Happy New Year! It’s time to take a deep breath after the holidays and look forward to a fresh start. January offers plenty of opportunities to get outside and enjoy quintessential winter activities like ice skating (with mascots), snowshoeing (for $5 at several Allegheny County parks), ice fishing, dogsledding and skiing (try them all for free!).

This month we also celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. and our Top Family Adventures guide for January gives you several awesome ways to honor him. Plus, find out about amazing children’s theater, messy science fun, a whole weekend devoted to trains and a family-friendly event supporting the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.

Getting messy at MessFest 2016. Photo courtesy Carnegie Science Center.

Getting messy at MessFest 2016. Photo courtesy Carnegie Science Center.

Make a mess on New Year’s Day at the Carnegie Science Center

The Carnegie Science Center’s MessFest 2016 kicks off the New Year in style on January 1st by encouraging kids to make gooey, yucky, slimy messes without worry of needing to clean up anything. It’s liberating, extremely fun and also educational. Bonus: all activities are free with admission.

MessFest will feature four floors of messy activities: experiment with Oobleck, a strange substance that literally changes from solid to liquid in your hands; build a rocket ship for a raw “eggstronaut” and see if it avoids a big splat when you send it careening over a ledge; enter a pie-eating contest; plunge your hands in slime; finger-paint a picture and more. New this year is a meter impact activity (which involves dropping a variety of different objects) and hand print-making at Highmark Sportsworks. Also, consider attending “Kaboom!”, an explosive science demonstration in the Works Theater.

Whatever you do, don’t wear fancy clothes – we guarantee you’ll get a little messy.

Join in a Mascot Skate at Schenley Park

Assuming the Schenley Park Skating Rink isn’t a big puddle of water due to this unseasonably warm winter we’re having, the 29th Annual Citiparks Mascot Skate will go forward as planned and it will be a not-to-miss event your kids will love.

On January 9th starting at 1:30 p.m., more than 30 local and regional mascots will lace up their skates and hit the ice with your kids for two hours of fun. Favorites like Iceburgh, the Pirate Parrot and Steely McBeam will be there so make sure to bring your camera to capture all the special photo opportunities. Admission is super affordable at $5  for adults, $3 for youth ages 17 and younger. Bring your own ice skates or rent them for an additional $3.

Train displays at Locomotion Weekend. Photo courtesy Carnegie Science Center.

Train displays at Locomotion Weekend. Photo courtesy Carnegie Science Center.

All trains, all the time during Locomotion Weekend at the Carnegie Science Center

If you have a train fan in your family, then you probably already know about the Carnegie Science Center’s Locomotion Weekend, presented by Lionel Trains. This year’s event promises a display extravaganza with operating train layouts and hands-on activities for visitors. Exhibitors from local model train associations and clubs will be on hand to answer questions. Does your own model train need repairs or cleaning? “Loco Doctor” to the rescue, just bring in your trains for a free checkup.

Take time to visit the Miniature Railroad & Village (its newest feature is the historic Crawford Grill) and look through a display featuring 115 years of Lionel’s advertising art. All activities are free with admission.

Cast from Junie B.'s Essential Survival Guide to School. Photo courtesy Theatreworks USA.

Cast from Junie B.’s Essential Survival Guide to School. Photo courtesy Theatreworks USA.

Catch a showing of Sesame Street Live or Junie B. Jones’ Essential Survival Guide to School

January is a stellar year for enjoying theater with the family. First up is a chance for even the littlest kids to enjoy a show when Sesame Street Live “Let’s Dance!” comes to the Benedum Center from January 8th to 10th. This will be no “sit still and be quiet” experience as the audience is invited to dance along with beloved characters like Elmo, Cookie Monster and Ernie. Because this event is perfect for younger children, babies under 12 months old can attend for free if they sit on an adult’s lap.

Have your kids outgrown Elmo? No worries. There are two more great options this month. If your children are fans of the Junie B. Jones book series by Barbara Park, then they’ll love seeing the characters come to life on stage in Junie B.’s Essential Survival Guide to School. This one-hour musical is part of the Citizens Bank Children’s Theater Series and here’s a very convenient aspect for parents: the show is offered at various locations around the city so you can pick one that’s close to you.