The forecast was rain but we decided to risk it: a 24-hour jaunt to Pittsburgh to catch part of a three-game series between the Pirates and the St. Louis Cardinals. Of course, as soon as we hit the Steel City limits, a deluge of rain hit us.

We pulled into the hotel next to the stadium and watched from our room as a thunderstorm rolled through downtown and the yellow and black umbrellas of determined Pirates fans dotted the street. Antsy from the car, my 7- and 4-year-old girls began a spirited hide-n-seek game, then they started jumping on the bed and shrieking.

We had to get out of there.

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Food Makes Everything Better

Duck confit sliders and bz's

We walked across the street to BZ’s Bar and Grill. Very loud rock and roll greeted us and my 7-year-old put her fingers in her ears to register her displeasure —maybe this trip was a bad idea after all.

But the hostess led us to a big booth at the back, where the music was less loud and there were other families. The theme of this local chain is classic American bar food with a twist, think popcorn crawfish and duck confit sliders with blackberry preserves and cream cheese. There was also an eclectic beer list. Maybe things were looking up!

The kids loved the crawfish but no surprise there; kids love “popcorn” anything after all. They tried the duck sliders, too and declared themselves fans.

Out To a Ball Game

Buoyed by good food and the party vibe, we ventured out again: no rain. So we joined the crowd converging on PNC Park for the game and promised fireworks.

Our upper-deck seats were wet, but it looked like the clouds were moving on. We weren’t sure whether two young kids who are not total baseball fans would sit through nine innings.

They had seen enough baseball on television for a basic, if vague, understanding of the rules and were surprisingly engaged. By the third inning, the stadium was nearly full and fans did the wave several times, to the girls’ delight.

The garage at pittsburgh children's museum is a giant building and play space
Front Row To Fireworks

The game ended just past 10, and the fireworks show started over the river. Hurrah for the nosebleed seats! It was the first time I didn’t have to crane my neck to see fireworks. From the upper deck they were unfolding right before our eyes.

We didn’t get to the hotel until after 11. Keyed up, the kids didn’t fall asleep until midnight. So I closed the blackout curtains and didn’t know another thing until 9 a.m. the next day.

Time To Play

After breakfast downstairs we walked six blocks though a very quiet Pittsburgh to the Children’s Museum. It was one of the best I’ve been to.

We spent a lot of time in the “garage” (above), where a mechanical pulley is rigged to send plastic balls onto a track system across the high-ceilinged room. They had a rope ladder to an indoor slide and a car to hang out in.

Pcm waterplay

A special exhibit on feelings had a meditation box filled with colorful rocks to play with while a recording of gentle string music played. There was also a booth where my daughter Molly and I sat down and made faces according to emotions (happy, sad, surprised) that flashed in front of us.

Upstairs, the kids could have spent forever in the water-play area, pumping, directing and damming the flowing water. A change of clothes is not a bad idea if your kids small or the weather is cold. Despite donning waterproof smocks they were both soaked.

So we left Pittsburgh the same way we arrived: wet (but this time by our own doing).

The Last Word

“My biggest impression of Pittsburgh is I want to go back,” the younger one said.

Me too, next time in the sunshine.

Malinda Brent is a former daily newspaper reporter who lives in Washington, D.C. with her two girls. Her partner Mark Brueggenjohann is a photographer.

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