6 Things You Need to Know Before You Go to the National Aviary

Pittsburgh Parent's in the Know of the Best Places to Take their Kids in the 'Burgh

By Emily Papa, Macaroni KID Publisher March 16, 2022

Macaroni KID Pittsburgh parents are parents in the know about all things that have to do with kids in Pittsburgh. One of the ways we keep our readers in the know is by visiting kid friendly Pittsburgh attractions (with our own kids in tow) to make sure you know everything there is you need to know before you go. Last week, Macaroni KID Pittsburgh visited the National Aviary, and we'd like to share with you a few things to help you make the most out of your visit

1. Plan your day before you go

Before you head down to the National Aviary, we suggest taking a look at the Calendar to view the Daily Activities Schedule and Animal Encounters and Programs that might be taking place during your visit to help you plan your day. While there is no doubt you are going to get up close and personal with beautiful birds from around the world, engaging in the interactive programs, most of which are included with general admission, will bring you even closer to the birds and are fun for the whole family. 

Attend "Meet a Tropical Friend" to get introduced to Jewel, one of the National Aviary's Hyacinth Macaws and one of the largest parrots around. Learn about her diet, habitat, behaviors, and why you won't want to take her home as a pet. 

Wide-eyed and intrigued, these toddler and preschool age kiddos couldn't get enough of this tropical encounter at the National Aviary. 

While you can purchase your Animal Encounters at the Visitor Services Desk, you can also book them online before your visit.  All Animal Encounters include general admission. 

2. Get Familiar with Your Resources

Upon arrival at the National Aviary, your first stop will be at the Visitor Services Desk, where you can purchase or pick up your reserved admission. You will be given an Information Map that will provide you with a layout of the entire Aviary as well as the Daily Activity and Animal Encounter schedule. Behind The Visitor Services Desk, there is a coat rack where you can hang your jacket for the day. The Aviary is one level and ADA accessible, making it stroller-friendly when toting littles.

Do you have a child with sensory aversions? There are some loud birds in the Aviary (some that use their squawk to communicate up to 2- miles), so before you leave the Visitor Services Desk, pick up a Kulture City Sensory Bag that is equipped with noise-canceling headphones, fidgets, and an ID card to help make the National Aviary a sensory inclusive environment for everyone. 

Macaroni Mama Tip: The backside of the Information Map is a "Can You Find These Tropical Species?" infographic. Bring a marker or a pen for your little ones who enjoy search and find activities to help them mark off the tropical animals as they explore the different habitats.

3. Know Where to Rest & Refuel

Parents know that optimal playtime includes lots of rest and a proper diet. If you're planning your visit to the Aviary during lunch hours, you can head to the Atrium to grab a bite to eat from Atria's; or even pack your own lunch to enjoy. Mama need a pick me up? Weekdays through Memorial Day, adults can enjoy a complimentary cup of regular coffee from Atria's with their admission to the Aviary. There are water bottle refill stations however please note, no open food or beverages can be brought into the habitat. 

Play spaces in the atrium offer an exciting and engaging experience for kids to use their imaginations. In this space, our preschoolers were using the easy-to-follow laminated recipe cards to make bird food for their new tropical friends.

The Atrium sits diagonal from Penguin Point, a 360 degree viewing habitat where your little bird watchers can get so close to a penguin, they could practically touch one!

4. Don't be Afraid to Ask Questions

As a mother, one of the things I appreciate is when someone who is an expert in their field explains things to my small humans in a way that they understand. No matter what habitat we traveled through, there was a staff member available to help answer the many questions a 5-year-old has and to help find any particular species that we were searching for. Even as an adult, I left the Aviary with a knowledge I didn't have prior. For example, did you know that the birds at the National Aviary aren't fed a pet store bird food diet? Oh no, there is a whole team employed just to assist with the dietary needs of the birds. With over 500 hungry mouths, (er, beaks?) individually planned diets range from nuts, palm, fruits, veggies, insects, fish and more!

Molly Toth, National Aviary Communications & Content Specialist assisting in a search for the Saipan White-eye in the Grasslands habitat. 

5. Take the Flamingo Photo

I know this might sound silly, but it's a must-do. See how your kids measure up and listen to them squeal with delight when they find out they are smaller than a flamingo!

Standing like flamingos, seeing how they measure up!

6. Consider the Value of a Membership

You might be thinking, once I see the birds at the Aviary, why would I need to come back? I'll tell you why. The National Aviary takes a seasonal approach to their activities and educational components, with a different theme every four months or so. Right now the theme is Tropical Paradise; and trust and believe that the warm, lush habitats at the Aviary will make you feel like you're on a tropical vacation without ever leaving Pittsburgh and help you find that staycation serotonin boost you've been seeking. 

These two couldn't get enough of the Tropical Rainforest! It might have been the Hyacinth Macaws they made friends with or the stunning 15-foot waterfall that seems to be a birds' paradise. 

Where else in Pittsburgh can you go for an immersive African Adventure Show (presented by AAA) where you can not only see amazing birds but experience the thrill of them flying right by you? We couldn't stop laughing as the birds whizzed overhead, leaving our hair blowing in their trails. Watching the birds walk right next to you and listening to the Circle of Life as your background ensemble will have you questioning whether you are still in Pittsburgh or on a real African adventure. Consider yourself a lucky duck if you get picked to feed the birds a meatball from a stick!

Nothing screams summer like walking into the warm Wetlands habitat and being photo-bombed by a flock of pink flamingos!

Member's experience free admission, discounted Animal Encounters, and other member only benefits. Plus, memberships to places like the National Aviary make great gifts from family members who want to help your little ones create a lifetime of memories. Read more about memberships here

Are you ready to experience Tropical Paradise at the National Aviary? They are open every day except for Tuesdays and the weekday visit is the way to go if you're looking to avoid the crowd! At the time of our visit, employees at the Aviary are still adhering to mask-wearing for guest safety, and habitats are cleaned frequently throughout the day. You can check the schedule and book your tickets HERE. Don't forget to tag us in your pictures on social media, so we can see who your favorite bird friend is! Here are a few of our random favorite photos from our visit:

Because flamingos make everyone happy!

Penguin Point was easily our kid's favorite spot at the National Aviary and I can see why! Did you know that the penguins are banded with their name and gender? If you spot a band on the left wing, the penguin is a male. The females wear their band on the right. 

Practically swimming with Sunshine! 

We couldn't leave without stopping to say hello to my daughter's favorite, the owl. 

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