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Pittsburgh sometimes gets overshadowed by the historic and larger city of Philadelphia. But there’s much more to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania than just its stereotype of a blue-collar sports town. The city is full of bridges that are each uniquely charming, and movie buffs will recognize that Pittsburgh has been the set of so many epic films over the years. There are some excellent museums and parks here, it has colorful neighborhoods, and is a culinary heaven for foodies. Festivals and live music shows are happening all the time in Pittsburgh, and it’s become one of the most livable places in the country.
So, whether you’re visiting the area for the first time or just looking for something different to do for your next trip, here are some of the best ways to spend your time in Pittsburgh.
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To learn a bit of history about the area before you dive right into exploring it, start your journey at the Heinz History Center. Here you’ll find artifacts related to Pittsburgh’s history in the French & Indian War, sports memorabilia from the city’s baseball and football history, and even a bit about Heinz ketchup products. Pretty much everything that has to do with Pittsburgh or Western Pennsylvania’s history can be found here. The museum is also favored by first-time travelers because the layout is simple and easy to follow. There are six floors with ever-changing exhibits here, so it’s worth coming back to even if you’ve been in the past. The history center is open from 10am to 5pm daily and costs $16 per adult, $14 per senior, and $6.50 for students and children over the age of six. There’s also a café at the history center if you want to grab a sandwich after seeing the exhibits. Overall, you can spend a couple hours here or even half a day if you take your time to explore it all.
Andy Warhol continues to be one of the most famous and beloved names in American Art, and the legend has his very own dedicated museum here in Pittsburgh. It’s considered to be the largest art museum in the country that’s dedicated to a single artist and has seven floors of exhibits. Warhol lived in Pittsburgh and became known for his colorful pop art work. Come here to learn about the life of this fascinating painter, author, filmmaker, publisher, record producer, and eccentric personality. The museum is closed on Mondays but open from 10am to 5pm every other day. Admission is $20 for adults and $10 for children, students, and seniors. But if you visit Friday evening between 5pm and 10pm, you’ll receive half-price admission. Inside, you can attend a daily gallery talk, watch the orientation film, browse the store and café, and check out a hands-on studio experience called the Factory.
By far, Pittsburgh is one of the best places in the country for craft beverage fans. There are a ton of breweries and distilleries here that you can tour and sample. Wigle Whiskey, for example, offers tours on Saturdays and select Fridays to introduce you to its award-winning whiskeys, gins, rums, and vodkas. In addition to the distillery tasting room, you can also visit the Barrelhouse & Whiskey Garden Thursdays through Sundays and the tasting room and bottle shop inside the lobby at the Omni William Penn Hotel.
To find a bit of peace and beauty in the city, head to the Phipps Conservatory & Botanical Gardens. Here you’ll find various rooms of plants, such as bonsai trees, Joshua trees, orchids, and even butterfly gardens. Families love visiting this place because it often hosts special activities for children. Check the organization’s website to see what events are happening when you’ll be in town. Plan to spend at least a couple hours here when you visit the conservatory. It’s open from 9:30am to 5pm every day, and it stays open late until 10pm on Fridays. The admission price is $17.95 for adults, $16.95 for seniors, and $11.95 for kids ages two to 18. The conservatory is typically least busy between 3pm and 5pm if you’re looking for a more peaceful experience. One-hour guided tours are offered for visitors who want to learn more about the plant collections, the production greenhouse, and sustainable landscapes. One of the highlights that shouldn’t be missed is the 13-room Victorian glasshouse that changes with the seasons.
The city of Pittsburgh is full of diverse neighborhoods, so take some time to explore a few of them during your trip. But one of the most popular and most visited areas of town is known as the Strip District. It’s located on the northeastern corner of the Golden Triangle by the Allegheny River and used to be a hub for the railroad. Today you’ll find lots of shops, restaurants, markets, and art galleries here. You can visit on Saturday to be part of an energetic crowd, or choose a weekday visit if you want to have some of the shops to yourself to browse.
There are quite a few museums in Pittsburgh that are worth checking out, but the Carnegie Museum of Art is by far one of the best. The famous Andrew Carnegie founded this museum in the late 1800s with a vision of creating an internationally recognized art destination. This is a great place to come if you enjoy Impressionist and post-Impressionist paintings from America and Europe from the last couple centuries. Inside, you can also explore sculptures, architecture, drawings, photos, and more. There’s also the Carnegie Science Center in town that both adults and kids can visit to explore through interactive exhibits. Some favorite features here are the Pacific Coral Reef Aquarium, the four-story IMAX theater, and the Miniature Railroad and Village.
Anyone who enjoys getting around town on two wheels needs to check out Bicycle Heaven in Pittsburgh. This is home to the world’s largest bicycle museum and shop, and it was established in 2011. You can see famous bikes that were featured in movies, historic and vintage bikes, get your own bike tuned up, or rent one to get around Pittsburgh. There is no admission fee to see the museum, and it’s open from 10am to 7pm daily.
No trip to Pittsburgh would be complete without catching a sports game of one form or another or at least touring a stadium. PNC Park is where the Pittsburgh Pirates Major League Baseball team plays and a beautiful park that showcases the natural and built landscape of the city.
One of the best ways to get an overall sense of what Pittsburgh is all about is to take the Duquesne Incline up to Mount Washington. This trolley has been taking visitors to the top since 1877 to see the view where the three rivers of Pittsburgh come together. Plan to spend about an hour here to snap some photos from the viewing platform and gaze down at the illuminated city down below. There’s a little museum at the top where you can learn more about the city, as well as a gift shop and some restaurants. The trolley is busiest on weekends in the afternoon, so expect to wait in line for about 10 minutes in each direction then. The standard round-trip rate is $5 for adults and $2.50 for kids. Groups of 10 or more can schedule a tour in advance for $3.50 for adults and $1.75 for children round trip that includes a visit to the machine room and pictorial history of the city.
Pittsburgh is home to many beautiful parks because of its location at the junction of the Monongahela, Ohio, and Allegheny Rivers. Come to Point State Park to experience some of this beauty, see the fountains, and enjoy the great outdoors. The park is open every day from sunrise to sunset and is a great place to launch a boat. The Three Rivers Water Trail has a series of boat launch points and is ideal for kayaking and canoeing. You can also come here to go fishing and either bike or hike the Three Rivers Heritage Trail. This trail spans 37 miles along the three rivers and connects to other regional trail systems as well for long-distance journeys.