I’ve visited Pittsburgh maybe 25 times in my life. I can’t say that Pittsburgh is in the forefront of my mind when it comes to planning a trip but my mom lives there, so we visit pretty often.
My grandparents had a house built in “The Bottoms” of McKees Rocks (a borough near Pittsburgh), where my mom grew up and I spent many summers. As a teenager, I loved the older, historic buildings in the area and would walk around the neighborhood taking black and white photos (with film – woah). My sister and I were always excited to be able to walk down the street to buy a ‘pop’ or visit the icecream shop. Walking anywhere from our home in Orlando was a multi-hour endeavor.
Oh yeah, and there is winter – real, actual winter. Floridians grow up thinking real winter is when it gets to 40 degrees .
Nowadays, The Bottoms seems a little depressing. The icecream shop has closed… actually, a lot of things down in the Bottoms have closed. But there are many older houses and buildings to look at, which is something quite different from the Orlando mentality of knock-it-down-and-replace-it.
I’ve never visited Pittsburgh as a tourist, so I’m just going to give you a feel for what I love about the city and surrounding areas.
Note & apology: Some of the following pictures are going to be junk. They’re pictures I’ve taken throughout the years on different phones and cameras, many taken without the intention of ever sharing them. So, sorry in advance. 🙂
So, the best thing to eat in Pittsburgh is pierogies. Doughy pockets of potato (or other things, but I like plain potato), usually fried up with butter and onions. We get them from Pierogies Plus, or, if the timing is right and the wind blows in just the right direction, from St Mary’s Ukrainian Orthodox Church (just kidding, they only make them on Fridays though). The way my mom always explained it, there are little Ukrainian ladies in the basement of the church, making pierogies from scratch. The church’s pierogies are two levels above Pierogies Plus – they’re bigger and there’s something about the dough that’s better. They’re so soft and chewy! Okay, now I want to go to Pittsburgh.
My favorite breakfast spot in Pittsburgh is Pamela’s P&G Diner in the Strip District. They have the absolute best hotcakes I’ve ever had in my life. We’ve only been to Pamela’s twice in our lives, but I dream about those hotcakes every night. Thin, crispy on the edges, filled with brown sugar, topped with fresh strawberries. Hot damn!
Pamela’s is in the Strip District, which is a couple of streets lined with shops. It is really busy on the weekends when we go there.
You can find Mancini’s Bread all over the place in Pittsburgh, but it’s a bakery that started in McKees Rocks in 1926. They bake delicious, soft Italian bread that makes the best french toast. I notice them featured on restaurant menus all over town, but they have a few shops you can visit, one of them in the Strip District.
Kennywood is my favorite amusement park (I’ve been to all of the Disney Parks, Universal and Busch Gardens). We used to go here every summer. I love the wooden rollercoasters and all of the carnival-type rides, there is such a variety and the lines are nowhere near as long as Disney’s.
The National Aviary
The aviary (basically a zoo but only made up of birds) is somewhere we went almost every year. My favorite area of the aviary is this big open space, where the birds fly around freely and there’s no cage separating you from them.
The Pittsburgh Zoo has spoiled me for zoos. The zoos in Florida are just downright depressing in comparison. Most of the animals have very large living areas and even the aquarium area in the zoo is more impressive than some of the actual aquariums I’ve been to.
There are a bunch of places around Pittsburgh that offer great views of the city. As a kid, we used to go on the Duquesne Incline with my grandparents almost every year, it’s a little trolly that goes up and down a hill with great views of the city.
McConnells Mill State Park
Now that I’m older and enjoy hiking way more than I ever was as a kid, one of my favorite things to do when I visit my mom is go to McConnells Mill State Park and hike the Kildoo Trail. We didn’t do many nature-related things in/near Pittsburgh when I was a kid.
It’s an awesome 2 mile loop along Slippery Rock Creek, featuring tons of boulders, trees and moss. I probably love it because it’s nothing at all like Florida. There are actual changes in altitude and the end of the trail is defended by a huge flight of stairs. It’s considered moderate but it kicks our butts.
We’ve gone white water rafting twice and it’s really fun! Ohiopyle State Park is really pretty and when the water isn’t rushing, floating down the river is serene and beautiful.
Fourth of July
I think Pittsburgh has one of the best fireworks displays I’ve ever seen and we like to make sure July 4th falls within our time in Pittsburgh if we visit in the summer.
They set up the fireworks on a barge on the river and people park and walk down the river to get a spot. There’s a new(ish) casino along the river and a really nice walking trail. Definitely worth a summer visit.
It’s been a long time since I’ve visited one but Pittsburgh does have some great museums.
Carnegie Museum of Natural History
The Carnegie Museum of Natural History features dinosaur fossils and rocks!
Andy Warhol Museum
Pretty cool and quite a bit larger than I’d expected. The Andy Warhol Museum features over 8000 pieces of Warhol’s work.
Not a museum, but I don’t know what other category to put this under. See the inside of the historic observatory and take a peek at a planet through the telescope.
This barely scrapes the surface of all that the city has to offer, but I hope this gives you plenty of ideas of things to do in Pittsburgh!
Perhaps on our next visit, I’ll make it my mission to try new things in town. Anyone have any suggestions??