Pittsburgh Family Fun Goes Back to the National Aviary
My kids have always enjoyed going to see the birds at the National Aviary on the North Side. We have especially enjoyed the outdoor bird show each summer. If you've visited the Aviary recently, you would have noticed a lot of construction going on. The long-awaited, $18.5 million dollar expansion of the Aviary is complete and they're ready to show it off.
I was invited to check out their new digs and to view their new show, Wings!, which takes place in a brand new indoor theater. The FliteZone Theater opened October 9 and runs the Wings! show daily at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Wings! features animals of four different regions; Africa, South America, Europe and the U.S. I had the pleasure of viewing the show this morning.The 20-minute show bounced back and forth between on screen introductions of the different regions, with fantastic video, lighting and audio to match the region they were showcasing. After the short video, Trainer Kelly Pollard, who emceed the show, introduced the live, free flight birds to the audience, while explaining their habits, habitat and often discussing the need for preservation and encouraging the audience to "take care of the environment". The show ended, fittingly, with an American presentation complete with bald eagle, fireworks and patriotic music.
Prior to starting the show in the state-of-the-art 125-seat theater, the giant screen in the center of the stage showed trivia questions for the audience. I visited on a day with a school group, comprised of about 100 extremely enthusiastic, engaged kids. I walked in just minutes before showtime to the kids chanting "B! B! B! B!" in answer to a trivia question. The theater erupted in applause when the screen showed B as the correct answer. As a parent, I appreciate their care to provide some pre-show entertainment to keep the kids interested.
The show is included with admission, but you can pay a $3 fee to reserve a seat. Today the theater did indeed fill up and people were turned away. I'm not sure if that's typical, but it may be worth the fee if it is.
In addition to the new theater and Wings! show, the Aviary also has a simply stunning new entrance (although the old entrance is still an option, too), The new entrance opens up into a gorgeous cafe area with Bistro to Go (a locally-owned bistro with light fare-food is reasonably priced and looked very good. Kids meals are available for $5) and comfortable seating under a glass ceiling. Free WiFi is also avaiable.
The entire expansion was done with great care. For example, glass front entry windows make use of fritted glass, which is made up of a tiny dot pattern in the glass, which makes it look solid to flying birds, eliminating the risk of birds flying into the building and being injured or killed.
The care continues throughout the building, with green design employed throughout. The expansion was completed with the goal of achieving Silver LEED Certification. The design was done by SPRINGBOARD Design.
Also included in the expansion will be the rooftop Sky Deck for bird of prey lure-flying demonstrations and releases (was not open today), classrooms and also joins the recently renovated Grasslands exhibit and last year's fantastic Penguin Point habitat.
If you haven't visited the Aviary lately, or ever, now is the time to go. When you do, make sure you time your visit around one of the Wings! shows or the great interactive exhibits at Penguin Point (I wrote of a review of Penguin Point last year). Make sure to stay for the feeding in the Rainforest area and let the kids feed the Lories.
Ridge Ave & Arch St
Pittsburgh, PA 15212
Open Daily 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Admission $13 adults/ $10.50 for kids 2-12
Membership are available for $75 (family) or as a combo with a Children's Museum Memberhship ($154 for both Museums)