At the risk of sounding overly gushy, I simply have to rave about this year’s Pittsburgh International Children’s Festival at Schenley Plaza in Oakland.  It was absolutely wonderful!  We visited it twice already this week and plan on heading back at least one more time!  The Festival offers a huge array of opportunities for children–theater and musical performances, a petting zoo, hands-on activities, and an amazing Luminarium.  It is WELL-WORTH the visit.  Seriously.  You need to go! I wanted to give you our Top Five Favorites at the Festival to help guide your trip.

#1: Exxopolis Luminarium by Architects of Air

The Exxopolis Luminarium was one of the coolest things I have yet seen with my kids and the highlight of our trip to the Festival.  It is a massive structure consisting of a labyrinth of tunnels winding between large domes.

mialuminThe walls are made of a thin layer of brightly colored PVC plastic.  They allow natural light to filter through and create a stunning effect with the colored walls. Exploring this amazing wonderland of light with my little ones was a simply magical experience.

Tickets to the Luminarium cost $5/person and can be purchased at the door or in advance.  A couple warnings:  a) it’s quite warm inside b) children are not supposed to run, jump, or bounce on the walls (which is obviously an impossible feat) and c)  it can be difficult to keep track of your little ones in the maze, so keep a close eye on them!

#2: Egg and Spoon by Lyngo Theatre

We also saw a really great feature performance called Egg and Spoon by the UK’s Lyngo Theatre.  We chose this show because a) it is targeted toward the <5 year old crowd b) it is only 30 minutes long and c) it covers one of our favorite topics:  the seasons of the year!

Actor bringing Summer's blue sky around for everyone to touch
Actor bringing Summer’s blue sky around for everyone to touch

A male and female duo take the kids on an interactive and multisensory journey, paralleling the course of a day with the passage of a year.  They use a ton of props to keep the children engaged such as hand held mirrors (representing puddles), artificial flowers and butterflies, bird calls, blankets, etc.

And they even did a relatively good job of keeping the babies involved by creatively using light and incorporating music.  My kids loved it so much that I’m probably going to get a season pass to the Pittsburgh International Children’s Theater!  Tickets to Egg and Spoon cost $8/person (<2 year old are free) and can be bought in advance or at the door (although I would recommend getting them in advance as they were sold out at the box office on the morning we went).

petting zoo

#3: Petting Zoo

The Festival’s free petting zoo is located adjacent to the Main Branch of the Carnegie Library.  It is stocked full of baby animals–pigs, horses, goats, sheep, cows, puppies, and even a camel and zebra!  It is free to romp around with the animals and my kids ADORED it.


#4:  Hands-on Activities

I thought the Festival did a really superb job of creating hands-on activities for the children that they would actually like!  They weren’t necessarily fancy–just really, really fun.  For example, the ever-popular water table, sand table, and Hula hoops were a hit.

Another highlight was a tent with various containers suspended by strings.  Children used wooden spoons to create different musical sounds.

And another favorite was a white flat surface at ground level with a ton of marbles on it.  My kids enjoyed rolling the marbles for nearly an hour!

#5: Arts and Crafts

Spin art!
Spin art!

My 3 year old had a lot of fun with the various arts and crafts projects at the Festival.  One interesting opportunity was provided by the Citiparks Roving Art Cart.  My daughter placed an old 45 record onto a spinner attached to a bicycle.  As a friendly gentleman pedaled the bicycle, the 45 record spun and she put different colored paints on it to make a Spin Art creation. Pretty cool!  She also had fun making hand puppets, beading necklaces, making crowns, etc. etc.

Those were MY top 5 favorites of the Festival.  However, I must mention that when I asked my 3 year old about her favorite she repeatedly mentioned the Schenley Plaza Carousel–which is free for the weekend!

Overall, I think the Festival this year was a great success and I hope you have as much fun as we did!

© Copyright Nadine Champsi, All rights Reserved. Written For: The Pittsburgh Mommy Blog
Nadine Champsi

Nadine Champsi

I am a doctor turned write-at-home-mom who runs the Pittsburgh Mommy Blog and is editor of Kidsburgh. I have two wonderful young children and am happily married. My interests include cooking, green-living, gardening, being in the outdoors, listening to great music, checking out the city's cool art, coming up with creative things to do with my kids, and having as many adventures as I can!
Nadine Champsi

7 Comments on Our Top Five Favorites at the 2013 Pittsburgh International Children’s Festival

  1. Great picture of the little girl at the “crossroads” in Exxopolis. It’s like something out of a movie. I hope they bring it back next year, it was really great.

3Pingbacks & Trackbacks on Our Top Five Favorites at the 2013 Pittsburgh International Children’s Festival