The cast of Hairspray
Niki Metcalf (center) as “Tracy Turnblad” and company in "Hairspray." Photo by Jeremy Daniel.

January opens the new year with terrific events for kids in Pittsburgh. Take advantage of the winter wonderland with outdoor activities or hustle into warm theaters for red-hot performances. These top January events for Pittsburgh kids provide a variety of options for families for a full month of fun.

Jan. 3-8: “Hairspray,” Benedum Center

You can’t stop the beat! Can a big girl with big dreams and even bigger hair (thanks, Ultra Clutch!) make a difference? Follow the exploits of Baltimore teen Tracy Turnblad who looks for love, acceptance and social change in this raucous musical that will have you rocking in your seat. Based on the 1988 John Waters film, the Broadway touring production of “Hairspray” continues the excitement that garnered eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Book and Best Score. Great for ages 8 to adult. Tickets start at $35.

Photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden.

Jan. 4, 11, 18 and 25: Seedlings: Winter Wonderland, Pittsburgh Botanic Garden

It’s no surprise that the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden considers connecting with nature a vital element of child development. The four-week Seedlings series, under the guidance of Sarah Levinthal, is guaranteed to spark creativity and imagination. Each week presents a different theme that focuses on winter in the garden. Kids will look for animal tracks, explore the garden’s different habitats, enjoy a story reading and have time for free play. Designed for ages 3-6. Registration is $15 per week.

Jan. 7-8: Greenberg’s Great Train Show, Monroeville Convention Center

It’s not too early to start planning your railroad display under next year’s Christmas tree. Be inspired by the 80-plus exhibitors from across the country who will operate model train displays at Greenberg’s Great Train Show. Join a workshop and learn from free demonstrations designed for beginner railroaders and experienced modelers. Admission is free for ages 11 and younger, $12 for grownups on Saturday (which includes Sunday admission) and $11 for grownups on Sunday.

Photos courtesy of Dragons and Mythical Beasts.

Jan. 11: “Dragons and Mythical Beasts,” Benedum Center

Coming from the creators of “Dinosaur World Live,” you can be certain this is one big show. The life-like puppetry of “Dragons and Mythical Beasts” brings monstrous creatures to the Benedum stage. This Olivier Award-winning show hails directly from London’s West End. Brave kids will come face-to-face with fantastical beasts like the colossal Stone Troll, the not-so-sweet Tooth Fairy and a darling Unicorn. The spellbinding adventure will unveil dark secrets, myths and legends. Just be careful about waking up the fearsome dragon! Great for all ages from 3 years to adults. Tickets start at $29.

Jan. 13-16: “Fannie: The Music and Life of Fannie Lou Hamer,” August Wilson African American Cultural Center

Civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer was a courageous leader in the fight for women’s rights and voting rights in her native Mississippi and beyond. This theatrical performance based on her life is filled with moving spirituals and protest songs. This inspirational production is presented through a group collaboration involving three Pittsburgh organizations — City Theatre, the August Wilson African American Cultural Center and the DEMASKUS Theater Collective — along with Atlanta’s Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theatre Company and Actors Theatre of Louisville. Tickets are $40.

Photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

Jan. 14: “Llama Llama – Live!” Byham Theater

The Bay Area Children’s Theatre comes to town with a storybook favorite that adds a bit of excitement to bedtime. At the end of the day’s adventures, Baby Llama is tired and can’t wait to change into his red pajamas. But where is Mama Llama? This silly new musical will have kids laughing and warm the hearts of all the mamas in the audience. This Children’s Theater Series production is best for ages 3 and older. Tickets are $12.

Bring your own skates or rent them at Winterfest.

Jan. 14-16 and 21-22: Winterfest, Frick Pittsburgh

Match up mittens, zip up jackets and wrap up kids in warm scarves: It’s time for Winterfest. Ice skate on a synthetic rink that covers the Frick’s Great Lawn. Pile into a horse-drawn carriage for a ride through the campus. Plan on catching an outdoor winter walking tour and check out the glass-blowing demonstrations. Enjoy live musical performances while finding warming nourishment at visiting food trucks or pop into The Café at the Frick. Prices vary for activities.

Photo courtesy of World of Wheels.

Jan. 20-22: World of Wheels Custom Car Show, David L. Lawrence Convention Center

Kids obsessed with their Hot Wheels collections will love checking out these life-size custom cars, trucks and motorcycles. These World of Wheels vehicles are slick, shiny and absolutely beautiful. Check out the 50th Anniversary Zingers like a souped-up Corvette, dragster and dune buggy. Celebrity guests include the Fonz (Henry Winkler), Jeff Lutz of “Street Outlaws” and Funny Car Champion Robert Hight. Tickets are $8 for ages 6-12 and $23 for grownups.

Illustration courtesy of Prime Stage Theater.

Jan. 20-29: “Harriet Tubman and The Underground Railroad, New Hazlett Theater

The Prime Stage Sprouts series gears performances toward elementary students to inspire them with a love of theater and reading. Their latest production presents the courageous journey of Harriet Tubman, sometimes called the American Moses, and her work to free slaves and transport them to safety. The production is filled with spiritual songs. A sensory-inclusive performance is planned for Jan. 28 and an audio description performance will be offered on Jan. 27. Tickets start at $8.

Photo courtesy of Machine de Cirque.

Jan. 24: Machine de Cirque’s “La Galerie,” PNC Theatre at Pittsburgh Playhouse

The Quebec City-based Machine de Cirque company packs performances with humor, breathtaking acrobatics and intelligence. “La Galerie” finds seven zany acrobats and a single musician visiting a monochrome art gallery. Creative license comes into play as they set off an explosion of color. The players tumble, juggle and fly in the air along with oh, so much popcorn! Expect dizzying feats, astonishing discoveries, poetic liberties and a serious dollop of silly fun. Great for all ages. Tickets start at $35.


Jan. 5-Feb. 24: “Volcanoes: The Fires of Creation,” The Rangos Giant Cinema at Carnegie Science Center

Jan. 4: Early Childhood Mornings, The National Aviary

Jan. 16: The Audacity to Believe: A MLK Day Celebration, Kelly Strayhorn Theater

Jan. 16: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh

Jan. 21-22: “Paw Patrol Live! The Great Pirate Adventure,” Benedum Center

Jan. 21: Hip-Hop Music Camp, August Wilson African American Cultural Center

Jan. 28-29: “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban in Concert,” Heinz Hall

Sally Quinn

Sally Quinn is a Pittsburgh-based editor and writer who writes about food, entertainment, kid stuff, pop culture, cocktails!