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The Short Version: The National Aviary, located in Pittsburgh, is a stunning place to visit, especially on a date. The nonprofit’s bird and animal habitats can serve as a picturesque backdrop for a romantic moment, and daters can take part in an unforgettable experience at the aviary’s bird shows, special events, and hands-on activities. Some couples have even taken their love to new heights by planning a proposal or booking a wedding at the National Aviary.
Love bloomed at the National Aviary during the first annual Wings and Wildlife Art Show held in 1988. Dozens of artists set up shop among the birds during the weekend event, and the festive atmosphere led two kindred spirits to find one another in the crowd.
Local painter Maria DeSimone didn’t go to the National Aviary to look for a relationship. She went to look for beautiful birds to paint. Yet, as she showcased her work in the wetlands habitat, an artist just outside the glass doors caught her eye.
“Even all these years later, I can still remember exactly what he was wearing,” she told us. “As soon as he walked in the door, it was weird, but I thought, ‘He’s the guy I’m going to marry.'”
Johno Prascak was just there to see if he could turn his painting hobby into a career, but then he saw Maria, and his life changed.
“I didn’t hear angels or bells, but I did hear birds chirping,” he joked. “Sometimes you have these moments in life, and you don’t realize how special they are. But, looking back, that day was an important stepping stone for me. Maria is the best person I know.”
Johno and Maria dated for about six months before becoming officially engaged, and they’re now happily married. “It all started at the aviary,” Maria said. “If it weren’t for that art show, we may not have met, so it’s a really special place to us.”
Johno and Maria aren’t the only ones who have shared a romantic moment at the National Aviary. Countless couples have visited on dates, and some have even chosen to have their weddings there. The aviary is the largest stand-alone bird conservatory in the U.S., and it gives visitors plenty of space to marvel at and appreciate nature.
From the wetlands to the Tropical Rainforest, the National Aviary is an enchanting place to start a love story and create memories that will last a lifetime.
The National Aviary is on a mission to save birds of all species and protect their natural habitats. It features over 500 birds across 150 species, and it also houses three types of mammals: armadillos, bats, and sloths. Wookie the two-toed sloth is a particular favorite among visitors in the tropical rainforest habitat.
A passionate team of environmentalists, biologists, researchers, business professionals, volunteers, and other animal lovers come together to care for the birds and educate the public.
“What unites us all is a love for the natural world and a desire to protect it,” said Robin Weber, Senior Director of Marketing and Communications at the National Aviary. “The National Aviary is a great place to learn about birds by getting an up-close experience with them.”
The aviary’s many exhibits encourage people to learn about and appreciate the many different types of birds in the world from the singing canaries to the majestic birds of prey.
You’ll see all types of people wandering from exhibit to exhibit. The National Aviary serves as common ground for nature lovers of all ages. It offers a quiet, family-friendly place for parents with children as well as a hands-on date spot for couples young and old looking to shake up their routine.
The National Aviary is a nonprofit, so it relies on its donors, members, and volunteers to support its conservation efforts and help raise awareness about the importance of preserving the natural world. Find out how you can support the National Aviary and ensure future generations can enjoy the condor court, cloud forest, wetlands, grasslands, and other exhibits.
“We want to provide unique opportunities for people to connect with the birds in meaningful and memorable ways,” Robin said. “We want to inspire our visitors to care about the world and help protect it.”
Throughout the year, the National Aviary brings in a crowd during social events and educational activities. These events give people the chance to learn a little about the birds they love and to socialize in a unique setting. The aviary has hosted many art shows, fundraisers, cocktail hours, and informational talks to excite interest among locals.
Robin said the events keep getting bigger and better year after year, and the aviary’s plans for a brand-new event space gives them even more opportunities to create special experiences among the birds.
Every December, the aviary becomes a Winged Wonderland that dazzles visitors with festive music, holiday lights, and exclusive offerings at the gift shop. The aviary even invites Santa to drop in and get the children all atwitter.
Daters can check the National Aviary’s calendar to see the fun and educational events coming up this month. The calendar is full of potential date activities, particularly on the weekend, so you can hatch a plan for an unforgettable date.
And, of course, the National Aviary is a celebrated wedding venue with an impressive 5-star rating on The Knot. The venue offers a once-in-a-lifetime event with room for anywhere from 15 to 500 guests. The aviary has beautiful indoor and outdoor locations, and the team can take care of every little detail to get a remarkable wedding off the ground.
“The event team at the Aviary was great to work with,” said Andie A. in a review. “Our guests loved the venue, and they especially loved the penguin that we had for our cocktail hour!”
The National Aviary’s VIP Experience draws back the curtain, unlocks the cage, and invites individuals to step into the bird’s world. These experiences are customizable to small groups and couples. VIP guests can choose whichever type of bird that interests them most (including birds of prey) and get an up-close, interactive experience with that bird.
The couples who choose to do these experiences together often end up with wonderful pictures and memories. Most of these encounters include hand feedings, and they also allow you to touch the birds and form a connection with them at close range.
Whether you’re staring down an owl or chatting up a parrot, these bird encounters are the type of thing you’ll be talking about for years to come, and that’s perfect for daters hoping to make an impression.
Plus, the National Aviary team is always willing to play wingman if you have a special romantic idea (like a proposal) in mind. Chris Pope called on the National Aviary to help him pull off a unique proposal during a group penguin encounter.
Chris’ girlfriend Danielle Smerecky has always wanted to have a pet penguin, so he knew it would be extra special to propose in front of his girlfriend’s favorite animal. “This was perfect in every way, especially since I designed the engagement ring with sliding penguins on the sides,” he said.
The National Aviary’s penguin guide took the couple to meet a penguin named Goldie and gave an educational presentation about penguins. At the end of her talk, she asked pointedly, “Does anyone have any questions?” Which was Chris’ cue to get down on one knee. Danielle said yes without hesitation, and the newly engaged couple took a picture with Goldie and the ring.
“I owe many thanks to the National Aviary team for keeping everything so secret and special for us,” Chris said. “It was a perfect day, and so many amazing memories were made.”
“It’s always wonderful to see people come together in our space,” said Robin. “The couples have a particularly special place in our hearts because it’s so meaningful to see them choose National Aviary to share those unforgettable moments.”
Since it opened its doors in 1952, the National Aviary has maintained a beautiful and thoughtful environment where people can come together to honor nature. And sometimes couples also find romance in the aviary. In 1988, two artists fell into a conversation by the railing in front of a pelican habitat, and they started a love story that would last for decades.
After 30 years together, Maria and Johno still frequently visit the National Aviary to sell their artwork, relive their love story, and enjoy the friendly, carefree atmosphere. These two lovebirds said the aviary is a truly remarkable place in Pittsburgh, and they’re proud to have met there.
Maria told us she visits the aviary whenever she can and hopes to eventually paint every bird in every habitat. “I’d live there if I could. It’s such a peaceful place. Everyone there is so happy. It’s magical,” Maria said. “And as for dating, well, you never know who will walk through those doors.”