National Aviary’s New Renovations Make it Essential Pittsburgh

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The National Aviary is essential. Everyone — family, couple, individual — should be visiting.

The institution has spent years expanding and refining its offerings, culminating in last week’s re-opening of the Tropical Rainforest exhibit (more on that later). The result is an ascension to that rarified air of places you simply must visit at least once a year — Phipps, PNC Park, the Warhol, the Aviary. It’s no longer a curiosity or a spot for kids on field trips; it’s a Pittsburgh treasure.

If you get to the Aviary in time for the 2:30 falconry show — yes, you’ll watch live and very impressive birds of prey hunt — you can then take the remaining two hours of the Aviary’s day to slowly wander from room to room. This isn’t a call to spy an animal, gawk for a moment and move on to the next enclosure; rather, the way to encounter the Aviary is to sit and watch, almost meditatively.

My favorite spot to do this is the Grasslands exhibit, where tiny, elegant colored birds flit from one side of the room to the other. If you stay still, you can observe the intricate patterns, like stained glass, shading their feathers. Often, they’ll take a curious approach to your feet, wondering what this gentle monster a hundred times their size is doing stomping about.

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