Thursday, May 29, 2014

Pennsylvania Family Trip: Pittsburgh

While it is fresh in my mind I want to document our summer vacation (better known as Family Trip) to Pennsylvania.  Each year, since Bennett's birth, we have gone to the beach for our summer vacation.  Sam, nor myself seemed excited about going to the beach this year, so I suggested Pennsylvania.  Why Pennsylvania?  Bennett enjoys learning about the States, so when thinking of a place to vacation I was thinking of places that:
  1. would add to his current knowledge of the States
  2. was a place we had never visited
  3. offered fun things for families to do
Not only does Pennsylvania offer all of those things, we have two sets of friends who live there.  One set in Pittsburgh and the other in Philadelphia.  We did a little research and quickly decided to fly into Pittsburgh, stay for 4 nights, drive to Philadelphia, stay for 4 nights, and fly home.  

We flew from Tampa to Pittsburgh on Friday.  We picked up our rental car upon arrival and grabbed a quick dinner at Chipotle before driving downtown to check into our hotel.  We stayed at the Residence Inn which was directly across the street from PNC Stadium.  Sam LOVED it, to say the least.  We were blessed in Pitt to have a two bedroom suite, which made our sleeping arrangements very comfortable and relaxed.  

Saturday we woke up and were the first people to our hotel's breakfast bar.  Zoe didn't want to be late :)  Can I just say, it was awesome having someone else fix breakfast for a week!!  After getting ready, we drove to meet the Durec's at their house.  Mike is one of Sam's very best friends from college and one of his very favorite roommates.  Sam saw Mike in November, but I have not seen the Durec's in over 3 years.  It was GREAT to visit with them.  They took us to the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh which was a huge hit.  

I could honestly do a whole post on the Children's Museum alone.  Each room had a theme.  We began in the Art Studio where the kids painted on easels, played with clay, created salt water art, and made a screen print.  We left our art to dry and moved on to the climbing area where Bennett climbed up and freaked out on the way down :)

(A lot of the photos are blurry, because I took them with a point and shoot that I honestly don't know how to use.)

Next stop the Attic.  There was a gravity room that ended with a slide.  Can I say CRAZY!!!  One step and I decided to turn around.  Thankfully, Sam and Mike took the kids.  There was also a shadow room where you could freeze your shadow on the wall and ???????????

We viewed the Make Shop, but due to time moved on to the Garage.  The Make Shop was really cool, but geared a little more toward older kids.   The garage included a makeshift Trolley from Mister Roger's Neighborhood, giant tires kids could climb in and out of, a car, and an area where you could build vehicles and test them on a course.  There was also a net to climb with a corkscrew slide, a vertical conveyer built kids could crank which would launch a parachute.  A train set and lastly, a Rube Goldberg apparatus (Thanks to Sam for telling me what it was called) that filled the whole ceiling.  

Before lunch we spent time in the XOXO room (which is a special exhibit through September).  The purpose is to focus on love and forgiveness.  Initially, I thought it was going to be cheesy, but Bennett (and myself) really enjoyed it.  The kids got to write a special message and compress it into a token to keep.  They wrote what made them angry or sad and cranked it through a shredder.  They were videoed make faces that related to the word they read and it was displayed on the wall.  There were several other areas in this exhibit that we did not get to.

After lunch, the kids spent time on the 3rd floor exploring WaterPlay.  Awesome, is all I can say.  I won't even try to explain this indoor water area.

We ended with a quick visit to the Nursery which is particularly geared toward younger children.  I would say 3 and under, but the older kids still enjoyed it.  There is an oversize light bright, sand painting, twisting sculpture maze, wooden toy play, train track among other things.  I enjoyed the Mister Roger's puppets on display in this area.

We returned to their house in the afternoon to relax.  Kendra and Bailey were so sweet with Zoe.  They held her hand, helped her down the stairs, saved her a spot at the dinner table, and so on.  Bennett was the only boy, but he thoroughly enjoyed playing (and nagging) with the girls and exploring a new environment.  Originally, we discussed going out to dinner, but decided to eat in.  I am glad we did, because it gave us more time to talk and the kids to play.  

The girls LOVE Sam!  I am not sure how we spent three days with the Durec's and I didn't take one photo of Katy and only one of their youngest daughter, Mallory.

Sunday we swam at the hotel in the morning before heading out for a day of walking and exploring downtown Pittsburgh.  It was a cool, brisk morning, but the skies were clear and the sun was bright.  We walked across Clemente Bridge with our first goal to find the "mirrored" Stegosaurus.

Fun Fact #1: Clemente Bridge is also known as the Sixth Street Bridge.  Is one of 3 parallel yellow bridges that spans Allegheny River.  It is named after Pittsburgh Pirates Baseball Player Robert Clemente.  This bridge is shut down to traffic 2 hours before every home Pirates and becomes a pedestrian bridge.  

Fun Fact #2:  The dinosaurs we were searching for were originally a part of  the Carnegie Museum of Natural History event in 2003 called Dinomite Days to bring awareness to the museum’s amazing dinosaur fossil collection.  Only a few are still on display in the city.  Lexington had a similar event when we lived there.  Horses were designed and displayed throughout the city.  It was a lot of fun to see the various designs on the horses.  

After finding the dinosaurs, we walked to Point State Park.  It was gorgeous and peaceful and relaxing and full of open green space and surrounded by mountains and water and bridges and ahhhhhhhh!!!!!  

Not only was it gorgeous it's historical.  It is the site of a British fort that was pivotal during French and Indian War and the American Revolution.  

There was a small group set up on the lawn to promote the Museum and answer any questions visitors had regarding history of the site.

Heinz Field Stadium (where the Steelers play) is visible from the point of the park.  

Unfortunately, Zoe slept through the whole experience, but it did allow us to explore and relax a little more.

We went back into Market Square where we ate a famous Primanti Brother's sandwich.  Normally, food such as that served at Primanti Brother's is not my thing, but I will admit my sandwich was tasty.  I got the Tuna Fish and Cheese Sandwich and Sam got the Corn Beef Sandwich.  In my opinion, the slaw made it, not the french fries.

Fun Fact #3:  Everything in Pennsylvania is served with fries.  For example, Primanti Brother's sandwiches are served with fries ON them.  That's correct, not as a side item, but as a part of the sandwich.

After lunch we began walking back toward our hotel when we decided to ask about a Children's Festival flyer we had seen.  Much to our surprise there was a HUGE, FREE Children's Festival taking place a few blocks from where we saw the flyer.  The festival was a huge blessing, as it allowed Bennett and Zoe to participate in several art activities and it allowed us to see more of the city we would have originally missed.  By this time the Durec's were finished with church, so they joined in on the fun.  A few of the free activities included making a paper collage, decorating eye masks, free face painting, decorating boxes with stickers/tape, paint splattered records, drawing with chalk, origami, playing in the sand, and much, much more.  To end the afternoon, Katy and I took Kendra and Bennett to see Pinnochio at the Children's Theatre while Mike and Sam took the 3 youngest girls back to the hotel.  

Monday we toured PNC Park in the morning.  This was possibly the highlight of Sam's trip (minus the time he spent with Mike).  It was very interesting and I enjoyed seeing all of the Pirate memorabilia throughout the stadium.  The view was incredible!  The kids did very well for the first 45 minutes of the tour, but things quickly went downhill.  Bennett was in total meltdown mode by the end of the tour and while we were frustrated we realized after feeding him lunch that he was hungry (and maybe a little bored).  

This section was dedicated to famous Pittsburgh players that played in the Negro league prior to them being allowed to play in MLB.  

Entrance into a suite at PNC Park.

Thanks to daddy the kids were a little less bored....for a few minutes.

The view is spectacular!!!!

She loves to hold his hand and gets so mad when he refuses :)

While Zoe napped, I napped, Sam ran, and Bennett played games on my iPhone.  It worked out well for all of us :)  

We spent our last evening with the Durec's.  They fixed dinner for us again.  I was extremely grateful to spend more one on one time with them and to have a place for the kids to play.  

We had a wonderful time in Pittsburgh and were blessed to visit good friends.  Of course, we didn't leave without planting the "Disney" buzz.  Hopefully, Kendra will pester her parents until they say YES :)

Tuesday we packed up and began our road trip from Pitt to Philly.  The drive reminded me a lot of the drive from Lexington to Prestonsburg.  It is rural, mountainous, and green!!!!!  Simply lovely.  With that said, our kids were a little crazy, so we were looking forward to our pit stop in Hershey.  

We made it to Hershey's Chocolate World about 2:30 p.m.  I may have been the most excited of the family, but Bennett wasn't far behind.  Thankfully, it was not crowded and I had set my expectations low after the reviews I read, but it was fun and a nice break from all of the driving.  We looked around at some of the merchandise, then we rode the free ride.  The ride is a simulated Hershey factory.  It told us how they make chocolate while adding in a few singing cows to keep the kids entertained.  It really was cute!  Upon exiting the ride we were each given 2 small chocolate bars.  The kids thought it was GREAT!!!  The other attractions included a trolley tour, Chocolate 4D Movie mystery, create your own chocolate bar, and chocolate tasting adventure, but each of them were an additional cost.  We chose the Chocolage 4D Movie Mystery.  Sam took Bennett while Zoe and I browsed the store, bought chocolate, ate chocolate, and rode the ride again.  We ended our time with a Resee's Sundae.  It was one of Bennett's favorite experiences of our trip!  He is still asking us to tell him stories from Chocolate World.

The drive from Hershey to Philly was gorgeous.  It was filled with farmland, beautiful estates, and cute towns.  Villanova was nearby, so we drove by campus and ate dinner at Nova Mediterranean Grill.  By this time, we were more than ready to be in our hotel.  Once we checked in and found the kids pajamas Sam headed out to return our rental car.  Our hotel was downtown and Philly has great public transportation, so we opted to use it versus keeping our rental car.  



Unknown said...

Being from Western Pennsylvania, just north of Pittsburgh, this was fun seeing the city through your eyes! My mom and dad grew up in Pittsburgh and we have visited many, many times. Your pictures are all wonderful! So glad you got to visit and spend time with friends!

Sandy said...

It's GREAT being able to tag along with you...Thanks so much for sharing your engaging photos and commentary.

Amanda said...

Glad you all had such a fun and different vacation this year! I love the beach, but I think it's great to do other things and explore other parts of our great country, too! Awesome that you could do all of this AND see friends.