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The best things to see & do Pittsburgh

 

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is my adopted hometown.  It is at the heart of Steelers country with many wonderful people, a reasonable cost of living, beautiful scenery and it was voted most livable city, and top 5 most livable city, several times.

Pittsburgh is a fascinating city and definitely worth a visit.  Since I live here since 2003, I have put together a fairly extensive list of the best things to see and do so that you can make memorable moments in Steel City.

1. Introduction


2. Vista Points of Pittsburgh


3. Self-Guided Walking Tour of Pittsburgh


4. Pittsburgh Staple Food & Restaurants


5. Best Museums in Pittsburgh


6. Best Places in Downtown Pittsburgh


7. Best Places in the Oakland Area


8. Pittsburgh's Best Parks & Trails

 

9. Amusement Parks in Pittsburgh

 

10. Best Places to see the Fall Foliage in Pittsburgh

General Information of Pittsburgh

 

Pittsburgh is the largest city in southwestern Pennsylvania with a population of approx. 300,000.  The City of Pittsburgh is surrounded by numerous boroughs and townships and the combined population of the metropolitan areas is 2.3 million.

Pittsburgh is known as the “Steel City” and the “City of Bridges”. 

Pittsburgh is the “Steel City”, because at one point, in 1911, Pittsburgh produced more than half of all the steel in the United States.  During World War 2, it was one third and the steel mills were running 24h a day. 

Pollution of the environment was unbelievable and in 1868, James Parton called Pittsburgh being "hell with the lid off”.

Photo Sources:

University of Pittsburgh / Pittsburgh City Photographer Collection, 1901-2002, AIS.1971.05

University of Pittsburgh / Smoke Control Lantern Slide Collection, ca. 1940s-1950s

 

These times are long gone.  Pittsburghers realized that the steel industry was failing and reinvented the city in what it is today: a modern high tech city with lots of parks and comparably low unemployment and crime rates.

 

Pittsburgh is the “City of Bridges”, because Pittsburgh has 446 bridges - more than Venice.  Allegheny country, in which Pittsburgh is located, has more than 1,600 bridges.  This is because Pittsburgh lies at the confluence where the Allegheny River and the Monongahela River form the Ohio River.  There are many more rivers in the region and they all have bridges.

 

The downtown area is called the “Golden Triangle” and the point where the 3 rivers meet is called “The Point”.

The rivers, hills, forests and the region’s rich history make Pittsburgh a unique destination with lots of beautiful vistas, natural and architectural attractions and indoor & outdoor activities.

 

Historically, Pittsburgh has developed with two distinct centers: the downtown area where heavy manufacturing was and the Shadyside/Oakland area outside the smog of downtown where the rich people lived and where the universities are located.

Many Pittsburgh neighborhoods along the rivers have steep slopes and often their names incorporate the word "hills" or "heights".  The steep slopes necessitated building of stairs to get around and today there are 712 public stairways with 44,645 treads bridging 24,090 vertical feet.  Some streets are composed entirely of stairs and others have stairs as sidewalks.  Some provide beautiful vistas of the city skyline.

 

Starting in the 1970s, Pittsburgh’s “Renaissance” developed the city from heavy manufacturing to a diversified mix of education, healthcare, finance, and high tech like robotics.  During recession in 2008/2009, Pittsburgh remained economically strong and even added jobs.  Pittsburgh's story of economic metamorphosis inspired President Barack Obama to host the 2009 G-20 summit in Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh has attracted many immigrants, who often settled in distinct areas and developed characteristic neighborhoods.  Some of this is still visible today.

  • Germans: East Allegheny (Deutschtown), Troy Hill, Mt. Washington
  • Italian: Bloomfield, Brookline, Oakland
  • Hispanic: Beechview, Brookline
  • Central and East European: Lawrenceville, Polish Hill, South Side
  • Lithuanian: South Side, Uptown
  • African American: East Hills, Hazelwood, Hill District, Homewood, Larimer, Lincoln-Lemington-Belmar
  • Jewish: Squirrel Hill
  • Irish: Carrick, Mt. Washington
  • Germans are the largest ethnic group with about 20% of the population, followed by Irish 16% and Italian 12%.

 

Pittsburgh often ranks high on most livable cities lists:

1985 and 2007: Places Rated Almanac: “Most Livable City in the US” and #2 in 1989, #5 in 1993

2005, 2009, and 2011: The Economist: “most livable city in the United States”

2007: Forbes: “the world's 10th cleanest city”

2010: Forbes and Yahoo!: “most livable city in the United States”

2010: Forbes: “4th-best city for working mothers” and “7th best place to raise a family”

2011: Economist Intelligence Unit: “top place to live in the United States” and #2 in 2012 and 2014

2012: CBS Money Watch and U.S. News: “10 best U.S. places to retire”

2013: Forbes: “10 most unexpectedly romantic cities in the world”

 

Adding to the livability of Pittsburgh is the climate and the low risk for natural disasters.  In 2009, Forbes ranked Pittsburgh as the 2nd lowest natural disaster risk in the nation.

Here is the Pittsburgh weather that you can expect during your trip to Pittsburgh:

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Frequently asked questions about Pittsburgh

 

What are the best museums in Pittsburgh?

Pittsburgh has no shortage of wonderful museums.  Just to name few: the Andy Warhol Museum, the Carnegie Museums, the Mattress Factory, The Frick, The Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Site and so on.  Here are the best museums in Pittsburgh: https://backpackandsnorkel.com/USA/Pittsburgh/Museums/

 

Is there a self-guided walking tour of Pittsburgh's Golden Triangle?

Pittsburgh’s Golden Triangle is very walkable and many attractions are within walking distance from each other.  A self-guided walking tour which covers the highlights in architecture, history and culture can be found here: https://backpackandsnorkel.com/USA/Pittsburgh/Walking-Tour/

 

What are Pittsburgh's Staple Foods & Restaurants?

Pittsburgh has lots of high-class restaurants and yummy eateries and was consequently awarded the title “2019 Food City of the Year”.  While this award pays homage to mostly new food innovations, Pittsburgh is long known for some of its staple foods which were often brought here from immigrants who came to Pittsburgh in search for work and enriched the city's culinary tradition.\nHere is a link for more information: https://backpackandsnorkel.com/USA/Pittsburgh/Food/

 

What is Pittsburghese?

Pittsburghese is a unique blend of words, grammar and intonations borrowed from languages of the many immigrant nationalities that have settled here over time.  Here is what you need to know: https://backpackandsnorkel.com/USA/Pittsburgh/Pittsburghese/

 

What was first invented in Pittsburgh?

From the first Ferris Wheel, the first banana split, the first baseball stadium, the invention of Bingo and the first Big Mac to Mr. Yuk and the steepest public street in the US, Pittsbrugh ranks number 1 in a lot of things and a lot of things were invented in Pittsbrugh.\nA more complete list can be found here: https://backpackandsnorkel.com/USA/Pittsburgh/Firsts/

 

Why was Pittsburgh the "Hell With The Lid Taken Off"?

Pittsburgh is the “Steel City”, because at one point, in 1911, Pittsburgh produced more than half of all the steel in the United States.  During World War 2, it was one third and the steel mills were running 24h a day. Pollution of the environment was unbelievable and in 1868, James Parton called Pittsburgh being "hell with the lid off”.  Here is more information: https://backpackandsnorkel.com/USA/Pittsburgh/#General-Information-about-Pittsburgh

 

What is so special about the drive through Pittsburgh's Fort Pitt Tunnel?

When you drive to downtown Pittsburgh from the airport or I-79, then you are up for one of the greatest transformations in scenery in the US.  You drive through lush green hills, enter the tunnel and now you see three rivers, a fountain, mostly flat terrain and Pittsburgh's beautiful skyline.  More information can be found here: https://backpackandsnorkel.com/USA/Pittsburgh/Best-Viewpoints/#Fort-Pitt-Tunnel

 

What are Primanti Brothers?

The claim to fame for “Primanti Bros.” are their signature sandwiches which have grilled meat, melted cheese, tomato slices, oil & vinegar based coleslaw and French fries (!!!) between two thick slices of Italian bread.  Here is why you must go there: https://backpackandsnorkel.com/USA/Pittsburgh/Food/#PRIMANTI-BROTHERS

 

What are the best places in downtown Pittsburgh?

Downtown Pittsburgh, often referred to as the Golden Triangle, is not the “hell with the lid taken off” anymore.  Since Pittsburgh’s Renaissance, where all the heavy and polluting industry was moved out of town, Pittsburgh has undergone a complete metamorphosis to a modern and clean high tech city.  Especially the younger generations have rediscovered the downtown area as a place to live.\nThe Golden Triangle is the home of the CBD (Central Business District), the Cultural District, bars, educational institutions, as well as restaurants, entertainment, and many historic locations.  Find out what you can see and do in downtown Pittsburgh: https://backpackandsnorkel.com/USA/Pittsburgh/Best-Things-Downtown/

 

Does Pittsburgh have a Chinatown?

Pittsburgh used to have a small Chinatown, but it does not exist anymore.  All that is left are two Chinese restaurants in their original buildings.  Don't be discouraged, lots of Chinese students have come to Pittsburgh and many stayed, building their own authentic niches.  Learn more about Pittsburgh's Chinatown here: https://backpackandsnorkel.com/USA/Pittsburgh/Best-Things-Downtown/#Chinatown

 

What are Pittsburgh's Best Parks & Trails?

The Pittsburgh area has lots of parks and lakes that provide a multitude of opportunities for outdoor recreational activities.  From picnicking, to hiking, biking, horse riding, sports activities and kayaking, there is plenty to do.  Here is a list of the best city, county and state parks in the general Pittsburgh area: https://backpackandsnorkel.com/USA/Pittsburgh/Parks/

 

What are the best places to see the fall foliage in Pittsburgh?

The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) claims: “Pennsylvania has a longer and more varied fall foliage season than any other state in the nation -- or anywhere in the world.”

Mother nature typically paints Southwestern Pennsylvania in spectacular colors for the first 3 weeks of October, with some nice colors already visible in late September among the still predominantly green foliage.  

Here are the best places to see spectacular fall foliage: https://backpackandsnorkel.com/USA/Pittsburgh/Foliage/

 

Why is Pittsburgh called the “Steel City”?

Pittsburgh is the “Steel City”, because at one point, in 1911, Pittsburgh produced more than half of all the steel in the United States.  During World War 2, it was one third and the steel mills were running 24h a day.  Here is more information: https://backpackandsnorkel.com/USA/Pittsburgh/#General-Information-about-Pittsburgh

 

Why is Pittsburgh called the “City of Bridges”?

Pittsburgh is the “City of Bridges”, because Pittsburgh has 446 bridges - more than Venice.  Allegheny country, in which Pittsburgh is located, has more than 1,600 bridges.  This is because Pittsburgh lies at the confluence where the Allegheny River and the Monongahela River form the Ohio River.  Here is more information: https://backpackandsnorkel.com/USA/Pittsburgh/#General-Information-about-Pittsburgh

 

Which city has more bridges than Venice?

Pittsburgh is the “City of Bridges”, because Pittsburgh has 446 bridges - more than Venice.  Allegheny country, in which Pittsburgh is located, has more than 1,600 bridges.  This is because Pittsburgh lies at the confluence where the Allegheny River and the Monongahela River form the Ohio River.  Here is more information: https://backpackandsnorkel.com/USA/Pittsburgh/#General-Information-about-Pittsburgh

 

What are the typical temperatures and precipitation in Pittsburgh by month?

Situated in a "hot-summer humid continental climate zone", Pittsburgh has one of the most pleasant summer climates between medium and large cities in the US.  Winters are cold and snowy, springs and falls are mild with moderate levels of sunshine, and summers are warm. The monthly temperatures and precipitation can be found here: https://backpackandsnorkel.com/USA/Pittsburgh/#Weather

 

What are the best things to see in Pittsburgh in 2 Days?

If you only have two days in Pittsburgh then you can only see the major highlights, like the unforgettable vista points on Mount Washington and a self-guided walking tour of the Golden Triangle.  A complete list can be found here: https://backpackandsnorkel.com/USA/Pittsburgh/Two-Day-Itinerary/

 

What are the best things to see in Pittsburgh in 3 Days?

Three days in Pittsburgh allow you to many highlights, like the unforgettable vista points on Mount Washington, a self-guided walking tour of the Golden Triangle, Oakland and some museums.  A complete list can be found here: https://backpackandsnorkel.com/USA/Pittsburgh/Three-Day-Itinerary/

 

What are the best things to see in Pittsburgh in 5 Days?

Five days in Pittsburgh are a perfect time.  You will be able to see all the highlights in the city and some attractions outside the city.  Most importantly, you will not need to rush.  Here is a complete list: https://backpackandsnorkel.com/USA/Pittsburgh/Five-Day-Itinerary/

 

Where do Sarris Candies come from?

Sarris Candies was founded in 1960 in Canonsburg, South of Pittsburgh.  You can buy Sarris chocolate in stores, but we recommend a visit to the chocolate heaven which is Sarris Candies factory and Ice Cream Parlor.  \nYou can find more information here: https://backpackandsnorkel.com/USA/Pittsburgh/Food/#SARRIS-CANDIES

 

What are the Mexican War Streets?

No, the Mexican–American War was not fought here.  The Mexican War Streets, which were originally known as the \"Buena Vista Tract\", are a mostly residential area with an abundance of beautifully restored row houses, community gardens, and tree-lined streets. \nA self-guided walking tour can be found here: https://backpackandsnorkel.com/USA/Pittsburgh/War-Streets/

 

Where can I find a restaurant in a church?

Church Brew Works, or Church Brewery, is a brewery and restaurant located in a restored former St. John the Baptist Church, a Roman Catholic church.  The church was built in 1902 and was in use as a church until 1993.  Church Brewery opened in the former church in 1996 and it has become a classic ever since.  You can find more information here: 

https://backpackandsnorkel.com/USA/Pittsburgh/Food/#CHURCHBREWERY

View of the Golden Triangle in Pittsburgh from Mount Washington
Backpack and Snorkel Travel Store
temperature by month in Pittsburgh
precipitation by month in Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh Travel Guide showing the Point State Park Fountain
Pittsburgh Travel Guide showing the Roberto Clemente Bridge over the Allegheny River
Pittsburgh Travel Guide showing an aerial view of the Golden Triangle
Pittsburgh Travel Guide showing Randyland
Backpack and Snorkel Travel Store
Pittsburgh buildings engulfed in smog - The hell with the lid off
Pittsburgh buildings engulfed in smog - The hell with the lid off

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