Pittsburgh, PA. Known for its history in the steel trade and sports. Currently the World Champions in both Football and Hockey; it’s a proud city. I have never seen a city quite so into its sports, and I don’t mean a city that supports its sports so much. Dallas, Chicago, New York, Washington all fiercely support their sports teams. In Pittsburgh, though, downtown is littered with stores that simply sell sports gear: jerseys, helmets, memorabilia, etc. It’s amazing.
Besides that, since the steel boom, the city has clearly focused on reinventing itself without steel as its focus. Not to say that Pittsburgh has forgotten its heritage; quite the opposite. While embracing the past, the city has embraced finance, medicine, and education as its new industries, and these industries are still booming. Even in the current (2009) poor economy, the city continues to prosper.
Pittsburgh is not exactly a tourist-focused city. As far as I can tell, the city is focusing on keeping its populous employed, continuing to produce sports champions, and moving the city forward. It’s a great city, though. The people are generally very friendly. Even in my Redskins jersey, people teased me about my affiliation, but pleasantly accepted me, not just as a visitor, but as a fellow sports-lover.
The weather in Pittsburgh is moderate to cold. Winters can be bitterly cold, with plenty of time below freezing. Summers can certainly get into the 80s, rarely into the 90s, but are generally warm.
Where to Stay:
The downtown area is not exactly littered with hotels, but the downtown area is compact and lively. There are plenty of lively areas within walking distance, or a short tram ride. Specifically, Station Square and the Strip district are within walking distance of downtown. The big benefit to downtown is its central location. I suspect, however, that the actual downtown area largely shuts down in the evening, as most of the business inhabitants go home to the suburbs in the evening.
Besides downtown, the Oakland area is nice. With the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt) there, as well as a large medical community, there is a small-town feel, right next to the downtown area. It’s not really a walkable distance to the downtown area, but the area is very pedestrian friendly and safe.
What to Do:
Fort Duquesne/Fort Pitt – Fort Duquesne was built by the French in the 1750s at the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers. It was later destroyed and replaced by Fort Pitt. Today, it’s the site of Point State Park, which is currently undergoing a huge renovation. It’s not currently open, but should be open by 2011.
Station Square – On the South side of the Monongahela River, a small town center area has a quiet, quaint feel during the day, and a slick little nightlife after dark.
Sports events – If there was ever a town that celebrated its sports, Pittsburgh is it. Currently, the home of the Super Bowl Champion Steelers, the Stanley Cup Champion Penguins, and the bottom-feeding Pirates. Great place to see a game, any time of year.
Architecture – See my post on architecture, but the city’s architecture is amazing. Just absorbing the diversity is worthwhile. Try to do it when it’s warm, but even in a car, you can enjoy the architecture of the city.
Riverside trails – Along all the river shores, there are trails that encourage running, walking, and biking. Enjoy.
Kennywood – I haven’t been there. I can’t vouch for it, BUT I’m a huge roller-coaster enthusiast, and I would love to go to Kennywood. Located a handful of miles from Pittsburgh, it would definitely be on MY to-do list for a personal visit to the city.
The View – From the South, there is a gorgeous view of the city. Inclines (they’re kinda like cable cars) will take you up the side of a nearly sheer cliff to overlook the city. Platforms are available to get great views of the confluence of the rivers, the downtown area, the stadiums, and the general beauty of the city.