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.

Star Light, Star Bright: Shining the Stars at Mellon Park Walled Garden

The cosmos is within us. We are made of star stuff. We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.
Carl Sagan

All of our volunteers are all-stars. One group that recently worked in Mellon Park’s Walled Garden, however, was particularly star-studded.

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Seven volunteers from Macy’s joined Parks Conservancy Horticulturist Angela at the site of the Mellon Park art installation on a sunny Sunday to get the stars in the lawn to shine brighter than usual.

Armed to the teeth with toothbrushes, they spent the morning cleaning the 150 stone markers hidden in the lawn. The markers, part of an installation in memorial of Ann Katharine Seamans, reflect the stars and planets in the same alignment of Katharine’s birth in 1979.

Want to learn more about this special space? Read more about the Mellon Park Walled Garden art installation.

 

 

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These bright, shiny faces lit up the park. Many thanks, Team Macy’s!

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Interested in getting your company/organization out into the parks for a volunteer day? Click here!

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

Volunteer Spotlight: The Keeper of Mellon Park

Standing at the junction of four neighborhoods is one man who scares the thistles off of invasive plants.

“That over there is Garlic Mustard Heaven… at least, it was,” points out John Olmsted, Shadyside neighbor and volunteer extraordinaire, triumphantly. He’s taking three Parks Conservancy staffers on a personal tour of Mellon Park, showing us the spots he knows like his own backyard and telling us about how he came to have such an impact on the park.

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“John is definitely the keeper of this park.”

Angela, Parks Conservancy horticulturist, has pulled weeds alongside John for years. After moving around post graduate school, John and his wife returned to Pittsburgh to be closer to children and grandchildren. And he has since become a quiet but significant change-maker in this historic community park.

IMG_1738Mellon Park, situated at the junction of Regent Square, Shadyside, Squirrel Hill and Point Breeze has never been adopted entirely by one group over the years. This setup has made for some interesting development throughout the grounds: The Parks Conservancy restored the serene Walled Garden as a Capitol Project; Phipps houses a greenhouse and has experimental show gardens around the grounds; groups like the Herb Society handle particular plots, such as the Shakespeare Garden; and a number of community members take other small plots in their own garden-gloved hands when they have the time.

That’s where John comes in. After moving to the perfect house just across the street from Mellon, John made his way over to the park during his free time, pulling some invasive plants here and there until, five years later, he’s tackling whole beds. “So far, none of the maintenance people have complained that I’m taking work away from them,” he jokes. With only a bit of previous gardening experience (John’s father grew a victory garden during WWII, his mother had a garden of her own), John first tackled whole sections of garlic mustard and Canada thistle from established daffodil and daylily gardens — and then kept them cleared.

We especially appreciate John’s story of dedication to Mellon Park because 17 years ago, that same drive inspired the creation of the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy. Faced with the deteriorating conditions of the parks, a cadre of concerned Pittsburghers decided to start an organization to work towards maintenance and restoration of the parks. John, too, has stepped up to fill a need to keep the greenspaces he appreciates in really fantastic condition.

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Daffodils peeking through the soil in the beds John tends

 

As we stroll through the park with John, we give him all the kudos we can for his work in Mellon Park. He’ll be out there again this spring, whacking away at the weeds that creep up in the daffodil beds. He has a standing offer to anyone that wants to join him on his crusade to bust burdock.

Lauryn Stalter for the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy

Wondering about the name? John is indeed connected to the famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. “Four generations back and four steps over,” as he says.

Daffodils like those pictured above will be welcoming Spring soon. Support our efforts to keep these gardens growing by contributing to the Daffodil Project.

How Do Our Gardens Grow? – with silver bells and cockleshells and volunteers all in a row

Flowers at the entry to the Walled Garden in Mellon Park

Have you been enjoying our new What’s in Bloom blog series? Pittsburgh’s parks are host to many of our city’s most vibrant floral displays. While careful thought is put into the planting of these gardens, they each require constant attention as they grow. According to Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy gardener, Angela Masters, one of the biggest mistakes people make when planting a garden at home is to assume that the hard part is over.

A beautiful garden is a carefully maintained garden. When the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society presented its Community Greening Award to the Highland Park Entry Garden and the Walled Garden in Mellon Park, they specifically cited the maintenance of each garden as a factor. “The plant material is extensive and the maintenance is flawless,” the judges said of the Walled Garden. They called the Highland Park Entry Garden “meticulously maintained” and added that it is a “sight to behold.”   

Oak Leaf Hydrangea in Mellon Park

At the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy we are committed to creating lasting change in our parks and we understand that this means more than the completion of capital projects with striking before and after photos. These restored spaces must remain as beautiful for the generations to come. Each new project we undertake must have maintenance funding secured before we break ground.

With our completion of Schenley Plaza (which hosts a bevy of colorful gardens), the Highland Park Entry Garden, and the Walled Garden in Mellon Park, we hired our gardener Angela to help the City crews maintain the newly flourishing beds. But the unsung heroes of these spaces are the volunteers who come out to help us weed, deadhead, prune, water, sweep, and care for Pittsburgh’s favorite flowers. For two hours every other week, groups of volunteers that vary from 2-8 people at a time work diligently in the Highland Park Entry Garden and the Walled Garden to contribute to the park they love.

A volunteer deadheading in the Walled Garden

I joined the volunteers this past Tuesday in the Walled Garden and we eagerly watched the storm clouds truck across the sky. The tiny squall went as quickly as it came and we were able to roll up our sleeves and get into the dirt. As a Development Associate for the Parks Conservancy, my specialties are planning fundraising events, maintaining databases and spread sheets, and smiling really pretty at people. My work is fueled by my love for the parks, but I completely lack the green thumb genome. I had to give myself a pep talk in the car – just try not to kill the garden. Ever since I had been married there last October, I had been trying to work up the nerve to show up, hoping to contribute to a place that I feel has so deeply contributed to my life. Everyone was thrilled to have another set of hands, and I was given very appropriate tasks in which the plants would survive the liability of my cluelessness. I even learned a thing or two!

We would love to have your help and we absolutely love making new park friends! Our volunteers vary from experienced gardeners looking to lend a hand, to eager park goers who have a lot to learn. Each of them knows that every time a couple snaps a prom picture in the Entry Garden, or says their vows in Mellon Park, they’ve contributed to a place that does more than make Pittsburgh beautiful – it becomes a part of someone’s story.

The remaining horticultural volunteer days are as follows (we’ll provide everything you need) –

Weeding Tuesdays at the Mellon Park Walled Garden

5-7 pm

June 26

July 10 & 24

August 7 & 21

September 4 & 18

 

Weeding Wednesdays in the Highland Park Entry Garden

5-7 pm

June 27

July 11 & 25

August 8 & 22

September 5 & 19

 

Color in the Highland Park Entry Garden

Garden Maintenance Tip from Angela

To give your garden definition, make sure your plants have room to shine. “You can’t be afraid to cut back plants or remove some of them when necessary, or they’ll all just grow together,” says Angela. To achieve the stunning color blocking effect you see in the Highland Park Entry Garden, or the calm elegance of the Walled Garden in Mellon Park, allow for some negative space between plants. To really highlight this effect, Angela suggests putting some mulch down on the ground between the plant types.   

 

Learn more about our volunteer programs and how you can get involved here. Really up for getting your hands dirty? Consider becoming an Urban EcoSteward. Dirt not your style? Your donation to the parks will go a long way.

Kathleen Gaines joined the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy as a Development Associate last year.

What’s In Bloom – June 2012

Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy gardener, Angela Masters has been busy adding splashes of color to our City parks.  With the weather warming up, now is a perfect time to take a stroll through our June blooms.

Highland Park Entry Garden

Allium (Allium caeruleum)

Annabelle hydrangea, Hydrangea arborescens “Annabelle”

Asiatic lily, Lilium Apeldoorn

Coral bells, Heuchera x brizoides

Hardy Sunflower, Heliopsis helianthoides

Montauk Daisy, Nipponanthemum nipponicum

White Trumpet Lily, Lilium regale

Yarrow, Achillea “Parker’s Gold”

A beautiful day at the Highland Park Entry Garden

Mellon Park Walled Garden

Astilbe

Daylily, Hemorocallis ‘Happy Returns’

Hardy Geranium, Geranium x ‘Brookside’

Lavender, Lavandula angustifolia

Oakleaf Hydrangea, Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Snow Queen’

Riverview Park Chapel Shelter

Yarrow, Achillea

Don’t just take our word for it, get out to the parks and spend the day relaxing among the flowers!  If you’re ready to get your hands dirty, join us for Weeding Tuesdays at the Mellon Park Walled Garden or for Weeding Wednesday at the Highland Park Entry Garden.  For more information, visit our volunteer page or email us at volunteer@pittsburghparks.org.