Pittsburgh is something of a well-kept secret. It doesn’t attract tons of visitors and when it’s thought of in other parts of the country, it’s usually in connection with its industrial days, when the city was known far and wide as the epicenter of steel production. But think again. Present-day Pittsburgh is a gem of a city, with world-class museums, beautiful hill scenery, and an eye-catching skyline set at the confluence of the Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers. Stroll along downtown’s narrow streets and you’ll find soaring church steeples, well-manicured parks, diverse neighborhoods, and handsome libraries, museums, and university buildings—many of them donated by Gilded Age tycoon Andrew Carnegie.
Steel City Essentials
- The Duquesne Incline: Ride a century-old wooden cable car up an extremely steep hill to get the city’s best view.
- Pittsburgh Steelers: If you visit during football season, join the diehards at Heinz Field for a home game; this team is one of the most storied football franchises.
Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation: Delve into the city’s nearly 250-year history on walking tours with expert guides, or set your own agenda with free downloadable self-guided tours covering everything from Market Square to the city’s bridges.
Phipps Conservatory: Located in the Oakland neighborhood, this Victorian-style greenhouse showcases 17 botanical gardens in the steel-and-glass interior and on the surrounding grounds.
- Carnegie Museums: A huge complex in Oakland houses multiple show-stopping attractions. See dinosaur fossils and ancient artifacts at the Museum of Natural History, check out hands-on exhibits at the Science Center, view the enormous permanent collection at the Museum of Art, and geek out over one of the most comprehensive collections of original Warhols in the world at the Andy Warhol Museum. You could spend days here.
- The Mattress Factory is a contemporary art museum with room-sized installations. Check out ever-changing exhibits from talented artists-in-residence.
- ToonSeum: This small downtown museum is dedicated entirely to cartoons and comics. A great option for families.
- Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra: A renowned century-old institution that performs downtown at Heinz Hall from September through June.
Pittsburgh Dos and Don’ts
- Do rent a bike: More than 20 miles of trails wind throughout the city—just watch out for drivers attempting a “Pittsburgh Left,” which is when cars make a left turn just as the lights turn green, in defiance of all normal traffic laws.
- Don’t ask for Hunt’s: The city is the birthplace of Heinz ketchup and residents are fiercely proud of their condiment heritage.
- Do learn Pittsburghese: “Yinz” is a second-person plural pronoun, like “y’all” or “you guys”; shopping carts and strollers are “buggies”; and the football team that plays at Heinz Field is the “Stillers.”
Where to Stay
- Omni William Penn Hotel: This historic downtown hotel has been hosting movies stars and politicians since it opened its doors in 1916. The last word in Pittsburgh luxury.
- Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel is housed in the Fulton Building in downtown’s Cultural District. Close to PNC Park (where the Pirates play) and Heinz Field, and boasts great views of the city.
- The Inn on Negley: A charming B&B in Pittsburgh’s Shadyside area, with period furnishings and big breakfasts. Lots of shops are within walking distance.