Pittsburgh has many charms, but she doesn’t give them all up easily. It’d be nice to have a guide. In that spirit, we present this Pittsburgh Insiders Guide. It’s our experts’ guide to finding and enjoying the best that Pittsburgh and this region have to offer, in everything from our exploding dining and drinks scene to our hottest and warmest real estate markets.
Arts & Entertainment
When it comes to movies, go big or go home. Nothing compares with the experience of watching "Jurassic World" or "The Martian" on a screen the size of a stadium scoreboard. Some of our favorite theaters have just one screen; one has 22.
We could fill this magazine with stories about where movies were shot in Western Pennsylvania. Here are some other local sets.
Everyone has favorite museum objects they like to visit -- and revisit. But to what items would Pittsburgh museum curators steer visitors in their collections? Here they share their best-kept secrets and hidden gems -- the cool stuff they’d take their out-of-town friends to see.
From venerable museums to public spaces, Pittsburgh has an abundance of art surpassing that of most cities its size. Works that I like to take visitors to see run the gamut from traditional to contemporary, indoors to outside.
It was good enough for Brad Pitt's 43rd birthday and drew another famous couple who couldn't even tour the inside. Fallingwater, the house Frank Lloyd Wright designed, is usually name-checked in interviews with celebrities spending a little or lots of time in Pittsburgh. Other favorites: Dave & Buster's at the Waterfront for the cast of "She's Out of My League;" The Milk Shake Factory on the South Side for Nina Dobrev during "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" and Tom Cruise's family during "Jack Reacher;" and Dish Osteria on the South Side, where Alec Baldwin broke bread with Dr. Cyril Wecht while filming "Concussion."
To borrow a definition provided by actor, writer and inveterate geek Simon Pegg, "Being a geek is all about being honest about what you enjoy and not being afraid to demonstrate that affection." In that respect, Pittsburgh should be crowned the world's No. 1 Geek City. We embrace our geekdom and wear it as boldly as a Bat Signal on the skyline.
Food & Drink
Make sure you give these essential Pittsburgh brews a try.
In a region where a lot of people pride themselves on having their fries and coleslaw ON their sandwiches, you can expect other quirky tastes. Here are a few you might want to try. Or not.
Our ascendant dining scene makes it more likely that you can have a religious experience in a great restaurant. But Pittsburgh being Pittsburgh, you still can have some great food experiences in religious settings.
It’s the kind of discussion that can launch reasonable adults into belligerent invective. Somewhere below politics but occasionally on par with sports rivalries, there is pizza. Ask 100 people for their favorite pizza place and you might get 100 different answers. It’s a fiercely territorial topic, bordering on tribal. And while Pittsburgh doesn’t have a defined “style” like New York, Chicago or even Detroit, there’s no paucity of premium pizzas. Here are a few of my favorites.
It was the sociologist and author Ray Oldenburg who first posited the notion of the “third place” and its importance as a not-home, not-work gathering spot where all are welcome. Often a bar or a pub is that place, and whether it’s a shot-and-beer joint or a place for martinis and Manhattans, the tone of the experience is set by the bartender who can wear the hats of jester, therapist, father confessor and friend, all at the same time. Here are some of our favorite barkeeps.
Places & Perspectives
I work the early shift at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, so I often get to see Pittsburgh just as she's waking up. You can go to the same locations time after time and get different views, thanks to Mother Nature's changing touch. Here are some of my favorite easy-to-get-to vantage points for photographing the Pittsburgh skyline.
If there's anything that has been going up faster in Pittsburgh these days than apartments, it's hotel rooms. Developers can't seem to help themselves. By the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership's count, there are 4,952 rooms in the Golden Triangle, the North Shore, the lower Hill District, the South Side and the Strip District, with more than 1,000 of those opening in the past seven years. Another 1,709 are in the pipeline. With all of those rooms, you would think we were a tourist destination. Here are some new hotels to give you sweet dreams in 2016.
With more than 1,400 bridges, the region is a permanent showcase of the inspired engineering and public art that make bridges great. My colleague Kevin Kirkland and I have been exploring them for a Pittsburgh Bridges series. Here are some of our functional and beautiful favorites.
Pittsburgh is 89th on the alphabetical list of 130 municipalities in Allegheny County. Unlike other cities that expanded their boundaries as they grew, Pittsburgh pretty much remained in place while surrounding communities developed on their own. Here are some of the many with personality, charm and amenities that anyone might like to call home. Take a drive and check these out for yourself. You might run into me exploring them, too.
With 739 sets of steps, Pittsburgh has more municipal stairways than any city in the U.S.. That’s according to Bob Regan, author of his updated “Pittsburgh Steps” (2015), which is part historical record and part guidebook for active step trekkers. Of these stairways, 344 are legal streets — composed just of steps.
Pittsburgh is a city of neighborhoods, and one of the best ways to get to know them is through their architecture. Homes paint a historical picture of past owners in their pine floors, marble mantels and shotgun rooms. For the less architecturally inclined, house tours are a perfectly acceptable way to be nebby, as we say, and snoop on how other Pittsburghers live. Here are some of the area’s most popular tours.
Shopping & Social
Instagram's great for creating memories, but we think the best way to keep Pittsburgh close to your heart is to take a piece of the city home with you. Here, we offer a few locally made souvenirs and gifts that celebrate the 'Burgh.
Planning a special event or party, or planning to go to one? Here are five venues where I love to go to events for the Post-Gazette's Seen section.
Sprinkled across the city are fashion, shoe and accessory designers who call Pittsburgh home. Many of them are reaching beyond the region with their lines, landing spots in major magazines and placements in stores around the world. But if you want to shop their flagship boutiques and, in some cases, see them at work on their collections, you have to visit here.
Western Pennsylvania has lots for dogs to do, but you need people to drive you (and to read this). Thanks to my human for typing up these favorites.
Even in this app-centric century, it's an excellent idea to inspect art, furniture, glass, jewelry and other expensive things of beauty in person before you buy. There's no need to don a deerstalker cap but do channel your inner Sherlock Holmes. Here are some places where you can track down quality finds.
You might be surprised how much agriculture there is not far from Downtown. You might be surprised by how much agriculture there is right Downtown and at farmers markets in 120-some other places in season. And the season is longer than you might think, too, as some markets open before all the snow melts and continue right up to Thanksgiving (Beaver's goes into December). One of my favorites is open year-'round. Find them all on my annually updated list at www.post-gazette.com. But here are some of my picks.
Sports & Recreation
Pittsburgh is so rich in sports history that you can find yourself waist deep in it almost by accident; you could right now, for example, be standing on the spot where Bruno Sammartino wrestled an orangutan. But here are five places you should find yourself on purpose.
A few of the following ski runs are easy and others are more challenging, but all are memorable. And each feeds directly to a chairlift.
Despite its hills, or maybe because of them, Pittsburgh is one heck of a great running town. Home to one of the largest marathon- and half-marathon events in the country, it boasts trails and scenic running routes for every type of runner, whether you’re itching for an easy run along water or want to test your mettle on a super-steep incline. Here are some of the city’s finest runs.
Show a kid kids a playground — any playground — and they’ll be pretty happy. But nestled amongst the hundreds of slides and swings across the Pittsburgh region are a few playgrounds that bring something special. Whether it’s a million-dollar art installation or a cardboard-fueled concrete slide, these (free!) playgrounds are worth a detour, if not their own road trip.
As an avid cyclist, I have a hard time naming my favorite multipurpose trails. But especially after considering their proximity to Pittsburgh and Allegheny County; their multiple access points for comfortable out-and-back rides; their nearly level surfaces, some of which are paved; sufficient trailhead parking and proximity to apres bike restaurants and related businesses, these stand out.
With one of the highest boat-ownership rates in the United States, two world-championship bass tournaments in the last decade and bald eagles nesting within city limits, the Three Rivers region has clearly traded its blue-collar industrial past for a future more closely linked to outdoor recreation.