16 Ways to Have the Best Pittsburgh Trip Ever

Have you heard the news? Pittsburgh is the place to be.

Admittedly, we’re bias about our love for Pittsburgh. So we understand your skepticism. But we’re not the only ones telling you to get to here. There are plenty of outsiders, media outlets and annual rankings making a fuss about us. According to them, we’re a must-visit city and the coolest place you’ve never been.

Well, it looks like you better get packing. But leave the planning to us. Because there’s more to this place than sports, steel and a certain sandwich. And we’re going to make sure you see it all.

Stay over in style

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When you’re booking your hotel, don’t settle for the same, tired hotel chain. Reserve a room at a trendy boutique hotel or stay over in style at one of the well established Pittsburgh spot. Check out and check into some of the best digs Downtown, like the Fairmont, Omni William Penn or the Hotel Monaco. Hipster havens, including Hotel Indigo and the ACE Hotel are approaching completion. And the Mansions on Fifth offer a glimpse into life just beyond the city in lovely Shadyside.

Make reservations at these restaurants

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Believe it or not, Pittsburgh’s food scene is fantastic. We know, outsiders don’t usually expect such a stellar dining experience. But it’s true. In fact, Zagat recently selected Pittsburgh as America’s best food town. And any reservations you have about that sentiment or statement can be put to rest by making reservations at any of these restaurants: Cure, The Vandal, Meat and Potatoes or Root 174.

Eat this sandwich

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Maybe you’ve heard about the preeminent Pittsburgh sandwich. Primanti’s packs grilled meat, coleslaw, tomato and French fries between two pieces of Italian bread. Sounds intriguing, right? Well that’s because it is. But we’ll tell you what it’s not. It’s not nearly as good as the mouthwatering, wood-fired steak or five-hour braised rosemary beef on toasted ciabatta bread from Gaucho. So if you have to choose one Pittsburgh sandwich, pass on Primanti’s. Go to Gaucho instead.

Drink local

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The local food scene is impressive, to say the least. But the drink scene is on point. From breweries and distilleries to tap rooms, barrelhouses and cocktail menus, we really know how to get lubed up with a little class. If that sounds like something you can get into, be sure to tour and taste what’s happening at Wigle Whiskey or Maggie’s Farm Rum. Fans of craft beer will be well served by stopping at The Brew Gentlemen, Grist House and Hop Farm Brewing. Craft cocktails await you at the Livermore and Butcher and the Rye.

Take to the water

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There are no shortage of neighborhoods to tour, in fact, there are more than 90 in Pittsburgh. But one of the absolute best ways to experience the city is alongside or on the water. At Point State Park a massive fountain sprays water high into the air at the place where the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers, forming the Ohio River. From there, head to the Roberto Clemente Bridge and rent a kayak from Kayak Pittsburgh. Or continue your trek along all along the Three Rivers Heritage Trail to the Strip.

Experience the Strip District

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Speaking of the Strip, you’ll need to make a stop there. You can’t come to Pittsburgh and not walk through this former manufacturing center, turned hip hangout complete with street vendors, bars, restaurants, some stellar coffee spots and a melting pot of ethnic shops, grocers, and roadside food carts. The streets in the Strip are alive on Sunday mornings. And the line for breakfast or brunch at two area eateries is around the block.

Be one with brunch

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Around here, brunch isn’t simply a meal it’s a religion. Especially at Pamela’s and Deluca’s in the Strip District. Be prepared to wait in line most of the morning before you even get a whiff of what they’re cooking up. Oh, it’s worth the wait alright. Besides, the situation is the same at almost every other post across town. See also: Coca Cafe, e2 and Square Cafe (wipes drool from face).

Visit these green spaces

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It’s interesting that, in a city known for steel and smog-filled skies, green spaces and outdoor places is the standard. From Schenley Park to Schenley Plaza, Frick Park to Highland Park and Market Square, Downtown, Pittsburgh is packed with parks that are perfect for running, biking and just relaxing. If you’re not an outdoorsy person, head indoors to see the botanical gardens and one of the greenest buildings in the world at Phipps Conservatory.

Hit these streets

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We suggest a street-by-street approach to  taking in some of the best parts of Pittsburgh’s best neighborhoods. Start with Market Street Downtown, your inroad to Market Square. Butler Street in Lawrenceville features eats, art and boutique shops. Grab a coffee at Tazz’a on Bryant Street and walk to Highland Park. Penn and Smallman make up the Strip (already on your itinerary). Stroll down Walnut in Shadyside. Or take a home tour of the Mexican War Streets on the North Side. But whatever you do, don’t skip over Grandview Ave on Mt. Washington – best view of the city, bar none.

Treat yourself

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Trust us when we tell you that Pittsburgh knows how to do treats and sweets. That includes baked goods, pastries, popcorn and donuts. We’ll take the last one first, donuts. Peace, Love and Little Donuts takes the cake. And, when it comes to cake, Prantl’s Burnt Almond Torte will blow your mind. If traditional French pastries better suits your palate, stop by La Gourmandine in Lawrenceville. Then stock up on the most inventive popcorn you’ve ever had, like S’mores, Watermelon or Buffalo Wing, at Pittsburgh Popcorn.

Break a sweat

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If you’re trying to maintain some semblance of your healthy habits when you pop into Pittsburgh, be sure to bring your sneakers because there are plenty of running trails to try out during your stay. If you’re not into running, maybe yoga is more your speed. Or you could just hop on a bike from Pittsburgh Bike Share and cruise around town. Heck, you can even grab a green juice on the way back to the hotel.

Get some work done

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We hope that your visit is all play and no business. But, if you have to get do some work while you’re here, plan on posting up at a local coffee shop to sip some stellar small batch coffee while you plow through your inbox. If you need a more dedicated workspace, consider checkout out one of Pittsburgh’s coworking spaces. For the most part, desks are available by the day so you can go head down and get some work done.

Explore these museums (and the arts)

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When it comes to arts and culture, Pittsburgh is practically busting at the seams. The Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History are in Oakland. The Northside is home to a trifecta of arts experiences. The Mattress Factory is a cutting edge contemporary art venue featuring interactive installations. Nearby you’ll find Randyland, a vibrant, thriving and ever changing public art display. Next up is the Warhol Museum, the largest museum in America dedicated to one artist – Andy Warhol, a native Pittsburgher. See also, the Bayernhof Museum and be sure to check out the calendar of events in Pittsburgh’s Cultural District.

Shop these local spots

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The creative community and maker movement is alive and well around here. Which isn’t all that surprise for a city known for manufacturing. But nowadays we’re not forging steel, we’re making custom art, prints, ceramics and home goods from reclaimed wood. Find local wares at Wildcard, Toll Gate Revival and the Handmade Arcade. If it’s a fashion-forward shopping experience you’re after, stop into Mid-Atlantic Mercantile or Pavement, both in Lawrenceville.

Get out of town

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After you’ve seen the city and surrounding neighborhoods, escape the downtown corridor by doing something most locals don’t even do, cross a river or bridge to get out of town. When you do, you’d be well served by spending some time in Carnegie. It’s an up-and-coming neighborhood home to the Carnegie Coffee Company, One Thirty One East and Apis and Mead Winery. If you want to do a little more adventuring, head to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Water or do some whitewater rafting at Ohiopyle State Park.

Channel Pittsburgh’s past

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While it’s true that Pittsburgh is experiencing a transformation or sorts, reinventing itself in many ways. There are still so many things about the city’s past to see. In fact, you should see them. It’s the melding of two worlds, the old and the new, and how they coexist that make Pittsburgh so intriguing. Ride the incline, an old coal cart down the side of Mt. Washington. Baseball fans will flip over the collection of memorabilia at the Roberto Clemente Museum. Head to the Carrie Furnace to experience the history of Big Steel firsthand. For the complete history of Pittsburgh, and the region, spend a day at Heinz History Center – a museum showcasing compelling stories from American history with a Western Pennsylvania.