We might as well call this guide: eight reasons to not hate February. Yes, the shortest and coldest month is upon us, when Mother Nature gets serious about Old Man Winter, and we all get reacquainted with our sidewalks and heating bills. Distractions come in the form of Phil, Cupid, Oscar and the world’s most watched sporting event, but thankfully, there are countless ways to explore the city’s creative side (indoors!) during the long wait for Spring. From Cuban dance to a tropical forest, feed your mind and soul with our top 8 events not to miss in February. For more details, check out our events section each week.

Hothouse Happy Hours_CREDIT Denmarsh Photography, Inc_6401. Tropical Forest Congo at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

We can think of no better antidote to the slushy gray of February than the new Tropical Forest Congo exhibition. Featuring varieties of flora never before seen at Phipps, the ambitious exhibit marks the culmination of years of research conducted by Phipps’ staff in Cameroon (check out their blog all about the trip). Step into lush landscapes to discover the breathtaking plants, animals and cultures of the central African country. Encounter specimens sourced from nurseries throughout the US as well as from seeds procured from Nigeria including sausage trees bearing fragrant red flowers and large tubular fruits and the Napolean hat plant with its passionflower-like blooms. Educational kiosks, photography displays and a regional foods marketplace will entice you to explore the rich culture of Cameroon. Head into the Special Events Hall to view a royal palatial façade from the Bamileke tribe, complete with ornate wooden columns. See ceremonial elephant masks and stones carved by local artist Richard Hower and visit a replica of a small dwelling common in a forest-dwelling Baka village.

Celebrate the unveiling of Tropical Forest Congo during a special family-friendly festival on Feb. 7 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., complete with storytelling, performances by Umoja African Arts, pot-a-plant activities, African crafts, food tastings and chat with botany experts.

Looking for a fresh twist on happy hour? On Feb. 19, from 6 to 8 p.m., head to the Hothouse Happy Hour for Young Professionals to enjoy local libations amidst the blooms. Co-hosted by the Pittsburgh Urban Magnet Project (PUMP), the mixer will showcase the Pittsburgh-sourced spirits of Maggie’s Farm Rum. Be one of the first 150 to arrive and receive a potted plant. Register now.

BenSota_NEXT_640

Photo by Renee Rosensteel.

2. CSA Performance Series at the New Hazlett Theater

You’ve heard of Community Supported Agriculture (read: CSA) and if you’re already an acolyte, you eagerly await your latest box of locally grown foods each week. Thanks to the New Hazlett, Pittsburghers can also buy art with this same buy local spirit (read more about that here). For a reasonable $100, CSA shareholders receive six freshly created productions, presented every other month at the Northside venue. Productions include everything from dance to performance art. Shareholders also enjoy special invites, access to the CSA Artist Harvest launch, easy ticket exchanges and the rare opportunity to interact directly with artists.

Kicking off its 2015 CSA Performance Series on Feb. 12th is WaywardLand, created by the artistic duo of Jil Stifel and Ben Sota. Circus arts and contemporary dance collide in this new collaboration that blends sweeping landscapes, shifting perceptions and unexpected beauty. Working in movement, dance and performance, Stifel’s choreography and multimedia projects have been presented in the US and Japan. Artistic director of Pittsburgh’s beloved Zany Umbrella Circus, Sota studied circus in Italy and San Francisco, has produced 30-plus shows and has performed around the globe.

Next up for the CSA are Anya Martin and the Hiawatha Project on April 2 and Teena Marie Custer and Roberta Guido on June 11. Subscribe and become a shareholder today.

BrewGents_640

2. Valentine’s Day Black Tie Formal at The Brew Gentlemen

Looking for an offbeat way to spend the holiday we all love to hate? Show your love for local libations and independent entrepreneurialism at The Brew Gentlemen‘s creative twist on the black tie formal. Located in the heart of Braddock, the craft brewery and taproom—which opened in May 2014—has been drawing fans for its passion for classical brewing, culinary touches and varied beers focused on “the balanced and complex.”

If you missed their epic Hitchcock-themed Halloween bash at the Carrie Furnace, you won’t want to skip this chance to share some love vibes with the Gents on their home turf. Equal parts fancy and low-key, the Valentine’s affair kicks off at 7 p.m. For $45, brewery-goers will enjoy a super special secret beer release and all-you-can-eat apps from Innovative Mobile Catering. Providing the night’s dance-worthy sounds will be DJ Duke. Oh, and there will be a chocolate fountain.