While it may not be on the top of the bucket list of many, the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is at turns charming and rewarding and a wonderful destination off the beaten path. There are few cities that can make the infamous Rust Belt of the United States look as beautiful, green and fresh as the City of Bridges. A perfect introduction to the city, its three rivers and skyline is as easy as driving through Mt. Washington via the Fort Pitt Tunnel and seeing the cityscape explode into view. For a more serene view, head up Mount Washington for a view both locals and tourists rave about. It’s no mistake that many wedding proposals have happened there, and still more wedding photos. Ask anyone in Pittsburgh, and aside from a sandwich at Primanti’s, they’ll send you to Mount Washington to take in the view.
What do you like best about your city?
Pittsburghers have an outsized personality. They’re friendly and loquacious, and seeing spontaneous acts of kindness throughout the city is par for the course. The character of the city is a cross between the direct, no-nonsense mentality of the East coast and the comforting lack of pretension the Midwest is known for. It’s easy to strike up a conversation and find a new friend in a town with a heart so big.
While the view from on high atop Mount Washington is undisputedly breathtaking, the true gems of the city, its waterways, are best seen up close. The best strolls, runs or bike rides can be had along the city’s extensive riverfront trails. In the summer, a day can be made perfect with a walk along the rivers to watch the sun set at Point State Park.
Pittsburgh has undergone a Food and Beverage renaissance in the last five years or so, and there’s a restaurant for all comers. Whether it’s the Cultural District for contemporary fusion tacos at täkō, Lawrenceville for Spanish cuisine at Morcilla, the East End for vegan pierogi delights at Apteka, wood-fired street pizza from Driftwood Oven, or in the Strip District for one of the four kitchen options at restaurant-incubator Smallman Galley, there’s a price point and cuisine for even the pickiest of patrons.
While Pittsburgh has increasingly become the site of festivals, the best remains the Deutschtown Music Festival, a free festival in July that continues to expand with every passing year. The entirety of the storied North Side neighborhood comes alive with music, food and art for a magical weekend. During the rest of the year, national acts have made Pittsburgh a staple, hitting both Stage AE or in nearby Millvale to Mr. Small’s, and it’s rare there’s a week without something to see. While the amount of small venues has dwindled in the last few years, holdfasts like Howler’s, Gooski’s and the revered Banjo Night, every Wednesday at the Elk’s Lodge in Deutschtown always hold both joy and surprises.
Pittsburgh has nightlife delights for all tastes, whether it’s a late night bite in Lawrenceville, a drink after a show in the Cultural District, sardine-can clubs in the Southside or an old-fashioned bar crawl in the East End.
Best Day Trip Outside of the City
The best day trip out of Pittsburgh depends on your comfort level, but luckily both are in the same direction. A journey an hour or so outside the city will put you at Ohiopyle for high adventure like a rafting trip down the Youghiogheny River, or for a quiet stroll through Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Water, now run as a museum.
Something that not many tourists would know about
One of the best-kept secrets in Pittsburgh is its quietly thriving Asian population. Tandoori and Szechuan cuisine, Pho, and BiBimBap can all be found with relative ease. Squirrel Hill, deep in the city’s East End is home to three fantastic Szechuan restaurants. Chengdu Gourmet, one of the three, was recently a James Beard nominee.
J Endress is a Contributing Editor for the Travel and Lifestyle Blog Two by Tour