30 Best Things to Do in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Pittsburgh is like that quiet student in class who only speaks when spoken to so, you think he doesn’t have anything interesting going on for him but one day, you come across his personal diary and realize he is full of strange oddities and adorable quirks. The birthplace of Heinz ketchup and the Ferris wheel, Pittsburgh is a gift that keeps on giving. Here are 30 things to do while you’re in Pittsburgh:
An Oasis in the City, the Phipps Conservatory
The conservatory was donated to this city by real estate baron Henry Phipps in the year 1893. It is situated inside the Schenley Park and the main attraction is the Victorian glass house which is surrounded by numerous lush green Gardens. The glass house has rotating seasonal exhibits such as bonsai or orchids and is perfect to cool off during the hot summer months and to enjoy some quality time admiring nature. The discovery garden is meant for children as it has interactive activities and at the centre for sustainable landscapes, you can watch a film on urban farming.
Travel Back to the Groovy 60’s at Randyland
Randyland is the brainchild of artist Randy Gilson who transformed this ruinous neighborhood into a psychedelic building which contains colorful recycled art such as paintings of pink flamingos, giant bananas, mismatched furniture, plastic dinosaurs and mannequins. Randyland is also known for providing an intellectually stimulating and safe place for local artists to gather together and create mind bending art and mesmerizing projects which are known as streetscapes and can be seen at every corner of the neighborhood.
Cool Has a Location at the Warhol Museum
Many years before the obsessive tornado of instagram and other social media apps hit our world, there was a pop art icon named Andy Warhol who proved to be way cooler than any of his contemporaries. This museum was made to honor his legacy and life’s work which contains more than 17 galleries, 900 paintings, more than 2,000 works on paper, 1,000 unique prints, 4,000 photographs, 77 sculptures and more than 4,000 videotaped works and films of Andy Warhol. He was a native of Pittsburgh city and even though he died at the age of 58, he is remembered and revered by many around the world.
Admire the Views at the Monogahela Incline
Back in the 1800s, the funiculars were extensively used throughout the country in order to take locals from the lower end of a steep hill to the very top and it was also used by miners. In 1974, with the advent of more efficient and faster ways of transportation the funiculars use became mostly practical and as a tourist attraction. Today, it is a 635 foot track that takes 1,500 visitors daily up the hill at a speed of 6 mph. The 35 minute ride is also wheelchair accessible and provides stunning and breathtaking views of the city.
Forget About Calories at Prantl’s Bakery
The Prantl’s bakery is said to have the greatest cake in America and after hearing such a claim, how can anyone resist visiting this Pittsburgh institution. The bakery serves the famous ‘burnt almond torte’ cake which was invented by Henry Prantl almost 50 years ago. The café serves other mouth watering dishes as well such as Danish fruitcakes, coffee-filled cheesecakes, thumbprint cookies which come in various flavors like pumpkin, chocolate, peanut butter and Vanilla. You can also purchase cookie trays which contain mini cheesecakes, mini bon bon, peanut butter blossom and chocolate dipped chocolate chip cookie.
Spread Your Wings at the National Aviary
The national aviary is a bird sanctuary which contains 500 birds of more than 150 species from across the globe and is situated in the city’s historic north side. The area allows visitors to engage with the environment through interactive exhibits where you can meet and feed many rare varieties of birds. This is also the location of department of conservation and field research which hosts educational programs for adults and children teaching them the impact of human population on birds and the environment as a whole.
Feel Inspired at the Invention Land
The creative world of Invention land was opened in the year 2006 when two individuals, George Davison and Nathan Field wanted to construct a building where artists, graphic designers and industrial engineers could come together and brainstorm about new ideas and products. This process may involve conceptualizing and creating works of art for display as well as products for the purpose of patenting and commercialism. Some of the most notable items to see here include a pirate ship, crafty cottage, animation attic, creativity cabin, nursery nook, brainpower ballpark, tree house and pet shack.
Turn Back the Clock at Point State Park
The point state park is not only known for its refreshing lush green Gardens but also as a historic site which was the landmark during the French and Indian war of the late 18th century. The park contains beautiful riverfront promenades and a 150 tall fountain which is a great photo opportunity. The fort pitt museum is situated within the vicinity and preserves the early history of the city of Pittsburgh as well as the fort pitt black house which is the oldest and most authentic building of Western Pennsylvania.
Treat Your Ears at the Elk’s Lodge
Elk’s lodge happens to be a restaurant and bar where a group of musicians who play together in a band come together to practice every evening at the lodge and visitors can listen to the exhilarating sound of the banjo, free of charge. This seems too good to be true but in fact, the experience is elevated even higher when you get the alcohol of your choice at a cheap cost and sumptuous dishes which include the famous mac and cheese. The four stringed instrument never fails to leave its listeners amused and entertained.
Stuff Your Face at Mineo’s Pizza House
The Mineo’s pizza house was started in the year 1958 and since then, has become one of the most famous eateries in Pittsburgh. The third generation of the Mineo family has now taken charge of the restaurant and has continued their founder, John Mineo’s tradition of using hand grated cheese, slow cooked sauce made from fresh Italian tomatoes and homemade dough. Some of their notable dishes include the buffalo chicken pizza, the brother’s breakfast special, Sicilian, calzone and the customer’s favorite which is called John’s special. Excited much?
Feel the Breeze at Highland Park
As soon as you step into Highland Park, you will be welcomed by a breathtaking fountain situated in the middle of a Victorian style garden known as the entry gardens. These lush green areas will take you up at a vantage point where you get to witness striking views of the entire area. The Park has a well-known water reservoir which was created in the year 1879 and has been a permanent fixture of this place. You can jog, stroll or bike around the reservoir as well as take yoga classes and have a lovely picnic out in the sun with your loved ones.
Relive Your Childhood Dreams at Kennywood
Kennywood is a premium 150 acre amusement park which has been a Pittsburgh thrill for many decades as some of its rides were built in the early 20th century such as turtle and thunderbolt, a wooden roller coaster. The other rides which you can enjoy here include the Pittsburgh plunge water, phantom’s revenge roller coaster, carousels, water rides, a 3D experience, a 4D theatre and paddle boats. You would need to spend at least an entire day here in order to truly enjoy this adventurous Park.
Be Enthralled at the Pittsburgh Zoo and Museum
The Pittsburgh zoo and museum provides for an odyssey of fun due to its vast and stirring varieties of animal and wildlife present inside the 77 acres vicinity. The zoo contains multiple zones such as the islands where you get to see Philippine crocodiles, leopards and siamangs. The next zone is called the jungle where you get to witness a giant anteater, a hippo and the world’s largest rat known as the fossa. The main attraction however is the aquarium which houses a polar bear and sea otters. This zoo and museum will keep you enthralled throughout and it will be quite difficult to convince yourself to leave this place.
Visit the Carnegie Museum of Natural History
The Carnegie museum of natural history will fulfill your childhood dreams of going to Jurassic Park as this massive museum contains 22 million specimens among which there is the world’s largest collection of Jurassic dinosaur’s fossils such as the Diplodocus carnegii, the Apatosaurus and an oviraptorosaur. The museum also hosts many educational programs relating to anthropology, birds, botany, Mammals and minerals, among many others. This is an exceptional place to bring your kids and teach them about the beauty of science.
Travel Back in Time at Heinz History Center
Each of one us is familiar with the ‘Heinz ketchup’ and even though, this center only features it in one of its exhibits, the history museum is dedicated to telling the larger story of the city starting from the early settlers, the revolutionary war, slave trade and the underground railroad. One of its exhibits is dedicated to the H.J. Heinz Company which covers the history starting as a horseradish manufacturer to one of the world’s largest food and Beverage Company. The exhibits dedicated to native inventions such as the Ferris wheel, the polio vaccine, the big mac and growth of public service broadcasting.
Learn About Steel at the Carrie Furnace Tour
The Carrie furnace is a renovated and restored steel furnace from the glorious past of Pittsburgh’s rich history as America’s prime steel producing city but since the industry went bust in the 1980s, the Rivers of steel heritage foundation have dedicated this tour of the furnace as a remembrance of the past and the people who worked within it. All the volunteers who will act as your guide are former employees of the furnace and they add a personal touch to the tour by explaining their daily activities and life as a furnace worker. This tour has immense historical importance and will give you an insight into the history of Pittsburgh.
Be Amused at Liberty Magic
There is nothing more fascinating and alluring than magic in this world and if you’re a fan of it or even a skeptic then, you should get ready to be amazed by the magnetic performances that take place at Liberty magic. This place hosts a variety of different magicians and is situated in downtown Pittsburgh. Liberty Magic has only been recently opened but its inaugural performer was Eric Jones, a magician who participated in America’s got talent. The seating is only for 66 people and hence you will be able to have a closer look at the performances due to the intimate setting.
Laugh Out Loud at Arcade Comedy Theatre
The arcade comedy theatre is situated in the downtown area of Pittsburgh called Liberty Avenue which was once the seediest places of the city and was known to the ‘red-light’ district but in the 1980s, the area was transformed into a cultural hub for the visual and performing arts. The theatre has only been opened for a few years and despite its intimate seating for 75 people, it has flourished as one of Pittsburgh’s all-time favorites when it comes to date night or just wanting to have a hearty laugh. They also provide weekly classes for improv, sketch writing and stand up.
Too Much to Eat at Federal Galley
The federal galley is a restaurant incubator in the style of a food hall and features four different chefs at one time which are then replaced after a few years by a new set of chefs. This unique experience provides Hawaiian fusion dishes such as truffle tuna poke and deep fried egg rolls at Shaka, you can try new Mexican dishes at Guapo which include nachos and burritos, you also have the option of eating at ‘which came first’ that serves chicken and egg dishes as well as Provision PGH which serves creative American cuisine. At Federal galley, you will never run out of options.
Art and Humor Meet at Mattress Factory
No, this isn’t going to be a tour of a mattress factory instead it is a contemporary art museum which features mind bending and interesting art works which are definitely worth your time. The many exhibits such as James Turrell’s Castro, red and danae and the repetitive vision and infinity dots mirrored room by Yayoi Kusama is an immersive experience elevated by its overall vibrancy. Other exhibits such as ‘damn everything but the circus’ is interactive as it lets visitors play on actual circus equipments.
The Future is Here at Robot Hall of Fame
The robot hall of fame is situated inside the Carnegie science center and is the world’s largest permanent exhibition of robotics. This is a paradise for nerds and geeks as it houses some iconic robots such as WALL-E, C-3PO, Gort, big dog and roomba. The robots are just as fascinating as their names and you will be left amazed by the sheer variety and functioning of these electronic creatures. Some of the robots here are even interactive and with the help of guides, you can understand about the mathematics that went into making them.
Take a Huge Bite at the Big Mac Museum
If you’ve lived long enough as a 21st century human being then you are well aware of the indomitable impact McDonalds has had on the food choices of the world and especially, America. The Big Mac museum was opened in the year 2007 as a tribute to Pennsylvanian native Jim Delligatti who invented the famous sandwich in the year 1967. The museum houses a 14 foot tall sculpture of the big Mac as well as displays of packaging and the history of the sandwich.
Get Weird at the Trundle Manor
Situated in an unassuming and quiet neighborhood of Pittsburgh, the trundle manor is an unusual museum containing oddities such as taxidermy which is the art of stuffing dead animals to make them look lifelike. The manor also contains other hair-raising items such as dead things in jars, steampunk sculptures, absurd artworks, rusty cleavers, antique medical devices, animal skulls, gas masks, weaponry and coffins as well as taxidermy of ‘pigeon shark’ and ‘rat bird’. The trundle manor will take you a step closer to being awake in your scariest nightmare.
Eat as Though There’s No Tomorrow at the Abbey
A former funeral home has been repurposed as a restaurant and the result of this unique transformation is the Abbey. The interior of the place is the most striking element as it has high ceilings with chandeliers giving off a yellow glow, sending a chill down your spine. There is also a bar which is long enough to seat half the city and serves some classic craft beers such as Sierra Nevada, full pint and rivertown. The recommended dishes served here include shepherd’s pie, fried chicken, meatballs, fish and chips as well as nitro coffee.
Climb Up a Steep Street at Canton Avenue
The canton avenue is situated in the beechview neighborhood of Pittsburgh and is considered to be the steepest street in the entire country with a maximum gradient of 37 percent which makes it extremely difficult to climb. The dirty dozen bike race takes place here every year since the year 1983 where you get to witness numerous professional and amateur cyclists fall off the street or fail to get to the top. Even though, it may just be a street it is one of the most visited tourist spots of the city and climbing it is worth the challenge and sometimes, the bruises.
Feel the Goosebumps at the Weeping Glass
The weeping glass will definitely make you weep with fear once you come across the various macabre oddities housed inside it such as animal bones, absurd things stuffed inside glass, penis bone, a raccoon and taxidermy critters. Situated in the Allentown neighborhood of the city, this shop hosts taxidermy classes and tarot card readings which are always fun to participate in even though you may be a skeptic. The weeping glass store also hosts a midnight death parlor where they have performers tell spooky tales of murder and tragedy in a candle lit night. Get ready to feel the chill run down your spine!
Drink a Pint at the Church Brew Works
In 1902, St. John the Baptist Church was built as a house of god and for decades it served its purpose by giving shelter and guidance to people during difficult times such as the depression era. By 1993, the church had been abandoned but just three years later, after extensive renovations it was made into a large beer hall which is regarded as one of the finest breweries of the country. Their menu includes dishes such as beer steamed mussels, beer battered dill pickles and pizzas, among many others. You see, today it provides a different kind of guidance.
Visit the Photo Antiquities Museum
The photo antiquities museum might seem tiny from the outside but once you step inside, you will be left pleasantly surprised by the vast history of photography it covers starting from 1839 to 1939. The museum’s walls adorn innumerous vintage camera and other equipments such as magic lantern slides which had been meticulously painted in the 19th century. The place has an impressive blend of science, history and even, photography lessons which can help you understand the beauty of photography.
Politics and Hunger Unite at Conflict Kitchen
The conflict kitchen is a small takeout restaurant which serves food from countries which don’t see eye-to-eye with the United States relating to social, cultural or economic issues such as Iran, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea. Every few months, the country is changed and once a particular nation is chosen, they have live Skype sessions with people of the opposing countries, exhibitions and discussions in order to make locals understand the issue at hand and create awareness, all the while serving mouthwatering dishes.
The burgh has given the world many gems such as billionaire Mark Cuban, singer Christina Aguilera, dancer Gene Kelly and everyone’s childhood hero Fred Rogers. Most importantly, the city has challenged the cultural and artistic world with the creations of Pittsburgh native, Andy Warhol. This city is a factory for churning out famous people.