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My husband and I always enjoy visiting Pittsburgh for a number of reasons. The number one reason we make the 4 1/2 to 5 hour drive west is to visit my brother-in-law who lives there. Pittsburgh is a large city without feeling big and crowded. There’s a lot to do in Pittsburgh. Every time we are out for a visit, there is a new restaurant to try. Of course, there are the old favorites too….eating a Capicola & Cheese sandwich at Primanti Bros is a must for me! There’s just something about the combination of spicy Italian ham, french fries and cole slaw on that soft white bread. Besides eating yummy food, we also enjoy going to watch the Pittsburgh Pirates play at beautiful PNC Park, visiting the birds and penguins at the National Aviary, walking around the Zoo & Aquarium, and taking a stroll down by the river. Downtown is a short walk from my brother-in-law’s house, which we love. Pittsburgh is such a scenic city and I always take a ton of pictures when I visit. Between the bridges, the river, the illuminated buildings at night and the mountains, the views are picturesque.
We decided to go out to Pittsburgh for a long weekend during the first weekend in May. We chose to go out this weekend because it was Marathon Weekend and it is one of the only times the whole city is shut down. This event attracts thousands of runners from all over the country and world. Saturday there is a 5K as well as a Kids’ Marathon followed by the Half-Marathon and Marathon on Sunday. I’ve participated in the Half-Marathon twice and the 5K once prior to this year. I decided to register for the 5K and then my brother-in-law asked me to join his Marathon Relay Team, “Relay & Chill”. So, this is the whole reason we ventured out west to Pittsburgh. My husband was able to use two vacation days so we could extend our trip out there. We left Thursday after he got home from work and returned home the following Monday. Since I am on an extended maternity leave from my position as a teacher, I didn’t have to worry about taking days off from school. We had three full days in Pittsburgh. For past trips to Pittsburgh, my husband took a 1/2 day on Friday so we’d arrive in the city around dinner time. Then, we would head home on Sunday afternoon. We were always bummed to leave on Sunday, especially if it was a weekend I was participating in the half-marathon. This trip, however, we got to relax and enjoy some more time visiting before heading home.
Baby’s First Trip Away From Home
This long weekend in Pittsburgh was our first trip away from home since having our baby girl. Even though we’ve been out to Pittsburgh before, traveling with a 6 month old was a whole new experience for us! Let me just say, I am glad we have the large vehicle we do. Thank goodness for the space in our Honda Pilot! I am not a fan of packing for trips. It just seems to stress me out and cause a lot of unnecessary overwhelm. Now that we had to pack for a baby, the stress was much higher! However, I tried to alleviate this stress by making a list of everything I needed as I went through the day with my daughter. I even made the list as a note on my phone so I could save it for future trips with the ability to modify and add to it. While I prefer good old pencil and paper lists, the note on my phone saves me time and makes it easy to add to as I think of things since my phone is always with me! I love making my lists!
When it came to packing for a baby, I made sure to include at least 2 outfits per day just in case of the occasional blowout or large spit up. One good thing is that we were staying at my brother-in-law’s house, so a washing machine was available! As I did laundry leading up to the weekend, I would put aside outfits. There was no point in putting her clothes away only to take them out again to pack. I actually utilized two laundry baskets for packing….there was one for my husband’s clothes and one for my daughter’s clothes. I simply piled my clothes on the bed in our guest room. In addition to the outfits for each day, I put aside footed sleepers for nighttime, a zip up sweatshirt jacket for warmth and her rain jacket for wet weather. The weather forecast showed cool and rainy weather for the weekend. I made sure to pack a few blankets too!
This long weekend in Pittsburgh was going to be our daughter’s first time sleeping somewhere other than her crib at night (well besides the bassinet in the hospital). We were bringing the Pack N Play to use as her “crib”. In talking to friends and reading about traveling with a baby, it was recommended that you have the baby get used to the Pack N Play before the actual trip. So, for the week leading up to our trip, we put our sweet girl in the Pack N Play for her naps. She seemed to nap well in it so that was a good sign for the weekend! I’m going to Pittsburgh expecting that our daughter will sleep differently than she does at home….new place, new sounds, new smells, different routines/schedule. Since becoming parents, my husband and I have learned to be very flexible and patient.
We decided to purchase a lightweight and compact stroller for traveling. We have a jogging stroller that was part of a travel system and I love it for walking and jogging with our sweet girl, but it is pretty big for just being out and about. I wanted a stroller that was slightly sturdier than the traditional umbrella stroller, but was easy enough to transport and use around the city. My husband didn’t want to lug around the jogging stroller either. We ended up purchasing the Summer Infant 3Dlite Convenience Stroller. This particular stroller was well reviewed on several websites and the price being less than $100 made my husband happy.
Let the drive begin!
The trip out to Pittsburgh was not as easy as we originally thought. We stopped for a quick dinner at Chik-fil-a to save us time stopping later. Chik-fil-a is our go to “Fast Food” chain. Unfortunately, we hit traffic getting to the highway. We got nowhere fast. The GPS was telling us to go a longer way to the highway, but my husband took a more direct way….he quickly realized why the GPS was telling us to go the longer way! Our daughter dozed during the traffic and then woke up not too long after we were on the highway. Our Britax backseat mirror helped us keep an eye on our daughter as well as giving her something to look at. She became very fussy and started crying. I moved to the backseat and tried to entertain her with an empty water bottle, the toys attached to her car seat and playing Peek-a-boo. These things worked for minutes at a time before I told my husband that we should stop at the next rest area. We did not plan to stop this early in our trek. I proceeded to nurse our sweet girl and change her diaper. We continued on. About an hour later, our daughter was being fussy again. Based on the time, I told my husband that it is getting close to her bedtime. She goes to bed around 7ish every night. We decided to stop one more time, which was actually the planned stop from the beginning. My husband topped the car off with gas while I changed our daughter’s diaper and put her in her PJs. I nursed her a little more and then we continued on. Within 30 minutes, our sweet daughter was fast asleep and proceeded to stay asleep for the duration of our drive. Yay!! My husband and I enjoyed some conversation while our daughter peacefully slept in her car seat.
We arrived at my brother-in-law’s house later than planned because of the unanticipated traffic and unscheduled stop. My husband was so patient during the whole drive. He knew this was the nature of traveling with a baby. My brother-in-law was happy we had arrived safely and the car was unloaded. Our daughter did wake up upon arrival. She was very happy to see her Uncle Craig and Uncle Jeff. They hadn’t seen her since her baptism in February so she changed a lot in their eyes. She was more interactive and playful at 6 months than she was at 3 months. Her little personality was definitely shining through those beautiful blue eyes of hers.
After visiting for 30 minutes to an hour, we put our daughter to bed for the night. She was awake and smiling up a storm at her Uncles when we first arrived. Then, the sleepies started to kick in. Jemma starts rubbing her eyes, arching her back, and fussing slightly. It is not quite a cry, but tired moans. I nursed her and rocked her in my arms. She was sound asleep in my arms, but woke up as soon as I laid her down in the Pack N Play. I let her cry for several minutes before picking her up and trying again. She was sound asleep in my arms, but stirred when I put her down. I left the room and went downstairs. We listened to her on the monitor and eventually my husband took a turn. The same thing happened to him so we ended up letting her cry until she fell asleep. We knew she was tired and just needed to find her spot. She was asleep within 30 minutes.
The Zoo, Primanti Bros and the Runner’s Expo
Our first day in Pittsburgh was going to be spent at the Pittsburgh Zoo & Aquarium. Since it was a Friday, both Craig and Jeff had to work during the day. That didn’t matter to us because we were looking forward to spending the day as a family of 3 🙂 Our daughter was up nice and early, around 6:00. So we watched TV together and she played in her Exersaucer. We brought the Exersaucer because she loves jumping in it, it is a familiar activity toy, and it is a safe place for her to go if we are making breakfast, running to the bathroom or unable to be right next to her for a few minutes. While Jemma is not crawling yet, she is rolling around like crazy! We were able to disassemble it easily so it was flat and fit well in the car.
Jemma loves looking at the animals so we were excited to take her to the zoo. We like the Pittsburgh Zoo because it has a small aquarium too and we figured the colorful fish would be interesting for our daughter to watch. Our plan was to arrive at the zoo on the earlier side, close to when it opened. Jemma took her first nap and we decided to leave as soon as she woke up. I fed her, changed her diaper and made sure the diaper bag was all packed for the trip to the zoo!
When we arrived at the zoo, there were LOTS of school buses parked in the lot….Field Trip Friday for some local school children! It was a little chaotic with the school children, because they were running here, there and everywhere. They were moving like lightning from one animal to the next….we were trying not to get in the way with the stroller. It was funny though because Jemma seemed to prefer watching the energetic children and people than the animals. We made our rounds through the zoo and aquarium. Jemma did really well! She definitely enjoyed the aquarium the most! My husband said we should have used our baby carrier instead of the stroller so she had a better view of the zoo animals. We know for next time!
After we saw all of the animals and walked through the aquarium, we realized we were hungry and decided to grab some lunch. There was a new restaurant at the zoo that we thought about trying. It was right next to the Giraffe exhibit, which was really neat. We looked at the menu and it wasn’t anything special…it was the usual chicken tenders, burgers, fries, grilled chicken sandwich, etc. Then, my husband said, “You know, we could leave the zoo and eat somewhere more local. We could get you some Primanti Bros!” This was an AWESOME idea! There happened to be a Primanti Bros fairly close to the zoo so that’s where we went. Jemma had fallen asleep during the final part of our zoo loop and was asleep as we walked back to the car. She woke up when I was getting her out of the stroller so I decided to feed her in the car before we left the zoo.
Primanti Bros was pretty empty and they had outdoor seating. The weather was perfect so we asked the waitress for an outside table. My husband and I enjoyed a relaxing and DELICIOUS Friday lunch 🙂 I, of course, ordered the Capicola sandwich and it was exactly as I remembered it! It had been at least a year since I ordered this sandwich…last time we were in Pittsburgh, I was pregnant so I wasn’t eating deli meats. My husband ordered boneless chicken wings. He actually tried some of my sandwich to see what all the hype was. This type of sandwich isn’t his cup of tea, but it was exciting that he wanted to at least try it! Somehow the combination of french fries and cole slaw just works together on the sandwich. Jemma was happily watching us, the people, the waitress and the cars driving by. She was simply taking in all the sights, sounds, and smells of Pittsburgh.
Our plan for Friday evening was to go walk around the EXPO for Marathon Weekend. My brother-in-law and I needed to pick up our race packet, race bibs and t-shirts. There are tons of vendors set up at this EXPO….it is a runner’s paradise! There was so much for Jemma to see. This was her first race EXPO! After walking around, trying on some shoes, and getting some free things, we left the EXPO to go grab some dinner. It started raining, pouring, while we were in the EXPO. Thankfully, we were parked in the parking garage at the Convention Center. Jemma was getting fussy as we left the EXPO and while we were in the car. I knew she was fussy because she was tired so I put my head close to her and “shhhhhed”. After 5-10 minutes, she was sound asleep. We were almost ready to say, “Hey, let’s eat something at the house and not go out.” Craig and Jeff took us to City Works Restaurant and Bar, which is located in Market Square. City Works serves classic American food with modern twists. I had the Thai Chicken Wraps and they were really good! Jemma ended up staying asleep for most of our time at the restaurant. I kept a blanket over the top of the car seat as a way to muffle the restaurant sounds. When she did wake up, the restaurant was loud so Jemma’s crying wasn’t even heard. It was just part of the noise. I fed her and she was all smiles again 🙂 My nursing cover helps me feel comfortable with breastfeeding Jemma in public places. I never leave home without it!
When we got home from dinner, it was time to give Jemma a bath and put her to bed. Getting her to bed was difficult as she kept waking up the minute we would lay her down. My husband and I took turns sitting with her and she eventually fell asleep by 10:30….we knew her bedtime routine would be different being away from home. She woke up a few times during the night, but thankfully I was able to nurse her and she went back to sleep quickly.
A 3.1 Mile Run, Birds and French Fries
Saturday was the 5K and it was a rainy day! My husband and Jemma walked down with us. I bundled Jemma up in a long-sleeved onesie, zip up hooded sweatshirt jacket and then a thin hooded rain jacket. I also wrapped a thick blanket over her legs. I wish I had brought her mittens to keep her hands covered, but the sleeves of the sweatshirt and rain jacket were long enough that I could pull them over her hands. My husband was able to find covered places to watch my brother-in-law and me during the 3.1 mile race. After we finished, he waited inside a Subway Restaurant to stay warm until we all met up to walk back home. As soon as Jemma saw me, she wanted to be held and taken out of her stroller. She missed her mommy! So I carried her for a little bit. We took Pittsburgh’s version of the Subway, the “T”, back home. One thing we decided to purchase was an all-weather stroller cover to help keep Jemma dry, warm and protected from the wind. We purchased this universal all-weather stroller shield because it would work with our lightweight stroller and jogging stroller.
Saturday afternoon, we took Jemma to the National Aviary. My husband was really excited to take Jemma here because he knew she would love looking at all the colorful birds. My husband loves the Aviary! This is a perfect place to visit on a rainy day. The Aviary can be slightly expensive to visit so my husband and I actually became members of our local zoo. As zoo members, we not only are able to visit our local zoo as often as we want for a full year, but we get reciprocal member benefits at specific zoos and aquariums across the US. This includes the National Aviary! Our zoo membership got us tickets at 50% off!! We love saving money and taking advantage of discounts 🙂
We made an early reservation for dinner at Spork because we wanted to try and get Jemma to bed closer to her regular bedtime. This is one of the restaurants we haven’t visited yet during our trips to Pittsburgh so we were excited to try it! This restaurant serves small-plates and is committed to preparing food from scratch. Their menu is constantly evolving and features fresh pasta. We ordered the Bread & Spreads for the table. This came with an assortment of breads, rolls and different flavored spreads. My husband ordered the French Fries, which were HUGE and the Veal-Beef-Pork Meatballs. I ordered the Smoked Brisket Ravioli, which was delicious and full of flavor! The tomato sauce included kale, carrot and chive oil. Jemma was showing some interest in what we were eating so I gave her a tiny piece of bread…she liked it! We also gave her a little bit of potato from the inside of the French Fries. She liked that too!
The Pittsburgh Penguins were in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and one of the games was on Saturday night. My husband and I have been watching playoff hockey together because the games are very entertaining! There is a lot of fighting and the games are full of high energy. My brother-in-law is a Pittsburgh Penguins fan (I guess it is a requirement living in the city!) so we planned to watch the game. We were able to get Jemma to bed earlier this night and she had a good stretch of sleep. After Jemma was asleep, we played a board game called Ticket to Ride. My husband played this game before when Craig and Jeff were home for Christmas. This was my first time playing it and it was a lot of fun. The goal of the game is to build trains between cities, as designated by cards chosen at the start of the game. At the end of the game, the player with the most points wins.
Marathon Relay Day
Sunday was our last full day in Pittsburgh and the day of the Marathon Relay. Jemma was still asleep when I awoke to get dressed and ready to walk down to the starting corral with my brother-in-law. My husband was going to be in charge of getting Jemma changed, fed and dressed all by himself! I laid out her outfit and everything he would need the night before. I made sure the diaper bag was packed and ready to go. We were actually using a book bag as our diaper bag for the weekend because we found it easier to carry and it fit all the necessities better than our regular diaper bag. We purchased a Vera Bradley Campus Backpack at the outlet a few years ago for our daily trips to Hershey Park and our vacation in Disney World. Outlet shopping for Vera Bradley is the way to go….they usually give you coupons at the door for additional 20-30% off on top of the already discounted outlet pricing. I love the Vera Bradley bags and purses because they are durable and can be washed in the washing machine.
I ran the first leg of the marathon, about 5.3 miles. I chose to run the first leg of the marathon because it was easiest for me with having Jemma. When I was finished, I could hang out with my husband and daughter and watch the other runners. It was nice being able to watch the other runners and do some cheering. Usually, I’m the one running the race and my husband is cheering. This was my first time participating in a Marathon Relay so I didn’t know what to expect, but I would definitely do it again! Our team had so much fun running the marathon. We did really well too so that was a plus!
After our team finished the race, we all went to Bar Louie and hung out. Jemma started to get really fussy while we were in the restaurant and we knew she was just tired. I nursed her and then my husband took over. He rocked her in his arms and put a blanket over top of her to muffle the sounds of the restaurant. She fell asleep and took a nice nap in daddy’s arms. He is such a great father and I love watching him put our daughter’s needs before his own. We enjoyed relaxing and just hanging out with my brother-in-law’s friends. We ordered some drinks and snacks, too. Jemma woke up eventually and she was the popular girl at the table! She was smiling away at anyone who gave her attention. I may be pretty biased, but she is the cutest!
Time to go back and relax! We walked back to my brother-in-law’s house, took showers and just relaxed. Jemma happily played with her toys. Her Uncle Craig got down on the floor and played with her. She was just rolling everywhere! It was a Sunday, which means there is a Nascar Race happening. My husband and his brother are part of fantasy racing. We put on the race and watched it while we relaxed after a busy start to the day. It was really nice not having to drive back home on Sunday. We were glad we extended our stay until Monday. We stayed in for dinner and Jeff prepared Strombolis for us. They were delicious and we enjoyed having a Sunday dinner together. My stromboli had veggies and pepperoni in it while my husband’s was just pepperoni.
Monday came and it was time to pack up and head home. We decided to leave when Jemma was getting tired and ready for her first nap. This had us leaving around 9:00 in the morning. My brother-in-law suggested leaving no earlier than 9:00 anyway because work traffic is bad. So, around 9:00, we were on the road headed back home. Jemma fell sound asleep and proceeded to stay asleep for about 3 hours. Whenever we are driving home from Pittsburgh, we always make it a point to stop in Hershey. Past years we had a season pass so we would enter the park, ride a few coasters, go to Chocolate World, and leave. We don’t have a Hershey Season Pass anymore, but do go to Chocolate World and get a yummy milkshake 🙂 We took Jemma on the chocolate ride. She wasn’t 100% a fan of it, but she was studying everything and taking it all in. This is the first “ride” she has been on. You sit in a buggy and it takes you through a mock version of the Hershey Chocolate Factory, showing you how Hershey Chocolate is made. You get a piece of chocolate when exiting the ride, too. We ordered our milkshakes and got back in the car. Jemma fell back asleep for the last 1 hour stretch until we were home. She did MUCH better in the car driving home than she did going out to Pittsburgh.
Our weekend in Pittsburgh was tons of fun! Traveling with a baby requires flexibility and patience. Our daughter is pretty easygoing when it comes to being out and about during the day, but changes in location and routine definitely affect her sleeping. This weekend trip was much needed as my husband was busy working full-time as a computer programmer and coaching swimming in the evenings. Our time in Pittsburgh was relaxing and was a nice break from the regular work week hustle and bustle. What are some of your favorite places to visit as a family? Share some of them in the comments below!