Pittsburgh has become the poster child for Rust Belt Revival. Since the collapse of the steel industry in the 1980s, the Steel City has been coming back and checking all the boxes for high quality of living. Reviving downtown from ghost town to go-to cultural district: check. Creating miles of bike lanes and a bike-share program: check. Attracting innovated chefs and restaurateurs to boost the food and drinking scene: check. And all of it is just a 20-minute drive to the beautiful ridges of the Appalachia foothills.
Must See in Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh is obsessed with its sports teams, and watching the Pirates play ball at PNC Park gives you a glimpse of that passion, not to mention tickets are cheap and views of the skyline and rivers are awesome. The impressive Gothic spire, the Cathedral of Learning, showcases both the city's wonderful architecture and higher education in one building. Right across the street, the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, which was first in the world to house accurate dinosaur bones, is a must and also includes admission to the wonderful Carnegie Museum of Art.
Where to stay in Pittsburgh
The North Shore is an ideal location for families since it is in walking distance to the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh, restaurants, two parks, stadiums, and subway stations. For young travelers looking to party the night away, the South Side is the place to be. There are rumors that a section of Carson Street has the longest unbroken stretch of drinking establishments in the country. Start at Over The Bar, then head west down Carson Street for endless options. For the best deals, stay in the North Hills, at of the many chain hotels along McKnight Road. This area only has big box stores and chain restaurants, but downtown and other great neighborhoods are just a 5-10 mile ride away.
Best and worst time to go to Pittsburgh
Late spring, from late April through May, is the best time to visit the Steel City. Yes, there are good chances of rain showers, but the bright colors of rejuvenated foliage are spectacular. Pittsburghers are also giddy to get outside with the warming temperatures, so there is usually some outdoor event happening. Some locals might argue that fall is the better season, but the city gets overwhelmingly packed with Steeler fans on fall weekends, making it hard to enjoy the other options Pittsburgh offers. January and February are the worst months to visit since the Holiday cheer is gone, the cold has truly arrived, and snow falls frequently.
Where to get lost in Pittsburgh
Wandering around the Strip District on a Saturday morning is not only a great idea for tourists, locals do it as much as they can too. The neighborhood offers the best markets, restaurants, and shopping in the area all combined with an energy that will keep you walking for hours. Stop in at Pamela's P&G Diner for some of their famous pancakes. Grab a french fries and coleslaw filled sandwich at Primanti Bros, Pittsburgh's most iconic restaurant. Then meander around one of the dozen of ethnic markets: Polish, Mexican, Asian, Middle Eastern, you name it!
The best deal in Pittsburgh
There is no better, and cheaper, introduction to the city than the Monongahela Incline. The vertical rail line offers spectacular views of the the Downtown skyline, and only costs $2-$3 for an adult one-way trip. Kids are half that. Restaurants and shopping centers are located both on top and the bottom of the incline.
Transportation in Pittsburgh
Most destinations in the Pittsburgh region require a car, so bank on renting one, especially if you stay outside of Downtown or the North Shore. Unless you are very seasoned traveler, try to avoid Pittsburgh's public transportation, buses can be infrequent and the subway, known at the T, has only two lines, only serving the South Hills.
Getting in from Pittsburgh International Airport
Unfortunately the airport is annoyingly far away from Downtown Pittsburgh. So not really any great options. Cabs can cost $40 without tip to Downtown. The 28X bus route is just a few bucks, but can take over an hour to get Downtown and the schedule can be erratic, but still not bad considering the cost. Visitors can also use ride sharing services, like Uber, for airport pick-ups at PGH International, which are a bit cheaper than a cab and can be ordered via smartphone apps.
Local tip for visitors to Pittsburgh
Bet you didn't know Pittsburgh had its own accent and language. It is a treat to hear some Pittsburghese, but can be confusing for outsiders. Here are some translations that might help you when out shopping or at restaurants:
- Chipped ham - extra fatty sliced ham
- Dippy eggs - over easy eggs to tip toast in
- Jumbo - balogna
- City chicken - cubes of pork
- Buggy - shopping cart
Author's bio: Ryan Deto, originally from California, has been exploring the streets of Pittsburgh for more than four years. He has been published in "LA Weekly" and has traveled to more than a dozen countries and more than 40 states throughout America.