Pittsburgh is a city filled with activities in the summer and Mellon Square is the site of some of these. Concerts are held in this downtown park during the week, so people bring their lunches, relax a bit to the music or feed the pigeons. It's a nice break from desk work! The square is located in the center of the city.
I took this photo over Thanksgiving--it was a chilly day. Ordinarily in nice weather there will be many people enjoying the square. Apparently the pigeons had not had breakfast that day for when I entered the park to take the picture, they swarmed me--some trying to land on my head. I didn't spend any further time there, but ran for the car!
A brief historical portrait: Mellon Square was donated to the city of Pittsburgh by Richard K. and Paul Mellon. The square seems anchored by two buildings connected to the Mellon family--Three Mellon Bank Center (5th and William Penn Way) and the Alcoa Building ( 6th and William Penn). The intent was to add a green space to the downtown area--it was built in 1955. The architects were Mitchell and Ritchey; landscape design by Simonds and Simonds.
When we were children our parents would take us to see Phipps Conservatory at Easter time when the tulips, daffodils, jonquils, hyacinths, lilies and other Spring flowers were in bloom. The scent was heavy in the air as we wound through the greenhouses viewing the floral displays.
As our children aged, we brought them to the Conservatory,too. Years later, we were pushing our grandson's stroller through the labyrinth of twining vines, Japanese gardens and Rose Courtyard. We think of Phipps Conservatory as a jewel in the city of Pittsburgh!
Our favorite time to visit was Spring, but the Christmas display was absolutely gorgeous, as well. A recent visit kick started our holiday spirit! SEE MY TRAVELOGUE for a colorful preview of the latest exhibit.
There are thirteen garden rooms in this Victorian greenhouse, tropical indoor displays, exhibits, seasonal floral shows and butterflies. A horticultural program assists those who wish to learn more about "things that grow".
Update: (Fall,2007) While we were waiting for our tour of the Chihuly exhibit to begin, we enjoyed a chicken quesadilla in the snack area--it was tasty. Wine and desserts were also available for purchase. (picture 3).
Note: Special exhibits will be more expensive. Phipps is open daily from 9:30 am-5 pm; until 9 pm on Fridays. Admission is $9.50 for adults; $6.50 for seniors; $5.50 for students with ID's; $4.50 for children 2-12; and free for those children under 2.
The Good Ship Lollypop has been in service since 1959. As a child I cruised on it with my family, traveled up the river on it with our own children and carried on the tradition by bringing our grandchildren to The Good Ship Lollypop in recent years.
The "Lollypop" offers themed cruises throughout the year, $12 for adults and $7 per child. An example of the holiday theme is the Santa Cruise where Jingle Bear, Rudolph, Frosty the Snowman and River Rover accompany the families on the ride.
Here's a bit more information: Five boats comprise the Gateway Clipper Fleet: the Majestic (1000 passengers); the Party Liner (600 passengers); the River Belle (400 passengers), the Keystone Belle (400 passengers) and The Good Ship Lollypop (150 passengers) which sail the three rivers of Pittsburgh--the Allegheny, the Ohio and the Monongahela.
The idea of a river excursion was conceived by John Connelly, who thought that this was needed to show off the revitilization of Pittsburgh and its rivers. The Gateway Clipper Fleet has become a celebrated tradition in the city.
When we lived in the Pittsburgh area, we followed the successes of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Our favorite players at the time were Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr. I think all of Pittsburgh celebrated when Mario Lemieux became the owner of the Penguins. The team is part of the Eastern Conference, Atlantic Division. In 1999, Lemieux became owner of the Penguins while choosing to continue playing as center for the team (#66)--a unique role in hockey history!
The Pittsburgh Penguins Hockey team call the Mellon Arena their home base. The team came by their name when a contest was held in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette to name the organization. Many contestants came up with similar names, but only one was chosen to receive the first season ticket as an award. The Civic Arena is referred to as The Big Igloo by some people, so I guess The Pittsburgh Penguins was a logical choice for their name. For more historical tidbits read "Pittsburgh Penguins,The Official History of the First 30 Years" by Taylor Publishing, Dallas.
The Mellon Arena also presents concerts, ice shows, the circus and Pittsburgh Xplosion basketball games. Parking is available at the arena--prices vary with the events.
My favorite traveling exhibit at the Carnegie Art Museum was one of Dr. Seuss, the children's book author. The exhibit traced his emerging style from doodles drawn randomly in student notebooks to cartoons playfully done as he matured into a young man and eventually to the quirky character portrayals from his very popular books.
The museum's permanent exhibits emphasize 19th and 20th century paintings (American, French Impressionist and Post-Impressionist), architecture, sculptures, paintings and European and American decorative arts from the 17th century.
An art shop offers gifts,catalogues, posters, slides and postcards. The Museum of Art cafe is open Tues.-Sat. 10:30 am-3:30 pm for lunch. Fossil Fuels Cafe serves light meals, beverages and gourmet coffees. A lunch room is available during museum hours.
Admission is $10 for adults; $7 for seniors; students/children $6. Admission includes the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Hours are Tues.-Sat. 10 am-5 pm; Sun. 12 pm-5 pm. Closed on Mondays and holidays. A six-level parking garage is located at the intesection of Forbes Avenue and Craig Street and can be used for a fee.
If it's true that half the fun of traveling is "getting there," you'll want to try the most unique way to sightsee in Pittsburgh -- "Segway in Paradise!" Glide around the Golden Triangle, Station Square, PPG Place, PNC Park and Heinz Field on a segway. The futuristic-looking segway is a 2-wheel, self-balanced mode of transportation (which looks a little like a backwards old-fashion push lawnmower) that is coming into popular use all around the country and not only for pleasure but for work too: warehouses, airports, amusement parks, etc.
I think the Segway is great because it eliminates tired feet and legs but lets you get closer to attractions than you might by car. A great feature is the headset receiver each "glider" is given so everyone can hear the tour guide's narration. No matter where you are in the group when on a segway tour, or if there is traffic noise, you'll be able to hear your guide. Twenty minutes of training and a helmut are provided and you must be at least 4 ft. tall and weigh 60 pounds to participate in tours. Wear comfortable shoes; flip flops and high heels are not permitted.
Two-hour tours are $59pp + tax; a 45 minute-tour around Station Square is $25pp + tax (2008 prices). Shorter tours are available upon request. Reservations are necessary or at least strongly suggested. (Look for discount coupons for about a 10% savings.)
Meet for tours at the segway desk located inside the "Freight House Shops," in Station Square near the food court. The two-hour tours begin at 9:30 am and 1pm daily. Summer brings the addition of evening tours on Friday & Saturday at 6pm.
Don't miss this fun experience!
This section of wall is all that remains of Pittsburgh's Forbes Field--Home of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Forbes Field was the first baseball stadium built in the United States in 1909. It closed in 1970 when the Three Rivers Stadium was built. Three Rivers Stadium was eventually imploded, with PNC Park replacing it in 2001.
This wall sits in the Oakland area of Pittsburgh, near the Carnegie Library and University of Pittsburgh's Mervis Hall and Wesley Posvar Hall.
Interesting Fact : The Pittsburgh Pirates played in the first world series in 1903 against the Boston Pilgrims.
Carnegie Library was established by industrialist, Andrew Carnegie for the city of Pittsburgh. If researching a particular subject, it would be here that one could find it--but thousands of classics, contemporary novels and children's publications can all be found under this massive roof, as well.
The main library was built in 1895 and has since grown to include libraries in eighteen different locations throughout the city. The Carnegie Main Library offers many different services and has a Pennsylvania Department containing the history of this area.
For avid readers there is a monthly book discussion group. A film lounge is part of the 'New' and 'Featured' section of this institution.
Hours are Mon.-Thurs. 10 am-8 pm; Fri.-Sat. 10 am-5:30 pm and Sun. 1 pm-5 pm.
Clayton was once the home of Henry Clay Frick, a millionaire who found success through the producing of coal and steel making enterprises in the Pittsburgh area. His Victorian home is open for tours during the year, but it's the Christmas season when Clayton shows its true beauty!
We've toured Clayton several times during the holidays, the day after Christmas is our favorite day to visit. The Victorian style decor and elegant furnishings lend themselves to a festive Christmas look. A guided tour gives detailed information on the family's life and the era in which they lived. Free docent tours take place on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays at 2:00 p.m.
Clayton has an art gallery and museum shop on the premises. The hours of operation are Tues.-Sat. 10 am-5 pm; Sun. 12 pm-6 pm. except during the holidays when there are Wednesday evening tours. Admission is $10 for adults;$8 for seniors and students.
As we were leaving the Duquesne Incline and making our way along Grandview Avenue on Mt. Washington, we saw a sculpture of two men which caught our eye because someone had placed what looked like a Pittsburgh sports jersey on one character, and a baseball cap on the other!
The sculpture named "Point of View," which is on a high bluff overlooking the 3 rivers of Pittsburgh and the Golden Triangle, is a monument to George Washington and the native-American Seneca tribal leader, Guyasuta. The sculpture commemorates a pivotal point in Pittsburgh history, because the meeting of the two men resulted in negotiated trade and land agreements. At the time it is said that Washington was a commander of British forces who were encamped at Ft. Pitt, which this sculpture now overlooks at Point State Park.
The sculpture, cast by James West, is important not only because it commemorates an historical agreement but it is a major component of a new Pittsburgh city park called the "Grand View Scenic Byways Park." The park is made up of 280 acres which includes a good deal of land that is literally 'around' Mt. Washington, Duquesne Heights and other spaces. The new park apparently will address some of the problems with previously existing parks and playgrounds which were possibly neglected or ill-used by the public but how it will accomplish that was not immediately discernable.
The 750-pound bronze "Point of View" sculpture was given as a gift to the City of Pittsburgh by its creator, West, and a public dedication ceremony was held in October, 2006.
The Mexican War Street neighborhood hosts a Garden House Tour each September that welcomes the public to this Victorian-era district. I had the pleasure of touring these homes several times and highly recommend it to those living nearby or visiting the city at this time.
This area was first plotted out by General William Robinson, Jr. following the Mexican American War. In light of the military connection, streets were named after the war's battles: Buena Vista, Monterey, Resaca, Palo Alto and after it's military leaders, Taylor, Sherman and Jackson. This land was originally given to his father, in lieu of payment for services rendered during the Revolutionary War.
At first this area was used as 'outlots' on which to graze horses, raise pigs, chickens or cows. When the homeowners received their deeds, they acquired the grazing rights to Allegheny Commons.
Tenants maintaining the livestock built the first homes in the alleys of this neighborhood. As the district developed, the Italianate, Gothic Revival, Richardson Romanesque, Empire and Queen Anne style of architecture appeared.
As the car became a popular mode of transportation in the 1920's, residents began moving out of the city. Soon the single family homes became rooming houses or apartments and the area declined.
Then in the 1960's, some residents along with the Pittsburgh Historical & Landmark Foundation and The Mexican War Street Society began a drive to restore the area. For more info. on the history of this area or on the House Tour, go to www.mexicanwarstreets.org.
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
In the heart of Station Square, a lighted-archway leads you to Bessemer Court. Center stage in Bessemer Court is the Fountain at Bessmer Court which performs the "Waltzing Waters Liquid Fireworks Show" with hundreds of dancing water jets shooting up to 40 feet in the air.
The pulsating jets of water are muscially choreographed to perform at least a dozen different "shows" ranging from tributes to ABBA to Santana to Film themes and even Classic TV show theme songs. The Disney Spectacular Show is sure to be a big hit with the little ones in your family, who's little screams of delight let you know how much they love the music as well as getting wet when the wind blows the fountain's mist over the crowd. To me, it seemed like one of the quintessential American experiences to be in such a setting on a beautifully, sunny holiday weekend while listening to uniquely American music.
Bessemer Court is a wonderful to just grab a place to sit and watch the fountains dance and listen to some music. The evening shows are particularly spectacular because the fountains are lit in an array of colors! Bring folding chairs for a comfortable seat.
The fountain shows take place evey 20 minutes from 9 am to midnight!! The fountain operates daily from late April through the Friday before Thanksgiving. The Waltzing Waters Liquid Fireworks Show of the Fountain at Bessemer Court is one of the nicest, free activities that the city of Pittsburgh has to offer.
The year 2008 marked the 50th Anniversary of the operation of Gateway Clipper Cruises on the rivers surrounding Pittsburgh and it stands to reason that any attraction that has been in business for 50 years must be doing something that people really like!
A family-run business, Gateway Clipper Cruises now has 5 ships, with an extensive schedule of cruises nearly all year round. I really, really wish we had time to have taken even a one-hour sightseeing cruise on the three rivers--Ohio, Allegheny and Monongahela--not only for the beautiful views but surely for the interesting narratives about the sights as well. I really enjoy these types of boats and being on the water.
If we had been in Pittsburgh on a longer trip, I definitely would have been interested in taking one of their lunch or dinner cruises, with themes such as the "Captain's Dinner Dance Cruise," "Hawaiian Dinner Cruise," the "Saturday Family Picnic Cruise," "Old Economy Village Cruise," and particularly the Murder Mystery Cruise. They offer cruises for nearly every holiday too including Thanksgiving Dinner cruises, cruises with Santa and New Year's Eve cruises. Virtually every cruise except the sightseeing cruises includes a sit-down meal or buffet, and all entertainment. Gateway Clipper Cruises probably has the best line up of river cruises I've ever seen offered for local waterways.
The Gateway Clipper ships can be booked for special events too: weddings, school events, corporate events and other social events such as anniversary parties--great idea I think!
A singularly unique service that Gateway offers is a shuttle service from Station Square to either the Pittsburgh Steeler games or University of Pittsburgh football games at Heinz Field. If you're a Pirates fan, they offer the same service to PNC Park. Each way $5 pp/$10(2008 prices) roundtrip. Shuttle runs begin 2-3 hrs. prior to the games and for 1 hour after games. Sounds like a much more enjoyable way to leave the stadiums than fighting the backups in stadium parking lots.
Gateway Clipper Cruises slogan is "Great Cruises...Great Memories...A Great Fifty Years!" and it must be true!
One-hour sightseeing cruises run about $11 for adults.
Lunch themed-cruises begin at approx. $25 and up for some themed lunches.
Themed-dinner cruises begin about $40 - $45 and go as high as $75 for special cruises which include buffets with a stopover and admission to special events. A 4-hr cruise with an overnight package at the Mountaineer Casino (with several extra, nice features) is $150.
Consult their website for exact details or pick up one of their excellent schedule brochures. There is a discount coupon for sightseeing cruises in their schedule brochure. Tickets can be purchased online or at Station Square
For those of you unfortunate enough to have never attended a Steelers (or Stillers in Pittsburghese) home game, it definitely qualifies as a "Must See Activity" if you happen to be in town during the NFL season.
Pittsburgh fans are the most loyal and enthusiastic bunch, and it is advised not to parade through the parking lots (i.e. tailgates) before the game if you are dressed from head to toe in the opposing team's colors. Not that you will face any physical harm (other than someone tossing an egg or cold beer on you), but you will be heckled before, during, and after the game (even if your team someone manages to win).
Nevertheless, it is a part of my annual migration ritual either during the Labor Day, Thanksgiving, or Xmas holidays. This year, I am fortunate enough to be able to attend the last home game of the year against the arch-rival Baltimore Ravens.
Oh, and you can't buy tickets from the ticket office - you either need to know someone or be prepared to buy them from a ticket "scalper" as there is more than a 10 year waiting list for season tickets.
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