Starry Nights-inspired Staycation: Pittsburgh’s Museums!

Daisy Whitney’s Starry Nights comes out this September and while I enjoyed the novel, what really made it for me was the setting: the Musée d’Orsay. Built in the 1890s, the museum houses the largest collection of impressionist & post-impressionist works in the world (& in the novel – SADLY NOT REAL LIFE – the paintings come alive!).

Unfortunately, I can’t travel to Paris but I found a way to bring Paris to me: a museum staycation!

Pittsburgh has SO MANY awesome museums & I included only a tiny handful. What’s great is that they’re all basically super close to one another, so visiting more than one in a day is totally doable – though you’ll want to spend forever at each one!

There are four: the Andy Warhol museum, the Carnegie Museums of Art & Natural History, and the Carnegie Science Center. & all are spectacular.

image via wallyg

Warol was a native of my town & this museum is the largest single-artist museum in the world. It’s home to over 4,000 photos & videos, 100 sculptures, 900 paintings, 2,000 paper works, and so much more from his art as a student to his celebrity art and also includes some of his mother’s work.

In addition, the museum has close to half a million personal objects ranging from his art supplies to every issue of the magazine he co-founded to audiotapes of conversations, clothing, his wigs, and countless other items. Sound interesting? The museum launched an interactive site where you can see the items in one of the boxes!

You can also watch live music and other performances!

image via steve loya

The Museum of Art is super cool even if you’re not the artsy type (LIKE ME). The museum opened in 1895 and has been doin’ its thang ever since. It was America’s first museum of contemporary art and is home to over 35,000 works! The museum is broken up into different departments: Fine Arts (works pre-1945, 19th century Japanese prints, etc), the Heinz Architectural Center (6,000 models, drawings, games), Decorative Arts (okay, so this one is probably my favorite no lie – Ancient Roman/Chinese furniture, modern teapots, & everything in between) + so, so much more.

There’s also a Grand Staircase – perfect for perfecting a magical princess entrance (DON’T JUDGE ME) and a pretty kickass Hall of Sculpture.

Last month the Architectural Center opened a Playground Project exhibit that displays “outstanding and influential mid-century playgrounds in Europe, the United States, and Japan.” …really, do I need to say more?!

image via wallyg

Okay, let’s be real. DINOSAURS, PEOPLE. The Natural History museum & the Art museum connect and when I saw Neil Gaiman last November I had to walk through the connecting hallway and in the middle is a T. Rex skeleton. :) Gaiman AND a dinosaur in the same hour. NOT TOO SHABBY, RIGHT.

Really though, this museum is probably my favorite (which is REALLY hard to say; it’s like choosing a favorite child). I’m a history nerd so this museum is like a second home. Apart from the dinosaurs, there’s also a fantastic Egyptian gallery – WITH MUMMIES & A FUNERARY BOAT (!!!), galleries for Ice Age/African/North American animals, an American Indian gallery (featuring a headdress said to have been worn by Sitting Bull), a botany hall, + others. One of the best though is the Hillman Hall of Minerals and Gems. Absolutely breathtaking.

One of its current exhibitions, BugWorks, is going to be ending in another week or two and I’d love to see it. Two upcoming exhibits look seriously amazing: totem pole carving & a discussion on race.

image via brantgajda/

Since I was little the Science Center has been one of my all-time favorite places ever. Don’t mistake this one for a museum only kids can enjoy; there are a ton of great exhibits and really cool things – like a rock climbing wall! – that adults will love too!

SpacePlace has a two-story replica of the International Space Station that you can walk around in! Docked just outside is a Cold War sub, the USS Requin. Roboworld is the world’s largest permanent robotics exhibit! There’s a Miniature Railroad & Village room which is seriously incredible: it’s basically scenes of everyday life from the 1880s to 1930s. In miniature form. The Exploration Station not only explains the inner working of dams and circuits, but it also has a LASER HARP (laser. harp. you read that right), a PVC pipe organ, and lizards and cockroaches to touch!

There’s an Omnimax and a planetarium, but my favorite thing in the museum is a teensy little cafe table. You get inside the booth and there’s a light hanging overhead and walls and some buttons to press. Those buttons simulate earthquakes. A trip to the Science Center is never complete without a quick visit – or five – to this one.

The Matress Factory: More contemporary art, but what’s different about this museum is that the exhibits are actual walk-in works. Entire rooms you can explore.

Heinz History Center: The History Center partnered up with Smithsonian and it’s now the largest history museum! A Civil War exhibit just opened up and you can bet I’ll be checking it out soon! Other parts of the center include the Sports Museum; Clash of Empires (Pittsburgh/Western PA played a large role in the French & Indian War; the Heinz 57 exhibit; a really interesting Lewis & Clark exhibit; a special gallery containing Mr. Rogers’ sweater, sneakers, and trolley; and plenty of other fascinating pieces.

Children’s Museum: A theater, water room, you can never have too much Mr. Rogers – King Friday’s Castle, the Tree, etc are all here and can be explored! There’s also a garden, a garage where you can build a vehicle or climb inside a seven-foot tire, and a Clifford exhibit (you can slide down his tail)!

ToonSeum: Toonseum is one I haven’t been too, but it sounds great. A museum dedicated to cartooning & cartoonists!

Phipps Conservatory: If there was a heaven on earth, it would be here. This place is downright gorgeous. It’s so much more than a public garden. You can register for a range of different classes, book a wedding reception, watch as butterflies hatch, + more! They recently had a tea demonstration where you got to learn the difference between the varieties of tea, and an origami demonstration!

The Frick Art & Historical Center: This is a house, Clayton, that the Frick family purchased in the 1880s and when Helen Frick (Henry Clay Frick’s daughter and one-time America’s richest heiress after inheriting $38 million) died, she wanted the home to be restored and open to the public. Exhibits have included A Century of Children’s Book Illustration, Feberge, Driving Through the Depression, Gilded Age sculptures, + more. The Center also hosts concerts, workshops, and lectures.

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6 thoughts on “Starry Nights-inspired Staycation: Pittsburgh’s Museums!

  1. Great job sweets! We’re not just a bunch of yinzers around here! Old Economy Village is really interesting too.

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