Weekend Getaway: Pittsburgh

“Pittsburgh. One of the most underrated cities in North America. People who’d never been there thought of it as a graveyard of abandoned steel mills, but it’s a beautiful city.” –Steven Burst

I’m never surprised when Pittsburgh makes headlines for being a great place to live or visit. But, I do feel a surge of pride every time I see Pittsburgh listed on an “up and coming” list of US travel destinations.

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The Steel City is small in comparison to larger metropolises, but home to some seriously great attractions, breweries, cocktail bars, and a nationally known culinary scene. Pittsburgh may have a reputation for being a blue-collar sports town, but there’s so much more that makes it an awesome place to spend a weekend.

 

Interesting Attractions

  • Ride the Monogahela Incline or Dusequense Incline for stunning city views
  • Shop the Strip District
  • Check out the city’s cool and quirky museums, a few of my favs:
    • The Mattress Factory: Very cool modern art museum. It’s a personal fav because Yayoi Kusama has a longstanding exhibition here
    • Andy Warhol Museum: This museum has been one of my favorites since high school. Most people associate Warhol with images of Campbell’s soup cans and Marilyn Monroe. The museum helps you appreciate the vastness of Warhol’s influence- he helped shape the entire way a generation thinks and views art
    • Carnegie Museum of Natural History: One of the world’s best dinosaur exhibits, plus a lot of other cool stuff
  • If you visit the Mattress Factory or Andy Warhol Museum and have extra time, stroll the cobblestoned sidewalks of the Mexican War District. While you’re in the area, don’t miss:
    • The Pittsburgh Poetry Houses, they’re nearby the Mattress Factory and a testament to the city’s support of the arts
    • Randyland, a vibrant public art display. You have to visit Randyland to fully appreciate the experience, but it’s one that’ll restore your faith in humanity. Randy, owner of the house, purchased his first building in the neighborhood on a credit card because he fell in love with the architecture, even though it was a rough area. When Randy first discovered the neighborhood, he noticed a lot of empty lots littered with garbage, so he started doing small art projects to clean up the area, which paved the way for Randyland
  • Spend an afternoon at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium or Phipps Conservatory 
    • If you’re visiting the city during the holiday season, Phipps puts on a beautiful winter light show in the botanic gardens
  • Catch a show or check out a gallery in the Cultural District
  • Go for a walk in Frick Park (dog friendly!) or explore some of the trails in Schenley Park
  • Catch a Pirates game at PNC Park (beautiful stadium & great eats)
  • If you’ve got time to explore, head over to Butler Street in Lawrenceville for great shopping, don’t miss Wildcard, No. 14 Boutique and Von Walter and Funk
  • Although touristy, the Just Ducky Tour is fun. As a native, I went on this tour a few years ago and loved it- you learn a lot about the city you wouldn’t find out otherwise

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Where to Eat

  • Pamela’s (Multiple Locations): There’s no better place to fuel up for the day than at Pamela’s, definitely order the crepe-style hotcakes and famous potatoes. Pro-tip: Go early to beat the crowds
  • DeLuca’s (Strip District): Talk to any local, and they’ll be quick to tell you whether they’re a Pamela’s or DeLuca’s person. I enjoy both, but DeLuca’s is my go-to for seasonal pancakes (cinnamon roll! pumpkin!) and big omelets or breakfast burritos
  • Primanti’s (Multiple Locations): Is anything more ‘Pittsburgh’ than Primanti’s? Huuuuge sandwiches stacked with fries and cole slaw, it doesn’t get much better than this
  • Church Brew Works (Lawrenceville): Solid brews, plus pierogi pizza #PraiseHands
  • Meat and Potatoes (Cultural District): Good gastropub, recommend trying the fried brussels sprouts and bone marrow
  • Kara (Strip District): Legit caribbean, dig the green curry vegetables and fish tacos
  • Nicky’s Thai Kitchen (North Side): The pad thai and crab rangoons get two thumbs up
  • Double Wide Grill (Southside): Fun place for Sunday brunch- delish bbq and comfort food
  • Mallorca (Southside): The place for paella and sangria in the ‘burgh
  • Eleven (Strip District): Phenom seafood. Don’t miss the banana cream pie for dessert
  • Burgatory (Waterworks): Boozy milkshakes and build your own burgers, basically the stuff ‘cheat days’ are made of
  • Smallman Street Deli (Squirrel Hill): Do yourself a favor and order a reuben with a side of matzo ball soup
  • Peace, Love and Little Donuts (Strip District): Y’all, these donuts are adorable, come in the cutest flavors, and are so delicious

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Where to Drink

  • Butcher and the Rye (Cultural District): Great food and over 600 types of whiskey, need I say more?
  • Tako (Cultural District): Next to Butcher in the Rye- great queso, tacos and fun margaritas
  • Hidden Harbor (Squirrel Hill): Revival tiki cocktails, what’s not to love?
  • Allegheny Wine Mixer (Lawrenceville): Fantastic wine and yummy snacks
  • Arsenal Cider House (Lawrenceville): So much cider goodness, try a few varieties- you won’t regret it
  • Acacia (Southside): Stellar cocktails in a beautiful space the midst of an area of town where dive bars riegn supreme
  • Bar Marco (Strip District): These guys know what they’re doing, tell the bartender what kind of drinks you like & they’ll whip up a custom creation
  • Penn Brewery (Troy Hill): Order the beer sampler & pierogies
  • Il Tetto (Cultural District): Beautiful rooftop beer garden atop Sienna Mercato
  • Wigle Whiskey (Strip District): Back in the day, Pittsburgh was the epicenter of American whiskey production. Wigle is trying to bring that tradition back, stop by for a tasting or tour
  • Smallman Gallery (Strip District): Good cocktails and local brews
  • Mad Mex (Multiple Locations): Looking for a killer happy hour? Come here for a round of ‘Big Azz’ margaritas ($7, 22 oz = win)
  • And, if you’re really up for a night up- go bar hopping on the Southside. Some of my usual go-to’s: Fat Head’s Saloon (great place to start your night if you want to have a hearty dinner with a pint), Local Bar & KitchenMario’s (dangerous long islands), Piper’s Pub, The Urban Tap, Bar 11 (entertaining would be putting it lightly) and Jack’s for last call

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Where to Have Coffee

Just Outside the City

  • Kennywood: Awesome amusement park, great mix of thrill rides and classic thrills. Great activity for a family visiting Pittsburgh
  • Frank Lloyd’s Falling Water: Falling Water is a house built between 1936 and 1939 over a waterfall in southwest Pennsylvania. Frank Lloyd Wright, America’s most famous architect, designed the house for his clients, the Kaufmann family. It instantly became famous, and today it is a National Historic Landmark

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EXTRA KNOW BEFORE YOU GO INFO

  • Where to Stay: I always stay with my parents or friends in the city when I’m home, but there are a slew of hotels downtown and near Station Square that would be great picks if you want to stay somewhere central
  • How to Get Around: The different parts of Pittsburgh are fairly walkable once you’re there, but you’ll need a car or Uber to get from place to place. Pittsburgh’s subway system, the T, has limited service in the city, and is best used for getting around downtown
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