Category: New PGH Family Fun

New PGH Family Fun: The Ice Skating Rink at the Aspinwall Riverfront Park

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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

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

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Want to be inspired?  Just hop over the Allegheny River and head into Aspinwall where scores of individuals, organizations, and businesses are working together to make a dream come true.  They are beautifying a portion of the riverfront and creating a vital community asset:  the Aspinwall Riverfront Park!  The first phase of the park opened to the public last weekend with the debut of the new ice skating rink.  I took a visit to see the rink over the weekend with my daughter and I thought I’d share some information about it.

Where is it?

The ice skating rink is located at the new Aspinwall Riverfront Park off Freeport Road.  The entrance to the park is right across from Kristi Boutique on Freeport.  Turn right (if you’re heading toward the Waterworks Mall) onto Water St. You’ll go past the Borough’s buildings and take a right.  Parking is located adjacent to the rink.  The address is: 285 River Ave. Aspinwall, PA 15215.

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What are the hours?

The official hours for the rink have not yet been defined; however, you can follow the park on Facebook to get updates.  There will also be a sign on Freeport Road indicating whether it is open.  I will update this post when hours are finalized.

What is the cost to skate?

It’s FREE! Yes, that’s right! It’s totally free to skate!  I don’t know of any other free outdoor skating rinks in the city, so this is an important new asset for the community.

Are there skates available to rent?

When the refreshment stand is open, there are skates (many of them donated by community members!) available at the rink.  They are FREE to borrow.  Yes, they are free too :)! However, there is a limited supply so I would suggest bringing your own if you have them.

Are there kid skates available to borrow?

I perused their selection of skates over the weekend and was impressed by their selection.  The smallest child-sized skate I could find was a Youth Size 11.

How old do children have to be to skate?

There is no age limit stipulated on the signage.  However, children <12 yo must be accompanied by an adult on the ice and children are not allowed to be held.

Picking out her favorites: popcorn and hot chocolate!
Picking out her favorites: popcorn and hot chocolate!

Are there refreshments available?

There is a small refreshment stand at the rink manned by Aspinwall Everyday Gourmet.  I had a chance to speak with the lovely ladies from this local business and they told me that there will be hot chocolate and light snack foods available for purchase (popcorn, chips, etc.).  The hours for the refreshment stand have not yet been worked out; however, I will update this post when hours have been finalized. Also, PLEASE NOTE, you can not borrow skates unless the refreshment stand is open.

What other amenities does the rink offer?

The park also has a fire pit, picnic bench seating, and music.  And a killer view of the river, of course!  However, parkgoers must stay near the rink and firepit at this point in time because the park is still an active construction zone.

Any other rules to know about?

This park definitely has a low key, laidback vibe.  However, they do still have some clearly displayed rules. Most importantly, ice skating is done AT YOUR OWN RISK!  Others:  hockey is NOT allowed at this time because their insurance doesn’t cover it, yet.  Food and drinks are not allowed on the ice.  You have to wear skates on the ice.  And you have to stay away from the nearby boats and docks at the Marina.

Did my 3 year old daughter skate?

It’s the first question everybody has asked me when they found out we went to the rink.  She did NOT.  She was petrified!  However, she patiently sat on a nearby bench munching on her popcorn and sipping her hot chocolate while I took some laps around the rink.  It has been years since I’ve skated and it felt sooo good to feel the refreshing cold air on my face as I whipped around the rink. I will definitely be back to the rink this winter, even if I DON’T bring my kids.  Ladies Day Out–anyone?

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Thank you to the many community members who have worked so hard to bring this new skating rink to Pittsburgh.  It is a fantastic new community resource and I suspect it will be a winter hotspot for many years to come :)!

New PGH Family Fun: Mini-Factory at the Mattress Factory

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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

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

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I have certain memories dating back to my Pre-Child Pittsburgh Era (circa 2005-2010) that make me really nostalgic.  I remember one particularly free-spirited and wonderful day.  Early Autumn. Perfect short-sleeve weather.  A visit from one of my dearest friends in the world.  And a trip to the Mattress Factory Art Museum on Pittsburgh’s North Side.  Before that day, I had never visited an art museum that exclusively featured Installation Art, or room-sized artistic pieces designed to transform one’s perception of a space.  And it was amazing!  Suddenly art was no longer confined to two-dimensional canvasses.  Instead, it was all around us.  I found it inspiring.  Interesting. Beautiful.  Quirky.  Let me say it again:  The Mattress Factory (MF) is VERY quirky.  And I loved it from then on…

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My daughter in the installation “Repetitive Vision” by Yayoi Kusama

Since having kids, I’ve unfortunately been wary about visiting the MF.  I worried a) they wouldn’t enjoy it b) they’d be the only kids there and c) they could cause some serious damage to the installations.  I resigned myself to the fact that visits to the MF were a part of my pre-child life in Pittsburgh.  Until NOW!

I recently learned that the MF is actually more family-friendly than you would think.  AND it’s becoming even more so!  At their recent MLK Birthday Bash, I had a chance to speak with Felice Cleveland, Director of Education at the MF.  She filled me on a new FREE program that the MF is launching for children ages 3-6 called Mini-Factory.

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My son, exploring “Following The Sun 2, 2013,” an installation by Gina Reichert & Mitch Cope

What is it?

Mini-Factory is an interactive educational program designed to expose children to important concepts in installation art.  Each 1-hour workshop will focus on a particular theme. For example, the first workshop on February 1st will be devoted to “Space.”  For a full list of themes/dates, see schedule below.

How is it structured?

Mini-Factory will be divided into 3 parts. First, children (and their caregivers) will explore the theme through visits to relevant installations at the museum and hands-on activities.  Next, children will participate in a theme-related storytime (led by the wonderful folks at the CLP-Allegheny and Reading is FUNdamental). Finally, the kids will spend some time in the new “mobile, adaptable popup space” designed exclusively for them!

What is the “mobile, adaptable popup space?”

At the MLK Birthday Bash, I got a chance to see the “popup space.” It is pictured below:

The Mattress Factory's new mobile pop-up space with Katie Ford, the artist who designed it
The Mattress Factory’s new mobile pop-up space with Katie Ford, the artist who designed it

I also had a chance to speak with the artist, Katie Ford.  She gave me insights into some key design features of the pop-up space and how it teaches young children concepts vital to installation art:

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  • Design component: Ford uses lightweight materials (foam blocks, PVC pipes, interlocking tent poles, rip-off plastic fabric) so that the children can help set up the mobile pop-up space. Concept: In the process of setting up the pop-up space, they become more connected to the environment around them.
  • Design component: Ford uses many component pieces in its design (ex. many large foam blocks) that fit together in variety of different formations.  Concept: Children learn that they can influence the world around them through making choices about how the popup space is set up.
  • Design component: Ford includes many differently-sized pockets on the interior of the covering.  She hopes to have hidden surprises in them during the workshops. Concept: The environment has many interesting, hidden features if carefully scrutinized.

After speaking with Ms. Ford, I was really impressed by her exceptional creativity in the design of this pop-up space.  In my opinion, she has brilliantly translated relatively abstract ideas into a developmentally appropriate educational tool.  More importantly, the kids absolutely loved playing in it during its debut.  Well done, Ms. Ford!

What’s the schedule of Mini-Factory?

Here’s the schedule of upcoming dates:

  • Saturday, February 1st at 11am // SPACE
  • Friday, February 7th at 10am // LIGHT
  • Saturday, February 22nd at 1pm // PATTERN
  • Wednesday, March 12th at 10am // LINE
  • Tuesday, March 18th at 3pm // SOUND
  • Sunday, April 6th at 1pm // STORIES
  • Wednesday, April 16th at 3pm // SOUND
  • Thursday, April 24th at 10am // COLOR
  • Friday, May 2nd at 11am // VIEWPOINT
  • Wednesday, May 21st at 10am // MY FACTORY

As you can see, the museum educators have done their best to accommodate all sorts of schedules by offering workshops on various days of the week/times.  Thanks :)

What is the cost?

FREE!!  Yes, it’s free!  And you don’t have to buy admission to the museum to attend.  However, you will have to buy admission to the museum if you choose to walk around before or after the workshop.

Do you have to register in advance?

YES! Space is limited, so you should register in advance by emailing felice@mattress.org or by calling 412.231.3169.

Is it okay to bring younger siblings?

I was very pleased to learn that younger siblings are welcome at these events even if they are not yet 3!

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My daughter in “Coronal Mass Ejection,” an installation by Scott Hocking

Does the Mattress Factory offer other family-friendly events?

YES! I learned that the MF offers regular family-friendly events.  It hosts an “Art Lab” on the first and third Saturday of every month where kids can participate in hands-on projects related to current exhibitions and artists.  All ages and abilities are welcome at these events and they are included in the price of admission. The next Art Lab is taking place on February 1st and will be called Hip Hop Mache.  Kids will be working with artist, Scott Hocking, to create a mixed media installation in the lobby with paper mache and other fun materials.

The MF also offers Community Art Labs (available for 7-18 year olds) and Bonus Evening Workshops (available for 7-12 year olds) in the summertime.

Want to connect with the Mattress Factory?

Here are links to its Twitter account (@mattressfactory), Facebook page, Pinterest page, and Google + account.

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There is no question that the second half of my time in Pittsburgh–the part with kids–has made me appreciate this city WAY more than I ever did before.  It is ESPECIALLY true now that I’ve discovered that I can still visit one of my favorite Pittsburgh destinations, the Mattress Factory Art Museum, WITH my kids!

Thanks to Felice Cleveland, Katie Ford, and many others at the Mattress Factory for illustrating once again the notable, and sometimes unexpected, family-friendliness of our beautiful city :)!

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