- For other places with the same name, see Pittsburgh (disambiguation).
The pleasure of Pittsburgh remains a well-kept secret. Though not built up by reputation, the city's unique combination of bridges, steep hills, and broad rivers make it one of the most naturally scenic cities in the country. Cheap food and beer abound in this true sports town and the locals are amazingly friendly. A city of about 307,000 in Allegheny County, at the center of a metro area of about 2.4 million in southwestern Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh is situated at the confluence of three rivers: the Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers, which meet to form the Ohio River. The city's unique terrain has resulted in an unusual city design and a hodge-podge of unique neighborhood "pockets" with diverse ethnic and architectural heritage. Pittsburgh has a rich history and, for its size, an unusual array of cultural treasures, largely thanks to the wealth that was generated when Pittsburgh was a hub of industry.
| Downtown |
The historic, economic, administrative, and cultural center of the city, where the three rivers meet.
| East End-South |
Home to the city's "second downtown" - the college neighborhood of Oakland - as well as many institutions, parks, and quieter residential and shopping areas. The main neighborhoods of interest in this area are Oakland, Shadyside, and Squirrel Hill.
| East End-North |
A center of the city's ethnic diversity, this formerly industrial area is now bustling with shops and restaurants. The main neighborhoods of interest in this area are the Strip District, Lawrenceville, Bloomfield, and East Liberty.
| North Side |
Two of Pittsburgh's major league sports teams and many of the city's finest museums can be found here. The main neighborhoods of interest in this area are the North Shore, Allegheny, and the Mexican War Streets. (Note: In common parlance, "Northside" most often refers to these and a few other specific neighborhoods in this area. See the district article for details.)
| South Side |
A particularly hilly region famous for its incline railways and great views of the city - as well as its bar scene. The main neighborhoods of interest in this area are the Southside Flats and Mt Washington. (Note: In common parlance, "Southside" most often refers to two specific neighborhoods in this area: the Southside Flats and Southside Slopes. This region also includes some neighborhoods considered the "West End". See the district article for more).
This system of districts is based upon the Pittsburgh Wayfinder System, a series of 5-colored maps of the city you will see on directional signs throughout the city. Each color indicates a different region, while the blue lines represent the three rivers.
Each of these districts contains numerous distinct neighborhoods. The city has published a map showing all neighborhoods, with printable maps of each.
The first European to "discover" the site of Pittsburgh was French discoverer/trader Sieur de La Salle in his 1669 expedition. The settlement of Pittsburgh began as a strategic point at the confluence of three rivers, with Britain, France, and the local Native American tribes all vying for control over this spot and thus, the region. On what is now referred to as The Point, where the rivers meet, several forts were constructed by competing French and British forces during the French and Indian War. In 1758, British general John Forbes ordered the construction of Fort Pitt, named after British Secretary of State William Pitt the Elder. He also named the settlement between the rivers "Pittsborough".
Manufacturing in Pittsburgh began in earnest in the early 19th century, and by the US Civil War the city was known as "the armory of the Union." This began a sharp escalation of industry, particularly steel and glass. By the late 19th century, Pittsburgh was known as the Steel City. Andrew Carnegie began the Carnegie Steel Company in 1892, which became United States Steel (USS) a decade later and grew to be the largest corporation of any kind in the world. Carnegie became the richest man on Earth and, along with other local magnates of industry, gave Pittsburgh cultural institutions such as the Carnegie Museums, Carnegie Library, and Carnegie-Mellon University. A number of other Fortune 100 companies have called Pittsburgh their headquarters, helping fund world-class museums, theaters, universities, and other attractions.
The Pittsburgh English dialect, popularly referred to as "Pittsburghese", has derived from influences from its immigrants. Locals who speak in this dialect are sometimes referred to as "Yinzers" (from the local word for "you guys/people", yinz [var. yunz]). The dialect has some tonal similarities to other nearby regional dialects, but is noted for its somewhat staccato rhythms. It also has so many local peculiarities that the New York Times described Pittsburgh as "the Galapagos Islands of American dialect".
Some examples of Pittsburghese words include:
Many words are also pronounced uniquely in Pittsburgh:
The people of Pittsburgh are also notorious for speaking very fast.
See the Pittsburghese website for more examples.
At the height of this industrialization Pittsburgh was notorious for its severe air pollution. One journalist, James Parton, descriptively dubbed it "hell with the lid off". White-collar workers came home in the evening as "brown-collar" workers. When asked what to do to fix Pittsburgh, the noted architect Frank Lloyd Wright famously replied with his characteristic frankness, "Raze it." Following World War II, the city launched a clean air and civic revitalization project known as the "Renaissance." This much-acclaimed effort was followed by the "Renaissance II" project, begun in 1977 and focusing more on cultural and neighborhood development than its predecessor. The industrial base continued to expand through the 1960s, but beginning in the 1970s and 1980s, the steel industry in the region imploded, with massive layoffs and mill closures.
Today Pittsburgh is a model of cleanliness due to the remediation of the polluting industrial plants in the late 1950s, as well as the gradual migration of the mills to other cities and countries. There is now only one operating steel mill in the region, Carnegie Steel's venerable Edgar Thompson Works, now a USS state-of-the-art integrated steel mill. With the implosion of the steel industry in the region, the city's population shrank dramatically, from 600,000 in 1950 to 330,000 in 2000. Remnants of the city's more prosperous past can be seen throughout the area. But while the region is still reeling from the economic collapse, Pittsburgh is now (for the most part) economically stable, as the city has shifted the economic base to services such as education, medicine, technology, and finance.
The people of Pittsburgh are indeed what make it such a unique place. The city has been shaped by its immigrants, whose specific traditions have left a lasting mark. Pittsburghers are generally welcoming, down-to-earth, and unpretentious. Pittsburgh has also recently gained attention as a burgeoning center for counter-culture.
The British were the first to permanently settle Pittsburgh, and early settlers included the English, Scottish, Welsh, and Irish, as well as German, drawn by mining, shipping, and manufacturing. These people formed the foundation of Pittsburgh, still physically visible in the oldest parts of the city.
By the late 1800s, the demand for labor was so strong the new immigrants - the so-called "millhunks" - began flocking to Pittsburgh, chiefly from Central and Eastern Europe. They not only provided labor, but brought their families, their languages, their churches, and other traditions. Today Pittsburgh's identity has been strongly molded by the ethnic traditions of these immigrants from countries like Poland, Slovakia, Ukraine, Italy, Lithuania, Serbia, and Croatia. Steeples and the bright copper onion-dome churches of the Eastern Orthodox tradition dot the old parts of town, and grandmas wearing babushkas are a common sight. Pittsburgh is also home to a large Jewish community, centered in Squirrel Hill.
Pittsburgh's modern economy has brought new immigrants from places such as India and China, along with their traditions; the Pittsburgh region today is home to a number of Hindu temples, for example. Pittsburgh has truly been a great melting pot, and continues to be as a home to thousands of students from across the world that attend the many universities in the city, especially Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh. In addition, Pittsburgh has an organized LGBT community and anti-discrimination laws inclusive of LGBT people have been enacted at both the city and county levels.
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The surrounding landscape has had a huge impact on Pittsburgh; Pittsburgh's characteristic rivers and hills have shaped the city physically, economically, and socially.
Like most older cities, it was the rivers that made the city. The rivers allowed for the transport of raw materials and provided water used for making steel, and allowed for easy shipping of finished products. Today, the rivers attract mostly recreational boaters, but still support extensive barge traffic. Pittsburgh claims to have more bridges than any city in the world (only counting bridges over 20 feet, 440 or so within Pittsburgh, and over 1700 in the county).
The hilly landscape—arguably the most rugged of any city east of the Rockies—has created unique neighborhoods; flat lands near the rivers were used for mills, while workers' houses cling precariously to the hillsides above. In many places "pockets" of neighborhoods, divided by rivers and valleys, have developed distinctly different characteristics from each other, despite being very close together. Much of the landscape, with its many unbuildable slopes, remains lush and green, and provides for amazing views.
Pittsburgh's visitor information centers offer maps, brochures and other information for tourists. The VisitPittsburgh website offers more guides and lists of things to do.
- Downtown Pittsburgh Info Center, on Liberty Avenue adjacent to Gateway Center, near Point State Park Downtown. Hours: M-F 9AM-5PM (Apr-Oct), 9AM-4PM (Nov-Mar); Sa 9AM-5PM; Su 10AM-3PM.
- Pittsburgh International Airport Info Center. Hours: M 9AM-4PM; Tu-F 10AM-5PM; Sa 10AM-6PM; Su 2PM-6PM.
- Senator John Heinz History Center, 1212 Smallman Street, Strip District. Hours: all week, 10AM-5PM.
Pittsburgh International Airport (IATA: PIT) is the normal way in, although the area is also served by the smaller Allegheny County Airport in West Mifflin, primarily used by private and corporate airplanes. The airport is located near Robinson Township in Findlay, about 20 miles west of downtown, translating to about a $35 cab ride ($50 in rush hour traffic). Hotel shuttles and buses are also available, and can be cheaper. A city bus, route 28X, also connects the airport to Downtown and Oakland, taking a reasonably fast route mostly along freeways and dedicated busways, and costing much less than a taxi.
The airport terminal is relatively new, yet you will find it is quite empty in terms of passenger traffic, even after closing one of the main concourses. This is mainly due to the relocation of many US Airways flights to/and from Pittsburgh. When it was built it was the first "airport mall" in the country, with many shops and restaurants, a model which has been much copied since it was completed.
From your plane, you will arrive in the Airside Terminal. If you are transiting to another destination you don't have to leave this building, and this is where most of the Airmall shops are which makes window shopping a pleasant way of passing the time. Free Wi-Fi is also available. If you are coming to the Pittsburgh area though, you will take a rail shuttle a short distance underground to the Landside Terminal where you will find the baggage claim and the various transportation modes to the city and other regional locations. A Hyatt Hotel is connected to the landside terminal complex and there are several hotels (Embassy Suites and Sheraton among them) within 5 miles of the airport.
The airport is served by Air Canada, Airtran, American, Delta, Frontier, JetBlue, Southwest, and United, but US Airways is predominant. There are non-stop flights to/from most of the major airports around the country, as well as some service to Canada and the Caribbean and limited service to Paris.
- Greyhound, ☎ +1 412 392-6513 or +1 800 231-2222 for routes and schedules. Serves Pittsburgh from a station in the transportation center at 11th and Liberty in Downtown.
- Fullington Trailways, ☎ +1 814 765-7871 or +1 800 252-3893. Also serves Pittsburgh out of the Greyhound station. Twice daily direct Service to DuBois, PA, along with one daily (5AM departure) connecting service to Buffalo, NY, Wilkes-Barre, and Harrisburg. As a Greyhound alternative, you can travel to New York City by taking the 5AM Fullington departure and connecting in Wilkes-Barre with the Martz Trailways bus to NYC, for a less-crowded bus (but longer trip).
- Megabus, ☎ . Serves Pittsburgh with service from various cities in the Northeast and Midwest. The bus stop is located under the David L. Lawrence Convention Center just north of the intersection of 10th Street and Penn Avenue. Fares from $1 and up..
The city proper is served by three interstate routes that spur from the triangular-shaped beltway formed by I-76 (PA Turnpike) to the north and east, I-79 to the west and I-70 to the far south. These three spurs form what locals often refer to as "parkways". The Parkways West and East are signed as I-376, and the Parkway North is signed as I-279.
The interstate system links Pittsburgh with many cities. If coming from the east or west, your best bet into the city is I-76, the Pennsylvania Turnpike. From the west, take exit 10 (New Castle) and follow I-376 east to downtown. If coming from the east, take exit 57 (Pittsburgh) and follow I-376 west to downtown. From the north, use I-79 and take the exit to I-279 south. From the south, use I-79 and take the exit to I-376 east.
Within the metro area several limited-access turnpike spur routes have been partially or fully completed recently including the Mon-Fayette Expressway linking the historic "Steel Valley" area to State Route 51 in Jefferson Hills (and eventually to Monroeville). PA Route 66 in nearby Greensburg offers a quick jump on the eastern side of the metro from I-70/I-76 (Turnpike mainline) junction area to the Kiski Valley in the northeast, and the newly completed Findlay connector offers quick access from the airport terminal to points west and south of the airport such as Steubenville, Ohio, and Weirton and Wheeling, West Virginia. PA 65 along the northern section of the city of Pittsburgh, PA 28 along the Allegheny Valley from downtown through the Oakmont and 76/Turnpike area to beyond Kittaning in Armstrong County and PA 60 from the I-279/79 junction through the airport area and up through Beaver to New Castle and I-80 are all toll-free state limited access highways in the region. US 22 from Robinson through to the Findlay airport connector and on to the West Virigina panhandle and east-central Ohio offers toll free interstate like travel as well.
Amtrak, +1 800 872-7245, services Pittsburgh with a station Downtown at Grant and Liberty, just across the street from the Greyhound depot. Two Amtrak routes serve Pittsburgh: the Capitol Limited, which runs daily between Chicago and Washington, DC, and the Pennsylvanian, which runs daily between Pittsburgh and New York City through Philadelphia.
Pittsburgh is difficult for strangers to get around in because the roads go every which way, constrained by the rivers and hills. Many are one-way and nearly all are narrow, as they were laid out in the days of horse-and-buggy transportation. Those with a GPS navigation device should get around all right. For those without, a taxi is an option until you get used to the roads, but the public transit, operated by the Port Authority (see below), works quite well for travel within the city. If you do find yourself lost or unsure, however, do not be afraid to ask for help. Many locals are so friendly - and giving directions can be so confusing - that they might just show you to your destination themselves.
By public transit
The Port Authority, +1 412 442-2000 (or PAT as some residents refer to it), operates bus, light rail and incline service in Pittsburgh. Bus service covers much of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County and, for the most part, is reliable and clean. Light rail (commonly referred to as "The T") connects the south side of the city to downtown and the stadiums, but doesn't connect to many other points of interest.
Routes can be confusing, but both the Port Authority's website and Google Maps (which is perhaps better) offer trip planners. Google Maps also shows bus and trolley stops. Bus stops are typically marked with a simple blue sign reading "Bus Stop" and listing route numbers and names.
Before boarding a bus or trolley, check Port Authority's schedules (all of which are available on their website) and confirm its destination with the driver.
- Zones: Fare varies depending on the zone you are traveling to/from. These zones are radial, with Downtown as the center. All bus schedules have charts detailing fare structure. The Port Authority has a page explaining fare structure.
- Base fare is $2.50, and covers destinations within Zone 1, which encompasses the city limits and a few nearby suburbs. Travel within Zone 2, which covers the outlying suburbs, is $3.75.
- The Free Fare Zone covers the Downtown core, offering free bus and trolley service. This zone is bound by the rivers and, on the east, Ross and 11th Streets (however, the two "T" stations on the North Side are also included in this zone).
- Transfers: For an extra dollar, passengers can purchase a transfer ticket, valid for three hours to use on any other route (including the one you rode in on, a good money-saver for short trips).
- Reduced Fare: Children 6-11 and seniors 65+ get half off all fares and transfer fees.
- "T" Rush Hour Surcharge: The "T" system charges an extra 75 cents during weekday rush hours (6-9AM on inbound trips and 4-6:30PM on outbound trips).
Paying: The fare system PAT utilizes can be confusing, especially to visitors. Most bus and all light-rail routes utilize a "pay enter/pay leave" system; If you are traveling INTO or TOWARDS Downtown ("inbound"), you pay the fare as you board the bus. If you are traveling OUT OF or AWAY from Downtown ("outbound"), the fare is paid when you reach your destination. Further adding to the confusion, at night (after 7PM), ALL fares on all trips are paid upon boarding the bus, regardless of destination. PAT has a "How to Pay" page on its website.
Taxis are a good (if expensive) way of dealing with Pittsburgh's spaghetti roads until you get used to them, at least within downtown and the inner areas of the city itself. However they can be nearly impossible to hail on the street, and plan to wait a while if you call one on a night or weekend. If you are downtown, the best bet is to head for the nearest hotel taxi stand.
- Yellow Cab +1 412 321-8100.
With a multitude of hills and valleys, Pittsburgh is an eclectic town to travel by car for even the natives. Very little is straightforward about Pittsburgh travel via car, but some constants help road warriors get by.
Major highways include the Parkways East, West (both Interstate 376), and North (Interstate 279). The PA Turnpike (Interstate 76) connects Pittsburgh to Harrisburg and Philadelphia while Interstate 79 provides connections to Erie in the north and Morgantown, West Virginia in the south. Other major routes include Interstate 579 (Crosstown Blvd), PA 51, PA 28, PA 837, PA 885, PA Turnpike 43 (Mon-Fayette Expressway (partially completed)), US 19, US 22, and US 30.
A trick to not getting lost in Pittsburgh is the well-kept secret of the Belt System. The Belt System consists of 5 color-coded routes along main roads, forming a unique system of ring routes around the City and county. It provides a navigational aid for motorists in unfamiliar portions of the county. These belts are long, winding circular paths which allow travelers to freely explore the city with little fear of getting truly lost. If you are hopelessly lost and encounter a Belt sign (blue, red, yellow...), following these signs is a good way to locate a main travel artery and get back on track, as they cross most major highways. If nothing else, the belts tend to eventually circle back on themselves and, at the very least, you will get back to where you started if you keep following them. Routes are marked with signs showing a colored circle.
Visitors may want to be careful of the Pittsburgh left. At traffic lights, a driver wishing to turn left will do so as soon as the light turns green, regardless of whether another vehicle has the right-of-way. This may sound strange and even dangerous, but it actually has a useful purpose; at many intersections, there is only one lane of travel in each direction, so someone waiting to make a left turn will block the traffic behind them if they cannot make the turn. While waiting to make a left turn at an intersection, you may find cars traveling the other direction will wait in order for you to make the left turn and keep the traffic behind you moving. While not done as much by the younger generation, the Pittsburgh Left still has its adherents.
- Lane Irregularities
- Beware the "left only" lane: you can be driving straight down the road and suddenly the lane you are in becomes a "Left Turn Only" lane, although you did not change lanes. This is common in other cities in the right lane but not the left. However, there is no rule for when this will happen in Pittsburgh, and it can happen in right lanes as well, so drivers tend to drift back and forth from left lane to right without signaling. If you are new to the city keep an eye on the signs leading up to each intersection.
- As in Baltimore, many times there is no separate lane for parking, so driving in the right lane can mean you suddenly become stuck behind a parked car.
Gateway Clipper and Pittsburgh Water Limo offer shuttle services to sports events at Heinz Field and PNC Park. Gateway Clipper operates all cruises from Station Square in the South Side. Pittsburgh Water Limo operates all shuttles from 23rd Street in the Strip District.
Pittsburgh has some fine biking trails, most of which run along the rivers. However, Pittsburgh isn't so friendly to street cycling - the streets are narrow, are often very rough, and much of the city is very hilly, so unless you're an experienced urban cyclist, it's best to stick to the trails. BikePGH offers information for bicyclists and hosts biking events.
- Golden Triangle Bike Rental, 600 First Avenue (next to the First Ave. T Station, along the Eliza Furnace Trail), ☎ . Hours vary by season. There are additional seasonal locations at the South Side Works mall and next to PNC Park on the North Shore.
See the Districts articles for more listings.
Pittsburgh is home to many wonderful museums, including some truly world-class institutions. The Carnegie Museums in Oakland are absolutely spectacular; enclosed in one massive building is the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, with extensive exhibits on paleontology, geology, and biology, and the Carnegie Museum of Art, with classical and contemporary works by many fine artists. Nearby is the Frick Art and Historical Center, which is the home of steel magnate Henry Clay Frick's mansion, now open for tours. In the Strip District is the Senator John Heinz History Center, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution and the largest history museum in Pennsylvania, with six floors of permanent and changing exhibitions on the history Western Pennsylvania. The Toonseum in Downtown is one of only three museums in the country exclusively dedicated to the cartoon arts.
North Side is home to quite a few museums. The Andy Warhol Museum is one of the most comprehensive single-artist museums in the world, with exhibits of the artist's life and work, recreations of portions of "The Factory", screening of films, and educational programs about the Pittsburgh-born artist as well as other contemporary and pop artists. The Carnegie Science Center, a major science museum which is another of the Carnegie Museums, and the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh are both very popular with kids. The Mattress Factory is contemporary art on the installation-scale, with several notable James Turrell works in their permanent collection. The National Aviary allows you to get up close with plenty of exotic birds.
Pittsburgh has more than its fair share of incredible architecture in many different styles, largely thanks to the wealth of its earlier industrialists and diverse influences of its many immigrants. Following the decline of the steel industry, the city has prioritized historic preservation and sustainable building as the city modernizes. Architecture buffs will find something interesting in every corner of the city, but there are some highlights:
Naturally, Downtown gets the lion's share of attention here. Walking some of the narrow downtown streets gives a very notable urban canyon effect, unusual for a midsized city. Pittsburgh has an impressive skyline for a city of its size, with the U.S. Steel Tower being the tallest building in the city. However, it's Phillip Johnson's shimmering PPG Place that captures much of the attention, with its glass pinnacles that make the building resemble a castle right out of a fairy tale. Beneath these towering structures are numerous historic buildings from the early 20th century, built by the biggest names in industry at the time. H.H. Richardson's Allegheny County Courthouse and Jail are gorgeous stone structures that still serves as a government building, while just across the street the Frick Building and the Union Trust Building are prime examples of commercial architecture from the time. Recent years have brought buildings like the David L Lawrence Convention Center, an impressive modern structure along the Allegheny River.
Heading east through Oakland, stately Victorians and large parks replace the bustle and height of downtown. This was, after all, where some of the wealthiest men of the early 20th century lived and played. Among them was Henry Clay Frick, whose house in Point Breeze is open for tours near the massive park that also bears his name. Within Oakland proper are the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University, and both campuses contain even more stunning architecture. Dominating the Oakland landscape is the Cathedral of Learning, the 42-story centerpiece of the University of Pittsburgh campus and the second-tallest academic building in the world (the tallest is in Russia). The Cathedral is a magnificent example of Gothic Revival architecture and is also home to the Nationality Rooms, a series of rooms decorated in the themes of the various cultures that played a role in the city's development. Next door to the Cathedral is the much shorter (but still impressive) Heinz Chapel, which sports magnificent stained glass windows.
If you want to get closer to the industrial past of the city, both South Side and the area around the Strip District are home to numerous industrial buildings and old warehouses, most of them now converted into lofts, shops, restaurants, and other uses.
While many of Pittsburgh's neighborhoods may not have many stately and notable buildings (besides many churches), their urban design - how they were laid out and built, often with narrow, winding streets - can feel more like Europe than the US, and provide a great opportunity for exploring. It is sometimes easy to get lost, but with surprises around every corner, that can be half the fun. Most neighborhoods (especially those of greatest interest listed above) are very walkable and safe, and this activity is of course 100% free. Some of the most interesting neighborhoods for exploring are the South Side, Lawrenceville, Bloomfield, and the North Side.
Parks and outdoors
For a city previously defined by industry, Pittsburgh has an impressive quantity of good parks to enjoy. Pittsburgh's four large city parks are excellent places to bike, jog, walk, or play.
East End-South has many of the city's finer park spaces. Next door to Oakland is Schenley Park, a 456-acre park which is a haven for exercisers, sunbathers, and anyone who appreciates beautiful green space. Schenley Plaza, next to the Cathedral of Learning and Carnegie Museums, features snack stands, a carousel, and sometimes festivals. Nearby is Phipps Conservatory, which boasts stunning indoor and outdoor gardens with beautiful floral displays. On the eastern limits of the city is Frick Park, the largest of Pittsburgh's parks and the perfect escape from the city, with its naturalistic setting and beautiful woodlands.
In East End-North is Highland Park, a large park with some beautiful gardens and a couple of lovely lakes situated among the hills of the area. Within Highland Park is the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium, a large zoo/aquarium complex with animals from all over the world. Point State Park in Downtown has a large fountain which marks the spot where the three rivers of Pittsburgh meet. In addition to being a favorite spot for office workers to take breaks, many festivals and special events are held in this park. Finally, the North Side is home to Riverview Park and the Allegheny Observatory.
See the Districts articles for more listings.
- If you can only do one thing in Pittsburgh, take one of the inclines to the top of Mount Washington near South Side to take in the view of the beautiful skyline. The Monongahela and Duquesne Inclines rise nearly 400 feet over the city from stations near Station Square. The views from Mount Washington are magnificent, but they are only the most popular - there are numerous other spots to take in views of the city, many that are more off the beaten path.
- Several different tour companies are based out of Station Square in South Side, and many of them give river tours - indeed, one of the best ways to see Pittsburgh is from the three rivers themselves, taking in views of the downtown skyline, the hillsides, the bridges, and the stadiums.
With tons of die-hard fans, three major league sports teams, and a long history of sports dedication, Pittsburgh is truly a great sports town. Few things define Pittsburgh like the Pittsburgh Steelers NFL team, who go down in history as one of the greatest NFL franchises of all time and have one of the largest fan bases in all of American football. The Steelers play all their home games at Heinz Field in the North Side. Also in the North Side is PNC Park, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates MLB team. While the Pirates have had a hard go of it in the last two decades, they've recently found new energy and manage to keep a loyal fan base, with a ballpark that is considered one of the most beautiful in the major leagues. Pittsburgh is also home to the Pittsburgh Penguins NHL team, who play Downtown at the newly constructed Consol Energy Center.
College sports are also very big in Pittsburgh. The Pittsburgh Panthers of the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt) are very popular in the region, with teams in a variety of sports. The men's and women's basketball teams have been very competitive lately, with the men's frequently ranking in the top 15 in the NCAA basketball playoffs. Both basketball teams play at the Petersen Events Center on the Pitt campus in Oakland. The Panthers football team is also quite popular; they share Heinz Field with the Steelers. Also in Pittsburgh are the Duquesne Dukes of Duquesne University near Downtown, whose basketball and football teams remain popular, and the Carnegie Mellon Tartans of Carnegie Mellon University in Oakland. The Robert Morris Colonials of Robert Morris University are in the northwest suburb of Moon Township.
Arts and music
Pittsburgh has a lively music scene, particularly indie and punk rock. Pick up a copy of the free Pittsburgh CityPaper for concert listings.
The Cultural District located Downtown is home to several theaters and institutions like the Pittsburgh Ballet Theater, the Pittsburgh Opera, and the acclaimed Pittsburgh Symphony. However, Pittsburgh is also home to a number of smaller theaters and companies such as the Quantum Theater in East Liberty, the Attack Theater in the Strip District, and the Pittsburgh Playhouse and the University of Pittsburgh Repertory Theatre in Oakland.
Pittsburgh also has a lot of visual art to take in. In addition to the museums and art festivals, Downtown's Cultural District is home to a number of art galleries. East Liberty is home to the Pittsburgh Glass Center, a nonprofit glass studio and gallery that holds one of the top glass art facilities in the country.
Pittsburgh holds a variety of popular arts and cultural festivals in the summertime. These range from huge, city-wide events to local neighborhood festivals, parades, studio tours, and food tastings. In addition, there are many ethnic festivals highlighting the local Greek, Italian, Irish, Scottish, German, Bulgarian and Russian communities. The events calendar of the free Pittsburgh City Paper is an excellent resource.
The biggest events in Pittsburgh are the Three Rivers Arts Festival and the Three Rivers Regatta, both held in Downtown. The Arts Festival takes place in early June and offers a mix of art and music, with free outdoor concerts and a large artist market. The Regatta is held on Fourth of July weekend and is incredibly active, with food, concerts, stunt shows, and boat races, all culminating with a huge fireworks show.
Other popular events include the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix, held in July and including a vintage car show along Walnut Street in Shadyside and a race through Schenley Park, and Little Italy Days, held in September and a full-on celebration of Bloomfield's Italian heritage.
The city and region offers some excellent recreational opportunities in its parks and rivers. Each of the city's four large parks - Frick, Schenley, Highland and Riverview - are excellent places to hike, jog or ride a bicycle. The city parks department also operates several swimming pools (including the unusual, industrial-era Oliver Bath House on the South Side), an outdoor ice-skating rink in Schenley Park, tennis courts, bocce courts, miles of biking and hiking trails, and a public golf course.
Additionally, Pittsburgh has an extensive trail system along the rivers. While portions of it are still in development, there are some long, uninterrupted stretches of trail excellent for hiking or biking, namely on the North Shore, the South Side and along the Allegheny River in Downtown. Boating is also very popular along the river, and there are plenty of places to launch a motorboat or a canoe. For those who don't already have a boat, Kayak Pittsburgh on the North Shore next to PNC Park rents kayaks and offers lessons.
The City of Pittsburgh is home to many colleges, universities and research facilities, the most well known of which are Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), Duquesne University, and the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt). Also located in the city are Carlow University, Chatham University, Point Park University, The Art Institute of Pittsburgh, and a branch campus of the suburban Robert Morris University as well as the Community College of Allegheny County and the Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Science. Oakland is the hub of college activity, home to CMU, Pitt, Carlow, and Chatham Universities. The greater Pittsburgh region boasts even more colleges and universities.
The city also has an extensive library system, both public and university. Most notable are the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh and the University of Pittsburgh's University Library System, which rank 9th largest (public) and 18th largest (academic) in the nation, respectively.
See the Districts articles for more listings.
Pittsburgh's most popular shopping districts include:
- The South Side, which has many hip shops along a mile-long stretch of E Carson Street, along with two shopping centers - Station Square at Smithfield and Carson Streets and the South Side Works at the opposite end, at E Carson and 28th Streets.
- Shadyside, near Oakland in East End-South, is concentrated along Walnut and Bellefonte Streets, and is one of the main upmarket sections of town.
- Squirrel Hill, in East End-South is concentrated along Murray and Forbes Avenues, and has tons of great little shops, notably some catering to the local Jewish community. The Squirrel Hill shops tend to fall under the 'specialty' store category.
- Downtown has shops of every description, but is best visited during standard business hours.
- The Strip District is home to many ethnic markets and street vendors, as well as the 16:62 Design Zone, which stretches between 16th and 62nd Streets from the Strip to Lawrenceville and offers a distinctive blend of neighborhood shops, artisan studios and unique showrooms, all focused on the arts and home decor.
There are many outlet stores and suburban malls located in the Pittsburgh region, but not within Pittsburgh itself. For info on these, see the Allegheny County article.
See the Districts articles for individual listings.
The Pittsburgh restaurant scene is a little different than most cities. In many neighborhoods, they can be difficult to find and are often patronized mainly by locals. The hills and rivers make the roads tricky. So, if you're from out of town your best bet is to pick up a local copy of the Pittsburgh magazine and do a quick search of the "Best Restaurants" section.
Each district has its unique restaurants, but the main districts for eating are the Strip District, South Side and, of course Downtown. Mt Washington, Lawrenceville, Shadyside, Oakland, Bloomfield, and Squirrel Hill also contain a wide variety of restaurants. If you're willing to go a little off the beaten path, you'll also find gems tucked away just slightly further out which are still accessible by PAT bus.
- Primanti Bros.. Is as synonymous with Pittsburgh as the hot dog is to New York. The Primanti sandwich is served on a sheet of wax paper with two slices of Italian bread then it is piled high with coleslaw and french fries. The other ingredients after these depends on the sandwich you order. There are many locations in and around the Pittsburgh area (including at each of the three major league sports stadiums) but the original is in the Strip District. A stop should be made here to try some food that embodies Pittsburghers.
- The Strip District has tons of ethnic groceries, eateries, and vendors, with plenty of free samples.
- Squirrel Hill has a variety of more ethnic restaurants: Mediterranean, kosher, Italian, etc.
- Bloomfield, known as Pittsburgh's Little Italy, is home to many small Italian restaurants. Don't expect the Olive Garden!
Unique Pittsburgh dishes to try include halushky, pierogies, kolbasi, stuffed cabbage, city chicken, and chipped ham.
See the Districts articles for more listings.
Pittsburgh is a city serious about its drinking. A popular anecdote tells of the priorities of earlier Pittsburghers: It's said that for every church, there's a bar across the street (and there are a lot of churches!). A Slavic drink ethic has made the city largely "a shot and a beer town." Even today, trendy and pretentious bars are scarcer than elsewhere, but almost any taste in bars and clubs can be found. The highlights are listed below, but almost every neighborhood has a fair concentration of bars.
- The South Side Flats neighborhood has the most popular and diverse bar scene, and is said to have more bars per block/capita than almost anywhere else in the U.S. Most bars are along a mile-long strip of E Carson St. between 7th and 29th Sts.
- The Strip District is home to some more posh nightclubs, as well as some other bars. This is also the center of Pittsburgh's gay culture, with several gay-owned businesses, bars, and clubs lining Liberty Avenue. A semi-fictionalized account of Liberty Avenue's gay culture is depicted in the television program Queer as Folk.
Beer is very dear to Pittsburgh, highlighted by Penn Brewery, in the North Side, a popular German beer hall and restaurant in a beautiful historic old brewery building, which also hosts an annual Oktoberfest. The Hofbräuhaus Pittsburgh on the South Side is modeled after the legendary 400+ year-old Hofbräuhaus in Munich. In addition, East End Brewing and the Church Brew Works are two local breweries whose beers can be found on tap all over the city.
Coffee is just as important to many Pittsburghers as beer. Some of the best can be found at: Tazza D'Oro in Highland Park (said to be the best); Coffee Tree in Squirrel Hill and Shadyside; Nicholas Coffee Downtown; and Crazy Mocha, which has many locations around town. The Strip District also has three roasters, notably La Prima Espresso.
See the Districts articles for more listings.
Downtown has the greatest concentration of hotels. It is sometimes possible to get a room at some of the top downtown hotels (the Marriott, the Hilton, and the William Penn, for example) at bargain basement prices ($45-$70) from discount sites such as priceline and hotwire, so do a search before calling the hotel itself. For those visiting the universities or other attractions in the Oakland area, there are a number of convenient options. Airport accommodations, located near the airport outside of Pittsburgh itself, are mostly in Robinson Township, about 12 miles west of Pittsburgh. Bear in mind that hotels close to the city are booked solidly in advance and/or inflated in price around the time of Steelers home games, so plan ahead.
Pittsburgh is one of those cities where you must use an area code even when dialing locally. The City's main area code is 412, but the new 878 area code is also used. 724 is used in surrounding areas. Use of a "1" prefix when dialing these codes locally is optional.
The city has set up a 311 hotline which allows you to receive information and access to City government services.
Almost all of downtown and much of the surrounding areas have WiFi which can be accessed free for two hours daily. Other wifi hot spots include Walnut Street in Shadyside, Schenley Plaza in Oakland and any branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.
- As in most of the United States, the phone number to dial for emergencies is 911.
- Pittsburgh is routinely ranked as one of the safest cities among others of comparable size in the US. Most areas of the city are safe for tourists, and most of the unsafe areas are residential, so tourists are unlikely to visit these areas. Nevertheless, the following neighborhoods should be avoided (especially at night):
- CENTRAL: The Hill District, located between Downtown & Oakland.
- EAST: Homewood-Brushton, Wilkinsburg, Lincoln-Larimar, Garfield.
- NORTH: Central North Side.
- SOUTH: Mt. Oliver, Hazelwood, Beltzhoover, Arlington Heights, St. Clair Village, Upper Homestead.
- On Sundays in the fall and winter, some fans of the local football team (the Steelers) tend to be very rowdy. While the great majority won't bother you, it is suggested that out of town fans not wear the clothing of the team they are playing that day or that of their main rivals (the Baltimore Ravens) at any time. The least you'll encounter is ridicule, and although assaults at sporting events are especially rare (Pittsburgh is largely a hospitable town), some incidents have occurred. It is also advisable to not wear any athletic apparel of the rival hockey team, the Philadelphia Flyers. Pittsburghers do take their sports loyalty to another level.
- Whether driving, bicycling, or walking, watch out for drivers making the "Pittsburgh Left" (see By Car, above).
- Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Daily. The largest and oldest paper in the Pittsburgh region.
- Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Daily. The other major daily paper in Pittsburgh. The Trib's editorial page is more conservative than the Post-Gazette's.
- Pittsburgh City Paper. Weekly; published every Wednesday. Pittsburgh's most popular free-weekly, focusing on art and entertainment, with some local news.
- The Pitt News. Monday-Friday during the school year, every Wednesday during the summer. Published by the students of the University of Pittsburgh.
- The Tartan. Free weekly paper published by Carnegie Mellon students.
- Belgium, Carnegie Office Park, 800 N Bell Ave Ste 290, ☎ , fax: +1 412 279-6426, e-mail: Pittsburg@diplobel.org.
- Denmark (Honorary), 104 Shanor Heights, Butler, ☎ , fax: +1 724 283-2274, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Italy (Honorary), Rockwell Hall, 600 Forbes Ave Ste 401, ☎ , fax: +1 412 765-0582, e-mail: Lucent@duq.edu.
- Kennywood Park in nearby West Mifflin is a compact but extremely popular amusement park just a few miles away, founded in 1898. It is home to several rollercoasters, including the Phantom's Revenge, the Racer, the Jack Rabbit, and the Thunderbolt, routinely named as one of the best wooden coasters in the country by enthusiasts.
- Sandcastle Waterpark in nearby West Homestead is a popular water park in the region, open during the summer months. It contains numerous water slides and several other water attractions, such as a "lazy river". Nearby is also a large shopping complex known as "the Waterfront".
- The Pennsylvania Trolley Museum is about 45 minutes south of the city in the town of Washington. Great family location that includes a ride on a working trolley and the (alleged) title star of the film A Streetcar Named Desire.
About 50 miles to the southeast of Pittsburgh are the Laurel Highlands, a hilly area with the highest elevations in Pennsylvania (with Mount Davis in Somerset County the highest point in the state at 3,213 feet (979 m)). The Laurel Highlands is a popular area for hiking, mountain biking, hunting, trout fishing, wildlife viewing, leaf peeping, and downhill skiing.
- The lovely town of Ohiopyle is located 70 miles to the southeast. It is surrounded by the beautiful Ohiopyle State Park with acres of mountains and the Youghiogheny [yaw-ki-GAAY-nee] River. Whitewater rafting is popular here, but there are also many opportunities for hiking, biking, fishing, horseback riding, cross-country skiing, and more.
- Frank Lloyd Wright's masterpieces, Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob, are both located just a few miles from Ohiopyle.
- The Flight 93 Memorial, where the passengers & crew of Flight 93 gave their lives to thwart an attack on September 11, 2001, is about 50 miles to the east of the city, right off the Pennsylvania Turnpike (I-76/I-70) near Somerset.
- St. Vincent College, about 25 miles east in Latrobe, contains the summer camp of the Pittsburgh Steelers and the first Monastic brewery in the U.S. along with being one of the top catholic colleges in the area.
- The Mystic Rock golf course is home of the PGA 84 Classic and is rated among the top courses in the world. It is about 1 1/2 hrs south of Pittsburgh in Farmington, near Uniontown.
- Caddy Shak Family Fun Park is about 50 miles south of Pittsburgh, near Donegal. There are many fun family activities, such as batting cages, go- carts, mini golf, driving ranges,and bumper boats with water cannons. This destination may be targeted for families with some younger children but it is easily enjoyable by all.
- Idlewild and Soak Zone is located about 50 miles east of Pittsburgh, near historic Ligonier. Idlewild is one of the oldest amusement parks in the country, having been founded in 1878, and has won numerous awards including Amusement Today's "Best Children's Park in the World" in 2010. The park features many family-friendly rides and attractions, along with a sizable water park and large section dedicated to fairy tales coming to life, known as "Story Book Forest".
- Seven Springs, an award-winning ski resort/golf course, is about 40 miles east of Pittsburgh.
- Punxsutawney is home to Phil, the groundhog of Groundhog Day fame. About 60 miles northeast of Pittsburgh in Jefferson County, Pennsylvania.
- The Pro Football Hall of Fame is in nearby Canton, Ohio about two hours west via the PA/Ohio Turnpike then south on I-77.
- The Wheeling Downs horse racetrack is located in nearby Wheeling, West Virginia (west on I-70).
- Franklin, together with Titusville and Oil City, is known as the Oil Region, where America's oil industry originated. Remnants of the former wealth of the region can be found in local architecture.
- Erie is a couple of hours north of Pittsburgh on I-79. Boating on Lake Erie, walking along the harbor, and exploring Presque Isle State Park are great ways to get away from all the hustle and bustle of the city and relax
- Cleveland, with the Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame and other attractions, is a couple of hours to the northwest (though no Pittsburgher would ever advise you to visit willingly).
- Morgantown, with the University of West Virginia and their Mountaineer athletic teams as well as area's whitewater rafting and outdoor sport activities.
|Routes through Pittsburgh|
|Ends at ← Franklin Park ← Ross Township ←||N S||→ END|
|Robinson Township ← Green Tree ←||W E||→ Monroeville → Ends at|
|Canton ← Green Tree ←||W E||→ Irwin → York|
|Erie ← Cranberry ←||N S||→ Washington → Morgantown|