5 Reasons to Visit the National Aviary this Summer with your Family
Updated: Aug 19, 2021
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by The National Aviary. As always, all opinions are my own.
Are you looking for things to do in Pittsburgh with your family? If so, you should definitely consider planning a trip to the National Aviary! Did you know that the National Aviary is America’s only independent indoor nonprofit zoo dedicated to birds?! Your whole family, kids, and adults will have fun searching for all sorts of different birds at this amazing Pittsburgh attraction! There are over 500 species of birds in the aviary, including penguins, owls, flamingos, and more.
My family of five recently visited the National Aviary in July of 2021. As a mom of two toddlers, ages 3 and 4, and a seven-year-old, I know how important it is to plan to minimize toddler tantrums and ensure everyone has a great time. Before your visit, you must purchase your tickets and select a time slot for your arrival. This process ensures the National Aviary is not too crowded and guests can practice social distancing. Don’t worry too much about the time slot, because they give you a 1.5-hour window to arrive after your time block begins. So if you are running late, no problem, this ticketing policy is really flexible. Mask wearing policies at the National Aviary were in line with CDC guidelines, optional for vaccinated guests. We felt comfortable and opted to wear our masks most of the time because 97% of the Aviary's staff is vaccinated. During our visit, we arrived right at 10 AM, when the National Aviary opened, and were able to see all of the habitats and complete several animal encounters before lunchtime.
Here are 5 reasons to visit the National Aviary this summer, including helpful tips for planning your visit.
1. The NEW African Adventure Interactive Bird Show
During our recent trip to the National Aviary, my children loved the immersive African Adventure bird show! The show takes place in a theatre setting and is led by a human and animated tour guide. The show is about 20 minutes long and takes guests on a journey through the many landscapes of Africa, highlighting the various birds that live in each habitat. You will encounter birds up close during the show in a very
unexpected way. At the end of the show, you may have an opportunity to take photos with an owl or another Aviary ambassador! Be sure to bring some cash to donate in a very cool way! The show is extremely informative for all members of the family with an overarching theme of sustainable living to save the planet weaved throughout the storyline. I highly recommend the new African Adventure Interactive Bird Show, it is a must-see during your visit.
2. AWESOME interactive Animal Encounters
The National Aviary offers plenty of opportunities for you to interact with wild birds up close, making it a truly unique experience. There are several animal encounters that you can add to your visit, including a penguin encounter, sloth encounter, and flamingo mingle. During our visit, my family learned all about penguins during the penguin encounter. We met an African Penguin, named Disco, and learned all about penguin anatomy. This up-close experience was really memorable for the kids, as well as my husband and I. We learned so much we didn't know about penguins.
We also fed the Rainbow Lorikeets, which was so much fun. The zookeeper provided my husband and I with little metal bowls filled with liquid nectar. Once inside the habitat, we simply extended our arms and the Rainbow Lorikeets flew right up to us and helped themselves to a yummy snack! The kids watched nearby behind the glass enclosure.
Now that the kids know what to expect, I think they will be excited to try feeding the Rainbow Lorikeets during our next visit. If you are planning a visit to the National Aviary I highly recommend selecting an animal encounter or two to really take your visit to the next level!
3. More than 500 species of exotic birds from all over the world
The aviary has a variety of habitats that will keep your family entertained for hours. You can get up close with some of the most beautiful birds by exploring the various habitats on your own or taking an educational tour led by the highly knowledgeable staff made up of conservationists and researchers. The really unique aspect of the National Aviary is that the birds are flying around above you, walking alongside you and situated within the habitat, similar to how you might experience them in nature.
4. Fun place for kids to learn about animals and nature
Our kids had so many questions about all the birds we encountered during and after our visit. Throughout the aviary, you’ll find informative signage that shares fun facts and other details about the birds found in the habitats. I used these signs as opportunities for my rising second
grader to practice his reading skills, by encouraging him to read the info plaques aloud. The new African Adventure Interactive Bird Show was jam-packed with facts, statistics, and even history of the featured birds and habitats. We also learned a lot during the African Penguin encounter. Our family even had the opportunity to talk with Dr. Pilar Fish, the National Aviary’s Senior Director of Zoological Advancement and Avian Medicine. I was excited for my daughter to meet a female veterinarian because the representation of women and girls in science fields is so important. The experience led to conversations when we got home about what a Zoologist is and how to become a zoologist. So, The National Aviary definitely offers lots of direct and indirect learning opportunities.
5. Visit from the comfort of your own home, anywhere in the world!
You do not need to be in Pittsburgh to visit the National Aviary. You can visit right from home with a virtual membership, which provides your family access to exclusive tours, behind-the-scenes videos, and more. Virtual membership is great for families looking to explore all the National Aviary has to offer from the safety of their homes. As an educator, I see so many learning opportunities a virtual membership might add to virtual and in-person classrooms. My family has an annual membership, but if we did not live in Pittsburgh I would definitely consider this option. With a virtual membership, you can visit the National Aviary anytime, from anywhere!
If you are looking for something different to do with your family this summer, consider planning a trip to the National Aviary. A trip to the National Aviary is an excellent way to spend quality, screen-free time with your family and is guaranteed to create memories you’ll cherish long after your visit is over.
Lastly, I promised some tips to help you plan your trip to the National Aviary, so here you go!
Here are a couple of additional tips to help you get the most out of your visit:
Plan ahead to secure your desired date and time
Purchase tickets to the new African Adventure Interactive Bird Show, you will not regret it!
Pack a lunch or plan to purchase food from the cafe, especially if you have young children. It is easy to lose track of time while exploring the lush, colorful habitats. Having a plan for mealtime will create a smooth experience for families with small children. My kids loved the pizza and I enjoyed the chicken wrap.
Save time for your kids to roam the tunnels at the penguin habitat! This was one of my children’s favorite spots and they loved seeing the penguins swimming around. We saved this for the end because we knew they would not want to leave.
Check out the website for the full list of birds and create a list of “must-see” birds. You can use this list for older kids to create a scavenger hunt while exploring the different habitats. Overall, having a plan of what you are most interested in seeing will make sure you are able to get the most of your experience. However, if you are more of a free spirit, you can certainly skip this recommendation.
I hope you find these tips helpful as you plan your next trip to the National Aviary in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania! In addition to a fun-filled family experience, the aviary will also make a unique date experience for couples who are dating or married. I’d also recommend the Aviary as a fun activity for friends to explore before or after a weekend brunch and for college students at the local universities looking for a cool Pittsburgh experience.
The National Aviary is a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to the conservation of birds and their habitats, many of which are endangered in the wild. In addition to creating an immersive zoo experience, the National Aviary also does conservation work all around the world and is a leader in avian medicine. You can purchase tickets for your visit and learn more about The National Aviary by visiting their website: www.aviary.org
Thanks again to the National Aviary for hosting our most recent visit. All opinions are my own.
Check out our Instagram page, @PBOinSTEM, for more photos and videos from our most recent visit to the aviary and more fun ideas for activities to keep your kids laughing while learning all summer long!