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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


The Matchmakers at the Parks Conservancy

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:


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.


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!

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!


Daffodil ‘Bravoure’ blooming in abundance

Iris Pumila, Dwarf Iris ‘Manhattan Blues’

Iris ‘Manhattan Blue’


Bright-eyed daffodil ‘Pheasant Eye’


Iris Pumila, Dwarf Iris ‘Baby Blessed’



Ultra fragrant hyacinth ‘Pink Pearl’


Iris species


Water lily tulips peeping through the leaves

Colors are popping up throughout the garden beds


White daffodil ‘Mt Hood’


A standoffish daffodil ‘White Lion’


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.

Confessions of a park volunteer

Steve, leading a crew at this year’s Panther Hollow Extravaganza

I must say, before I volunteered with The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, I thought I had a pretty good handle on things.

I grew up in the 60’s in the country. My dad never owned a TV and there were no video games, personal computers, calculators, or cell phones. The woods and fields of Armstrong County were my playground. I lost countless hammers and saws building forts in the woods, aggravating my dad to no end! My Schwinn was my best friend.  We read books – lots of them. We had a garden the size of a football field. We raised chickens and ducks and I worked on a nearby farm. I drove a farm tractor before I was allowed to drive a car. So, as an adult, I thought I knew quite a lot about quite a lot.

That changed when I turned 50, my milestone. My kids were grown and on their own. I had time. I needed something to do. One day, while looking for maps online, I stumbled across The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy web site and the Urban EcoSteward program. So I joined. While attending Urban EcoSteward training, I was surprised to find out I didn’t know so much.

Each training session involved actual field practice – not much classroom time here. We learned by doing. Rain or shine we learned how to plant trees by planting trees. We learned to identify invasive plants by going out and removing them spring, summer, and fall. There were a variety of trainings, too, like seed propagation, erosion control, and winter tree ID.  The Parks Conservancy staff, past and present, are all wonderful, friendly, helpful, dedicated, and most of all, knowledgeable people. But there was a problem.

The oak wilt site in Highland Park

Now that I was familiar with most of the invasive species present in our parks, I saw them everywhere. I could spot them a mile away along roads, in fields, in the woods, and even in the city.  Everywhere! What a jolt. I had to sort this out somehow. How could we possibly win this battle? The answer, I think, is with more volunteers working with The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy and many other organizations committed to restoring our woodlands. So how could I help? I became a crew leader with the training of the Parks Conservancy. That is how! The more volunteers there are, the more work that can be accomplished. At least I can be part of the solution.

Each experience I’ve had with the Parks Conservancy is remarkable to me and repeated by many others I’m sure. Here are just a few:

  • Finding a dozen tires on my EcoSteward site and carrying them to a designated drop off a hundred yards away. Not only are tires unsightly, but they breed mosquitoes. Here’s to your health!
  • Leading a crew of 6th graders from the Winchester Thurston School who were celebrating the school’s 150th anniversary by planting 150 trees in the Highland Park oak wilt area. I could tell they had loads of fun getting out of the classroom and digging in the dirt.
  • Three pawpaw trees and one redbud volunteered to grow on my site. Deer fence were installed to protect these new trees, thanks to a Highland Park work day crew.
  • Teaching a volunteer how to blow his nose in the woods without a hanky. (Isn’t that what long sleeves are for?)
  • Opening a hydrant (authorization required!)
  • Picking garbage off the hillside above the oval bike loop in Highland Park and selling the recovered scrap metal to help the Pittsburgh Trails Advocacy Group build and maintain multiuse trails on that hillside. To this day, I still walk these trails with my Chihuahua, the fastest Chihuahua in Pittsburgh!
  • Planting dozens of trees on a landslide in Riverview Park, preventing further erosion.
  • Planting ten or so hackberry trees on my site. I carried buckets of water from a seemingly great distance to help those trees survive.
  • Girdling Norway maple and sycamore maple (invasive species) on my site. They eventually die and fall. Watch out!

If I sound excited, it’s because I am. Yes, I get irritated at people who litter. I fall a lot and I get dirty (my balance isn’t what it used be). Poison ivy beats me up at least once a year. But I’m always having fun and learning, thanks to The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy.

Steve Harvan, a long-time volunteer and Urban EcoSteward with The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy. Learn more about Steve and his love of the parks on his blog and photography site.

A cardinal in the park, captured by Steve

What’s in Bloom – A Celebration of Summer Flowers

Highland Park Entry Garden

Asiatic lily (Lilium ‘Apeldoorn’)

Catmint (Nepeta x faassenii Six Hills Giant)

Coral bells (Heuchera x brizoides)

Montauk daisy (Nipponanthemum nipponicum)

Yarrow (Achillea ‘Parker’s Gold’)


Mellon Park Walled Garden

Astilbe (Astilbe)

Daylily (Hemorocallis ‘Happy Returns’)

Hardy geranium (Geranium x ‘Brookside’)

Japanese stewartia (Stewartia pseudocamellia)

Lavendar (Lavandula angustifolia)


Riverview Chapel Shelter

Coreopsis (Coreopsis verticillata ‘Zagreb’)

Tickseed (Coreopsis grandiflora)

Yarrow (Achillea)


Schenley Park Visitor Center

Bee balm (Monarda didyma)

Oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Snow Queen’)