals starting at size 8 plus aids for novice skaters, many parents enjoy bringing even their littlest children to this rink. The facility also holds several special events during the winter season, including a Mascot Skate on January 10 from 1:30-3:30 p.m.

Now in its 28th year, the annual Mascot Skate has grown so popular that even the Nittany Lion is invited. He will be joined by over 30 other local and regional mascots including Steely McBeam, the Pirate Parrot and Pitt Panther. Most will take to the ice and play out traditional rivalries through good-natured teasing. Our frisky friends will also be available for photos with kids. The Mascot Skate event also features music, balloon artists and concession stands. Handy tip: the Mascot Skate is the only day of the year when children are allowed on the Schenley Skating Rink without skates.


East Liberty Celebrates MLK at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater, Photo by Mark Simpson