Carnegie Museum of Natural History
4400 Forbes Ave. Pittsburgh, PA 15213
A huge museum with dinosaurs, gems and more!
Visiting this Carnegie Museum is really a two-for-one deal. Housed in the same building, visits to the Museum of Natural History and the Museum of Art are included in the price of admission to this Pittsburgh treasure. Be sure to wear your most comfortable walking shoes because you’ve got a full day of fun and learning ahead of you! By the time you leave, you'll have learned about gems, dinosaurs, American Indian culture, the Polar World, and more!
The Hillman Hall of Minerals and Gems was surprisingly interesting to the 6-and 8-year old kids in our group. Featuring more than 1,300 specimens from all over the world, this exhibit has gained an international reputation for its quality. The amazing variety of colors, textures, and sheer beauty of each of the gems and minerals was thoroughly fascinating for the little ones.
After checking out the gems, we headed to the section that our kids were most excited about: the dinosaurs. This huge section of the museum features real fossils, including bones that have been reconstructed to show the true magnitude of the giants that roamed the Earth. You’ll see the T-Rex, Apatosaurus, Diplodocus, and more, all depicted in the environments that they would have once lived in. Kids can also try their hand at a real dinosaur dig in the Bone Hunters’ Quarry (although this section was closed due to Covid-19 on our visit).
After you’re finished checking out the dinosaurs, you can head to Discovery Basecamp, where kids are encouraged to slow down, touch, and explore. You can pet a (stuffed) bear, don the wings of a bat, get a closer look at bug specimens, and more. While much of the “touching” portion of the exhibit was closed due to Covid-19, our kids still had a blast. I can only imagine how much fun it is when everything is open! This section also houses the Age of Mammals, where kids can see a variety of pre-historic mammals like mammoths and dire wolves!
While you’re in this section, it’s a great opportunity to take care of the basic needs of the little ones in your group. After the kids have gotten their wiggles out, walk down the steps to find a restroom as well as a cafeteria, where you can eat a snack from home or purchase one, if necessary. There are also vending machines available if you just need a quick pick-me-up.
If you need a quiet spot to feed an infant, there is a ridiculously comfortable, private nursing area provided, just next to the “bug play area” in the Discovery Basecamp section. (Visitors are welcome to nurse anywhere within the museum, but this space is so nice, you’re going to want to take advantage!)
If the little ones are getting tired and you can only manage one more stop, be sure to make it the Halls of African Wildlife and North American Wildlife. This area features life-size dioramas of the animals that call Africa and North America home.
The museum features several other worthwhile areas such as exhibits on Ancient Egypt, the Polar World, American Indians, and Birds. Luckily, the kids in our group had enough energy to make it to the top floor of the museum, where they absolutely loved the immersive experiences available in the Polar World and the Hall of American Indians.
If you’re planning to check out the Carnegie Museum of Art (it’s included with admission, after all), you’ll likely want to plan to break for lunch before heading to that section. There are tables in front of the museum as well as behind that are available for a picnic lunch brought from home. You can also grab a bite to eat from the cafeteria in the museum when it is not closed due to Covid-19.
If you need to purchase food, Shenley Plaza offers outdoor food stands as well as a green space to enjoy a picnic. To get there, turn left out of the museum entrance on Forbes Avenue. Walk about 1/10 of a mile and you’ll see the plaza on your left. If you want a sit-down option, walk a bit further down Forbes and you’ll find a plethora of options around the University of Pittsburgh.
It’s important to note that visitors cannot wear anything on their backs while in the museum, this includes backpacks and baby carriers. You are, however, allowed to wear packs and baby carriers on your front. Strollers are permitted as well.
Parking is available in a paid garage and lot adjacent to the museum, making it convenient for families with little ones.
Given everything that this museum has to offer, we recommend allowing at least 3 hours for your visit, just for the Natural History portion. (Be sure to plan for a snack and rest break somewhere in the middle of that time!). If you’re planning to also visit the Art Museum, allow the whole day.
Given everything this museum has to offer, it’s a great pick for any age. Toddlers and preschoolers will enjoy viewing the life-size dioramas of dinosaurs and mammals and playing in Discovery Basecamp. Elementary-aged kids and older will have something to gain from just about every exhibit in the museum.