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Tis the Season

Every year at this time of the year I see many Facebook posts that ask families to purchase experiences for their children rather than physical gifts. I can get on board with this idea as my children are now 14 and 11 and the number of stuffed animals I’m storing here is crazy! Here are some ideas for gift giving!

Many of these options have memberships that can be purchased or you can purchase gift cards for a single visit.

I polled a bunch of FB groups and friends to ask what their favorite activities are.

Some of these were options I was aware of and some of them are new to me.

The Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium-The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium is a natural habitat zoo and aquarium committed to conserving wildlife and their habitats. The zoo has memberships available and there are many levels of membership. They also have reciprocity for many zoos across the country.

Idlewild Park-Idlewild is a wonderful family friendly amusement park with a water park as part of the attraction. It’s also the home of Storybook Forest. They have season passes available and there are also dining plans available. My kids have always loved Idlewild.

Kennywood Park-Pittsburgh’s amusement park! So many great rides there. They have great deals on season passes especially at this time of the year. They also have dining plans available. If you buy season passes at Black Friday rates they will pay for themselves in two visits! They have special Black Friday prices on single day passes as well!

Sandcastle Water Park-(from the website)-Nestled next to a boardwalk overlooking the Monongahela River and a beautiful wooded hillside, Sandcastle Waterpark near Pittsburgh is the perfect destination for family-friendly fun! Featuring fifteen of the best waterslides in Pittsburgh, a wave pool, lazy river and two children play area, Sandcastle has family attractions for everyone which is why we are the best water park in Pittsburgh.

There are season pass plans that are good for both Kennywood and Sandcastle with discounted admission for Idlewild as well. All three of these parks have special pricing on single passes right now as well.

Carnegie Museums-When I posted on Facebook the overwhelming favorite was a membership to the museums. “With a membership you get admission to all of the following places. (from their website)- As a member of Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, enjoy free admission to Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History, Carnegie Science Center, and The Andy Warhol Museum. Share the museums with friends and family. Learn something new on members-only tours. And feel good about supporting the museums—and the community—you love.”

Pittsburgh Children’s Museum-This place is fun for kids of all ages. They have added so many things since my children and I were there last.

Inventionland- This is a place I had never heard of prior to asking on Facebook for ideas of unique places to visit. It looks amazing and I’m hoping to take my family here for a tour soon!

From their website-“Inventionland is a 60,000 square foot immersive work environment that hosts tours for roughly 15,000 students, educators, designers, business professionals and inventors every year. Our facility is here to inspire creativity, promote innovation, and foster education.

Specialized designers, artists, writers, illustrators, photographers, videographers, strategists, seamstresses, and fabricators work in 16 unique themed sets, such as shipwrecked pirate ship, faux cave, treehouse, pet shack, giant shoe, cupcake kitchen, giant robot and castle complete with turrets and drawbridge. The inspiring setting includes three running waterfalls, life-like trees and butterflies and grass-lined sidewalks.

This team of talented and creative people work in concert to provide inspiration for students, educators, inventors, and everyday idea people who want to make the world a better place.”

Phipps Conservatory- Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens is a Pittsburgh gem — a thriving oasis with many unique environments to explore. Begin your journey in our LEED®-certified Welcome Center before entering our exquisite 1893 glasshouse with ever-changing displays. Then, continue on to the Tropical Forest Conservatory and the Center for Sustainable Landscapes, one of the greenest buildings on Earth. Be our guest and let us indulge your senses with breathtaking seasonal flower shows and exhibits; groundbreaking sustainable architecture; gorgeous outdoor gardens and green rooftops; and more.

Pittsburgh Aviary- The National Aviary features more than 500 birds of 150+ unique species from around the world. Also available is a membership bundle that includes the Aviary and The Children’s Museum. I do not see this membership listed on The Children’s Museum website but it is on the Aviary’s website.

Cathedral of Learning- A Pittsburgh gem that I always forget about! From their website: The Nationality Rooms are “Classrooms that teach ‘Rooms that show the good things immigrants brought to America’”

7 Springs- Fun all year long! In the winter you can ski or snow tube. In the summer you can do the Alpine Slide or hike or mountain bike. Indoor fun, Outdoor fun, great dining! Bowling, rolling skating and swimming also. So much family fun!

Zone 28- Family entertainment done right! Bowling, Laser Tag, Escape Rooms and an arcade. Dining, a beer garden and birthday parties/meeting rooms! Great fun!

Living Treasures/Keystone Safari- Living Treasures has two parks. One in New Castle and one in Jones Mills and they also own Keystone Safari Park. Season Passes are available and are good for use at all three parks. Living Treasures is an animal park where you can get closer to the animals and have an interactive experience.

Keystone Safari is an interactive animal and adventure park. They have a zipline and animal exhibits.

Fiddlesticks- The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra offers a series of family friendly concerts. I never got around to taking my children to these concerts but they always looked like fun.

Conley Resort- Indoor pool and water slides are open all year round and it’s a great way to spend a family day.

PPG Skating Rink- A seasonal favorite! Take the family skating on the outdoor rink at PPG Place!

Western Pennsylvania Model Railroad Museum

Here are some other great ideas but will be different sites depending on your community.

The local YMCA. Memberships are affordable and offer scholarship opportunities for those in need. Many have pools where families can swim together and many have great activities for children.

Your local community swimming pool. Many offer great deals for those who are early birds and buy their memberships for the summer during winter months.

Trampoline Parks are a big thing this day and there are new ones opening up all the time. Many offer great deals for Black Friday shoppers and also many have Groupon offers that can be purchased.

Purchase a family package for a getaway to Splash Lagoon, Kalahari or many of the other indoor water parks. They make a great getaway during the winter months!

Local ice skating rinks or roller rinks are a fun activity and many offer memberships for the ice skating season.

Gift cards or an AMC Stubs membership can make fun gifts as well. Or make a movie night basket with snacks, popcorn and Redbox vouchers!

Bowling alley gift cards make fun gifts. Heading out on a weekend to bowl a few games is a fun family activity.

There are always fun family shows coming to the PPG Paints Arena. The Globe Trotters are here every year at Christmastime. Also Disney on Ice shows, Sesame Street, Monster Trucks (if that’s your thing), last year was a dinosaur show. Tickets are pricey for many of them so they make great Christmas gifts!

Please share if I’ve missed any great ideas for “experiences” that make excellent holiday gifts! What’s your favorite?

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