5 Outdoor Summer Concert Spots

Stifling humidity. 90 degree days. Not a rain cloud in sight.

Step in to the parks, feel the temperature drop. Spread out a blanket or unfold a lawn chair, kick off your shoes. During these dog days of summer, de-stress and cool down at free concerts in the parks.

Mellon Park

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Sundays in Mellon Park are classy and classical. The popular Bach, Beethoven and Brunch series serves up some tasty live music with a side of brunch every week from 10:30am until noon, courtesy of Citiparks. Enter your entree in the “Best Brunch” competition, or take it easy and order up from the Bagel Factory food truck on site.

Find the Bach, Beethoven, and Brunch concert details here.

Highland Park

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After a brunch-induced food coma, make your way over to Highland Park for a change in tune at the Reservoir of Jazz. Setting Pittsburgh’s local talent center stage, Reservoir of Jazz is the best way to close out the weekend. Keep your feet tapping (and really, your whole body moving) afterwards at Summer Soul Line Dancing immediately following the show.

Find the Reservoir of Jazz concert details here.

Riverview Park

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Elevated on Observatory Hill with the Allegheny Observatory and area jazz musicians, you’re a little closer to the stars at the Stars at Riverview concert series. Park your lawn chair for your fill of live music, then stick around for Cinema in the Park afterwards. Shows are every Saturday, now through the end of August.

Find the Stars at Riverview concert details here.

Mellon Square

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Need a break in the workday? Want to get some fresh air and out of the office? Grab a lunch and make a midday outing to Mellon Square for Wednesday Acoustic Music with Bobby V and Thursday Summer Concert Series.

Find the Mellon Square concert details here.

Schenley Plaza

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With its emerald lawn, delicious dining and central location, Schenley Plaza is a fantastic venue for concertgoers, impromptu musicians, and summer shows. The lawn fills up fast, so make sure to stake out your spot for the monthly WYEP Final Fridays, and don’t miss First Thursdays with Calliope.

Find the Schenley Plaza concert details here.

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Parks Are Gyms: Your Guide to Working Out

In the parks, we have a whole different approach to working out.

Smelly, sweaty gym socks? We’ve got blooming daffodils.
Recycled air? How about a cool breeze and wind through the trees.
Beige walls? Try chirping robins, rolling clouds, and kids riding bikes.

For the low, low membership fee of $0.00, you can sweat it out all day every day in the parks. Train for your first marathon, conquer hills on the bike sitting in your basement — just get out and get moving! Here are some ideas to start your new workout regiment in the parks:

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Tai chi in Mellon Square. Photo: John Altdorfer.

Tai chi in Mellon Square
Some call this Chinese traditional practice meditation in motion. Originally designed for practicing self-defense, this class is a splendid and graceful way to balance, strengthen, and de-stress. Take a class in the Modernist masterpiece park, Mellon Square, or in Schenley Plaza, for free all spring and summer. Schedule to be posted here.

Yoga in Schenley Plaza
Breathe in, breathe out on the Emerald Lawn in Schenley Plaza during these bi-weekly yoga classes. Bring your own mat or borrow one when you arrive at these free, open classes taught by expert instructors. Schedule to be posted here.

Disc golf in Schenley Park
Spread across rolling hills and sprinkled through shaded woods are 18 metal baskets that make up the Schenley Park Disc Golf Course. This go-at-your-own-pace course is an effective arm workout and a healthy walk, the length of which depends on how well you aim your shots. Find directions here.

Volleyball in Highland Park
Recently renovated, the sand volleyball courts in Highland Park are an ace place to work out while working on your tan. Find directions here.

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Biking in the park. Photo: Melissa McMasters.

Bike in Riverview Park
The popular Riverview Loop is all about the gluts. The topography of this two-mile loop is a challenge but takes you past amazing spots like the Chapel Shelter, Allegheny Observatory, and gardens throughout Riverview. See the Bike Pittsburgh bike map here.

Tennis in Frick and Arsenal parks
Serve it up on the red clay courts in Frick Park or the newly refinished courts in Arsenal Park for two unique playing experiences. If you’re game, there are a plethora of clinics and tournaments held on the many courts throughout the parks. Click here for the Frick Park Clay Court Tennis Club.

Have your own workout recommendations? Leave them in the comments below!

25 Ways to Celebrate Your Galentines and Valentines (Part 2)

Last week, we starting laying out our recommended ways to celebrate Valentines and Galentine (really, anyone who you love taking to the park). Here’s the second half of our list of park adventures:

14. Find serenity lakeside

Love a little peace and quiet? Skipping rocks? The perfect scene to Instagram? Look no further than the lovely water features throughout the parks. We think you and your someone special will love a trip to Lake Elizabeth, Panther Hollow Lake, and Lake Carnegie.

Sunset at Panther Hollow Lake. Photo: Melissa McMasters.

15. Grab a cuppa at the Schenley Park Cafe and Visitor Center

Warm your hands around a tasty beverage of your choice and take in the views of Panther Hollow from the big open windows of the Schenley Park Cafe and Visitor Center. After enjoying your vantage from above, follow the chunky Belgian block trail behind the Cafe through peaceful Panther Hollow.

Hang out with this soldier in Schenley for Valentine’s Day.

16. Play docent all of the art

Pittsburgh parks are art. For art aficionados and history buffs, the parks are like a free museum, open year-round. Brush up on art in the parks with this helpful Pittsburgh Art Places website.

17. Snap a selfie with Dippy and bask in the bosque

Diplodocus carnegii is just too cute not to be a part of any selfies shot around the Plaza. Once you’ve visited Dippy, walk on through the bosque in front of the Carnegie Library – Main with its ceiling of overarching London plane trees.

18. Join the parties that are volunteer days 

It’s always a good time when you gather hundreds of happy, energized folks to beautify the parks. Rain or shine (even snow or sleet), volunteer days are full of positive vibes, perfect for a day spent with your friend or sweetheart.

19. Prowl for owls

Getting on around dusk, the silent winged denizens of the park come to life. If you keep your voice down and your ears open, you might be lucky enough to hear owls on the move.

20. Promenade in Allegheny Commons

The allées of Allegheny Commons were designed to accommodate the wide hoop skirts of the late 19th century when the park was designed. Walking on through this park today can be like going back in time, especially since some of the park’s trees growing there today date almost as old as the park itself.

Daffodils popping up in spring.

21. Give a gift they’ll really dig

A gift of daffodils in the parks is perfect for all of your favorite people, whatever the occasion. Each spring, the bulbs planted through the Daffodil Project burst into life for all to enjoy, which is really a gift from all park lovers to everyone. Learn more here.

22. Go for a ride, start a war

Be a kid again: grab some saucers, toboggans, cafeteria lunch trays, whatever you can get your hands on and hit the sled-riding slopes or go all in on an all-out snow ball battle.

23. Eat to your heart’s content at The Porch

The Porch at Schenley, the only full-service restaurant at Schenley Plaza, is always a popular spot for a bite before or after your adventures in Schenley Park.

24. Skate the night away

Citiparks’ annual Valentines on Ice event attracts couples from across the land for a night of skating under the stars with the city as a backdrop. Added bonus: the first 300 couples to arrive receive complimentary sweets and flowers. Can’t make this event? The Schenley Park Skating Rink is open daily; find the schedule and pricing here.

Where is this snowy scene? You’ll just have to explore the parks and find out!

25. Get lost, then get found

You’re a modern-day explorer on a quest to conquer new park lands. Pack a bag and venture out to parks uncharted by you and your date. It’s always fun to get lost in these urban jungles, but if you’d like to get found, there’s a free app for that.

 

Have other date ideas that we’ve missed? Post them below or through Facebook and Twitter!

XOXO,

The Matchmakers at the Parks Conservancy

25 Ways to Celebrate Your Galentines and Valentines (Part 1)

25 Ways to Celebrate Your Galentines and Valentines (Part 1)

Whether you’re celebrating your Valentine, Galentine, or really anyone that you enjoy, we’ve compiled a list of date ideas — platonic or romantic! — that will knock your next park adventure, well, out of the park:

1. Catch sunset at the Highland Park Reservoir

The Overlook at Schenley Park is a fan favorite for sunset spotters. Take a stroll around the Highland Park Reservoir, though, to see the sun set betwixt trees and the Giuseppe Moretti entrance statues in the peaceful entrance garden.

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2. Ride a bicycle built for two on Pocusset Street

Don’t have the balance to reenact that timeless Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid scene with your sweetie? Riding a tandem bicycle (or any bike, really) down the biker- and walker-only Pocusset Street in Schenley Park is the next best thing.

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Knock, knock!

3. Hunt for fairy doors 

In Frick and Mellon Park, Allegheny Commons, and many other parks are teensy little doors for the resident fairies. Find and knock on them to see if anyone’s home.

4. Gaze at stars in Riverview Park

The iconic Allegheny Observatory opens its doors weekly to star-struck astronomers for free tours, lectures, and open houses at this incredible space. On clear nights during these events, the 100-year-old-and-older telescopes are generally open for use.

5. Gaze at stars in Mellon Park

Whatever the weather, you can always see 150 stars peeking up from the lawn of Mellon Park’s Walled Garden thanks to 7:11AM  11.20.1979  79º55’W 40º27’N, a memorial art installation.

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6. Read Shakespeare in a Shakespearean garden

Whilst we speak of Mellon Park, o’er the hill of the Walled Garden thou must recite verses when alighting in the Shakespearean Garden.

7. Make a snowman or snowbeast

This is an anywhere, anytime activity. Let your creativity run wild. Just try not to sing that one song from Frozen when you’re out there; it’s contagious.

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Telescope in Allegheny Observatory in Riverview Park.

8. See the cityscape from Emerald View Park

The Mount Washington overlooks get a lot of love (deservedly), but seeing Downtown peek in and out from the undulating trails of Emerald View Park is always a rewarding experience.

9. Take a trip around the world with a visit to the Plaza

Immerse yourself in international flavors with the fares served in Schenley Plaza. Your hankerings for Chinese, Greek, Belgian, or the ever-changing cuisines at Conflict Kitchen are all conveniently in one square acre.

10. Traverse the tufas

The solid bridges along the lower and upper Panther Hollow trails in Schenley Park, made of a limestone variety (tufa) and built by W.P.A. crews, are straight from a storybook, covered in moss, lichens, and now snow. See these and other old-timey Works Progress projects sprinkled throughout the park.

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Tufa under snow.

11. Latch a love lock and throw away the key

Make a statement with your sweetie by adding your own lock to the Schenley Bridge and throwing away the key — just as you do it in the proper waste receptacle. (Forgetting the combination also acceptable.)

 12. Tour the neighborhood, visit parkside cultural establishments

While you’re in the neighborhood, drop by the Carnegie Museums, the Frick Pittsburgh, Phipps Conservatory, the National Aviary, the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium, and many other must-see institutions around the parks.

13. Think spring

Send warm thoughts to family, friends, or someone you’re flirting with this Valentine’s Day with the gift of daffodils in the parks. Make a donation of $25, and we’ll plant 50 daffodils in the park of your choice — and send your someone special a personalized e-card to boot. Get started here.

 

Check back next week for the second half of our park date ideas. Share your inspired date ideas below or through Facebook and Twitter!

XOXO,

The Matchmakers at the Parks Conservancy

The Giving Tree: Commemorative Plantings

The Giving Tree: Commemorative Plantings

The greatest joy of the work I do is planting trees.

If you’re reading this blog, I doubt that I need to sell you on the ecological importance of trees. I don’t need to list all the ways that they make our lives and our planet better, you know that.

Over the past four years I have been honored to oversee the Parks Conservancy’s Commemorative Tree Planting Program in partnership with my colleague Phil Gruszka. I’ve planted trees to celebrate lives well lived and too early lost. I’ve been there for graduation ceremonies and for the exchange of vows. And what I have felt deeply from those experiences is the emotional significance trees can play in our lives — the spiritual, mythological and folkloric meaning they carry.

And most importantly, the way they make us feel.

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Family gathers in Schenley Park to celebrate the life of their loved one, Veda.

While the meanings and interpretations of a tree or tree planting are as varied as we are, they provoke a collective feeling of warmth.

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Andrew with his tree planted in Highland Park to celebrate his college graduation.

Usually when I meet a donor in the park to plant a tree we have never met face to face, but by the time we part I often get a hug. We are there to do good work and we are connected by the emotional significance of the moment and the change it will create.

In the Jewish faith it is said that trees were the first living things put on earth. Buddha attained enlightenment while seated beneath a tree. We dedicate non-religious holidays to trees all over the world. In the US you may stop to plant a tree on Arbor Day, or Dia Da Árvore in Brazil, Nationale Bloomplantdag in the Netherlands, Tag de Baumes in Germany, or Van Mahotsava in India.

We are globally united with acceptance of the significance a tree planting carries, no matter what life perspective we bring to it.

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Family mulching a tree in Schenley Park to celebrate Veda.

I am often asked what the “ceremony” in the Commemorative Tree Planting Program entails. I can tell you that every single one is different. I am always there, along with Phil (our resident arborist and Parks Management and Maintenance Director) or one of our ecologists. We plant a fairly large tree (approximately 2” caliper) that has been transplanted from a local tree farm or nursery. The type of tree and exact planting location is arranged in advance based on the donor’s wishes. Sometimes large groups come to be a part of it (I’ve seen as many as 30) and other times it is just the donor. There have been groups who want to get in and get their hands dirty and others where they stand back and enjoy the tree once it is planted. Songs have been sung, prayers read, and violins played. It really can be anything you want it to be.

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Kathleen and Phil with their work boots ready at a planting day.

I have watched grief-stricken families approach us along a slope in Schenley Park, their faces worn with loss and exhaustion. Once the tree is in the ground they all leave a little lighter. They will see this tree again and watch it live and grow. We celebrate the endeavors of life too. I have seen a sapling transform into a monument to accomplishments large and small as the last bit of dirt is thrown. People change before our eyes – filled with new gratitude, or comfort and resilience. It is one of the greatest honors of my life to be a part of that.

Any reason to celebrate is a reason to plant a tree. I visit the trees I have helped plant and believe firmly that each tree lives in the spirit in which it was planted. They are living totems to the struggles and joys of our lives. And as if that were not gift enough, they will continue to serve our community for generations to come.

Kathleen Gaines, Manager of Individual Giving

Learn more about planting a tree for a special person or occasion in your life by clicking here.

Let’s Talk About Parks

Let’s Talk About Parks

When my brothers and I were kids, the first person to reach the morning news would claw their way to the cartoons section, grab a bowl of cereal, and post up on the corner of the couch. Tough luck to the next one of us that tried to pry them away from their comics; might as well grab another bowl of sugary cereal and wait for your turn in line. (Which could take quite a while; there are seven of us.)

Starting last month, there’s another section of the newspaper that kids can squabble over (or share, if they’re a little more civil than my family). Every other Tuesday, we have a special section for our younger park pals: Let’s Talk About Parks. In it are tips to identify park life, explore trails, play and learn in the natural world. (Don’t tell the young ones, but adults can also read this section, too.) Here’s a bit of what we’ve shared so far:

Amphibians

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Taiji Nelson, Naturalist Educator/professional frog catcher.

 

The wetlands and ponds in the parks (we recommend the seasonal pools in Highland Park) create excellent habitat for frogs. Here are some commons ones that you can see and hear:

  • Spring peepers. You can hear for their raucous nocturnal singing after spring and summer storms.
  • American bullfrogs. Spot these big hoppers during the day, Chances are, they’ll see you before you see them and dive into any nearby water.
  • American toads. Found in damp, cool areas of the woodland floor where their coloring — brown to gray accented by spots and warts — provides excellent camouflage. Find these amphibians deeper in the parks.

Salmanders are always looking for the best rock or downed tree to hide under. Students in our Young Naturalists program this year studied salamander habitat by laying out wooden boards in the woods, turning them over once a week to see what had started living there.

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Do not touch the salamanders! Sincerely, the Young Naturalists.

When looking for salamanders, carefully turn rocks and logs over, being sure to put them gently back in place when you’re done. If you find a salamander, don’t touch it! Salamander skin is sensitive, even a small amount of handling can harm or kill them. Northern dusky and red back salamanders are especially common species in our area.

With winter approaching, amphibians will soon go into hibernation. Green frogs will stay at the bottom of ponds or streams, while wood frogs, distinguishable by a black mask around their eyes, hide in the leaf-litter before entering a semi-frozen state until spring. If you find one of these “frogsicles” in the winter, they will appear to be dead. But don’t be fooled; their bodies manufacture an anti-freeze to protect their internal organs until warm weather returns.

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Young Naturalists flipping over boards in Frick Park to observe what creatures live there. Boards were purposely set up over five weeks to survey forest floor habitat.

Fall flowers

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Goldenrod in Highland Park. Photo by Melissa McMasters.

While we’ve had to bid a fond farewell to summer wildflowers, fall has its own impressive display of flowery color and texture. Here are some that you can spot on just a short walk through Schenley Park:

  • Goldenrod. Growing extra tall in the meadow at the Bartlett Street Playground, this hardy yellow flower is often confused with ragweed, a common cause of pollen allergies.
  • White wood asters and purple New England asters. Sprinkled among the meadow grasses, these plants produce clouds of delicately fringed flowers atop thin dark stems. Asters provide nectar for butterflies and other pollinators, as well as seeds for songbirds after their bloom is completed.
Purple aster plus pollinator. Photo by Melissa McMasters

Purple aster plus pollinator. Photo by Melissa McMasters

  • Obedient plant. This spikey plant is distinguished by clusters of pink tube-shaped flowers and named because its individual flowers can be bent in any direction and will stay in that position “obediently.”
  • Snakeroot. Found in the shade of the woodland on the Panther Hollow Trail, Snakeroot’s dark green leaves are contrasted by puffy white flowers that are fuzzy to the touch.
  • Pokeweed. This plant can reach heights of 10 feet and is adorned with clusters of reddish-purple berries.
  • White Baneberry or Doll’s Eyes. Identify this plant by its white berries with a black center.
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Pokeweed in Schenley Park

Learn more about exploring and discovering your parks through the bi-weekly “Let’s Talk About Parks” segment in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The next feature, set to print September 23rd, features biking in Frick Park!

Lauryn Stalter for the Pittsburgh Park Conservancy

What’s in Bloom — May 2014

What’s in bloom in Pittsburgh’s parks this month? Everything! The garden beds seem just as relieved as we are that the unpredictable winter cold is over, and they’re really putting on a show.

Highland Park is vibrant all day throughout the gardens, but visit at sundown for an extra special splash of color.

Highland Park is vibrant all day throughout the gardens, but visit at sundown for an extra special splash of color.

In anticipation of Saturday’s 16th Annual PNC Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy Spring Hat Luncheon, our horticulturist Angela Yuele and gardener Jaci Bruschi have really put their green thumbs to the many beds in the Highland Park Entry Garden — and the results are absolutely gorgeous.

“If you have not  been to the Park recently, you are in for a real treat. Sometimes we forget to appreciate the beauty in our own back yard,” wrote one Highland Park neighbor of the stunning blooms.

The Highland Park Entry Garden will be getting extra special attention not only this Saturday at the Hat Luncheon, but also next Wednesday and Friday. Wednesday kicks off the first Weeding Wednesday, the bimonthly gathering of volunteers that help to keep the immense garden looking grand. Friday is National Public Gardens Day, a celebration of public gardens usually marked by free admission to botanical gardens and arboreta across the country. We can all feel extra appreciation for the Entry Garden on this day, because we Pittsburghers get in for free every day!

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Daffodil ‘Bravoure’ blooming in abundance

Iris Pumila, Dwarf Iris ‘Manhattan Blues’

Iris ‘Manhattan Blue’

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Bright-eyed daffodil ‘Pheasant Eye’

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Iris Pumila, Dwarf Iris ‘Baby Blessed’

 

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Ultra fragrant hyacinth ‘Pink Pearl’

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Iris species

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Water lily tulips peeping through the leaves

Colors are popping up throughout the garden beds

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White daffodil ‘Mt Hood’

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A standoffish daffodil ‘White Lion’

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Vibrant grape hyacinth

Stop and really smell the flowers next week — become a regular volunteer at Weeding Wednesdays! We recommend it as a way to relax, get to know your neighbors, fit in some nature time, and maybe even take out some stress on the weeds. Sign up to get started here.