16 excellent reasons to make Pittsburgh your next weekend break
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Once known as the “Smoky City”, formerly industrial Pittsburgh has reinvented itself as an arty, environmentally-friendly, cycle-ready riverside enclave – and has even been named the USA’s most liveable city.
Its transformation over the past half-century has been so incredible that we’ve picked it as one of our Top Destinations 2018, alongside travel hotspots like Florida, South Africa and Buenos Aires.
With sustainability as our focus, here are 16 things that you can do over a long weekend in Pennsylvania’s reinvigorated second city - from Pop Art to giant sandwiches to historic cycling trails...
1. Explore the city by bike
Guided cycling tours can give you a new perspective on any city, and in Pittsburgh they’ll take you along riverfront trails whilst highlighting current developments, famous landmarks, public art, and some of the 446 bridges that call it home.
Golden Triangle Bike Rental, from $22 / £16 per person / http://bikepittsburgh.com/
2. Immerse yourself in the world of Warhol
Pittsburgh’s possibly most famous son, Pop Art pioneer Andy Warhol, is commemorated with the largest museum dedicated to a single artist in the USA. You can wander its seven floors (plus a basement) until 10pm, exploring the Warhol story and seeing his iconic works for yourself – this is the largest collection of Warhol art and archives on the planet. You’ll find the Warhol on Sandusky Street.
3. Unwind at the Hotel Monaco's Biergarten
You might not quite be able to run to a stay at the boutique and extremely aesethetic Hotel Monaco on a student budget, but we bet you can justify a couple of biers (we assume that's what they call them?) and German-inspired snacks in this ninth floor terrace. They'll even throw in a giant Jenga for your post-snack antertainment. Ideal in every way - just look at that pretzel.
4. Absorb some science
The Robot Hall of Fame can be found at the Carnegie Science Center at Carnegie Mellon University, and exists to celebrate both real and fictional robots and the influence they’ve had on society, as well as referencing Pittsburgh’s contributions within the field. There’s a lot to do at the Carnegie Science Center itself too, with a planetarium, a giant cinema, and various exhibitions throughout the year.
5. Experience the “Hollywood of the East”
Pittsburgh is well known as a filming destination. Visit Carnegie Mellon University or watch a game at Heinz Field (home to the Pittsburgh Steelers) from The Dark Knight Rises (2012), step foot in the Oakland neighbourhood in downtown for scenes from Academy Award nominee Fences, ride at the Kennywood Amusement Park as seen in Adventureland (2009), or view panoramic views of the city and rivers from the West End Overlook featured in The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012).
6. Cycle the historic Great Allegheny Passage
Golden Triangle Bike Rental also offers a Multi-Day pass to experience the Great Allegheny Passage – vacant railroads developed into trails to commemorate the historic routes of Pittsburgh’s old, booming industrial past – stretching 150 miles from Pittsburgh’s Point State Park to Cumberland, in neighbouring Maryland.
7. Or take the challenge all the way to Washington DC
If you’re feeling even more adventurous, the Great Allegheny Passage becomes a 335-mile cycle route straight to Washington DC by connecting to the 184.5-mile C&O Canal Towpath. We hope you’ve packed some padded shorts...
8. Sample Pittsburgh’s answer to the Philly Cheese Steak
The Primanti Bros restaurant – a genuine Pittsburgh institution that’s been around since 1933 - is a must visit for the famous ‘Primanti Sandwich’, Pittsburgh’s more than adequate answer to neighbouring Philadelphia’s much revered Philly Cheese Steak. The sandwich is made from grilled meat, an Italian dressing-based coleslaw, tomato and French fries, and is stacked between two thick slices of fresh Italian bread. You’ll find Primanti Bros in various locations throughout the city, as well as elsewhere in Pennsylvania and throughout the Eastern United States, from Michigan to Florida.
9. Embrace the local student life
Lined with Victorian mansions, teaming with bars and restaurants, ideally located in the centre of the city - Shadyside is where young Pittsburgh comes out to play. In the daytime, think yoga, arts festivals, Japanese food shops, vintage shopping and a distinctly graduate student vibe.
10. Take to the water in a kayak
As you might have realised, outdoor activities abound in Pittsburgh. For a refreshing view of the city, kayak down the city’s rivers on the North Shore next to PNC Park, and drink in spectacular views of the skyline.
11. Discover upcoming chefs
The Smallman Galley launched in 2015 as a new restaurant concept, providing a food hall for 200 guests and a space for undiscovered chefs to showcase their capabilities and bring their concepts to reality in a low-risk, low-cost setting. It’s inspired by the communal food halls the founders ate in whilst travelling, and aims to break down barriers within the restaurant industry. Use this delectable opportunity to sample food from up-and-coming chefs before the hit the big time – you never know, you might uncover a future Michelin Star.
12. Test your head for heights
The century-old Duquesne Incline might give your vertigo a workout, but we think the views from the top will more than make up for it. It's one of the last incline trains in the United States, whisking you back to a time before mass transportation and AI. Views of downtown are your reward.
13. Drink local
From the same team as the Smallman Galley, the more beverage-focused Federal Galley is an indoor/outdoor space with a bustling beer garden that highlights 30+ local breweries. There’s food here too, so don’t worry about your stomach - four unique food concepts are available at any one time, and currently you’ll find Mexican, pizza, and both classic and modern American cuisines on the menu.
14. Get a slice of architectural history
The majestic Fallingwater, architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s last remaining building, is one of the most unique houses in the United States, and has been open to the public since 1964. Take a tour, eat in the Fallingwater Cafe, and let the calmness of the, erm, falling water wash over you.
15. Wander through the largest bicycle museum and shop in the world
This is a city that loves cycling, so it makes sense that it’s home to the world’s biggest bicycle museum. Bicycle Heaven showcases over 4,000 bicycles under one roof, including those used in films including A Beautiful Mind. There’s also an extensive collection of memorabilia from icons including The Beatles and Elvis Presley.
16. Get your shades out for Randyland
Yes, we've saved the weirdest for last. Randyland, purchased by painter Randy Gilson on a credit card in 1995, has grown into the city's brightest tourist attraction. And why not? As a testement to happiness with its outdoor murals, psychedelic staircases and numerous engagement photoshoots, we think it ticks all the boxes.
You can fly to Pittsburgh with WOW air on Thursdays, Tuesdays and Saturdays. More frequent summer flights begin from May - find out more at https://wowair.us/flights/our-destinations/pittsburgh/
For more information on Pittsburgh and other things to do when visiting see www.visitpittsburgh.com