Sunshine Chaser's Guide to Pittsburgh

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I am away cruising with the family for another couple of days, so you get the treat of another Sunshine Chasers feature! I am particularly jazzed about this one because it is from my home state. Yes, fellow Philadelphians, I think Pittsburgh is awesome. I will say it loud and say it proud! Marissa graciously stepped up to the plate to convince you all with an AMAZING Pittsburgh guide. Thanks Marissa!

The Only Pittsburgh Guide You Need

If you follow me on Instagram, it’s no surprise that I’m a wee bit obsessed with my hometown, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. With the exception of college (an hour north) and a year and a half in central PA, I have lived in this gorgeous city my whole life. Though I don’t know what my future holds, I can honestly say that I would be content if I stayed here to live out the rest of my days. It feels like every week I learn something new and fascinating about the city of bridges (did you know we are the city with most bridges in the whole world? 446--three more than Venice even!) and there’s always something interesting to explore.

Admittedly, there’s a part of me that doesn’t even want to share the gloriousness that is Pittsburgh because there are already so many articles that keep inviting people to move here and we’re a little nervous that we’ll lose the magic over time. But, who am I kidding? I love this place so much I can’t hold back even if I tried! I know Pittsburgh isn’t a typical tourist destination, but I assure you, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

The first thing you’ll notice about Pittsburgh is the stunning skyline that forms a point where our three rivers meet. Our nickname is the Golden Triangle, but really that just means our streets aren’t in a perfect grid, making it an adventure to get around if you’re not familiar. But don’t let that deter you! If you get overwhelmed by big cities, you’ll find Pittsburgh to be an ideal size made up of numerous neighborhoods with distinctive personalities that blend into one another. I’m confident you’ll feel at home in more than one neighborhood if you take the time to explore.

PPG Building

PPG Building

Do me a favor: if you fly into Pittsburgh International Airport and/or drive in from the south through the Fort Pitt Tunnels, be prepared for a view that takes your breath away. Remember the movie Perks of Being a Wallflower and the scene where Emma Watson stands up in the car in the tunnel and it opens up to the city? They did not do this experience justice whatsoever. It’s way more brilliant in person.

The second thing you’ll notice is just how kind and down-to-earth most Pittsburghers are. A steel city at heart, we have a “blue collar” mentality mixed with a huge boost of technology, innovation, and culture, making for a unique blend of creativity and grit.

Typical Tourist Must-Dos in Pittsburgh

While I certainly encourage you to go off the beaten path and try some hidden gems, it’s worth exploring a few tourist activities:

  • Take a ride up the Duquesne Incline and enjoy the view on Mount Washington at night. What the heck is an incline? It’s a train...that travels up and down an inclined plane. While most riders are tourists, people still use it to commute up and down the mount daily. Seriously! It’s been around since the 1800s!
  • Go to a Pittsburgh Pirates game at PNC Park. Regardless if you’re a Pirates or even baseball fan or not, this park is worth the price of a ticket. I’m biased, but it has been hailed by others as the best baseball stadium in the country and it has a spectacular view of the skyline.

 

PNC Park

PNC Park

Eat More than Primanti Brothers

The ‘Burgh may not necessarily be known for our super healthy eating habits, but we have made the ranks for being home to some really great restaurants.  You may have heard about our weird propensity to put french fries on top of everything, including salads and our famous Primanti Brothers’ sandwiches, but we have a lot more to offer to satisfy all appetites. In fact, we were recently named Zagat’s #1 Food City in the United States this past year.

If you’re downtown, you’ve got to try the taqueria, täko; the gastropub, Meat and Potatoes; and my regular go-to, the meatball joint Emporio at Sienna Mercato. Be sure to pop on up to the rooftop bar, Il Tetto to end your evening.

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If you’re looking for a unique dining experience, head over to Peanut Butter Jelly Time! in Bloomfield for some gourmet PB & J at a reasonable price or clink glasses in an old Roman Catholic church at Church Brew Works in Lawrenceville.

Church Brew Works

Church Brew Works

There are coffee shops galore in every neighborhood, but my favorite little hideaway is Biddle’s Escape in Regent Square. There are food truck round-ups every Wednesday in the spring and summer and there’s so much unique decor and tons of flavors to try. I feel relaxed and intrigued every time I go there.

For dessert, enjoy a famous Almond Torte Cake from Prantl’s or get a few scoops of Millie’s Ice Cream in a homemade waffle cone in Shadyside.

Keep Busy in the Burgh

There are plenty of things to do and places to see to keep you busy for any length of time in Pittsburgh, but here are few of my favorites:

  • Hike in Frick Park. I’m fortunate to live just a few blocks from this lovely park, the largest in the city and one of our four historic parks. It’s beautiful in all seasons, and when you’re there, you often forget you’re in a city at all. It’s a great place to play, to reflect, to exercise, and to picnic.

 

Frick Park

Frick Park

  • Attend a craft workshop at a local bar with PopCraft. One of my favorite discoveries last year was this pop-up DIY activity held at places like The Beerhive. It’s a fantastic alternative to the numerous wine and paint nights and you actually make something cool and interesting. It’s perfect for date night, girls’ night out, and family fun. I even hosted my own private PopCraft party for my 25th birthday!
  • Go swing dancing at Swing City. One of the ways I have expanded my horizons and met a lot of new friends in my post-grad life has been through the dance community. There are numerous venues and styles of dance available, but swing dancing is one of the most welcoming dance scenes in the city. Swing City is a weekly dance held at Wightman School in Squirrel Hill that offers a beginner’s lesson followed by social dancing, often times with a live band. In the summers, they will even head up to Mount Washington to an overlook to blues dance into the wee hours of the morning.
  • Shop local. There are some really unique and interesting shops in the surrounding neighborhoods, especially in Lawrenceville and Shadyside. One of the shops I continually frequent is Wild Card, a card and handmade goods store. I could easily spend an hour reading the beautiful (and often hilarious) cards, coveting the soft vintage Pittsburgh tees, and debating between colorful prints. I also haven’t had the opportunity to check out The Farmer’s Daughter Flowers in the North Side yet, but her Instagram is absolutely stunning, so it’s on my list!

There are so many other gems I haven’t yet shared, but it’s time you come and see Pittsburgh for yourself! Yinz won’t regret it.P.S. Did you know Hogwarts was located in Pittsburgh?

Marissa is a yinzer from Pittsburgh. By day, she's a Growth Manager for a tech startup. By night, she's either writing, swing dancing, challenging herself at barre class, hanging out with her friends, or tackling some new project. Her blog, Ampersand.Co, focuses on helping creative young professionals navigate through life's transitions through authentic storytelling and relatable resources within a strong community. Follow her on Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram for more!

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  • Who's convinced? I'm going to road trip to Pittsburgh now!