CITY GUIDE: Pittsburgh

Today’s City Guide is brought to you by Blake Matthews of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania!

Pittsburgh has come a long way from the days of smog and steel mills.  Today, the city reigns as a cultural and culinary mecca.  With many distinctive neighborhoods each boasting their own attractions and charm, Pittsburgh has quickly made a name for itself as one of America’s top travel and living destinations.

Smack-dab in the middle of the diverse region, downtown is a great place to start your journey. Chocked-full of comfortably luxurious hotels, gourmet restaurants and acclaimed theaters, it’s any travelers dream.  The newly constructed Fairmont Hotel not only features outstanding views of the city and rivers, it’s also home to one of the area’s hottest restaurants, Habitat, where Executive Chef Andrew Morrison cooks up uniquely creative dishes with an international twist and local ingredients.

Just a few feet away lay Pittsburgh’s urban oasis, Market Square. Popular restaurants like NOLA, Diamond Market, Original Oyster House and Bluebird Kitchen surround the square and the sound of live music often fills the air. Up for a drink and a show? Stop by Seviche or Meat & Potatoes for creative cocktails and apps, then make your way to Pittsburgh Public or one of the Cultural Trust theaters and prepare to be entertained.

Hop on the trolley and head across (well, under) the river for another historic stop. Home to Heinz Field and PNC Park, the North Shore is a great place for any sports fan. Locals gather for drinks at Mullen’s or Finnegan’s Wake before heading into a Pirate game. Steeler fans head to Jerome Bettis’ Grille 36 for a modern twist on bar fare before hitting the stadium. Stage AE is the newest addition to the shore, putting on indoor and outdoor concerts year round. The nearby Children’s Museum and Carnegie Science Center are less than apart and are must-sees for any young family. Art lovers can’t miss the Andy Warhol Museum, which pays homage to the Pittsburgh native and his eccentric point of view on life and art. The water steps on the North Shore Riverwalk are a great place to cool off with your kids and pets in the summertime.

Station Square is a short drive (or boat ride) away on the shores of the Monongahela River. The repurposed train station offers up familiar favorites like Hard Rock Café, Joe’s Crab Shack, Bar Louie and The Melting Pot. It’s a great spot to grab dinner and drinks or simply take in the city. Hop on the Gateway Clipper or take a Just Ducky Tour to see what the river has to offer. Next, channel your inner coal-miner and ride the iconic Monongahela Incline up to Mt. Washington.  At the top, incline riders are greeted with a breathtaking, bird’s eye view just inches away from yet another local hotspot. Shiloh Street is only a few short blocks away from the expensive, formal restaurants of Grandview Avenue, but has more of a fun, local flare. Redbeards and Shiloh Grill both offer outdoor seating and occasional live music.

Back down the incline and up Carson Street, you’ll find a collection unique eclectic shops and restaurants, peppered between bars and nightclubs. Students swarm here in droves at night and tend to pack the watering holes, but during the day there’s a lot to be said for its charm. The Milkshake Factory sells amazingly unique cool and chocolatey treats in a beautiful, vintage-chic shop. Café du Jour is one of South Side’s best-kept secrets, serving up delicious French cuisine in an intimate setting. Not far down the road is the new South Side Works – a great place to shop, relax, or rent a bike and see the city from a whole new angle.

On the other side of the city lies Pittsburgh’s famous Strip District. Every Saturday morning, the Strip is bustling with people shopping for local produce and handmade crafts at shops and stands in and around the Public Market. If you’re around in time for breakfast, DeLuca’s is the place to be. Don’t mind the lines, they’re well worth the wait. Give the seafood crepe a try if you dare. The Heinz History Center sits just between the Strip and downtown. Even locals flock here every season as the exhibits change to continue to appreciate their great city.

A stone’s throw away is the campus region of Oakland. Home to the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University and Carlow University, it’s more than just a college town. The Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History  flank the green space of Schenley Park. Here, Phipps Conservatory acts as a centerpiece of Oakland and is a favorite date and family destination.  Hungry yet? Check out the brand-new Porch at Schenley for locally sourced gourmet dining. Their Bianca pizza is a deliciously unique dish that’s perfect for sharing.

If you’re looking for a break from touring the town, head to Kennywood or Sandcastle to feel like a kid again.

The recent title of America’s Most Livable City is certainly well earned, but Pittsburgh can’t be overlooked as one of the hottest cities to visit, either. Crammed with culture and oozing with activity, this former City of Steel has something to offer for every walk of life. From young couples to growing families, sports fans to foodies, historians to art buffs, Pittsburgh is in a position to impress. A weekend here will turn skeptics to believers. A week will make it tough for visitors to keep from contemplating permanent residency.  If you’re thinking about paying us a visit, we’d love to have you. Bring your walking shoes, your cameras and your appetites. We’ll save you a seat.


September 5, 2012