“It’s a beautiful day in the Garden of Make-Believe!” visitors of all ages will exclaim as they walk through its gates. Like Fred Rogers and his Pittsburgh-based television show, the Garden of Make-Believe is a family destination that artfully represents many elements that are uniquely Pittsburgh.
The Fred Rogers Company generously donated the right to use components of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood to the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden, inspiring the storyline for the Garden of Make-Believe. However, the Garden is not a literal replica of the spaces and characters in the television show. Instead, this family garden draws upon the way in which Mr. Rogers connected with his very young audience through experiential, imaginative play and puppetry. Key characters, such as Henrietta Pussycat, serve as hosts in different garden galleries.
Although the Garden depends on natural play to engage its four-year old audience (target age ranges from 0 to 8), it also tells a deep and essential story of the rejuvenating powers of nature. Like many rust-belt cities, the land upon which the Garden sits has been deep mined, strip mined, and drilled for natural gas. The story of how plants help heal the earth is woven throughout the visitor experience and serves as an introduction to the topics upon which the entire Pittsburgh Botanic Garden is founded. In a special way, the Garden of Make-Believe relays the “Steel City’s” journey from one of the most polluted to one of the leading environmentally-conscience cities in the country.
- The Fred Rogers Company