February makes up for its fewer days with a wealth of family-friendly events, from fun ideas for celebrating Valentine’s Day and the Chinese New Year to suggestions for honoring Black History Month.

Learning about Africa through the Tropical Forest Congo Festival. Photo: Phipps Conservatory.

Honor Black History Month at library and community events 

During Black History Month the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh has partnered with various community artists and organizations to offer a month full of events. Highlights include an International African-American Read-In on February 6th presented by the United Black Book Clubs of Pittsburgh. Come to read an excerpt from a favorite author or just enjoy listening. African drumming group, ABAFASI, will perform on February 7th and various genealogy, jazz, photography and history-themed events will be held at a library near you.

The Father Ryan Arts Center in McKees Rocks will host a Black Family Theatre Show on February 14th that will feature a lineup of local performing artists. Admission is $5. Read on for information about the Tropical Forest Congo Festival at the Phipps Conservatory — a great event this month for tasting African food samples, learning about the Congo’s medicinal plants and hearing African music.

Promoting a healthy lifestyle at the 5-2-1-0 Day at Phipps. Photo: Paul g. Wiegman.

Escape the cold at Phipps Conservatory events throughout the month

It’s always warm and tropical inside Phipps, which makes it a terrific go-to winter destination. Start with Tinker Bell in the Tropics on February 6th from 11 to 11:30 a.m. Free with admission, this creative movement workshop is presented by Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre which is producing the classic Peter Pan this month. Participants will be able to explore the fairytale, learn classic ballet steps and take photos with the ballerina. Registration isn’t required but we recommend arriving early.

Potting plants and looking forward to springtime. Photo: Phipps Conservatory.

Next up on February 7th is 5-2-1-0 Day, a celebration of being healthy and having fun. Part of Phipps’ Let’s Move Pittsburgh initiative, the event’s number name promotes “5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables, 2 hours or less of recreational screen time, 1 hour or more of physical activity, and 0 sugary drinks and more water.” Kids will collect stamps at activity stations (fruit tastings, crafts, games, movement, healthy drink-making demos) and redeem them for a prize. This special event is free with admission.

On February 20th Phipps will hold the Tropical Forest Congo Festival from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nothing will cure winter blues faster than a walk through the lush flowers, plants and waterfalls in the tropical forest exhibit. Kids can get their hands in the dirt to pot some plants and then make a few crafts. Learn about the variety of medicinal plants in the Congo while enjoying live entertainment and tasting African-inspired food samples.

Celebrating Chinese New Year through dance. Photo: Dequan Dave Jiao.

Kick off the Lunar New Year in style with a parade and lion dancing

Lion dance celebrating Chinese New Year. Photo: Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh.
Lion dance celebrating Chinese New Year. Photo: Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh.

This year the Squirrel Hill neighborhood group, Uncover Squirrel Hill, along with a coalition of community partners, has thoughtfully planned a variety of events to celebrate the Lunar New Year. A Kick-Off Celebration is planned for February 6th at the Jewish Community Center with a traditional lion dance, musical performances, ribbon dances, drumming and authentic food for sale. Children’s activities include origami, dumpling-making demos, calligraphy, paper lantern crafting, a tea ceremony and so much more. All activities are free! Throughout the month, Chinese New Year programs will be held at the Squirrel Hill Library and the festivities will culminate on February 21st with a parade down Murray Avenue starting at 11 a.m. For more info check out the events page.

For a smaller event that’s still big in educational fun, don’t miss the annual Chinese New Year Celebration at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh on February 7th. The Silk Screen Asian Arts and Culture Organization will host live music, arts and crafts activities and a performance from the Steel Dragon Lion Dance Team. The big finale will be a joyous parade through the museum to bring in the year of the monkey.

Participating in an ARTventures program for families in the Scaife Galleries. Photo: Carnegie Museum of Art.

Stay warm and happy inside at these not-to-miss museum events

Pittsburgh’s amazing museums offer a dizzying number of incredible family-friendly exhibits and events during February:

First, the Children’s Museum is debuting the highly original play exhibit/art installation TapeScape 2.0 on February 13th. Basically a playground made of 10 miles of packing tape that has been expertly stretched over steel frames, TapeScape 2.0 will feature a maze of tunnels for kids to climb through and explore – but only with socks. Shoes and bare feet aren’t allowed. Can’t make it for the debut? No worries, the exhibit runs through May 22nd.

Family time at a craft station during ARTventures. Photo: Carnegie Museum of Art.

Next, Carnegie Museum of Art offers ARTventures during every weekend in February. Free with regular admission, this program helps you make the most of the art galleries through hands-on exploration tables, sketching activities and movement exercises (posing to imitate a sculpture? check!). Staff members engage families with imaginative questions about the art and, through the process, help children practice discussing and thinking critically about what they see. Want a cool audio tour to keep kids interested as you explore? Art Cat can help with that. As the kids’ program mascot, Art Cat narrates an audio guide of the galleries that kids will love. Tip: you can use your cell phone to hear Art Cat’s guided tour, too.

Next door at Carnegie Museum of Natural History, children can learn all about pterosaurs, those flying reptiles that ruled the sky when dinosaurs roamed the land. Pterosaurs: Flight in the Age of Dinosaurs lets kids discover these animals in various interactive ways. Highlights include flying like a pterosaur with full body motion-sensing technology, examining rare fossils and exploring the aerodynamics of pterosaur flight in a virtual wind tunnel. The exhibit runs through May 22nd.

Feeding the Rainbow Lorikeets. Photo: National Aviary.

Mandy Yokim

Mandy moved to Pittsburgh for grad school and fell in love with the city. She is contributing editor of Ultimate Pittsburgh Trivia and Bridges of Pittsburgh. Her freelance work has appeared in a variety...