One of Pittsburgh's most popular museums is the Carnegie Science Center on the North Side. This massive complex is home to several wings featuring displays of unique sciences including robotics, aerospace, water, sports science, physics, medicine, and more.
As engineers and self-described science nerds, this was one museum we have been very eager to check out.
The Pittsburgh Science Center
I have mixed feelings on the exhibits at the Science Center.
Most every item on display is setup to be somewhat interactive, and each feature gives a good hands-on perspective into the concepts that they're trying to convey. But looking at it from the side of someone who has been through most of the hard sciences featured, the exhibits also only begin to scratch the surface of what is going on.
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I say this knowing that we are the exception to the target audience this museum attracts. With that being said, most of the items on display are relatively simplified, and I think that the museum is perfect if you are able to visit with kids who are just starting to become interested in the sciences.
In the robotics wing you can check out replicas of famous movie robots and watch very real robots do some rather crazy tasks (a basketball playing robot, anyone)?
In the space wing you can check out a micro-g simulator and explore modules from the International Space Station.
In the Highmark SportsWorks wing you can learn the science behind all things sports with topics in physics, biology, and chemistry to name a few.
Or, if you are looking for something a bit more historical, you can go inside a 1940s tench class submarine, the USS Requin!
Suffice it to say, the Carnegie Science Center does a great job at highlighting many of the various forms of sciences out there and displays the exhibits in an engaging way to help those who are just getting exposed to the sciences get excited to learn more.
For us, however, the real fun of the Carnegie Science Center comes during the monthly 21+ nights!
21+ Night at the Pittsburgh Science Center
The Science Center's monthly 21+ Night is a public event designed to get those who do not have kids to come out and explore this otherwise very kid friendly museum. It sounds like an odd combination, but the promotion works and consistently makes for a packed house.
Our visit coincided with the theme ‘The Science of Beer' which featured eight local breweries giving samples of select beers (~1.5 pints each), demonstrations by Draai Laag Brewery (now known as Strange Roots), and a free shot glass with the 21+ Night logo on it.
At 21+ Night there are no kids getting into the sciences, although you could tell that many of the attractions were quite popular with the crowd on hand- especially in the robotics division where we also spent most of our time. Between catching up with replicas of your favorite TV and movie robots (C3PO anyone?) to challenging a robot basketball player to a game, the robotics division is simple enough for kids but advanced enough to capture the attention of even the most reserved adults (which, in this case, was likely us).
For an extra $1 on the regular ticket price I really can't complain for the extra features. In fact, we came out ahead because we also received $10 in free casino play upon entry, which netted us about $15 back in return with our quick stop after the event was over.
It is worth noting; however, that the theme for the event changes each month, and not all of them include free alcohol samples like in “The Science of Beer”.
The one unfortunate downside to the 21+ Night is that the sports complex is (often, but not always) closed off to visitors, as well as the USS Requin submarine outside, so the depth of exploration into the museum does become a bit limited as these are two spots we were really interested in checking out.
If either of these are high on your list of must experience attractions, then visiting with a regular ticket over 21+ Night may be a better idea outside of the few events where it is explicitly included.
Overall, I am glad we attended the Science Center's “The Science of Beer” 21+ event even though we came away with mixed feelings. If you are interested in the sciences but don't work in it already, or want to expose the next generation into the sciences, then a visit to this museum should definitely be on your radar (although in the case of the latter, during regular operating hours).
Carnegie Science Center is located at 1 Allegheny Avenue in the North Side, right next to Heinz Field. The Carnegie Science Center hours are 10am-5pm every day of the week; however, please note that touring exhibits at the Science Pavilion (surcharge), Rangos Giant Cinema, as well as the USS Requin may have special hours and closures (the submarine is historically closed January to early March, for example).