Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is formerly the steel capital of the country. On my latest visit, I went as a tourist rather than just to attend sporting events as I have in the past. What I found was that Pittsburgh is one of the most exciting cities, full of historical attractions, world-class museums, parks, and delicious restaurants. Here are 7 things I think you will definitely want to check out on your next visit.
#1 CARNEGIE SCIENCE CENTER
Steel magnate Andrew Carnegie’s influence is apparent at the modern educational facility known as the Carnegie Science Center, one of the four Carnegie museums in the city. The Carnegie Science Center has a planetarium along with four floors of hands-on and interactive displays. The world’s largest permanent robotics exhibit is one to be admired while the space exhibit delights guests of all ages.
My favorite part of the museum is the world-renowned Miniature Railroad & Village. This model train diorama is complete with 105 animations including Fallingwater, Luna Park, and the Westinghouse Atom Smasher.
#2 PHIPPS CONSERVATORY
This conservatory and botanical garden is a dynamic tribute to all things green: plant life, energy efficiency, and an oasis in the midst of the city. Looking like a sophisticated New York icon, the Phipps Conservatory is made up of 14 rooms with trees, flowers, bonsai, succulents, and desert plants. The sculptures and glasswork (many from Dale Chihuly) alone are reason enough to visit.
The Phipps Conservatory is not only a Pittsburgh historic landmark, but it is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Opened in 1893, the gardens have provided a world-class experience to its visitors for 125 years. Be sure to grab a tasty snack or dessert at the onsite Cáfe Phipps and watch for the Winter Flower Show, the most anticipated event of the year.
#3 INCREDIBLE FOOD
Pittsburgh is definitely a food-focused town. With fine-dining options to open-late night greasy spoons, chef-inspired eateries to mom and pop diners, the Steel City has a plethora of options guaranteed to satisfy every taste.
Primanti Bros. is a Pittsburgh tradition. This sandwich shop combines a heaping pile of delicious cold cuts, hand-cut fries, and cole slaw on billowy white bread. It is heavenly!
Find the best burgers and shakes (adult shakes, too!) at Burgatory. Ground and hand-formed daily, the 4-meat combination burgers are sensational. The Piggy Butter & Jelly is my fave, with candied bacon, peanut butter, and habanero jelly.
Try one of the Richard DeShantz Restaurant Group restaurants, like Pork and Beans for Texas-style barbeque, craft beer, and roadhouse-inspired decor. Regardless of what seasonal menu item is offered with pimento cheese, order it! Truly fantastic in taste and texture.
Don’t leave Pittsburgh without trying the ultra cheesy Wisconsin Cheddar Cheese popcorn from Pittsburgh Popcorn Company. It is hands-down, the best!
Even take out in Pittsburgh is top notch with ethnic dishes galore and several delivery services.
#4 NATIONAL AVIARY
The largest aviary in the country and the premier bird-zoo is found in the heart of Pittsburgh. This unique offering is home to over 150 bird species, including owls, eagles, condors, and toucans. Exhibits include Lories & Friends (you can purchase food to hand-feed them), Parrot’s Perch, Penguin Point, Andean Condors, Bald Eagles, Steller’s Sea-Eagles, and the Tropical Rainforest. Other things I found interesting, were an adorable sloth and baby armadillos.
You will be privy to amazing photo-ops as you walk through rooms where birds fly around for you to get up close and personal with. The National Aviary has the best collection of birds I’ve ever seen. Make sure to admire the Victoria Crowned Pigeons.
Located on the outskirts of Pittsburgh is the traditional amusement park legend, Kennywood. The park opened in 1899 and has been pleasing families for more than 12 decades. Rides at the park are the Black Widow and Aero 360 (both thrill rides), the Wave Swinger, a variety of coasters, water rides, and those devoted to the little ones. Kids love the 4-D Theater, Whirlwind, Auto Race, and Thomas the Tank & Friends train ride.
Special exhibits at Kennywood are the Holiday Lights Christmas adventure (two million lights!) and Halloween’s Phantom Fright Nights. Honorable mention goes to Kennywood for having three roller coasters (Racer, Jack Rabbit and Thunderbolt named landmark rides by the American Coaster Enthusiasts.
#6 DUQUESNE INCLINE
The Duquesne Incline is an inclined plane railroad near Pittsburgh’s South Side that scales Mount Washington. In the past, these 140 year old cable cars were the primary source of transportation in the area. Now, they are mostly used for fun, shuttling people to a viewing platform that affords incredible views of Pittsburgh. Step back in time with a ride in these old-fashioned cars on one of the only inclines remaining in the country.
From the observation deck and looking across the Allegheny River, you’ll see North Shore, which houses the professional football stadium and baseball park. You can find historical memorabilia inside the railroad station and a welcome center with souvenirs available for purchase.
#7 PITTSBURGH BALLET THEATRE
The Pittsburgh Ballet is an American professional ballet company that has hailed its home in Pittsburgh for 50 years. Performances take place at the Benedum Center. Besides the typical seasonal ballet performances, the theatre also welcomes touring ballet companies and offers year-round classes.
During the Christmas season, see the iconic Nutcracker performance. It is nothing shy of magical! If you add one thing to your holiday planning schedule in Pittsburgh, taking your family to a performance of the Nutcracker should top the list.
WHERE TO STAY
Since I like to stay in the Strip District, I chose to stay at the Homewood Suites by Hilton Pittsburgh Downtown. It is within walking distance of Pittsburgh’s Strip District, home to many diners, coffee shops, shopping, markets, and street vendors.
The Homewood Suites is clean, modern, and offers free breakfast and WiFi. I liked having a separate living room and bedroom, both of which were stylish and comfortable. Penn Avenue is the main drag through the Strip District and parking is limited, so the hotel’s convenient location comes in very handy.
MORE TO LOVE ABOUT PITTSBURGH
This metropolitan city in Pennsylvania is home to the one and only Andy Warhol Museum, as it was Andy’s birthplace and home throughout his college years. This 7-story mecca has more Warhol art and archives than any other museum in the world. You can even take art classes onsite.
Pittsburgh is a river city with the largest number of bridges in the world; 446 at last count. It is here that the Ohio River is formed from the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers. The river is surrounded by lush mountains and skyscrapers. The most popular bridges are three Pittsburgh Gold ones in a row, known as the sister bridges. The middle bridge is the Andy Warhol bridge and it takes you straight to the museum.
Aside from the things I love about Pittsburgh listed above, it is also home to the best sports teams in the country. Visit The Burg to see the Pittsburgh Steelers (football), Pittsburgh Penguins (hockey), and Pittsburgh Pirates (baseball) play.
PITTSBURGH: A THRIVING METROPOLITAN CITY AWAITS YOU
Once you’ve visited the beautiful and bustling city of Pittsburgh, you will understand the devotion of the city’s residents deeply-rooted love for their city. Pittsburgh offers a unique visit with each season so it is always a great time to go there. I hope to hear about the things you love about Pittsburgh after your visit. Safe travels!
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