In my New PGH Family Fun series, I highlight new family-friendly entertainment opportunities within Pittsburgh.  I monitor social media sites and conventional news sources to find the most interesting and unique NEW adventure options for families in Pittsburgh.  Then, I write about them here! 


I have some BIG NEWS this week!! The Pittsburgh Botanic Garden is FINALLY opening to the public this coming Friday, August 1! This 460-acre property is located about 20-30 minutes west of Downtown Pittsburgh and is situated in the lower third of Settler’s Cabin Park. Phase 1 of its development has just been completed after over 20 years in the making! I recently had the chance to interview the Garden’s Director of Development, Kitty Vagley. Here’s what I learned about the Garden, its history, and the family-friendly parts of it!


Map courtesy of Pittsburgh Botanic Garden
Map courtesy of Pittsburgh Botanic Garden

What portions of the Garden will open to the public on August 1?

On August 1st, the 60-acre Woodlands section and the six-acre Homestead will be opening to the public. This portion of the Garden includes 3 miles of trails, an Asian Lotus Pond, a gazebo, a dogwood meadow, a historic farmstead, and several “Family Moments,” or play and discovery areas for children.


Can you tell me more about the “Family Moments?”

We have five “Family Moments” in the Garden. The first is our Bookworm Glen with its Storybook House. We also have a Meadow Maze, a giant Bird’s Nest, a “Trees are People” section with faces on the trees, and a “Root of the Matter” area. In this last section, children can use large Lincoln Logs to build homes, use natural materials to build fairy houses, dig in a “digging garden,” and use magnifying glasses attached to tree stumps.


Storybook House in the Bookworm Glen
Storybook House in the Bookworm Glen

Will you have kid-friendly educational programming at the Garden?

Yes! We have a free kid-friendly Forest Stories program running on Friday mornings from 10-11:30 a.m. until the end of the summer. During this program, families can take a small hike, participate in a storytime with our partners at the Western Allegheny Community Library, and do craft activities. We are also looking into creating more programming for children in the Fall and in the 2015 season.


When will the Garden be open?

The Pittsburgh Botanic Garden will be open from Thursday through Sunday each week from August until November in 2014.  On Saturdays, the Garden is open from  9am-dusk. On the other days, it will close at 5pm.


What is the cost to visit the Garden?

Admission to the Garden is $9 for adults, $6 for children 3-18 yo, and free for children less than 3. All Allegheny County residents get one dollar off their admission price. You can also buy a family membership to the Garden for $100, which will give you free admission for two adults and all children OR grandchildren under 18 yo throughout our open season. For info on other membership levels, please click here.


Sitting on an egg in the giant Bird's nest
Sitting on an egg in the giant Bird’s nest

What is the address of the Garden?

The GPS address is 1082 Pinkerton Run Road, Oakdale PA 15071. Please note that if you search Pittsburgh Botanic Garden on Google Maps, it will send you to our office address, located about 10-15 minutes from the actual Garden. We will have a welcome tent where you can buy your admission tickets.


What other portions of the Garden are still under development?

Construction will begin in the core of the Garden in 2015. This work must be completed by 2025 and will include an Orangery, auto gardens, the tent lawn, an amphitheater, a Mr. Rogers’ Garden of Make Believe, and two display gardens:  the Four Seasons Garden and the Hanging Garden.


How was the idea for this Garden conceived?

A group of horticulturists got together monthly at Max’s Allegheny Tavern in the North Side to talk about common horticultural problems in the region. After about a year of meeting, they looked at each other and said, “Every time we meet, we talk about how we need a botanic garden. Why don’t we make this happen?” So, they did! They spoke to others about the idea until they had a fairly sizable and committed volunteer group. They incorporated the fledgling organization in 1991 and spent many years fundraising and searching for a site. They signed a lease in 1998 with Allegheny County, taking over the bottom third of Settler’s Cabin Park. Construction on the Woodlands portion began in 2010 and here we are today!


What will happen on Opening Day this week?

August 1 is a quiet opening. We will be holding our Forest Stories program beginning at 10 a.m. with a very special guest reader. We also have a 10:45 ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Woodlands entrance. We are truly looking forward to welcoming our first public visitors!


Fairy houses!
Fairy houses!

Finally, what role do you hope the Garden will play for families in the city?

We hope that the Garden will serve as a recreational and educational resource for generations of families. We also hope that the Garden will foster an awareness of the preciousness of our natural resources, since this land was considerably damaged by human activities before we took it over. Finally, we hope families will find a relaxing refuge in the serenity of the Woodlands with all of the nurturing power of nature to teach and heal.


Earlier this summer, I took my kids out to take a look at the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden with Kitty. We trekked through the Woodlands, played in the Bookworm Glen, ogled some fairy houses, sat in a giant bird’s nest, and saw some real birds’ nests, too. It was idyllic. It was gorgeous. It was just awesome. In case you can’t tell, I’m absolutely thrilled to have it in our city!

As the development on the site continues, I’m sure it will become a major attraction for tourists and residents alike. More importantly, it will become a part of our lives. People will get married there. Children will grow up playing there. Elderly couples will walk together there, hand-in-hand, until they can’t do it anymore. It feels special to be in this city during the opening of something so big and beautiful.

Thank you to all the dedicated horticultural enthusiasts who made this dream happen. From conversations over beers at Max’s Allegheny Tavern to THIS beautiful new outdoor space! Well done!!

Want to stay connected with the Garden? Here are links to its Facebook page and Twitter account.


© Copyright 2014 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

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