As the sun begins to shine sporadically and flowers start to bloom in sidewalk cracks, it can only mean one thing: Spring is here. If, like a bear, you’ve been hibernating in your lair for several months, it’s time to get outside, stretch those legs, and explore all the city has to offer. The Pittsburgh City Paper Spring Guide is a map for making the city feel like new again, from flea markets to bike lessons to film festivals.
Walk on the Wild Side
We’ve all seen adorable cartoon penguins slipping and sliding on icebergs, but you might be surprised to find out that penguins live in warmer climates. Disco, this week’s cover artist, is one of 20 warm-weather African penguins found in Penguin Point at the National Aviary (aviary.org) in the North Side. Much like humans, the arrival of spring is a welcome change from the harsh Pittsburgh winters for penguins. Their outdoor space includes heated nest cubbies throughout the exhibit in the cold months to help keep them comfortable.
Now that the weather is warming up, it’s a perfect time to come visit the penguins and the other birds at the Aviary. Book a penguin encounter and mingle with Disco and friends up close. There are also multiple exhibits throughout the bird zoo too, including the new Tropical Rainforest, where you’ll forget about shoveling sidewalks while hanging out with parrots and one of the zoo’s popular sloths amongst hundreds of tropical plants.
After you’ve met the African penguins, head to the Pittsburgh Zoo (pittsburghzoo.org) and meet some African elephants! We recommend a visit to the African Savanna, where you can see elephants, rhinoceroses, zebras, leopards, giraffes, and lions.
Like your felines a little smaller? Schedule a visit to one of the city’s two cat cafes. Colony Café (colonycafepgh.com) in the Strip District, and The Black Cat Market (blackcatmarketpgh.com) in Lawrenceville, both offer visits with adorable, adoptable cats. More of a dog person? Volunteer to dog walk at one of the city’s animal shelters: Humane Animal Rescue (humaneanimalrescue.org) or Animal Friends (thinkingoutsidethecage.org). Better yet, adopt one of those beautiful homeless babies!
— Lisa Cunningham
Get on a bike
Biking is a fun and eco-friendly way to get around the city, but for those of us who haven’t touched a bike in 10 years, the idea of riding in the city can be incredibly daunting. On Sat., April 27, the Lawrenceville branch of the Carnegie Library (carnegielibrary.org) will offer a free class designed for new cylists looking to ride comfortably and confidently around town. Confident City Cycling teaches bike/body separation, brake modulation, weight distribution, and quick hazard avoidance. After the class, participants will go on a group ride to practice strategies for crossing big intersections, riding on fast roads, reading traffic patterns, and road conditions. For those 16 and over, free Healthy Ride bike rentals will be available for the duration of the class.
For more bike-riding workshops and get-togethers, we recommend checking out Bike Pittsburgh (bikepgh.org), a local nonprofit who holds bike-related events regularly.
— Jordan Snowden
Stop and smell the flowers
In the brief window between cold season and spring allergies, take advantage of clear sinuses and enjoy the whimsical floral scents of springtime.
Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens (phipps.conservatory.org) is tops when it comes to seeing and smelling flowers from all over the world. Starting on Sat., March 23, the Conservatory will host its Gardens of the Rainbow spring flower show, with dozens of varieties bursting into bloom.
One of the Pittsburgh are newer flower-full locales is the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden (pittsburghbotanicgarden.org) in Oakdale. And this year, the garden, which offers ponds, meadows, trees, and a children’s area, opened a new exhibit called Garden of the Five Senses. Flower fans can smell, look, touch, taste, and hear all that spring has to offer.
By mid-April, Pittsburgh’s native flowers should be starting to bloom, and the Raccoon Creek Park Wildflower Center (visitpa.com) in Clinton is the best place to view them. Take a leisurely stroll by the marsh, through a meadow, and along the creek to gaze upon goldenrod, larkspur, and other local varieties.
— Ryan Deto