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Top Ten Things To Do in Pittsburgh (and a Few More Ideas)

Updated on November 20, 2014
purl3agony profile image

As an artist and an arts educator, Donna enjoys writing arts-inspired articles about places she's lived and worked.

View of downtown Pittsburgh from Mt. Washington at night
View of downtown Pittsburgh from Mt. Washington at night | Source

In the last 25 years, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania has been rediscovered by many as a wonderfully livable city with a rich history, diverse cultural amenities, and fun outdoor activities. It shouldn't be a surprise to learn that Pittsburgh is also a great place to visit! Here is a fun list of things to do, see, and eat in the city.

The Duquesne Incline in Pittsburgh
The Duquesne Incline in Pittsburgh | Source

Best View of the City - Mt. Washington

Mt. Washington, sitting above the Southside of the city, offers a spectacular view of the "golden triangle" - the point where the Allegheny River and the Monongahela River join to form the Ohio River. Once a strategic fighting position during the Revolutionary War, Mt. Washington is now home to restaurants and great sightseeing. You can drive up to Mt. Washington, but one of the best ways to experience the view is by riding one of the historic moving inclines.

If a ground view is more your style, Just Ducky offers city tours in their "duck boats." These tours highlight the history, sights, and architecture of the downtown city center. For river cruises, the Gateway Clipper offers many cruising experiences, including one-hour sightseeing, dinner cruises, and the Good Ship Lollipop for the kids!

Best Place to Get a Sandwich - Primanti Bros.

Primanti Bros is now known across the country (if not around the world) for their deli sandwiches which feature a generous helping of cole slaw and french fries layered with the meat. (Don't bother asking for the cole slaw and fries on the side. The staff will just put in on your sandwich anyway). These sandwiches have become a Pittsburgh trademark and Primanti Bros have opened many locations around the city to satisfy tourists clamoring for a taste. Primanti's is definitely worth the trip just to have the experience, but there are other restaurants to try too.

In the mood for dessert? Try Gullifty's, voted the best desserts in the city for 30 years in a row (they also have an excellent menu of appetizers and entrees). Want some sushi? Go to Umi. German Food - try Max's Allegheny Tavern, Italian - Tambellini's (their fried zucchini appetizer is a must), and Mexican - Mad Mex.

For a few more uniquely Pittsburgh dining experiences, have a hot dog at The Original Hot Dog Shop (commonly called "the O") or pizza at the Church Brew Works, a funky pub brewery located in a former church.

Best Place to See a Game - PNC Park

PNC Park in Pittsburgh, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates
PNC Park in Pittsburgh, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates | Source

The Pittsburgh Pirates haven't made it to the World Series since 1979, but they certainly have a beautiful baseball park. Opened in 2001, PNC Park offers stunning views of the city and great family entertainment. If the Pirates aren't winning, you can always enjoy the trivia contests or the costumed pierogi races. For a truly special experience, go on a night that they are having fireworks!

Of course, the Pirates aren't the only game in town. Depending on when you visit, you can try to see the city's beloved Steelers at Heinz Field (football) or the Penguins at the Consol Energy Center (ice hockey).

Best Street Market - The Strip District

The Strip District (or "The Strip") is historically home to warehouses and produce distributors. Now, you can find anything from fresh fish, to biscotti, to plastic duck toys there, along with restaurants, boutiques, and galleries. As they say, "if you can't find it in the Strip, you don't need it." On weekends during the summer months, most businesses and vendors along Smallman Street have sidewalk stalls that turn the street into an open air market.

If you go at other times of the year, the Strip is still a great place to walk the neighborhood and peruse the various shops. For a taste of history, visit the Heinz History Center. This museum is dedicated to the diverse history of the region, from pre-Revolutionary War era, through the Industrial Age, to the technology of radio and tv.

For more visual excitement, stop in at the Society of Contemporary Crafts. This gallery features exhibitions of contemporary artists working in a variety of craft mediums and a wonderful gift shop.

Best Bang for Your Buck - the Frick Art and History Center

Clayton and the Frick Art & History Center
Clayton and the Frick Art & History Center | Source

Henry Clay Frick's place in history might be up for debate, but his historic home and grounds are a must for visitors. The Frick Art and History Center includes the Frick Art Museum, a Car and Carriage Museum, Frick's family mansion ("Clayton"), a greenhouse, gift shop, and a cafe. The Art Museum, Car and Carriage Museum, and greenhouse are all free and open to the public. Clayton, in its vast Victorian splendor, is open for tours with an admission fee.

Henry Clay Frick was an avid collector of art and automobiles. The Art Museum features Frick's collection of fine European paintings and special exhibitions of art and decorative objects. The Car and Carriage Museum houses a wide array of vehicles, including a 1897 Pony-size Spider Phaeton and Frick's own 1914 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost Touring Car.

The Frick family moved into Clayton in 1883. The home displays the best of Victorian design and decoration while sharing the Frick family's life in Pittsburgh. The mansion is beautiful to see and is specially decorated during the winter holidays.

Best Place to Go Bird Watching - The National Aviary

The National Aviary
The National Aviary | Source

Pittsburgh is full of unexpected gems and the National Aviary is one such spot. As America's only non-profit zoo solely dedicated to birds, the Aviary is home to over 600 birds representing more than 200 species. Each of the Aviary's exhibition spaces represent a different climate or ecosystem, such as the rainforest or the wetlands, where the birds fly freely overhead. There are opportunities to interact and hand-feed some of the birds. The Aviary even has a skydeck where you can watch birds of prey in flight.

Want even more animals? The Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium has thousands of animals, including 22 endangered species. The Zoo is organized by different ecosystems and features animals as diverse as polar bears, elephants, ostriches, snow leopards, flamingos, king penguins, and a kangaroo!

Fallingwater in Mill Run, PA
Fallingwater in Mill Run, PA | Source

Greatest Architectural Wonder - Fallingwater

Arguably one of Frank Lloyd Wright's best known buildings, Fallingwater is a marvel of design and engineering. Though the home isn't really in Pittsburgh (it's located in Mill Run, about 1 1/2 hours from Pittsburgh), it is well worth the trip. The house is tucked in a wooded area by the Bear Run Nature Reserve. This historic site now offers a variety of tours of the house and surrounding landscape, including in-depth tours, sunset visits, and nature hikes. A trip to Fallingwater truly lets you experience what it's like to live in one of Wright's designs.


Kentuck Knob, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright
Kentuck Knob, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright | Source

After completing Fallingwater, Wright was commissioned to build another home about 10 miles up the road. This home, Kentuck Knob, is in a very different style from Fallingwater, but is just as interesting and beautiful. Although the home is still privately owned, it is open for public tours. The grounds also include a sculpture garden with work from leading artists such as Andrew Goldsworthy and Claes Oldenburg.

Best Known Native Son - Andy Warhol

The Andy Warhol Museum
The Andy Warhol Museum | Source

Pittsburgh is the hometown of many celebrities including Shirley Jones, August Wilson, Michael Keaton, Gene Kelley, Mr. Rogers (and his neighborhood), Gertrude Stein, Jeff Goldblum, and Stephen Foster. But the city is probably most closely linked with the artist Andy Warhol. Warhol was born in Pittsburgh in 1928, but moved to New York City after graduating from college.

Warhol might have left the city behind, but Pittsburgh hasn't forgotten him. In 1994, the Warhol Museum opened on Pittsburgh's North Side. The museum contains a vast collection of Andy Warhol's artwork from his early days as a graphic designer, through his popular silkscreens, to his work in film and magazines. The museum also has special changing exhibitions of other artists who reflect some aspect of Warhol's art, experience, or interests.

The African Heritage Room
The African Heritage Room | Source

Best Place to Go on a World Tour – Nationality Rooms at the University of Pittsburgh

In the center of the University of Pittsburgh campus is their student center, the Cathedral of Learning. This 42 story building is a hub of activity, but on the first and third floors is an interesting collection of classrooms designed to represent the cultures of various ethnic groups that emigrated and settled in the surrounding area. There are 27 Nationality Rooms, including a Japanese Room, a Armenian Classroom, a German Room, and many others. Although these rooms are used as classrooms, public tours are available. Please visit their website for more information.

The Mattress Factory in Pittsburgh, PA
The Mattress Factory in Pittsburgh, PA | Source

Best Place to "Get into Art" - the Mattress Factory

The Mattress Factory is an internationally-known museum of contemporary art, located on the city's North Side. Residing in a former mattress factory, the museum features room-sized sculptures, or installations, that are created by visiting artists from around the world. All of the museum's exhibitions are artworks that visitors can actually step into and experience from within the art. Artists who have exhibited at the Mattress Factory include James Turrell, Yayoi Kusama, Kiki Smith, David Ireland, and Nick Cave. The museum's outdoor space includes a garden designed by landscape architect and artist Winifred Lutz, and a music feature by sound artist Rolf Julius.

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    • purl3agony profile image
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      Donna Herron 3 years ago from USA

      Hi Torrs13 - Pittsburgh is a wonderful city. I think you'll be surprised at all the history, events, and activities that the 'burgh has to offer. I hope you get to visit soon! Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting :)

    • Torrs13 profile image

      Tori Canonge 3 years ago from California

      I have only been to Pennsylvania once and it wasn't around Pittsburgh but hopefully I can make it up there sometime to check these places out!

    • purl3agony profile image
      Author

      Donna Herron 4 years ago from USA

      Thanks, Jack! I'm not a huge sports fan but I've been lucky enough to see Pirates games from the cheap seats and from corporate skyboxes. Either way, it's always been great fun (maybe even more fun from the cheap seats). My husband tells me that the Pirates have a good team this year - we'll have to see :) Thanks for stopping by!

    • BLACKANDGOLDJACK profile image

      BLACKANDGOLDJACK 4 years ago from Blitzburgh area

      Excellent article!

      "The Pete" at Pitt is a great place to watch a college basketball game or other event.

      Last summer several times I got standing room only tickets at PNC Park for $10. Seriously, beat that, and nobody said anything to us when we found some empty seats around the 4th inning, except one time when the people who had tickets for the seats finally showed up.

      Frozen Four college hockey championship at Consol this weekend as the Pens hit the road.

      Going to and from the airport is a piece of cake, compared to cities of similar size. Like Cleveland, for example.

      Go Steelers and Penguins! Yeah, I like the Pirates too but . . .

    • purl3agony profile image
      Author

      Donna Herron 4 years ago from USA

      Hi theframjak - Glad this hub brings back good memories for you. There's always fun and cool things to do there. Thanks for your comments!!

    • purl3agony profile image
      Author

      Donna Herron 4 years ago from USA

      Hi Kidscraft - Great to hear from you! I've been knitting :), but I've also been trying to keep up with posting too. If you were in Erie, you were very close to Pittsburgh. And yes, Fallingwater is definitely a place to see. The house and the area around it is really beautiful. Thanks!!

    • purl3agony profile image
      Author

      Donna Herron 4 years ago from USA

      Hi emilynemchick - Glad you like the list :) I tried to pick some of the well-known destinations and then add in few lesser known gems. Happy to spread the Pgh love!! Thanks for your comments!

    • theframjak profile image

      theframjak 4 years ago from East Coast

      Great hub purl3agony! I haven't been to "the burgh" in some time, but reading your hub makes me want to go back.

    • kidscrafts profile image

      kidscrafts 4 years ago from Ottawa, Canada

      I am so glad to see you back! I thought you were probably busy knitting something really big!

      I don't think I ever went to Pittsburgh; I think the closest I have been is Erie. I will keep that in mind the next time I go in that area of the US.

      Thank you for taking the time to write about that city! Even if the house with the cascade is not in Pittsburgh, it seems it's a good thing to visit anyway!

    • emilynemchick profile image

      Emily Nemchick 4 years ago from Pittsburgh, PA

      I love this! You are totally spot on about all these places to go and things to see. Pittsburgh is a great city and it's nice to see that others think so too.