JUNE: Pittsburgh, PA
Falling in love with the City of Bridges
When I decided to visit one new place a month, Pittsburgh was exactly what I hoped for. It’s a city that was low on my radar, few people mentioned it, and when they did all they said was, “Man, all those bridges,” and, “Make sure you try Primanti Bros.” Now, don’t get me wrong, Primanti sandwiches are great, but after I visited this well-groomed, artistic, pedestrian-friendly city I have more to say than, “Try the sandwiches.”
We’ll cross that bridge, and that one, and that one . . . when we come to it
You can’t turn around in Pittsburgh without stumbling upon one of its 466 bridges. The Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio Rivers cross and splice the city into sections, making “all those bridges” pretty darn necessary. So, when the Roberto Clemente bridge is closed to vehicles, Pirate fans streaming across like black and gold pixels on a screen, it’s no big deal. Cars simply drive a block over to the Andy Warhol Bridge. These two bridges, along with the Rachel Carson, stand together like “Aztec Gold” branches uniting downtown and the North Shore together.
So, why am I harping on about these bridges so much? Well because, while I can’t officially say every bridge is pedestrian-friendly, I can say every bridge in the downtown area we came across was, making it easy to walk from our hotel near Market Square to either the North Shore or South Side.
“Pittsburgh, Dogs, Snowstorms, Alleys, and Dumpsters”
Without knowing it, my brother and I arrived on the last weekend of the Three Rivers Arts Festival. More than 5 decades old, this free 10-day festival draws over a half million people downtown. More than 300 artists from around the country and beyond, set up stands across Point State Park, the Gateway Center, and other areas of the Cultural District with paintings, photography, jewelry, woodwork, and other handmade goods. Street performers juggled, played music, and did tricks. Kids created crafts, bands, and orchestras played, while mac 'n' cheese, pulled pork, and pierogies fragrantly flirted from food vendors and trucks.
But, seeing the funny and quirky band, Guster, play “Pittsburgh, Dogs, Snowstorms, Alleys, and Dumpsters,” a song they wrote for the city was by far my favorite part of the festival (hear why they wrote the song and beware, you’ll be humming it for days).
What to do If there’s not a magical art festival in town
Say you’re going to Pittsburgh and the Three Rivers Arts Festival is not going on, what should you see?
Get down at the Warhol Museum
Fairly quick to navigate, you’ll see his style and interests build and change from high school paintings to early NYC fashion illustrations, silkscreen prints, and the crazy time capsules he left behind. Stay engaged with interactive exhibits like the “Silver Clouds,” or “Exploding Plastic Inevitable” with its layers of videos and music, featuring the Velvet Underground, bombarding your senses in a dark room.
Go see the Pirates play (or the Steelers if it’s football season).
After visiting the Andy Warhol museum we wandered over to PNC Park and bought tickets for that night’s game. It cost $30 each and was well worth it. The 3rd base nosebleed seats have a perfect view of the Pittsburgh skyline. We also happened to be there on “firework night,” so even though the Pirates lost, they lifted everyone’s spirits by lighting the skyline with bright pops of color.
Take the Duquesne incline cable car to the top of Mount Washington.
Ride up in a red cable car and let the incredible views of the entire city wash over you. Make sure to bring cash, and the exact fare or the cranky woman at the window will scowl and sneer at you.
Check out Market Square.
Primarily closed off from traffic, this impressively clean and vibrant downtown area is a charming place to walk around. The city sets up events, and PPG Place sits next door, a shining, modern, mirror castle reflecting the city back at itself.
And oh yeah, Primanti Brother sandwiches.
Even if there isn’t an art festival, frolic along the water at Point State Park.
While the Three Rivers Arts Festival drew us to Point State Park a number of times, the park itself is gorgeous with rolling green lawns, and a large fountain capping its point. Pedestrians lounge on its rim and are sprayed when the wind blows heavy.
Sometimes you visit places people rave about, blogs and magazines deem them outstanding, but you get there and it’s horribly average. And sometimes you go somewhere unsure of what you’ll find and everything falls into place. You just have to take the chance and see.