Jeramey Jannene
Urban Tour Guide

Pittsburgh

By - Jun 12th, 2010 10:14 am
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In an attempt to broaden our horizons, we reached out to other city-focused blogs across the Midwest. Our goal is to provide a quality tour guide for city-lovers in each large Midwestern city. We asked each of our writers recommend around 10 things that can be done in their city and to orientate the guide around someone staying at a downtown hotel without a car (including transit options if anything was outside of walking distance). Each guide author took things in a slightly different direction, and the resulting collection of articles has something for everyone.

Our second profile is of Pittsburgh, and is written by Cara Jette (who blogs under the name illyrias).

I’ve been working my way slowly west and south throughout the country – starting  in Boston, going to Albany for school, then Southwest Connecticut for my first job. For the last 3 years, I’ve been (mostly) in Pittsburgh, a city which has tons to offer anyone with a dream. I blog for both PGH is a City and The Green Agenda.

Pittsburgh

I recommend flying into the lovely and hassle-free Pittsburgh International Airport and taking the Airport Flyer (28X) from the airport straight to downtown. You’ll avoid most traffic because the bus runs on a special busway, a highway solely for buses, and it’s also the cheapest way to downtown. Buses run every 30 minutes. The trip takes about an hour.

Once downtown, check into the historic and opulent Omni William Penn Hotel. If you search around online, you can often find great deals on this hotel. Downtown Pittsburgh is also known as the golden triangle and compact enough to be walked on foot. However, if you need a cab, you’ll find always find one sitting outside this hotel. If you’re lucky enough to show up on a quarterly Downtown Gallery Crawl night, then settle in for a night of gallery hopping. Even if there’s not an official gallery crawl, check out the Wood Street Galleries downtown – they’re located directly above the Wood street T station and open until 8PM Friday and Saturday. This free gallery gets internationally reknowned artists to exhibit on a regular basis. Then, head over to the Andy Warhol Museum for “Good Fridays” where the iconic museum is half-off from 5 to 10PM and they have a cash bar. To reach the Warhol Museum from downtown, just walk across the Andy Warhol bridge and follow the signs.

Saturday morning, the place to be is the Strip District – also known as foodie and Steeler-fan heaven. It’s a hard call to say whether this neighborhood sells more pounds of freshly-roasted coffee, frozen shrimp, or Steeler’s tee-shirts, but it’s your source for all of the above and more. The Strip District is an easy walk from downtown, just head away from downtown on Penn Ave until you see the crowds. You can choose from any number of great greasy diners (including Deluca’s, Pamela’s, and Jojo’s) or you can nibble your way through Enrico’s biscotti, Korean pancakes, La Prima espresso, pad thai noodles, and Reyna’s tacos by walking down the street and stopping at the many outside vendors. If you happen to be there after 5PM, you may find the crowds have dwindled and some of the shops have closed up, but you will still be in for a treat if you stop at Embury, the pre-prohibition cocktail bar at 2216 Penn Ave.

One of the most striking buildings in Pittsburgh is the iconic Cathedral of Learning. This building is in Oakland, the university district of Pittsburgh. Oakland is home to the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University, and many other schools. The Cathedral was built between 1926 and 1931 as the centerpiece of the University of Pittsburgh. It is open for tours daily between 9AM and 2:30PM, except for Sundays and holidays when the tours start at 11AM. The tour visits the 27 spectacular nationality rooms which represent Pittsburgh’s diverse cultural history. While in Oakland, take some time to admire (or stop in) the giant Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, the Carnegie Museum of Art, the Carnegie Museum of National History, and the Phipps Conservatory. Or just go for a stroll through the lovely Schenley Park. To reach the Oakland neighborhood of Pittsburgh from downtown, walk over to 5th Ave and Ross St and hop on any 61 bus or 71 bus. Hop off when you see the big tower – about 15 minutes. Buses run at least every 10 minutes during the day.

Sunday is your day to get outside in Pittsburgh – whether that’s enjoying a cheap baseball game at the scenic PNC park, renting kayaks to take in the view of skyscrapers from the river at Kayak Pittsburgh or going for a bike ride. Forgot your bike? Golden Triangle Bike Rental will take care of you with 3 convenient locations including 600 First Avenue downtown. Pittsburgh has a great network of riverside trails and dedicated bike bridges. Lastly, I’d be remiss in not mentioning the incline. Walk across the Smithfield Street Bridge skipping the tourist trap that is restaurants and shops at Station Square, then take the Monongahela incline up to the top of Mt Washington for the classic downtown Pittsburgh view. While you’re up top, stop for ice cream or a meal at one of the many restaurants.

Of course, the reason I love Pittsburgh is the random activities that pop up on a weekly basis. From Johnny Cash festivals to Pirate-themed triathalons to keg rides, you’ll hear about the weekend’s events on the Friday morning round-up on i heart PGH.

If you’re staying in a new city, finding a good meal can be the toughest parts of traveling. Here are some of the best bets for downtown food:

  • Primanti Brothers – The most well-known restaurant in Pittsburgh where the fries come on the sandwich. (2 South Market Square, Pittsburgh, PA 15222)
  • Sammy’s Corned Beef – A down-to-earth hole-in-the-wall for no-frills corned beef sandwiches. (420 Smithfield Street, Pittsburgh )
  • Seviche – Latin-inspired tapas along with refreshing mojitos – also one of the most popular spots downtown if just because of their spectacular happy hour. (930 Penn Avenue Pittsburgh, PA 15222-3734)
  • Sharp Edge – Nationally known for their Belgian beer selection, this small local chain is in the process of  opening up their first downtown location. (922 Penn Avenue Pittsburgh, PA 15222)

Thanks again to illyrias from PGH is a City.

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One thought on “Urban Tour Guide: Pittsburgh”

  1. colucci says:

    2 cents on Pittsburgh…

    It is an awesome city and no one seems know about it. It’s full of life. There isn’t a straight road anywhere, the neighborhoods are like little villages unto themselves, the rivers (3 bigguns!) are beautiful and the city oozes Old Money. It’s like Milwaukee but more rivers, more hills and more money.

    I’ve always assumed the phrase “It’s the Pitts” referred to Pittsburgh in it steel making days – when breathing was considered hazardous. But now thanks to environmental laws (and cheap Chinese steel) the city is clean enough to allow people to realize just how cool the town really is.

    This may sound weird but everyone should consider a 4-day weekend summer vacation in Pittsburgh. Rent a bike and you’ll come back raving – like me.

    D’

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