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    Pittsburgh Pennsylvania: what to see in the city and its surroundings

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    Joel Fulleda

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    We are in southwestern Pennsylvania for a journey to discover the cities of Hershey (chocolate museum), Lancaster and Amish County, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, our destination that rises around The Point (the tip), the place where rivers Monongahela and Allegheny team up to create the Ohio River, one of the main tributaries of the Mississippi. Pittsburgh it is no longer the frontier country it once was, now it is a city that boasts an excellent quality of life, one of the best places to live in the States with a clean downtown that can also be enjoyed on foot and by bicycle.

    But despite these prerogatives we are in a very active reality, we are faced with an industrial context in the food, electrical and above all technology sectors. Starting from the early 19th century Pittsburgh's proximity to major coal deposits and the presence of rivers have made it one of the most important industrial cities in the world, particularly in the steel industry, which has given it the nickname Steel City (city of steel). After the economic crisis of the seventies, Pittsburgh managed to recover thanks to a reconversion towards high technology and culture.


    • What to see in Pittsburgh
      • The museums of the city
      • Parks and natural attractions
      • The University
      • The panoramic points
    • City tour
    • How to get around the city
    • Day excursions
    • Shopping tips
    • Sport in Pittsburgh
    • Pittsburgh events
    • Where to eat
    • Where to sleep in Pittsburgh

    What to see in Pittsburgh

    In this city of over 300.000 inhabitants and a metropolitan area that has just under 2,4 million, we find a historic district, a cultural district with many theaters, then museums, many art galleries, high-level shows, symphony orchestras , dance clubs and there is even a casino. And for sports fans this is a “city of champions” that is home to three professional-level teams, the Steelers (football), the Penguins (hockey) and the Pirates (baseball).

    The bridges of Pittsburg The various bridges that connect the banks to the sides of the rivers are an architectural value that adds to the interesting contrast between modern and ancient suggesting the further name of city of bridges but when they told us there are more than 400 we stopped counting them! At sunset the bridges light up, the buildings are tinged with warm tones and at night the top floors of some skyscrapers glow with color.

    The museums of the city

    We cross the river via the Fort Duquesne Bridge (I-279) and arrive in the North Side where various points of interest await us starting from Carnegie Science Center (1 Allegheny Ave.), four floors of exploration and knowledge: interactive exhibits, a planetarium, a miniature village with the railway and the moving train, an exhibit of Lego, robotics and study of the human body. Really interesting. (Mon to Sun 10 am-17pm, Thurs 10 am-19pm. Adults $ 19.95, ages 55 and up $ 14.95 and over 2 years $ 11.95).

    Bicycle Heaven (1800 Preble Ave.) is an unusual bicycle museum, free of charge, with many models dating back to different eras and related objects; it is worth visiting because it is atypical, something that is not often seen and with rooms arranged in an artistic way. (every day 10 am-19pm).

    Founded in 1977, the Mattress Factory (500 Sampsonia Way) is a contemporary art museum consisting of three buildings that house modern works, real works of fantasy, created by artists from all over the world who reside in the city. The support of this institution allows them to continue and develop the business. In some cases the rooms themselves are one with the work, forms of art in which one enters in the true sense of the word; a museum where inspiration is not lacking. (Mon to Sat 10 am-17pm, Sun 13 pm-17pm. Adults $ 10, seniors and students $ 8).

    The colorful exteriors of theAndy Warhol Museum (117 Sandusky St.) are simple and linear in harmony with the neighborhood in which it is located but the interiors are ultra-modern in line with the protagonist born in Pittsburgh in 1928 and creator of American pop art. In this collection, the largest in the world dedicated to a single artist, we find paintings, videos and film clips from his archives. (Tu-Thu, Sat-Sun 10-17, Fri 10-22. Adults $ 20, over 65 and children $ 10 - Friday from 17 to 22 half price). It should be noted that in the city a bridge over the Allegheny river was dedicated to him next to the Clemente bridge.

    Moving widely within Pittsburgh from bridge to bridge means having a good view of the layout of the city. We return to downtown through the Veterans Bridge (I-579) and reach the Senator Heinz History Center (1212 Smallman St.), a former factory with five exhibition floors that tell 250 years of Western Pennsylvania history and of course the history of the Heinz company with its products and the famous tomato ketchup distributed in 200 countries around the world. Also very interesting is the section "from slavery to freedom", which traces the history of slaves up to their freedom. The complex also hosts periodic exhibitions. (daily 10 am-17pm. Adults $ 18, seniors $ 15, students aged 6-17 $ 9).

    Il Carnegie Museum of Art (4400 Forbes Ave.) consists of a series of beautifully lit galleries with collections ranging from ancient sculptures to impressionists and post-impressionists such as VanGogh, Klimt, Pissarro, Monet, Cezanne and then works by modern painters; is a comprehensive overview of the history of art, full of pieces of great value. The Hall of Sculpture is a two-story hall with columns and plaster statues from the classical era; it is the replica of the interior of the temple of Athena which is located in the Greek capital. Next to it the Hall of Architecture showcases reproductions of classical, medieval and Renaissance architectural details. (from July to August Mon-Sat 10-17, Sun 12-17 / from September to June closed on Mondays. Adults $ 19.95, seniors $ 14.95 and children $ 11.95).

    Il Carnegie Natural History Museum it is located in the same complex (which also houses the Music Hall) with the same costs and times. This museum is really interesting and definitely worth a visit. The section on minerals is huge and spectacular. We liked the sections dedicated to American Indians and Inuit populations as well as the possibility of touching some animal skins and then the skeletons of dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals are always of great effect.

    Parks and natural attractions

    Surrounded by skyscrapers, Market Square (intersection of Forbes Ave. and Market St.) is the symbolic square of downtown. There is a pleasant atmosphere, live music concerts are held and someone here also practices yoga; there are trees and we appreciate the presence of some shops (including one for Christmas items) but above all we notice various places where people eat or take a break.

    Point State Park (301 Commonwealth Sq.) Is a large green area of ​​nearly 15 hectares that includes the remains of Fort Pitt and Fort Duquesne. The name of the park highlights the pointed shape of the extremity (facing the confluence of the two rivers) which houses the spectacular fountain of the same name, a distinctive city sign. This large open space, also called The Point, is a location of great appeal for residents and visitors as well as an ideal venue for events and exhibitions.

    National Aviary (700 Arch St.), a beautiful experience in the world of birds from all continents that we meet in areas where they can fly freely and in other moments of entertainment and shows. Outside the structure there are picnic tables for a pleasant relaxation. (every day 10 am-17pm. Adults $ 16, seniors and kids from 2 to 12 $ 14).

    Il Phipps Conservatory & Botanical Gardens (1 Schenleny Dr.) is not just a wonderful botanical park. Founded in 1893 inside Schenley Park, it consists of various sections including the "enchanted forest", the "forest of butterflies", "music of the plants", "wind sculptures" and other corners to be discovered for a party of the senses. (Mon to Sun 9.30-17, Fri 9.30-22. Adults $ 17.95, over 62 $ 16.95 and from 2 to 18 years $ 11.95).

    In the Highland Park area, north of downtown, lo ZOO & PPG Aquarium (7370 Baker St.) is one of the many points of interest. In its great extension there are almost 500 species of animals and more than 4000 specimens, some of which are particularly protected to avoid extinction. (every day 09.30-18. Adults 16 $, over 60, 15 $ and children 14 $).

    The University

    Further east than downtown Heinz Memorial Chapel (S. Bellefield Ave.) is a very beautiful Gothic church and so are the arches and stained glass windows; in reality everything is very appreciable, both the exteriors and the interiors. (it should be noted that the term "chapel" is absolutely reductive). From here to Cathedral of Learning and at Nationality Rooms (at the University of Pittsburgh, 4200 5th Ave.) the route is short. We are in the presence of two must sees in an important university reality.

    The "Cathedral of Knowledge" was rightly baptized this way because it was a church and now university courses are held inside it. The 42-storey building we visit is in the late Gothic style, with a tower shape, with a charming interior and the central atrium that reminded us of Hogwarts school and Harry Potter. In addition to the actual classrooms, there are spaces used for various functions, such as a theater, computer area and food court for catering. The city view from the 34th floor is really worth it.

    Audio tours are available on weekends when the school season is running (from autumn to spring), while in the remaining months there are guided tours (Mon. to Sat. 9-16, Sun 11-16. Adults $ 4, children from 6 to 18 years 2 $). Do not miss the 30 "nationality rooms" (rooms of nations), classrooms that develop on the first three floors with authentic furnishings dedicated to the different ethnic groups present in the city, to name a few: Korean, Russian, Syrian, Lebanese, Turkish, Indian , Israeli; an important project designed to strengthen the sense of friendship. When classrooms are not used for lectures or other university functions they are available for tours. For this reason it may be useful to inquire on the official website.

    The panoramic points

    We cross the Smithfield Street Bridge and we are on the south bank of the city, in the del Washington more precisely in the Grandview Overlook, the rooftop terrace at 136-160 Grandview Avenue overlooking downtown. But it doesn't end there because after this great scenic spot we know we can do even more.


    We continue towards 1197 W. Carson Street to get on the inclined railway Duquesne Incline and once again enjoy spectacular views as the two streams join together to create the Ohio River. (Adults $ 3, ages 6 to 11 $ 1.25).

    City tour

    There are several ways to see the corners of Pittsburgh: by car, by bike, on foot, by Segway, trolley, boat, bus or riverboat. If you want to rely on a private tour to discover the city you can take a look at the link below.

    Pittsburgh city tour

    If beer is your passion, take a look at the themed tour that will take you to discover the best breweries in the city by clicking on the link below.

    Pittsburgh Brewery Tour

    How to get around the city

    The tram network, called The T, is free under the so-called Golden triangle: Wood Street Station, US Steel Tower and First Avenue, as you can see from the map.

    It consists of only two lines: the blue one and the red one so it is quite simple to use even by those visiting the city for the first time. If you intend to move only within the "center" it is therefore an excellent free solution to enjoy the city without walking too much.

    Day excursions

    Pittsburgh pleasantly surprised us but other places await us to discover at short distances. Eight kilometers southeast of the city, the Kennywood Amusement Park (4800 Kennywood Blvd. - West Mifflin) was a simple amusement park at the time of its founding in 1905, one of the first playgrounds with electric lights. It is now an amusement park with state-of-the-art roller coasters, a stunt show and a beautiful antique carousel with hand-carved animals. (park operations are generally 10.30-22 but varies depending on the season and the weather - day ticket: adults $ 46.99, children $ 27.99, seniors $ 20.99).

    Approximately 90 minutes southeast of Pittsburgh, the "house on the waterfall ”by Frank Lloyd Wright named Fallingwater (1491 Mill Run Rd. In Mill Run in the Bear Run Natural Reserve) is one of the particular residences built by the famous architect in 1936, a clear example of his interest in structures that are an integral part of the landscape. The particular terraced shape above the water fall is an image that has made and continues to go around the world. Given the demand, it is advisable to buy tickets online well in advance. Open to the public from 10am to 16pm with an admission fee of $ 3; pre-booked tours cost $ 30 but there are other more expensive options, such as lunch or sunset).

    While in the area, the neighbor Ohiopyle State Park (7 Sheridan St., Ohiopyle) is well worth a visit for the beauty of nature, for white water rafting, or for jogging, biking and cross-country skiing in the winter.

    About an hour and a half south of Pittsburgh, the House on Kentuck Knob (723 Kentuck Rd. - Chalkhill) is another example of Frank Lloyd Wright's architecture not far from the waterfall house and Ohiopyle park. The materials used for the construction, sandstone and red cypress wood, blend harmoniously with the surrounding environment. An open plan, overhanging overhangs and the use of many windows blend the interior with the exterior while the surrounding panorama of the mountains and hills is breathtaking. It is possible to visit the house on a 40-minute tour at a cost of $ 25 for adults and $ 18 for ages 6 to 18. Times vary a lot depending on the day and the season.

    About an hour and forty-five minutes southeast of Pittsburgh, not far from the House on Kentuck Knob, the Flight 93 National Memorial (6424 Lincoln Hwy near Stoystown), brings to mind the tragic events of September 11, 2001. Visiting the memorial is not only a way to honor the victims of that flight, but leads to meditating, praying and spreading the hope that events like this no longer happen. (every day 9-17, free).

    About 45 minutes north of Pittsburgh we recommend the excursion to Penn’s Colony Village (365 Saxsonburg Blvd. - Saxsonburg) for a trip to Indian and French times at the end of the 18th century in a full-blown colonial village. Note that George Washington visited this region in 1753. Admission costs $ 8 for adults, $ 6 for ages 60 and up and $ 5 for ages 8 to 15. In September the Penn’s Colony Festival, a historical event with "artisans of the time", demonstrations of the daily routine of those times, music and activities.  

    Shopping tips

    Desire of Shopping in Pittsburgh? This is exactly the right place because the taxes on clothing, shoes and basic necessities are "0". The downtown of Pittsburgh is compact and with many small shops and boutiques. And then in all the neighborhoods there is an eclectic mix of proposals for every need. Trendy and luxury fashion can also be found at Ross Park Mall (1000 Ross Park Mall Dr.) with over 170 retailers.

    If you are looking for souvenirs and items created by local artisans, the Visitor Center at 120 Fifth Avenue has a good selection. (Monday to Saturday 10 am-21pm, Sunday 11 am-18pm). We mention it Strip District in the Heinz Center area and beyond (north east of downtown); this neighborhood is ideal for shopping and enjoying culinary delights.

    Sport in Pittsburgh

    Il PNC Park (115 Federal St.) houses the great arena of the Pirates (the local heroes of baseball), which can be visited in different times and ways depending on whether the championship is in progress or not. But regardless of the interest in this sport, from the stadium the view of the river, the downtown and the Clemente Bridge it is remarkable. Speaking of the latter, it is customary for lovers to place padlocks along the sides of the bridge as a sign of good luck.

    Watch a Pirates match

    I Pittsburgh Steelers they are one of the teams that have made the history of American football. Six Super Bowl winners have a very warm and loyal audience and play their games atHeinz Field which rises on the bank of the Allegheny River.

    Watch a Pittsburg Steeler game

    Pittsburgh events

    There are many events taking place throughout the year in Pittsburgh. The Irish community celebrates its traditions with the San Patrick’s Day Parade in February and theIrish Festival in September. In May the Wine Pittsburgh Festival (PNC Park - 115 Federal St.) gathers wine enthusiasts who visit stands of local and foreign producers and test traditional nectars and new creations. In some locations (Point State Park, downtown and cultural district), art and music are the protagonists for ten days in June in the free event Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival with over 350 artists from various disciplines who sell their works in the "artists market" and propose their melodies.

    Also in June, for fans of music and jazz in particular, the Pittsburgh Jazz Live International Festival it's a whole weekend of great sound and dancing and the downtown streets are transformed into a huge jazz club. In July the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix (Schenley Park - Schenley Dr. & Darlington Rd.) Is a ten day event dedicated to vintage cars, on display and in competition. In August the Pittsburgh Three Rivers Regatta it is a three-day event with boats competing in the scenic setting of the three rivers and then lots of music, fireworks, street vendors, food and activities for children; a moment of great appeal for the community and for those who are visiting.

    The holidays Christmas begin already in November with the celebration of Light Up Night when the Christmas trees are lit, ice sculptures are erected and then music and fireworks set the mood. In December it is also the time to piratefest (PNC Park, 115 Federal St.) whose name may be misleading; nothing to do with buccaneers and skull flags. In the city these pirates are known and loved because the event is linked to the local baseball team, the Pirates. Fans certainly don't miss the chance to take a photo with their heroes and get autographs. Less than 40 minutes by car, in West Newton, one feels immersed in the 16th century during the Pittsburgh Renaissance Festival (112 Renaissance Ln. - August / September) with theatrical events, interactive artistic moments, jugglers, crafts, food and lots of people in period costumes.

    Where to eat

    In Pittsburgh, the choice is also very wide in terms of catering. Pamela’s Diner (60 21th St.) is a very nice place in the style of the 50s, ideal for breakfast and brunch with themed tables and decorations. It is located in the Strip District, a pleasant area for strolling especially on weekends. The environment is pleasant and the staff are polite and efficient. At certain times it is not surprising that the queue clears up quite quickly. Highly recommended for omelette and pancake lovers because here they have created a hybrid, the hotcake with a great variety of fillings. The cost is moderate, the portions are generous and let's not forget that this place has been visited by celebrities including the Obamas.

    Meat & Potatoes (649 Penn Ave.) is a place where they serve excellent food: dishes with eggs, chorizo, cheeses, all types of meat and we must say that the service is also one of the plus points. This casual restaurant is a bit noisy at certain times of the day because it is always busy, but once you try it you want to come back. It would be nice to book in advance.

    Il Grand Concourse (100 West Station Square Dr.) is located inside an old station on the banks of the Monongahela River. Near the restaurant there is free parking for two hours if the ticket is validated by the restaurateur. The furnishings are in Victorian style, the room is refined and inviting, so it is important to book in advance especially for Sundays. The restaurant specializes in fish but also all the other meat proposals and other dishes are excellent, including the menu for children and for food intolerances. The costs of lunch and dinner are medium-high, but the atmosphere and the quality of the proposals justify the expense. Sunday brunch is a perfect solution to visit this place without exceeding the expense (09.00 - 15.00, adults $ 29, children $ 16), in the same way is the happy hour with a dedicated menu, from Monday to Friday from 16.30 to 19.

    Wiener World (626 Smithfield St. - at the Monaco hotel) is the world of hot dogs but also sub (sandwiches) and similar dishes. When you are in the mood for a meal in this style there are many versions to try, the food is delicious and carefully prepared. The place is clean and the staff are super friendly. Not personally tested but recommended on site, we recommend to hot dog enthusiasts D’s Six Pax and Dogz, (1118 S. Braddock Ave.), while for the specialty based on filled pasta (pierogi) the The Church Brew Works (3525 Liberty Ave.) seems to be a very popular stop in a charming former church where excellent beer is also produced.

    Where to sleep in Pittsburgh

    Mansions on Fifth

    Here are our tips for stay overnight in the city. It is not strictly necessary to stay in the center and maybe spend more as the points of interest are scattered over a wide range of Pittsburgh. The hotels in the heart of downtown have parking facilities but for a fee. We have tried to avoid it.

    About 5 kilometers from the center and 25 from the airport we point out theHoliday Inn Express Pittsburgh West Greentree (875 Grentree Rd.) With modern and spacious rooms equipped with microwave, refrigerator, coffee / tea maker and free local calls. The hotel rate includes breakfast, wi-fi and use of the fitness center, heated indoor pool and parking.

    THEHampton Inn Pittsburgh Greentree (555 Trumbull Dr.) is about 5 kilometers from downtown and offers a free shuttle service to and from downtown. Rooms have coffeemakers, mini-fridges, and microwaves. Included in the rate are breakfast, wi-fi, fitness center, seasonal outdoor swimming pool and parking. There is also a meeting room and a business center on the property. It is located near a river area where rowing, kayaking and rafting activities are practiced, nineteen kilometers from the Zoo and the PPG Aquarium.

    Il Shadyside Inn All Suites Pittsburgh (5405 5th Ave.) is located in the neighborhood of the same name (east of downtown) with shops, restaurants, art galleries, historic houses and tree-lined streets, in a good position to reach the center and the area of ​​the University of Pittsburgh which has significant points of interest. Suites are modern, with full kitchens and living rooms. The hotel has parking and free Wi-Fi, business center, fitness center, laundry service, use of bicycles and concierge service.

    In the same Shadyside neighborhood, 10 minutes from downtown, we point out the Mansions on Fifth (5105 5th Ave.) with elegant rooms and suites, some of which feature fireplaces and whirlpool tubs. The rate includes breakfast, parking, fitness center and wi-fi. The veranda overlooks the area called “Millionaire's Row” (Ridge Ave. and Lincoln Ave.) known for its sequence of splendid 19th century residences.

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