The YMCA Adventure Warrior Race gives kids and adults a chance to prove themselves against ropes courses, mud, water obstacles, and other unexpected mental and physical challenges—all while supporting a good cause. Amid the breathtaking views and tranquil waters of Lake Tris, runners maneuver around trees and carry heavy objects up the sometimes snow-covered Laurel Highlands mountains, climbing up to 1,000 feet as they go. Warriors aged 16 and older make a 4-mile circuit, whereas younger participants run age-appropriate distances of a half mile or a full mile. Trophies and the respect of all the woodland creatures are awarded to the top male and female runners, top male and female teams, and top co-ed team. According to the Daily American, funds raised from the race provide camp scholarships that allow kids to attend residential and day programs at the 263-acre YMCA Camp T. Frank Soles.
Carmi Family Restaurant has walls, tables, and its very own kitchen?at first glance, these factors make it a run-of-the-mill establishment. But this brick-and-mortar restaurant arose out of overwhelming demand and governmental petitions for chef Michael King's southern soul food, which he originally prepared through his catering operation, Catering Kings. As buzz about on-the-go soul food swept the area, King and his wife "became victims of their success" and were forced to open their own storefront, according to Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Pittsburgh City Paper's reviewers slaked their appetites on "terrific" waffles and chicken with a "thick, heavily seasoned crust that provided plenty of crunch." The author of Baking, domesticity, and all things mini polished off "every last crumb" of the gravy-drenched meatloaf and buttered up the staff who were "friendly and charming right from the start."
Each year, hundreds of spirit connoisseurs gather around the ample sampling tables of the Pittsburgh Whiskey and Fine Spirits Festival. Seasoned tasters and curious beginners alike sip not only whiskies and scotches from the likes of Balvenie, Laphroaig, and Knob Creek, but also sample gin, vodka, tequila, and other spirits crafted by distilleries from throughout the globe. Attendees can make a beeline for their favorite firewater or take an opportunity to try a pour of pricier brands reserved only for movie stars who need it to support their barley-based DNA structure as gourmet appetizers and live music add to the cocktail-party atmosphere. Meanwhile, guests can browse and bid on a silent auction that benefits the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s western-Pennsylvania chapter.
When organizers were planning last year's inaugural Pittsburgh Pierogi Festival, they expected about 1,000 people to show up. They ended up with a crowd of more than 7,000. And it's no wonder, considering how highly the European dumpling ranks among the city's beloved foods. As Stephan Bontrager, one of the organizers of the fest, told the Post-Gazette in 2013, pierogis are "one of those Pittsburgh pride things."
Locals can once again show their love for the chewy concoctions at this year's fest, where there will be at least 15 vendors serving both traditional and contemporary versions. Perennial favorite Gosia's will be using a pierogi recipe handed down through generations of their Polish family, while Square Cafe will be giving attendees another chance to taste their coffee-spiked dumplings. There'll be plenty to do besides eat, of course. Other attractions include a beer tent (sponsored by Yuengling) and a pop-up market with handcrafted gifts such as pierogi earrings and toasty pierogi slippers.
Museums typically showcase art in carefully curated rooms. At Mattress Factory, however, the room itself is the art. Since 1977, the museum's two buildings have housed a permanent collection of contemporary installation art—room-sized works that engulf the entire space. In Yayoi Kusama's Infinity Dots Mirrored Room, mirrored ceilings and walls infinitely reflect a trio of fluorescent dots painted on a white formica floor. In Greer Lankton's It's all about ME, Not You, astroturf lines a floor covered in artful arrangements of grotesque dolls that form shrines to artists such as Patti Smith and Candy Darling.
To further immerse guests, Mattress Factory's exhibitions are paired with educational programs that range from lectures to hands-on art projects. Along with stimulating the public, the museum stimulates the growth of artists through its residency program, which invites participants to create installations while living near the museum, a much more practical alternative to hiding a secret cot in the coatroom.
Challenge Nation pioneered the urban-adventure race with a race season that includes visits to more than 35 cities across the country. Each scavenger hunt is personalized to the hosting city, exploring its many diverse neighborhoods with a series of clues that would test even the most skilled children's-book detective. The teams?composed of at least two people?vie for a $300 first-place prize. The Amazing Race?style competition rewards quick wits and wise planning over physical fitness, so the best way to prepare is by doing logic puzzles while eating Funyuns and lounging in a La-Z-Boy. The top 25 teams qualify, the top five receiving free entry, to compete in the national championship, which rewards winning teams with a $5,000 cash prize.