Fun things to do in Pittsburgh

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Most Viewed Things to Do in Pittsburgh

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    The John Heinz History Center

    by VeronicaG Updated Aug 14, 2009

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    If you travel to Pittsburgh and only have a limited time to see this friendly city, try to see the John Heinz History Center. We've visited many times, the most recent was just a few weeks ago when we brought our 13 yr. old grandson to see the Lincoln exhibition.

    "Lincoln: The Constitution and the Civil War and Lincoln Slept Here" was impressive. We were surprised to hear that Honest Abe stayed for a time in Pittsburgh--part of the exhibit chronicles his visit.

    Pittsburgh opens its 250 years of history to each visitor in an imaginative way! This museum is an 'affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution' and is the largest history museum in the state. Six floors await your exploration, 275,000 sq. ft. of interesting displays, documents, mini-films, oral histories--any kid would find it fun. A favorite is the old trolley car which once plied the streets of the city and inside you'll watch a brief history of Pittsburgh.

    Especially attractive to sports enthusiasts are the six trophies on display at the Sports Center. Here you'll see and read about poignant moments in sports history and learn about the people who made it happen. Remember, Pittsburgh is a town of CHAMPIONS!

    One of the most important archaeological sites pertaining to native people has been discovered outside of Pittsburgh--Meadowcroft. A authentic Upper Ohio Valley village from the mid-19th century has been created. Also, a new site has been opened that shows occupation since the 1700's. But the creme de la creme is a rock shelter, which shielded ancient people from the elements for over 16,000 years. Volunteers can even sign up to help uncover more info. on these early people.

    History Center hours are daily from 10am-5pm. A wonderful gift shop is on the premises. Meadowcroft hours are from Wed.-Sat. noon to 5pm and Sun. 1pm-5pm.

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    The Gallery Crawl

    by VeronicaG Updated Aug 13, 2009

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    On a recent trip to Pittsburgh, we learned about an event in the Cultural District known as the Gallery Crawl.

    The Gallery Crawl was held on a Friday evening from 5:30pm-9:00pm in Pittsburgh's Cultural District, spreading out among 25 different sites. Some of the locations were galleries, but others were lobbies of office buildings, a theatre, a non-profit organization....a plethora of places. The art was extremely modern and one could even say, futuristic.

    We loved the idea, although we tend to lean towards the more traditional form of art. This event was well attended, testifying from the lack of parking spaces and crowded sidewalks. We drove around and around for quite some time before finding a spot. Many lots had signs out saying, "leases only" or "reservations only" or just "Sorry, we're filled!" Perhaps because this event was free and it was a lovely evening.

    Downtown came alive that night and I'm sure the restaurants and bars were happy to see that! My experience is that Pittsburgh is pretty empty in the evenings, but perhaps that is changing. A 'summer rooftop party' followed after the crawl with tickets running from $35 to $100 pp.

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    Wood Street Galleries: A Mind-Blowing Experience!

    by iamjacksgoat Written Jun 24, 2009

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    Wood Street Galleries is a a fantastic, free, two floor exhibit located just above the Wood Street T station. Although the galleries are free, they are amazing! The exhibit changes every few months, which allows people to return again and again. Wood Street Galleries has its own entrance, which is not accessible from inside the T station. It is in the same building, directly across. After entering, you must enter an elevator, which only adds to the artistic mood! The exhibits are on the next two floors, with office space at the top floor.

    The exhibits at Wood Street are always very thought-provoking and avant-garde. They are often abstract and slightly spooky. Sometimes the exhibits are visually disturbing and have flashing lights, so if you are prone to seizures, I suggest you ask the attendant what the exhibit is like before you enter. There is one on each floor.

    Gallery hours are Tuesday - Thursday 11am-6pm, and Friday - Saturday 11am - 8pm. Make sure you visit early enough, and don't come on a Monday or Sunday!

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    SPACE Galleries: A Free Cultural Experience

    by iamjacksgoat Written Jun 24, 2009

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    SPACE is a free art gallery in the cultural district of downtown Pittsburgh. The selection of art is ever changing. Each exhibit theme runs for a few months, then changes. This way, the small gallery never gets boring! The art in SPACE is normally very avant-garde and slightly creepy, but well worth seeing. Walk right in, look around for as long as you like, then leave. It's as simple as that. There are also restrooms and water inside. The gallery only takes about a half an hour to see. I highly recommend it!

    SPACE is open Tuesday - Thursday 11am-6pm, Friday - Saturday 11am-8pm. Make sure you arrive before it closes! Businesses in this area of Pittsburgh all close early.

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  • Tour Anytime Pittsburgh Tours

    by char655321 Written Feb 19, 2009

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    Tour Anytime is a 24/7 source for self-guided cell phone and MP3 tours of the historic and cultural heritage of southwestern Pennsylvania.

    Hosted by the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area in partnership with many of the region's premier tourism sites, Tour Anytime is your source for walking, museum, and individual site tours based on your schedule.

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    The bridges that surround the...

    by Nomad_2001 Updated Feb 3, 2009

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    The bridges that surround the city of Pittsburgh are truly beautiful. There is no better place to go than the top of Mt. Washington on a clear day for a beautiful view of downtown Pittsburgh. This is definitely a MUST!!! For an added effect, you can even ride the tram up the side of Mt. Washington (it starts close to Station Square at the bottom of the mountain). Station Square itself is a great little place with some good but expensive restaurants like the Grand Concourse. Across from Station Square is a great Sports Bar where the Pittsburgh Penguins are known to hang out from time to time.

    Another favorite place of mine is the Cathedral of Learning at the University of Pittsburgh and nearby Schenley Park where they have a beatiful botanical garden. The hot, humid greenhouses there offer the perfect escape from Pittsburgh's cold winter weather. To the left is a picture of the inside of one of the greenhouses here.

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    Southside--It's the Place to Go!

    by VeronicaG Updated Jan 7, 2009

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    Whenever we spend more than a long weekend in Pittsburgh, I try to visit Southside--it's one of Pittsburgh's trendiest neighborhoods.

    Southside's history begins around the mid 1700's when 2400 acres of land was given to John Ormsby for his service in the French and Indian War by no other than King George III of England. Ormsby divied the land up into four boroughs--South Pittsburgh, Birmingham*, East Birmingham and Ormsby...all annexed by the city of Pittsburgh in 1872.

    pic #2 A colorful mural
    pic #3 Southside Works shopping district
    pic #4 An architectural mix along its East Carson Street
    pic #5 New residential area

    While I generally prefer the interesting little shops on the main street, Southside Works offers such stalwarts as Banana Republic and other upscale shopping. I particularly like the fact that chain restaurants are rare here and you're offered a nice collection of unique eateries and lounges.

    The Southside neighborhood consists of row houses and larger homes on somewhat decent lots which have been transformed into modern residences or lovingly restored to their original glory. You'll still finds streets where one home has been updated, while many long to be redeemed.

    *Much of what is now the shopping district was part of the Birmingham borough

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    Shadyside--A Coveted Address

    by VeronicaG Updated Jan 1, 2009

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    Named for its shady lanes, Shadyside was established in the mid-19th century and developed into an especially affluent Pittsburgh neighborhood. The main shopping district along Walnut Street offers such shops such as Coach, Gap, Victoria's Secret and Banana Republic, as well as, the Shadyside Variety Shop (pic #4).

    Beyond lively Walnut Street, you'll discover elegant mansions, apartment buildings, single family and row houses in various stages of restoration (pics 1 & 2). Artsy Ellsworth Avenue boasts several galleries of note, which participate in a First Friday Art Walk each month from 6pm-9pm (pic #3). Unfortunately these were closed when we visited over the Christmas holiday recently.

    When we lived in the Pittsburgh area, we loved the annual Shadyside Art Festival (September), which drew hoards of people and featured high quality artisans and live music! It was also a genuine treat to stop by Max and Erma's for dinner before or after a flower show at Phipps Conservatory or concert at Heinz Hall.

    Shadyside has become attractive to young upcoming professionals and is a desired address to many.

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    RIDE THE INCLINE

    by VeronicaG Updated Dec 12, 2008

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    The city of Pittsburgh has three rivers passing by its shores and is surrounded by many hills--which means many bridges, too! While river cruises take advantage of the water system, navigating the heights is best by incline, one of the city's popular attractions.

    This particular conveyance is the Monongahela Incline Plane that was built in 1869-70. It was rebuilt in 1882, 1935 and 1982-83 and is a Pittsburgh Historical Landmark. This is only one of the inclines operating by the Port Authority of Allegheny County.

    It's been a custom of many to take visitors on a ride on the incline when they visit the city. I don't think you should leave Pittsburgh without doing so. A spectacular view of the river comes with it!

    Picture #2 shows the vintage interior of the car. The comfortable seating makes for an easy ride to the top and you'll see the twin car descending as you move to the top of the hill.

    Hours run from Monday-Saturdays 5:30 am-12:45 am and on Sundays and Holidays from 8:45am-12 Midnight.

    Fares: Adults--$2 cash each way or round trip for $2.50 with transfer pass which is valid for 3 hours; for children ages 6-11 or for the disabled, fare is $1 cash or round trip for $1.25 with transfer pass which is valid for 3 hours.

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    Tour the Allegheny West Neighborhood

    by VeronicaG Updated Nov 19, 2008

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    When we lived in Pennsylvania, my husband and I looked forward to the Allegheny West Victorian Christmas House Tour each year. We were restoring a 130 year old Victorian cottage in Butler County and were always looking for ideas. The tour provided a wonderful opportunity to see some of these magnificent homes all decked out for Christmas!

    The Allegheny West neighborhood was first laid out in 1788 as part of the 'outlots' or farming area laying outside the town of Allegheny. This area developed slowly. No structure was found on this land until 1813, when John Irwin, a veteran of the Revolutionary War built a rope factory here.

    The rope factory was removed in 1858, building lots were laid out and new homes were built. Allegheny West quickly became an exclusive neighborhood and by 1879 was showcasing architectural gems in the Greek Revival, Italianate, French Second Empire,Richardson Romanesque, Queen Anne and Classical Revival styles.

    As Pittsburgh enjoyed the industrial boom, pollution overtook some of these areas and the prominent moved to the suburbs or the country. The neighborhood declined, then languished until the 1970's when preservation became an interest to those wishing to resurrect the area.

    For more info. on the history of Allegheny West or the home tour, go to www.pittsburghneighborhoodtours.com. (Be sure your computer has virus check)

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    HEINZ HISTORY CENTER

    by mtncorg Written Nov 9, 2008

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    Housed in the Chautauqua Lake Ice Company building of over 100 years, the History Center provides a good glimpse at how Western Pennsylvania is where it is today. There were exhibits on glass - an important industry in Pittsburgh’s early days - on the Heinz Food company, coal mining accidents, Pittsburgh and the French and Indian War when I visited. Two floors are devoted to the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum. Sports have played a major factor in Pittsburgh’s evolution. You will gain some appreciation of sports importance here as you wander about the exhibits showing Pittsburgh teams and Pittsburghers competing in any and all sports.

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    THREE SISTERS

    by mtncorg Written Nov 9, 2008

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    Dating to 1024-29, the Three Sisters are nearly identical self-anchored suspension spans that cross the Allegheny River from the North Shore to downtown Pittsburgh. Built by the American Bridge company, the bridges replaced previous privately-owned toll bridges. Suspension designs were approved, but because of a lack of adequate anchorage points along the river banks, the bridges were designed as self-anchored suspension spans. Another piece of engineering trivia, the bridges are among the only examples of large eyebar chain suspension bridges remaining in the U.S.. Most suspension bridges use cables made from multiple strands of wire for greater redundancy. The bridges were named for the streets which crossed them originally, but have been renamed after important Pittsburghers:

    Sixth Street Bridge - Roberto Clemente
    Seventh Street Bridge - Andy Warhol
    Ninth Street Bridge - Rachel Carson.

    The bridges are painted golden yellow in honor of serving the Golden Triangle and the fact that gold is one of the two official color of the City of Pittsburgh. On game nights, the Roberto Clemente Bridge is open only to pedestrians.

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    NORTH SHORE TRAIL

    by mtncorg Written Nov 9, 2008

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    Established in 2001, the North Shore Riverfront Park extends for a mile along the north bank of the Allegheny River from the Carnegie Science Center - where Allegheny has actually melded into the Ohio - past the Three Sister bridges. It is a perfect place for lunchtime strollers to wander about on a sunny day. Designed as both a river wall where boats can tie up - especially for sporting events at adjacent PNC Park or Heinz Field - and a river walk. If you don’t have your own boat, Kayak Pittsburgh allows you to get out on the water in one of theirs.

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    AVIARY/NORTH SHORE

    by mtncorg Written Nov 9, 2008

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    The immediate area north of the Allegheny River across from downtown Pittsburgh is a mixture of freeways, rail lines, sports stadiums and business buildings. Factories used to line the riverbank, but urban renewal has swept away most of them away. Further inland, the former city of Allegheny - annexed against its will in 1907 by its much larger neighbor - now known as the North Shore, shows glimpses of earlier affluence and forces at work aimed at reclaiming those glories past from years of neglect. The Allegheny Commons Park is the centerpiece for the new rebirth. Tree-lined promenades, fountains and Lake Elizabeth provide an urban escape hatch for locals.

    On the edge of the park, you can find the National Aviary. Begun as a city aviary in 1952, privatization saved the show in 1991 when the city was forced to stop funding due to a shrinking tax base. Renamed the National Aviary in 1993 - local politicians score in Washington! - a couple of renovations have taken place and the Aviary is now home to over 600 birds from more than 200 different species. The Aviary is open from 9 am to 5 pm during the summer and that was the times advertised on the local info I read. However, the opening time is changed to 10 am after September 1 - a fact not noted on the sheet I read. I showed up at 9 am early in September on a Monday. No hours were posted at the entrance and no one was around during the half hour I stayed around, so I didn’t get to see the birds and went to see the home of the Steelers instead.

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    THE IGLOO

    by mtncorg Written Nov 9, 2008

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    Sitting just above the Golden Triangle, the Mellon Arena has been the home to the Pittsburgh Penguin hockey team from the team’s inception in 1967. The arena features a retractable roof which was done for the purpose of summer open-air music concerts. It is here that the Penguins would roll to two Stanley Cups in the early 1990’s. While the arena was revolutionary at the time of its erection, times change, salaries and ticket prices escalate and team owners continue to search for new revenue streams - viola, club seats and luxury boxes. Just when it looked like the Penguins were headed out of town to cities with newer arenas - Portland Penguins did have a nice ring to it! - the city stepped in to help build a new arena which will be open across the street from the old Igloo in the near future.

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