Last Updated on December 2, 2022 by Jeremy
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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 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 set up 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.
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 Mars: The Next Giant Leap wing, you can check out exhibits showcasing how humans will visit and ultimately terraform Mars.
In the broader 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 engagingly displays the exhibits to help those who are just getting exposed to the sciences get excited to learn more.
Some, like the Mars: The Next Giant Leap exhibit, are geared to older visitors, while others are tailored to younger guests. But apart from that all of the materials are presented in an easy-to-follow manner for visitors of all ages.
For us, however, the real fun of the Carnegie Science Center comes during the frequent 21+ nights and the attached PPG Science Pavilion!
International Touring Shows at the PPG Science Pavilion
In 2018, the Science Center received a nearly 50,000 square foot expansion in the form of the PPG Science Pavilion. This space is currently the home of national and international touring shows that since opening has included a huge Lego exhibit, a Da Vinci exhibit, Mummies of the World, and GUITAR: The Instrument that Rocked the World to name a few.
This kind of show is right up our alley as they take deep dives on specific topics just like many of the main exhibits within the Carnegie Science Center itself!
It is worth noting, however, that some exhibits at the PPG Science Pavilion may be included with regular admission, while others may require a separate ticket with timed entry. As such, for events in the latter category, those looking to visit both the museum and the Science Pavilion should plan their visit in advance and buy a combination ticket to see it all- but this is worth confirming prior to visiting before a show. You won't regret it!
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 all the same.
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 Acrisure Stadium. Please note that touring exhibits at the Science Pavilion (periodic surcharges), 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).
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