Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is known as Steel City due to its heavy involvement in the steel industry. But, some may wonder, is there more to the city than steel, and is it worth it to visit?
Pittsburgh is a great city to visit, and it has it all—art, sports, nature, friendly locals, and vibrant nightlife. Those who decide to visit Pittsburgh won’t be disappointed as they can experience boat tours, street art, delicious food, museums, shopping, holiday-specific activities, and more.
Pittsburgh might be your ideal destination if you’re headed to the rust belt. Read on to find out if Pittsburgh is what you are looking for in a destination that offers the convenience and pace of city life combined with the ability to slow down and enjoy the outdoors.
Pittsburgh: An Ideal Destination
Pittsburgh is the second biggest city in Pennsylvania, right behind Philadelphia. Located in Western Pennsylvania, it boasts a population of over 300,000 people. Originally founded in 1758, Pittsburgh experienced steady growth until its growth accelerated when Welsh steelworkers immigrated to the city.
The city quickly grew into a prosperous steelworker’s town with 1,000 factories.
Manufacturing continued to fuel the city’s growth as railroads connected the city to the rest of the country. Then, as wars increased the need for steel, the city continued to add residents and jobs. Since then, Pittsburgh has continued to grow and advance in the tourism, technology, healthcare, and finance industries.
Pittsburgh From the Water
One of the unique things about a visit to Pittsburgh is that tourists can explore the city from the water. The three major rivers that run through Pittsburgh are the Ohio, Monongahela, and Allegheny Rivers. There are a variety of cruises available on these rivers.
One of the most popular cruises is offered year-round, travels on all three rivers, and is family-friendly. In addition, the Three Rivers Sightseeing Cruise & Tour helps guests learn about the history of Pittsburgh and what the future will look like.
This narrated tour keeps guests engaged while they witness the city’s beauty from the water. Another benefit is the full-service snack bar and the fact that guests can get up and walk around to different parts of the boat.
In October, there are haunted Pittsburgh cruises. On these cruises, passengers hear ghost stories while checking out historical landmarks along the three rivers—the perfect activity for fans of getting spooked around Halloween.
One exclusive cruise the Gateway Clipper Fleet offers in February of each year is Valentine’s Day Dinner. This unique, romantic cruise is sure to make a night to remember for couples, complete with a dinner buffet, music, dancing, and nighttime views of the city.
Though more expensive than standard cruises, it makes for an unforgettable Valentine’s date. Those interested in this option should make reservations in advance as there are very limited times this cruise takes place.
Those looking for a personal tour can rent a pontoon boat and explore the river/city. There is also the option to use one of Pittsburgh Pontoons’ certified drivers, which allows the guests to swim in certain parts of the river. This rental service is open spring-summer.
A visit to the City of Bridges would not be complete without admiring some of the bridges that span the three rivers that intersect in the city. Including railroad bridges, bridges for vehicles, and footbridges, there are 446 bridges throughout Pittsburgh. In addition, beam, arch, and suspension bridges give beauty and variety around every turn in the city.
Pittsburgh Street Art
Another upside to visiting Pittsburgh is taking in the city’s creative side. Street art is one of the best examples of the city’s artistic side. There are huge, colorful murals and even art pieces crafted out of repurposed materials. One way to appreciate all the city’s street art is by taking an art tour highlighting some of the artists and their work.
Another tourist attraction connected to street art is Randyland, one of the country’s most colorful public art exhibits. Randy Gibson helped to rejuvenate a rundown neighborhood by planting gardens in empty lots and upcycling discarded objects.
Eventually, his outsider art caught on, and the Northside of Pittsburgh experienced massive growth and is now touted as one of the most photographed places on Instagram.
Sports in Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh is a great place to visit for avid sports fans. There are three professional teams in the city:
- The Pittsburgh Steelers – The city’s NFL team. The first team in the NFL to win six Super Bowl titles. Remember to bring your terrible towel if you go to a game at Acrisure Stadium. Visitors can even start enjoying Steelers football in July of each year, which is when training camp begins.
- The Pittsburgh Pirates – PNC Park is the home of the Pirates, the MLB team from Pittsburgh. The ballpark is conveniently located downtown, so visitors can catch a game and then check out the river and the rest of the downtown scene. The stadium has several events, including bringing your dog to the ballpark nights, nights with fireworks, and free concerts after some games.
- Pittsburgh Penguins – This professional hockey team has a stadium in a prime location. PPG Paints Arena is in the heart of Downtown Pittsburgh. This nearly 20,000-seat arena is electrifying during hockey games. It is known as the most comfortable seating in the National Hockey League because of the 24-inch wide seats and increased legroom. The building is also used for events like concerts and basketball games throughout the year.
In addition to the professional sports teams, Pittsburgh has the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum. Here visitors can relive iconic moments from sports history connected to Pittsburgh teams. With interactive activities at the Super Steelers exhibit or the exhibit about the history of the five-time Stanley Cup Champions, the museum embodies the City of Champions’ all-time greatest sports accomplishments.
Keystone Answers Fun Fact: Pittsburgh is known as the starting point of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. It was in Pittsburgh that Merriwether Lewis bought a boat, which was later used by the expedition to travel the Mississippi River.
Pittsburgh Food You Shouldn’t Miss
A visit to Pittsburgh wouldn’t be complete without trying some local food exclusive to the city.
- Primanti Sandwich – This is one of Pittsburgh’s most popular sandwiches. It consists of grilled meat topped with cheese, oil and vinegar, coleslaw, tomatoes, and French fries, all between thick slices of Italian bread. Primanti Bros created the original Primanti sandwich out of a small sandwich cart that quickly moved to a storefront because of the sandwich’s popularity.
- Pierogies – These filled dumplings originate from Poland, but today they are found all around Pittsburgh. They are filled with anything from minced meat, sauerkraut, or potatoes to fruits like blueberries and strawberries. Tourists can enjoy pierogies just how they like them, sweet or savory.
- Pittsburgh Salad – In addition to having French fries on sandwiches, Pittsburgh also puts them on salads. The Pittsburgh salad is exactly what it sounds like; a salad topped with fries. Some local favorites include a grilled chicken salad with fries on top.
- Sarris Candies – This is the premier chocolate shop in Pittsburgh. Since its opening in 1960, it has seen tremendous growth. Today Sarris Candies produces chocolates, ice cream, and other candies. They have beautiful chocolate creations for each major holiday. Tourists won’t want to miss this sweet shop.
So much of what makes Steel City unique is its food. The difficult part for visitors will be deciding which places to eat and how to fit in (maybe) just one more meal while exploring the city.
Other Points of Interest
- Carnegie Science Center – An excellent family activity. Hands-on displays to keep kids engaged while learning about robots, food production, and sports, and even the opportunity to try out rock climbing or zip lining!
- Cable car ride at Duquesne Incline – This cable car was used to transport workers in the 1800s. This ride provides a stunning view of the city, and riders experience a piece of history.
- Explore Point State Park – This free park is located on the outskirts of Downtown Pittsburgh and has an impressive fountain where the three rivers meet. There are even historical forts from the 1700s.
Is Pittsburgh, PA, Safe to Visit?
Like any major city, there is some crime in Pittsburgh. However, statistically, Pittsburgh is one of the safest cities in the United States. The City of Bridges has a crime rate that is lower than the national average.
Additionally, the most common crimes are property crimes like theft, and violent crime is less common. The fact that Pittsburgh is safer than many other major US cities is one more reason to visit.
As with all travel to places you are unfamiliar with, research the places to avoid and stay alert while you are out and about to reduce the possibility of being a victim of crime.
When is the Best Time of Year to Visit Pittsburgh?
The ideal times to visit are from May to November. During these months, the weather is pleasant, and more events are happening around the city.
However, another thing to remember is that temperatures begin dropping sharply around mid-November, so if you aren’t a cold-weather person, you might want to rearrange your schedule.
What is the Closest Airport to Pittsburgh, PA?
The closest airport to Pittsburgh is PIT (Pittsburgh International Airport). This airport is on the outskirts of the city, about a 20-minute drive from downtown.
The next closest regional airport is Arnold Palmer Regional Airport, which is 62 miles from PIT. The closest international airport other than PIT is Cleveland Hopkins International Airport in Ohio, 125 miles away.
Pittsburgh – One of the Most Worthwhile Cities to Visit
Pittsburgh is a city that shouldn’t be missed. The combination of history, modern development, food choices, safety, and outdoor recreation make Pittsburgh the perfect place to travel. The wide range of activities makes it a highly sought-after destination among travelers. This lively city is a satisfying visit for travelers from all around the world.