A few years ago, The Economist pointed out that Pittsburgh’s changing demographics would make for a “rosier future.” Sure enough, it’s a hot place for young people to visit.
Aging baby boomers in the steel industry were forced to move away, leaving university students and modern high-tech workers to their own devices…and the cultural legacy left by the robber barons of the last century.
Thanks to endowments by some of history’s most successful industrialists, like Andrew Carnegie, Andrew Mellon, Charles M. Schwab, George Westinghouse and H. J. Heinz, the city has great architecture, three professional sports teams, world-class universities and a symphony orchestra.
A wide ethnic base has added to the cuisine. Today’s generation has revived older neighborhoods and reclaimed formerly polluted areas – including the riverfront.
Where to stay. SpringHill Suites Marriott Southside Works is walkable to the fun, historic South Side district. (It’s also thorough in its ADA accessibility. Some hotels just pay lip service to the needs of the physically challenged, but not this one – not only are designated rooms intelligently laid out, the indoor pool and hot tub have special lifts.) There's a complimentary local shuttle van, too.
What to do. Before he spread his coolness all over the world, Andy Warhol was from Pittsurgh. The museum devoted to him and like-minded current artists features amazing multimedia and interactive exhibits. There’s also an update on “The Factory” where you can create your own Warhol-esque projects.
The Heinz History Center focuses on what makes Pittsburgh and surrounding western Pennsylvania great. It’s housed in an interesting industrial-style building and encourages you to walk the stairs. If you walk all of them, you get a little prize. By visiting the section on the world-renowned Heinz 57 brand, I learned that the prize given out today is the same as the one given at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.
Western Pennsylvania’s Whiskey Rebellion couldn’t stop Wigle from making Pittsburgh’s own whiskey. They have tours where you get to taste the product and they’ll even fix you a modern or classic cocktail. The tours are so dynamic and entertaining, they oughta be on YouTube.
Pittsburgh’s three rivers – the Allegheny, the Monongahela and the Ohio – figure prominently in its destiny. An amazing way to discover the city’s riverfront and skyline is by kayaking the rivers. Kayak Pittsburgh offers kayak and bike rentals; you can get a guided tour by prior arrangement.
Another breathtaking view of the city can be had from above: the Duquesne Incline is a vintage trolley car traveling up Mount Washington that’s $2.50 a person each direction and parking’s free. It’s a great, romantic nighttime jaunt.
On the top of the hill (of course) are some of the city’s most luxurious restaurants.
Pittsburgh’s art mavens have been active in pushing out scary, undesirable tenants and making way for art. There’s a walking tour that connects galleries with architecture and public art displays, including “Cell Phone Disco” in an alley.
Where to eat. The Milkshake Factory is nearly 100 years old, using the finest chocolates and ice creams to make their sinful 55 milkshake flavors. On Wednesdays from 4-6, they have a half-priced milkshake Happy Hour.
Can you mix healthy and delicious? Yes, at Coca Café. Breakfast and lunch are both available all day. Whether you order an exotic freshly pressed juice or vegetarian eggplant Benedict with basil pesto hollandaise, you’ll feel sinful… even while being good to yourself.
You’ve seen Church Brew Works all over the cooking channels. Pittsburgh’s German immigrants have left a solid beer heritage – and their beer is good. In a former church, reflect on their many styles of beer with a sampler.
The Strip is a neighborhood that used to just house food wholesalers, but now it’s mostly retail food shops for the public. You can find things to eat and drink from every corner of the globe. Start out at the iconic Wholey’s (pronounced like “woolies”) for fantastic fresh fish sandwiches. Sweeten up at the Enrico Biscotti Co.; take a bread-making class while you’re at it.
For an urban-chic lounge vibe with the freshest local produce, Savoy is the place to go. Owned by a former running back for the Pittsburgh Steelers, they have a deck with a wonderful city view, fine liquors and a terrific chef combining soul food and Mediterranean influences.
(The hibachi service at Nakama, in Pittsburgh's South Side, below.)