||Visiting Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Pittsburgh sits astride the major highways
linking the Midwest to the Northeast. It
can be a highly rewarding stopover point
for those on long auto journeys through the
region or a great destination in of itself.|
Pittsburgh is blessed with an outstanding
setting. Downtown ends in a triangular point,
where the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers
form the Ohio. Over the south side of town
loom high bluffs, which are scaled by two
funicular railways called "incline planes"
or just "inclines." Driving into
town from the south on the road from the
airport rewards you with the most dramatic
entrance to any U.S. city. Those bluffs hide
the city until you pass through an elevated
tunnel and find it there at your feet. The
effect is especially striking at night.
The city is home to a number of excellent
cultural institutions. Each is worth a visit
and can turn a short trip into a reason to
The Carnegie Museum of Natural History has
a world-class dinosaur exhibit. Indeed, this
museum was a pioneer in the fieldwork that
has unearthed dinosaur remains across the
globe. It also has a world-class collection
of gems and minerals. Of particular note
is the architectural hall, with casts of
outstanding facades from Europe; the casts
themselves are relics of a time when the
Carnegie advanced the idea of having plaster
copies of the best architecture rather than
obtaining second-rate fragments. For Christmas
time travelers, the Carnegie Museum of Art
sets up a massive Christmas tree and Neapolitan
nativity set. This rivals the famed display
at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The adjoining museum of art is excellent,
if not of the first rank nationwide.
The Frick Museum of Art has fine rotating
exhibits. It is the grounds of Henry
Frick's mansion, Clayton. Adjacent
an auto and carriage museum.
The Carnegie Science Center, near Heinz
(the new football stadium), features
The Andy Warhol Museum focuses on contemporary
The Senator John Heinz Regional History
offers excellent exhibits on local
The nationality rooms in the University of
Pittsburgh's Cathedral of Learning are unique.
They are decorated to represent the art,
architecture, and history of the many ethnic
groups that have settled in Pittsburgh.
The National Aviary in Pittsburgh is another
worthwhile destination. Formerly municipally
run, it was taken over by the Smithsonian
Institution several years ago. They have
several very interesting live bird demonstrations
every day. An outstanding addition for the
summer of 2004 was a show that features several
very rare birds of prey from around the world
that are released and fly over the audience
in the aviary's garden.
The Pittsburgh zoo achieved the rare feat
of having two African elephants born there
in the last few years. African elephants
in captivity have a notorious low breeding
success rate. The youngsters, though growing,
are still among the zoo's major attractions.
The Pittsburgh Symphony is a remarkably adept
ensemble that deserves to be on the short
list of the best orchestras in the nation.
Music lovers should take in a concert while
in town. The acoustics of its home, Heinz
Hall, are superb. The cheap seats in the
upper balcony are a tremendous bargain, given
the quality of sound even that far from the
The South Side, formerly a center of
making, now is Pittsburgh's SoHo, with
mixture of avant-garde galleries and
spanning the world's cuisines.
The Strip District, just east of downtown
on the southern bank of the Allegheny
is a must-see experience in no-frills
shopping. Just beware that parking
For golfers, Schenley Park Golf Course
an oddity that must be tried. Set in
park with a street running through
has the most unusual obstacles and
rules. Expect to play over or around
fences, for example, or up mountainous
It is cheap, a lot of fun, generally
(especially on weekdays) and very welcoming
to beginners or golfers of modest skills.
Besides the attractions in the city
travelers to the region also should
- About a two hour drive southeast of Pittsburgh
are two masterpieces of architect Frank Lloyd
Wright: Fallingwater (recently restored)
and Kentuck Knob (recently opened to the
public by its new owner, British real estate
magnate Lord Palumbo).
- The Westmoreland County Museum of Art in
Greensburg has a very attractive collection
for a small museum. During the Christmas
season, it also has an especially worthwhile
exhibit on toys from decades gone by.
- The Pennsylvania State University (Penn State)
in State College began as an agricultural
school. It still has its own dairy at which
you can purchase some of the best ice cream
available anywhere. They also take pains
to pack your purchases in dry ice if you
are traveling a distance.
|Yinz tahkin Pittsburghese?
|One of the more distinctive aspects of a
trip to Pittsburgh is a chance to hear the
utterly unique regional dialect and accent.
It's akin to the speech patterns of Appalachia,
but with a lot of its own twists.
You'll likely hear such things
- yinz = you (plural)
- dahntahn = downtown
- Sahside = South Side (a section of the city)
- slow dahn = slow down (standard warning on
entering a tunnel)
- ged aht = get out
- gum band = rubber band
- pahp (pop) = soda
- Ahrn City = Iron City, local brand of beer
- Jahnt Iggle = Giant Eagle, local supermarket
- Stillers = Steelers, local football team
- Pahrahts = Pirates, local baseball team
Buy a phrase book such
Pittsburghese, keep a keen ear,
get around (er, urahnd) just
|For Railroad Buffs
|Railroad enthusiasts should consider visiting:
- The trolley museum in Washington, PA.
- The horseshoe curve in Altoona, a dramatic engineering feat that brings the old Pennsylvania RR main line over the Allegheny Mountains.
- The Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site outside Altoona. Here canal boats were loaded on rail cars and move up or down a steep hill that bisected a major canal.
- The incline planes in Pittsburgh and Johnstown. These are large funicular-type railways used to transport people up steep hillsides. The one in Johnstown is especially large, and carries cars as well as pedestrians.
- Elaborate model railroad exhibits at Christmas in Pittsburgh and its environs. The best, probably, is in Greensburg. This region seems to lead the U.S. in dedicated model railroaders.
|Where to Learn More
|What to Budget
|About $100/day can buy highly satisfactory
lodging. You can eat very well for under
$40/day per person.Plan on at least $20/day
per person for admission to attractions.
|Travel Guides and More
|When to Go
|Winters are cold and snowy. Summers are hot
and humid. Spring and fall can be delightful..
|Click on one:
Air Travel /
- Pittsburgh is remarkably uncrowded, even
on business days. The main traffic choke
point is I-676 westbound ("The Parkway")
approaching the Squirrel Hill Tunnel during
evening rush hour. Seek alternate routes
at all costs.
- The main challenge in navigating Pittsburgh
is the hills. They cause streets to take
crazy routes, and sometimes to halt abruptly
at deep chasms.
- The road less taken through Pennsylvania
is I-80, which runs along the northern tier
of the state. Most cross-state travelers
use the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Generally,
I-80 is less congested. However, in the winter
months one must be mindful of the weather.
The Turnpike generally can be expected to
have faster snow clearance, salting, and