Community
12:44 pm
Thu May 15, 2014

It's Spring! Here Are Some Ideas For Getting Outdoors This Weekend

Kayak for free at this weekend's Venture Outdoors Festival at Point State Park.
Kayak for free at this weekend's Venture Outdoors Festival at Point State Park.
Credit Flickr user Via Tsuji

With high temperatures in the 90s this week, it’s hard to believe Pittsburgh saw snow less than two months ago.

Thankfully, the Steel City has finally shrugged off winter just in time for a slew of outdoor events in and around downtown Pittsburgh.

Venture Outdoors Festival

Point State Park is the location for the 14th annual Venture Outdoors Festival, which takes place at Point State Park and runs from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday.

Donna Bour, director of development and events for Venture Outdoors, said the festival will highlight many of the outdoor recreational opportunities in the Pittsburgh region.

Visitors will be able to try kayaking, fishing, rock climbing, yoga, biking, and Brazilian dance, among other activities, all for free.

“We want people to get a taste of how much fun it is and learn about how easy it is, and then they’ll be encouraged to come back and try it again, with us or with somebody else or on their own,” Bour said.

The festival was originally spearheaded by people working with Sustainable Pittsburgh. Venture Outdoors was formed a few years later and took over the event.

Bour said this year’s event will be more inclusive than ever.

“This year one thing that Venture Outdoors is looking to do is reach into the adaptive recreation community, for people with disabilities who need special equipment or special gear,” Bour said.

Highmark Walk For A Healthy Community

For those who want a recreational opportunity with a social mission, the 12th annual Highmark Walk for a Healthy Community is taking place along the North Shore on Saturday morning.

Evan Frazier, senior vice president of community affairs for Highmark, said the event will benefit 69 different health and human service organizations in the Pittsburgh region, including East Liberty Family Health Center, the Spina Bifida Association of Western Pennsylvania, and the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.

“Highmark underwrites the full cost of the walk, so that every dollar that’s raised goes to these 69 organizations that participate in the Highmark Walk for a Healthy Community,” Frazier said.

The walk begins at Stage AE and both 5k and one mile courses will be available and accessible to wheelchairs and strollers. Frazier said pets on leashes are also welcome.

“There will be food and beverages and music and prizes,” Frazier said. “It will really be a festival-like atmosphere.”

People interested in walking can register online or in person the day of the event. Registration opens at 7:45 a.m. and the 5k walk begins at 9 a.m.

EQT Pittsburgh International Children’s Festival

Both the Venture Outdoors Festival and the Highmark Walk for a Healthy Community are kid-friendly events, but if you’re looking for something specifically geared toward children, check out the EQT Pittsburgh International Children’s Festival.

Pam Lieberman is executive director of the festival, which began Wednesday and is a project of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

Lieberman said the festival was first created more than 28 years ago, and is meant to expose children to theater, performance art, and cultures from all over the world.

The festival will feature seven featured performances and one colossal art installation, many of which will take place in and around a pop-up park at 8th Street and Penn Avenue, called Lily Pad Park.

The featured performances are ticketed events, but Lieberman said they are entirely worth the admission price. Lieberman said she’s especially looking forward to the “Invisi-ball” dance performance from Israel.

“It takes place in a soccer stadium and the best part is there’s no ball, so the dancers are playing soccer without a ball,” Lieberman said. “You’ve never laughed so hard at a soccer game before.”

Other highlights include a sensory-friendly performance called “Little Steps” from Denmark, which is staged in a giant sandbox, and a Canadian production of Pinocchio. For families on a budget, there are also plenty of free events to check out.

“There are 30 free live performances, over thirty free hands-on activities and visual art installations and a scavenger hunt throughout Pittsburgh’s cultural district,” Lieberman said.

Eco Experiences At Powdermill Nature Reserve

If the news of so many events and crowds in and around downtown Pittsburgh has you running for the hills, perhaps it’s a good weekend to get out and enjoy some nature education at Powdermill Nature Reserve.

The Carnegie Museum of Natural History is hosting “Eco Experiences,” which gives people a chance to go behind the scenes of wildlife research and preservation.

John Wenzel is the director of the nature reserve, and said this Saturday’s event will feature lab tours, nature hikes, turtle trapping, taxidermy demos, kid-friendly activities, and more.

Wenzel said one interesting project they’re working on right now is the development of bird-safe glass.

“About a billion birds a year die from hitting windows. Pretty much everybody has seen this happen,” Wenzel said. “We’re partnering with various industrialists to figure out how we can make windows that are clear to humans, but birds can see them.”

Wenzel said the event is in response to public demand for such information and behind-the-scenes access. He also said the opportunity to enjoy the park with professional naturalists and scientists can change the way people see the outdoors, and is especially effective at helping kids understand the significance of the natural world.

“If you walk through a woodland, it could be anyplace [such as] Schenley Park, by yourself, you get once experience,” Wenzel said. “If you’re walking with someone who knows what all the wildflowers are and that the pilgrims and pioneers used them for one or another purpose, it’s a much richer experience.”

The event is runs from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Saturday and is free and open to the public. Powdermill Nature Reserve is located about an hour southeast of Pittsburgh.