35th Annual Latin American & Caribbean Festival, Photo courtesy of Center for Latin American Studies at the University of Pittsburgh

Nature seems to know when we need a change. Just as the thought of one more single-digit winter day starts to wear down the spirit, Pittsburgh welcomes March. The white snow slowly but surely melts away to make room for green and springtime swoops in to rejuvenate us all.

From parades and carnivals to geocaching and maple syrup pancake breakfasts, our Top 10 family adventures this March in Pittsburgh will help you get a jumpstart on the new season.

Running off with the circus at the JCC’s Under the Big Top Purim Celebration

The Jewish Community Center (JCC) will host its Under the Big Top Purim Celebration on March 1. This circus-themed event will celebrate Purim, one of the most joyous holidays for those of Jewish faith. Everyone is welcome to attend to learn about the holiday, enjoy the activities and sample traditional Purim foods like hamantaschen, which are triangular-shaped sweet pastries.

Kids can come dressed as their favorite circus performer, have some fun with Mike the Balloon Guy and participate in tons of activities including games, face painting, mask making, a moon bounce, a photo booth, an obstacle course and much more. Community organizations will provide their own hands-on activities and food will be for sale in Vashti’s Food Court. After the carnival, kids will be amazed by the live reptile show from 4:15 p.m. to 5 p.m.

The event will be held in the gym of the Irene Kaufmann Building at the JCC in Squirrel Hill. Unlimited play bracelets can be purchased for $10 with discounts for additional bracelets. Children under 2 are free. New this year – VIP ticketing. See the event website for more details.

Rhythm of the Dance at The Hillman Center for Performing Arts, Photo courtesy of Rhythm of the Dance/Shady Side Academy
Rhythm of the Dance at The Hillman Center for Performing Arts, Photo courtesy of Rhythm of the Dance/Shady Side Academy

Enjoying Irish dance at the Hillman Performing Arts Series’ Rhythm of the Dance show 

From its 650-seat Richard E. Rauh Theater on the campus of Shady Side Academy Senior School in Fox Chapel, The Hillman Performing Arts Series is offering its 9th season of quality, family-friendly programming for the community. This year all the shows in the series have an international theme, featuring performances from five countries.

On March 7 at 7:30 p.m., the series welcomes the National Dance Company of Ireland’s Rhythm of the Dance, a family-friendly show that is sure to entertain with its combination of traditional Irish step dancing and modern stage production. The two-hour show will feature a live band performing traditional Irish music to accompany over 20 dancers. Each dancer helps to tell the history of Irish Celts through riveting step dances, beautifully-made costumes and songs.

Cost for the show is $28 for adults, $15 for students and $23 for seniors. Advanced ticket purchase is recommended because some shows have sold out.

Enjoying an indoor carnival at Kidapalooza

There is enough fun in one space to make any kid smile at the Giant Eagle Kidapalooza Family Festival featuring the Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield KDKA Health Fair. On March 7 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. the Monroeville Convention Center will turn into an indoor playground with carnival rides, huge inflatables for climbing and sliding, a sports zone with interactive games, a school bus safety area, a Home Depot building area and tons of booths and vendors offering individual activities, too.

Highlights of the event include the Princess Pavilion where kids can walk in looking like a regular kid and walk out with all the glamour of a princess. Local song and dance group, The North Star Kids, will perform at 12 p.m and 2 p.m. and popular characters like Cinderella, Peter Pan, Red Riding Hood and Alice in Wonderland will make appearances to greet children and take photos. The featured live show called A Fairy Tale Fiasco will be performed at 11 a.m, 1 p.m and 3 p.m. during the day. Food will be available for purchase but no need to worry about paying for parking – it’s free this year.

Pittsburgh St. Patrick's Day, Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh St. Patrick's Day Parade
Pittsburgh St. Patrick’s Day, Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh St. Patrick’s Day Parade
Pittsburgh St. Patrick’s Day, Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh St. Patrick’s Day Parade

Taking in the festivities at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade

For many in the city, it isn’t truly spring until the Pittsburgh St. Patrick’s Day Parade winds its way through downtown. With 23,000 participants and an audience reaching 350,000, the parade is considered the 2nd largest St. Patrick’s Day Parade in the United States. Make it downtown for the parade on March 14 and you’ll see why it’s a highlight of the season in Pittsburgh.

The parade begins at 10 a.m. and makes its way from Liberty Ave. at the Greyhound Bus Station to Grant St., then to Blvd. of the Allies and finishing up near Stanwix St. Filled with floats, Irish pipe and drum groups, marching bands, Irish dogs and ponies, Irish community organizations and supporters – the parade is an experience and a tradition that brings families back every year.

It’s become even more welcoming to families with the addition of a special event from 10:00 to 1:00 in Market Square that includes face painting, Irish music and dance shows, Irish dance lessons and street performances.

Searching for hidden treasure by geocaching with Venture Outdoors 

Looking for a fun way to get outside and work together as a team? Try geocaching. Venture Outdoors will lead a St. Patrick’s Day-themed Pot o’ Gold Family Geocaching event in Mellon Park starting at 1:30 p.m. on March 15. Zero experience with geocaching or using a GPS (Global Positioning System) unit? Not a problem!

Geocaching is an activity that involves using a GPS to pinpoint the latitude and longitude coordinates of a “cache” or a hidden treasure of some kind. Venture Outdoors provides the GPS units and brings you up to speed with a half-hour of instruction before sending you off in the park on a scavenger hunt to find the various waypoints. The GPS units will already have the coordinates pre-loaded and each group will get to hunt for 10-12 caches. Cost for adults is $8 for non-members ($5 for members) and $5 for all children ages 18 and under.

Celebrating cultural diversity at the Latin American & Caribbean Festival

March is filled with events that highlight the cultures of other countries and the 35th Annual Latin American & Caribbean Festival on March 21 is one of the best. Sponsored by The Center for Latin American Studies at the University of Pittsburgh, this event showcases Pittsburgh’s Latin American and Caribbean communities and has grown to be one of the largest gatherings of Latin Americans in Western Pennsylvania.

Expect a bright and upbeat environment with music and dance performances throughout the day. Children can take part in language mini-lessons and educational arts and crafts projects. Vendors will be on hand to sell authentic Latin American products and community groups will be present to answer any questions. You’ll smell traditional foods (available for purchase) wafting through the hall and if you close your eyes, the sights and sounds and smells will transport you. Admission and activities are free of charge and will be held on Pitt’s campus in Posvar Hall’s first floor.

Hopping along the bunny trail at the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium’s ZooHop to Spring

While a visit to see the animals at the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium is always fun, it’s especially true when the weather first warms up. On March 21 the Pittsburgh Zoo will host its annual ZooHop to Spring where kids can explore the zoo through a special trail of games and activities – all designed to inspire them to learn about the animal world around them.

Free with zoo admission, each child will receive a handout detailing six local bird species. As they make their way through the trail stops, the kids will learn about each bird by coloring their own field guide, creating a simple bird feeder, playing games and making crafts. There will also be music, dancing and prize giveaways. Activities will be held outside from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. if weather cooperates or, if need be, inside the PPG Aquarium and Water’s Edge.

Be My Neighbor Day, Photo by Renee Rosensteel for United Way of Allegheny County
Be My Neighbor Day, Photo by Renee Rosensteel for United Way of Allegheny County

Helping your community at the Be My Neighbor Day

Looking for opportunities for your family to help others? Check out the Be My Neighbor Day events on March 21 and March 22, sponsored by the United Way of Allegheny County. The goal of this wonderful, free event is to provide activities that empower children to help others in their community. Perfectly timed to correspond with Fred Rogers’ birthday, the activities are also designed to help children understand what it means to be a good neighbor.

Children will assemble snack bags for students in a local mentoring program who will be taking state tests soon. Best part? They can decorate the snack bags and include an encouraging note for the student to read on test day. Stations will also be set up for children to learn about disability awareness and plant sunflower seeds to give to a neighbor. Each event will also offer the opportunity to meet and get photos with Daniel Tiger from the popular PBS Kids show, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.

On March 21, the events will be held at the following locations: Thelma Lovette YMCA (10 a.m. – 1 p.m.), Baierl Family YMCA (12:30 – 3 p.m.), Sampson Family YMCA (10 a.m. – 1 p.m.) and Western Area YMCA (12:30 – 3 p.m.). On March 22, the events will be held at Penn Hills YMCA (10 a.m. – 1 p.m.). Check the event website for specific meet and greet times with Daniel Tiger. Families are also encouraged to bring a new or gently-used sweater to donate to the Sweater Drive.

Listening to the sounds of Timbeleza at the World Kaleidoscope at Carnegie Library 

The World Kaleidoscope Series at the Carnegie Library in Oakland is a Pittsburgh treasure. The purpose of the series is to showcase international performers and provide guests with an opportunity to experience a variety of cultures through artistic expression. On March 22 from 2 to 3 p.m., families can hear the energetic music of Timbeleza, a local group specializing in Brazilian percussion music.

This is a great performance for families because the Brazilian drums are lively and the music is upbeat, perfect for kids to move around to and enjoy. Everything from the timing of the show (only an hour) to the setting (an informal, open space in the Quiet Reading Room) and the location (at the library) is meant to welcome families with kids of all ages. Did I mention that it’s free? And because the library and Pitt’s campus are so close, you can easily take in this Timbeleza show and then walk over to enjoy some of Brazil Fest 2015, a free event being held on the same day from 1 to 5 p.m. in the William Pitt Union.

Maple Madness at Beechwood Farms, Photo courtesy of Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania
Maple Madness at Beechwood Farms, Photo courtesy of Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania

Learning about maple sugaring at Maple Madness 

Enjoy a hearty breakfast of pancakes with real maple syrup (sausages, fresh fruit and drinks, too), then head out for a fascinating, educational hike to learn about the 250-year history of maple sugaring during the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania‘s annual Maple Madness event on March 21 at Beechwood Farms Nature Reserve in Fox Chapel. Can’t make that date? Try attending on March 28 at Succop Nature Park.

The hiking trail winds through the trees and back through time as costumed volunteers talk about how Native Americans and pioneers produced maple syrup and sugar. The tour ends with a look into the modern day process of using an evaporator to produce syrup and plastic tubing and gravity to make collecting sap more efficient. After the hike, your children can participate in hands-on learning activities like using a tool to bore a hole into a maple tree and carrying buckets of sap on their shoulders like pioneer children did. Pre-registration is highly encouraged and reservations are taken every 30 minutes starting at 10 a.m. and ending at 1 p.m. Cost is $10 for non-members/$6 for members and free for children ages 2 and under.

We hope you enjoy the last days of winter before officially welcoming spring on March 20. We’ll see you back here in April with more family-friendly ideas to help keep you connected and loving life in Pittsburgh!

Featured photo: 35th Annual Latin American and Caribbean Festival, Photo courtesy of Center for Latin American Studies at the University of Pittsburgh

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 of publications including Parents Magazine and Blue Ridge Country. She blogs about Pittsburgh family fun at mandyyokim.com.