Pittsburgh and Countryside
Discover the steel city's softer side with trips to museums, river recreation and quaint stores
Located at the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers and the head of the Ohio River, Pittsburgh was referred to early on as the "Gateway to the West" from its early days as a frontier fort.
"The Steel City," as it is still called by some, even with the decline of the U.S. steel industry, remains a regional beacon. The real strength of Pittsburgh is in the ethnic diversity of its population. Immigrants from all over the world settled in Pittsburgh to earn a living and raise their family. Today, Pittsburgh-area residents are known for their strong work ethic, family values and a hearty embrace of everyday life.
The city's geographical location is definitely one of its most stunning features, with rivers, hills and valleys coming together where the three rivers meet. Pittsburgh has more bridges than just about any city in the world, including Venice, Italy, and more steps than Cincinnati and San Francisco combined. Three rivers and hundreds of hills will do that to a place. Most downtown bridges are painted a distinctive golden yellow. (The official city colors are black and gold. More on that later.) The topography is also a big reason for Pittsburgh's interesting patchwork of 88 neighborhoods.
Mount Washington, originally called Coal Hill, affords visitors a stunning view of the city and its surroundings. Two inclines take travelers to the top. Opened in 1870, the Monongahela Incline—called the "Mon Incline" by locals—is the oldest and steepest incline in the United States, as well as the nation's oldest cable car operation. It offers beautiful views of downtown Pittsburgh as well as a convenient way for residents of Mount Washington to get to downtown Pittsburgh. The lower station of the Monongahela Incline is located near the Smithfield Street Bridge, and is easily accessible from Station Square and Pittsburgh's light rail system.
Opened in 1877, the Duquesne Incline still delights residents and visitors with its original, elegant, wooden cable cars. The Duquesne Incline's upper station houses a museum of Pittsburgh history (including photos of the steel days when noon in Pittsburgh was as dark as dusk), and a storehouse of information on inclines around the world. Unusual Pittsburgh souvenirs, maps and photos can be found at the tiny gift shop.
The Arts and Culture
The Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, founded by industrialist Andrew Carnegie in 1895, are a collection of four creative, inspiring, thought-provoking places of exploration: Carnegie Museum of Art, Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Carnegie Science Center and the Andy Warhol Museum. The Warhol Museum is an ultramodern tribute to the founder of pop art. The most comprehensive single artist museum in the world houses more than 4,000 works of art, including paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, films and videos, from this native Pittsburgh artist. While dedicated to Andy Warhol, the museum also hosts rotating exhibits by artists who push the boundaries of art, just as Warhol did.
The Miniature Railroad and Village at the Carnegie Science Center features detailed buildings and landscape that celebrate the history and heritage of western Pennsylvania.
Located in the inspiring Cathedral of Learning on the University of Pittsburgh campus are the Nationality Classrooms, 24 classrooms that reflect the culture and heritage of the area's diverse ethnic groups and represent each nationality's contribution to the fabric of Pittsburgh. Visit the classroom that represents your heritage and establish your own emotional bond with the peoples of Pittsburgh.
At the Mattress Factory, the beds are gone, but it is now home to a one-of-a-kind arts experience. The Mattress Factory, a museum of contemporary art, is the best facility for installation art in the United States, all created by in-residence artists. From floors made of green-apple candy to a frozen room full of Victorian furniture, the avant-garde art is sometimes a bit bewildering, but always fun.
The Phipps Conservatory & Botanical Gardens is one of the largest Victorian "glass houses" in the country, featuring tropical plants that were the original seedlings at the 1890 Exposition, beautiful orchids, indoor and outdoor gardens, and a fabulous bonsai collection. Children will revel in the Discovery Garden, where they are invited to exercise their green thumbs and explore the world of plants and flowers, worms and all. Seasonal exhibits include a butterfly garden, flower shows and a miniature railroad display.
Are you hungry? The local Pittsburgh Primantis chain is renowned for its unique sandwiches, stacked high with meat, a pile of coleslaw, and an unhealthy helping of French fries—all between the bread. Another dining treat in Pittsburgh are the pierogies, the stuffed pasta creations are served at restaurants, church picnics and fairs all over the city.
Another quaint spot to visit is "The Strip," a marketplace of specialty groceries and restaurants, coffee shops, street vendors, and unique antique and gift shops. It's the place to be on Saturday mornings in Pittsburgh.
Just across the Allegheny River from the history center is the National Aviary, where over 600 of the world's most incredible birds are displayed in naturalistic exhibits and walk-through habitats. Marvel at hummingbirds the size of a thumb or Andean Condors with giant 10-foot wingspans at the nation's premiere bird zoo.
Senator John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center, a former icehouse, has been reborn as a seven-story museum, with interactive exhibits that bring more than 250 years of western Pennsylvania history to life. Discover how immigrants shaped the region, uncover the myths of the Underground Railroad or climb aboard a 1940s Pittsburgh trolley. Two floors are dedicated to the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum. After all, what's the history of Pittsburgh without Franco Harris, Mario Lemieux, Roberto Clemente, Arnold Palmer and the gang? Remember, Pittsburgh residents bleed black and gold for their three professional sports teams—the Steelers (winners of six Super Bowls), the Pirates and the Penguins.
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