With the announcement of Tom Hanks playing the lead role in a Fred Rogers’ biopic, “You Are My Friend,” grown-ups that grew up watching the PBS show are in heaven. But, did you know that Mr. Rogers was from Pittsburgh and is a hometown hero? From where to find show artifacts to how to meet his sidekick, Mr. McFeely, here’s an insider’s guide on the fun places to visit in Pittsburgh for Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.
The REAL Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood – 4 Fun Places to Visit in Pittsburgh
True story: Mr. Fred Rogers was my hero growing up. I was a sickly little girl and, when home from school, there were plenty of occasions where he was my “neighbor.” Come to think of it, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood was my go-to show after school as well. Fast forward to present day where he’s still my hero (have you seen the video on how he single-handedly saved PBS funding?) and tributes to my big city hero are highly visible.
I cherish my autograph photo from the 1980s and love the fact that my teen daughter adores him as much as I do. So, with that Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood passion comes knowing where to look to find artifacts from the show. Here are my four favorite spots in and around Pittsburgh.
1. Heinz History Center
With an entire section dedicated to show relics and history, Heinz history Center in The Strip District is a must-visit spot. Not only does it have the original X the Owl and Henrietta Pussycat tree from the Neighborhood of Make Believe, it has the bench where he would change from his dress shoes into those famous blue tennis shoes. There are also some pretty cool displays, including Chef Brockett’s hat and Picture Picture. Seriously, I about fell over with adoration. In my eyes, Picture Picture was the very first “How it’s Made.” Remember that show?
And while you’re getting your Fred Rogers fill, the rest of Heinz History Center is filled with all things Pittsburgh. The kids can learn about Pittsburgh sports teams and how the city of Pittsburgh came to be.
2. Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh
If you have younger kids, a trip to the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh is a really good idea. With three stories of educational fun, there’s plenty to do in the hands-on museum. As for the Fred Rogers fun, kids can learn about who made his sweaters and take a look at the porch swing from the set. What always brings a tear to my eye are the puppets from the Neighborhood of Make Believe.
3. Mr. Rogers Statue
Aptly called “Tribute to Children,” a larger-than-life bronze statue of Fred Rogers tying his famous sneakers sits adjacent to Heinz Field on the North Shore. What I love is the beauty of the 7,000 pound statue; it depicts that fun scene at the beginning of each episode of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. What makes this spot so fun for the kiddos is that they can get up close and see the detail in the statue.
4. Saint Vincent College
Ok, technically not in Pittsburgh proper, Saint Vincent College is home to a substantial amount of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood in its Fred Rogers Exhibit. Filled with items including his famous red sweater and blue sneakers, there are plenty of hands-on activities to keep the kiddos entertained. Remember that famous phrase Mr. McFeeley used to say? There’s a “Speedy Delivery” letter writing station dedicated to the letter carrier that was always in a hurry.
And speaking of Mr. McFeeley…
Where to Meet Mr. Feeley
Mr. McFeeley, aka David Newell, is another Pittsburgh hometown hero that loves keeping the legacy of Fred Rogers alive. And, honestly, it’s pretty easy to meet him if you know when and where. I’ve had the pleasure of shaking Mr. Newell’s hand twice. Both of those times I teared up with a smile on my face. And both of those times was when I was surrounded by fans of the show.
Here’s the scoop on where to meet Mr. McFeeley:
Mr. Rogers Day: Each year on Fred Rogers’ birthday, March 20, Mr. McFeeley makes an appearance at Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh to celebrate the life and love of Pittsburgh’s favorite neighbor. When we visited, he sang songs with the kids, signed autographs, and took photos. It’s a very surreal moment, watching and listening to stories from the show and hearing his voice!
Light-Up Night Pittsburgh: We’ve caught the lighting of the Highmark Unity Tree on Light-Up Night Pittsburgh by Mr. McFeely and made a beeline afterwards for a quit chat and photo near the stage. It’s all about timing for this one!