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Pittsburgh

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For other places with the same name, see Pittsburgh (disambiguation).

Pittsburgh [1] is a city of about 350,000 in Southwestern Pennsylvania, although the population of its metropolitan area is about 2.4 million. It is situated at the confluence of the Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers, which meet to form the Ohio River. Pittsburgh's triangular shape and steep hills have resulted in an unusual city design, a hodge-podge of neighborhood "pockets" with diverse ethnic and architectural heritage.

Pittsburgh skyline

Districts

Like many cities, Pittsburgh is divided into districts:

This is not an exhaustive list; there are numerous others. For a complete list of districts and neighborhoods here is a list published by the City of Pittsburgh that includes a map of each which can be printed out.

Some of these areas are ethnic neighborhoods, such as Polish Hill, and Squirrel Hill (a largely Jewish neighborhood). Others began as independent cities; for instance the North Side, on the northern shore of the Allegheny river, began as the city of Allegheny and the South Side, on the southern shore of the Monongehela river, was the city of Birmingham, but now they are incorporated into the city proper.

Understand

Pittsburgh has a rich history and for its size, an unusual array of cultural treasures. The main reason for this abundance is the wealth that was generated when Pittsburgh was the hub of the steelmaking industry. During the US Civil War the city was known as "the armory of the Union" and this began a sharp escalation of industry, particularly iron and steel, but also glass. For a very brief but interesting history of this unique city see this article published by the Society of American Archivists.

Andrew Carnegie lived in Pittsburgh (in the then city of Allegheny as a matter of fact, now the North Side) where he began the Carnegie Steel Company which grew to be the largest steel company in the world. It eventually became USS, the United States Steel Corporation which, when first formed at the turn of the 20th century, was the largest corporation of any kind in the world, and it made Carnegie the richest man in the world, the "Bill Gates of his time" so to say. It is still headquartered in Pittsburgh, as is Alcoa - the largest aluminum company in the world. Another notable steel industrialist was John Hartwell Hillman Jr., who built Pittsburgh Coke & Chemical. A number of other Fortune 100 companies once called Pittsburgh their headquarters as well. All this affluence helped fund a world class museum, theaters, universities, and of course the Carnegie Library, which has branches in cities all across America.

At the height of this industrialization Pittsburgh was notorious for its severe air pollution. One journalist descriptively dubbed it, "hell with the lid off". White collar workers came home in the evening as brown collar workers. Frank Lloyd Wright, the noted architect, when once asked what to do to fix Pittsburgh, famously replied, and with characteristic frankness, "Raze it." Today it is a model of cleanliness due to the remediation of the polluting industrial plants in the late 1950's, and also, unfortunately, due to the gradual migration of the mills to other cities and countries. There is now only one operating steel mill in Pittsburgh, Carnegie Steel's venerable Edgar Thompson Works, now a USS, state-of-the-art integrated steel mill.

Like most other old cities, it was the rivers that made the city. Pittsburgh claims to have more bridges than any city in the world (only counting bridges over 20 feet, 440 or so within Pittsburgh, and over 1700 in the county at all heighths) many of quite unusual design - steel bridges, of course. The many locks and dams on the rivers still support extensive barge traffic. Point State Park, or simply, "The Point", so named because it is the delta where the Allegheny and the Monongahela rivers join to form the Ohio River, was the site of Fort Pitt, once known as Fort Duquesne and, as one might expect with a name change like that, a famous battle was fought there in pre-Revolutionary times.

The demand for labor, so-called "millhunks", was so strong in the late 1800's that immigrants flocked to Pittsburgh from all over Europe, but mostly Central and Eastern Europe, especially: Poland, Slovakia, Ukraine, Bohemia (now the Czech Republic), Lithuania, Serbia and Croatia. All these countries provided laborers for the mills, and later many engineers immigrated from these countries as well. They brought their families, their languages, their churches - along with their drinking traditions too. Pittsburgh is known as "a shot and a beer" town. Steeples and the bright copper onion-dome churches of the Eastern Orthodox tradition dot the old parts of town. Unusual for the area, there is also a beautiful Hindu temple as well, built later for the many engineers and doctors from India that came to the city during the second half of the 20th century. Pittsburgh truly was a great melting pot, and the tradition continues: it is home to thousands of foreign students that attend the many universities in the city, including, most notably, Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh. Today these schools are among the city's largest employers.

Pittsburgh is unique in other ways, too. It had the first Big Mac (wow), the first pull-tab on drink cans, the first commercial radio station (KDKA, still operating), the first US public television station (WQED, still operating), the first gas station (1912, bit the dust), and the first baseball stadium (Forbes Field 1909). Check out these other Famous Pittsburgh Firsts listed by the Greater Pittsburgh Convention and Visitors Bureau. Many of them will surprise you. Most recently (2006), Pittsburgh is the first city in the United Statesto offer WiFi coverage.

Get in

By air

Pittsburgh International Airport (IATA: PIT) is the normal way in, although the area is also served by the smaller Allegheny County Airport, primarily used by private and corporate airplanes. The International Airport is located in Findlay, about 20 miles west of downtown, which translates to about a $45 cab ride. Hotel shuttles and buses are also available, and can be cheaper (the city bus, route 28X, is only $2.25, and takes a reasonably fast route to downtown, mostly along freeways and dedicated busways).

The airport terminal is relatively new and when built was the first "airport mall" in the country, which contains many shops and restaurants. It has been much copied since it was completed.

When you come in you will arrive in the "air-side" building. If you are transiting to another destination you don't have to leave this building, and this is where most of the "mall" shops are which makes window shopping a pleasant way of passing the time. If you are going to the Pittsburgh-area though, you will take a light rail shuttle a short distance underground to the "land-side" building where you will find the baggage claim and the various transportation modes to the city and other regional locations.

This airport is served by all major airlines, but US Airways and Southwest Airlines are predominant.

By bus

Pittsburgh is served by Greyhound [2] (+1 412 392-6513 or +1 800-231-2222 for routes and schedules) which maintains a station at 11th and Liberty, Downtown. Currently, the Greyhound station is undergoing maintenance; the temporary station is at 990 2nd Avenue. You can also get information from the Port Authority web site.

By car

The interstate system links Pittsburgh from many cities. If coming from the east or west, your best bet into the city is the I-76, the Pennsylvania Turnpike. From the west, take exit 28-Cranberry to I-79 and then I-279; from the east, take exit 57 to I-376. From the north or south, take I-79.

By train

Amtrak [3] services Pittsburgh and has a station just across the street from the Greyhound station at Grant and Liberty Downtown.

Get around

Pittsburgh is difficult for strangers to get around in because the roads go every which way, constrained by the rivers and hills. Many are one-way and nearly all are narrow, as they were laid out in the days of horse-and-buggy transportation. If you can afford it, take a taxi until you get used to it. If not, find where you want to go on the internet, call them, and get detailed directions. Failing that, use an online mapping service. If you do find yourself lost or unsure, however, do not be afraid to ask for help. Most locals are very friendly and will be happy to assist you.

Transit

The Port Authority [4] (+1 412 442-2000) runs an extensive bus, light rail, and incline service.

Although Port Authority (or PAT as some residents refer to it) is generally quite reliable, the fare system it utilizes can be confusing, especially to visitors. Most bus and all light-rail routes utilize a "pay enter/pay leave" system: If you are travelling INTO or TOWARDS Downtown ("inbound"), you pay the fare as you board the bus. If you are travelling OUT OF or AWAY from Downtown ("outbound"), the fare is paid when you reach your destination. Travel within Downtown is free. The buses sometimes have signs in their front windows indicating whether fare is paid upon entering or leaving, but not always. Further adding to the confusion, from 7PM-4AM, ALL fares on all trips are paid upon boarding the bus, regardless of destination.

The base bus and light-rail fare is $1.75 for destinations within Zone 1, which encompasses the city limits and a few nearby suburbs. For an extra 50 cents, passengers can also purchase a transfer ticket, valid for three hours to use on any other route. Before boarding a bus or trolley, always check Port Authority's schedules (all of which are available on their website) and confirm its destination with the driver.

By taxi

Taxis are a very good (if expensive) way of dealing with Pittsburgh's spaghetti roads until you get used to them (in about ten years). In the downtown and inner areas of the city itself (as opposed to the suburbs) one of the most commonly used taxicab companies is Yellow Cab [5] +1 412 321-8100.

By car

Major highways include the Parkways East (Interstate 376), North (Interstate 279 to the north of downtown), and West (Interstate 279 to the west and south of downtown), Mon-Fayette Expressway, and PA Turnpike (toll road).

Riverboat

The Gateway Clipper fleet of riverboats offers shuttle services from Station Square to the North Side near the stadiums. Particularly useful when attending a game at Heinz Field or PNC Park.

See

  • Andy Warhol Museum [6] 117 Sandusky Street, +1 412 237-8300 - said to be one of the most comprehensive single-artist museums in the world, "The Warhol" has exhibits of the artist's life and work, recreations of portions of "The Factory", screening of films, and educational programs about the Pittsburgh-born artist as well as other contemporary and pop artists.
  • Carnegie Museum of Natural History [7] - visit the dinosaurs and see the extensive gem and mineral collection.
  • Cathedral of Learning, University of Pittsburgh, Oaklnd. The 42-story centerpiece of "Pitt's" campus - the tallest academic building in America, and the second-tallest in the world - was completed in 1937 and features magnificent Gothic architecture both inside and out. It is also home to the famed Nationality Rooms [8] - 26 rooms decorated in the themes of the various cultures that played a hand in the city's development. The Rooms are open to the public as long as class is not being held in them.
  • Frick Art and Historical Center [9] - visit steel magnate Henry Clay Frick's mansion-cum-art museum, open Tu-Su 10AM-5PM.
  • Heinz Chapel, University of Pittsburgh, [10] - ponder the stained glass, said to be among the tallest in the world.
  • Kennywood Park, 4800 Kennywood Boulevard, West Mifflin +1 412 461-0500 [11] is a compact but extremely popular amusement park, founded in 1898. It is home to several rollercoasters, including the "Thunderbolt," rountinely named as one of the best wooden coasters in the country by enthusiasts.
  • Phipps Conservatory [12] located in Schenley Park on Schenley Drive, offers large indoor and outdoor gardens with beautiful floral displays.
  • Marvel at the glass buildings of PPG Place [13] downtown.
  • Rodef Shalom Synagogue [14] - visit the biblical-themed garden.
  • Schenley Plaza and Park - conveniently located adjacent to the Cathedral of Learning and the Carnegie Museum complex, this 456-acre park is a haven for exercisers, sunbathers, and anyone who appreciates beautiful green space. The newly-constructed Plaza area, across from the Carnegie Library of Oakland, features a carousel and free wi-fi Internet access. On Sunday and Wednesday nights during the summer, a free movie is shown on Flagstaff Hill in the park.
  • Tour-Ed Coal Mine Museum [15]
  • Check out the North Side for Pittsburgh Steelers football and for Pirates baseball, as that is where their stadiums are.
  • For Pittsburgh Penguins hockey look for the Mellon Arena in Downtown.

Do

  • Take the Monongahela or Duquesne Inclines, operated by the Port Authority to the top of Mount Washington. One way trips cost $1.75; pay at the top or get on at the bottom and take a "free" round trip.
  • Bike, jog, walk, or play in one of Pittsburgh's four large city parks - Schenley, Highland, Frick, and Riverview.
  • Watch a Pittsburgh Pirates, Steelers, or Penguins game.
  • Take a Duckboat tour of the city in an authentic WWII amphibious vehicle.

Buy

Pittsburgh has several popular shopping districts. To name only a few:

  • Station Square - in the South Side at Smithfield Street and Station Square Drive
  • South Side Works - in the South Side centered at Sidney and 28th Streets
  • Shadyside - one of the main upmarket sections of Pittsburgh centered at Walnut and Bellefonte Streets
  • Squirrel Hill - a great place to have a bagel or Chinese, centered at Murray and Forbes Avenues
  • Downtown - shops of every description
  • The Waterfront - a large outdoor mall with residential living areas, located in Homestead on property that was the site of the infamous "Homestead Works", a Carnegie/USS steel mill where union and management (in the form of "Pinkertons") literally fought it out in the late 19th century
  • Century III Mall - in the Monongahela River Valley suburb of West Mifflin, southeast of Pittsburgh at PA Route 51 and Mountain View Drive, and built, oddly enough, on a huge mountain of "slag" dumped from all the steel mills
  • South Hills Village mall - in the South Hills of Pittsburgh at US Route 19 (Washington Road) and Fort Couch Road
  • Ross Park Mall - in the North Hills of Pittsburgh at US Route 19 (McKnight Road) and Ross Park Mall Drive
  • Monroeville Mall - in the eastern suburb of Monroeville at US Business Route 22 (William Penn Hwy) and Mall Boulevard
  • Robinson Town Center & The Mall at Robinson - in the western suburb of Robinson at US Route 22/30 and PA Route 60 - if you need IKEA, come here
  • Pittsburgh Mills Mall - in the Allegheny River Valley suburb of Tarentum northeast of Pittsburgh at PA Route 28 and Pittsburgh Mills Boulevard
  • The ethnic markets and nightlife of Pittsburgh's Strip District

Eat

The Pittsburgh restaurant scene is a little different than most cities. In many neighborhoods, they can be difficult to find and are often patronized mainly by locals. The hills and rivers make the roads tricky. So, if you're from out of town your best bet is to call for directions, fire up Google Maps, or take a taxi.

Each district has its unique restaurants, but the main districts for eating are Mount Washington, the Strip District, South Side and, of course Downtown.

  • Hemingway's Cafe, 3911 Forbes Ave. Typical college bar. Half priced food after 9pm and $1 draft beer offers make it the perfect place to go for a late dinner.
  • Don's Green Front Inn, 2341 E. Carson St, +1 412 488-3140. Bar and restaurant, a peppy crowd, and friendly bartenders.
  • Eat 'n Park, 1816 Murray Avenue, Squirrel Hill, +1 412 422-7203, [16], and various locations around town. Family-friendly local chain. Fair prices, friendly service, and their trademark smiley cookie. Many only eat here when they have to (i.e. after the bars close) but others eat here by choice.
  • Gullifty's Restaurant, 1922 Murray Avenue, Squirrel Hill, +1 412 521-8222. [17]. A varied menu and Pittsburgh's Best Desserts 22 years running.
  • Le Pommier, 2104 E. Carson St, +1 412 431-1901. Authentic Country French menu. Located on East Carson street in the South Side.
  • Louis Tambellini Restaurant, 860 Saw Mill Run Blvd (Rt. 51), +1 412 481-1118, [18]. A large, classic seafood and meat restaurant in the "Italian-American" manner. Open for lunch and dinner except on Sunday. This gem is a favorite of the local "over 40" crowd. No rock and roll here, just excellent food and a good wine cellar.
  • Mallorca, East Carson St at 22nd St, +1 412 488-1818, [19]. From Downtown you can take the 22nd street bridge south across the Monongehala river and you will run right into it. This restaurant specializes in authentic Spanish and Portuguese food, lots of seafood dishes but also very large steaks and chops. Hope you like garlic. In pleasant weather you can be seated outside on the terrace. It has possibly the best waitstaff of any restaurant in Pittsburgh.
  • Orient Kitchen, 4808 Baum Boulevard. +1 412 683-3300. A popular restaurant among Pittsburgh's college students and Asian-American community.
  • Primanti Brothers, 46 18th St in the strip district, +1 412 263-2142, [20] open 24 hours. Numerous other locations around town (not all are open 24 hours). This restaurant is different; they serve famous sandwiches with the french fries and coleslaw right in the bun with whatever else you order: deli meat, hot sausage, meatballs, and ... you get the idea. They have a bar too of course. It was founded in 1934 to serve the truckers that brought vegetables to the Strip District. $8 (sandwich and a soft drink...er, let's say pop).
  • The Grand Concourse, [21] in Station Square on the South Side. Site of the former train station, hosts a huge Sunday brunch and a beautiful view of the city.

Sleep

Downtown has the greatest concentration of hotels. For those visiting the universities or other attractions in the Oakland area, there are a number of convenient options:

  • AmeriSuites Pittsburgh/Airport, 6011 Campbells Run Road, +1 412 494-0202 [22]. Located seven miles from Pittsburgh International Airport and 11 miles west of downtown Pittsburgh.
  • AmeriSuites Pittsburgh/Cranberry, 136 Emeryville Drive, +1 724 779-7900 [23]. Located 25 miles north of downtown Pittsburgh and convenient to the Pennsylvania Turnpike and Interstate 79.
  • DoubleTree Downtown Pittsburgh, 1 Bigelow Sq, +1 412 281-5800 [24]. Located in the heart of Pittsburgh, this $12 million in recent renovations hotel is within walking distance of the U.S. Steel Tower and Mellon Arena. It also hosts the Bigelow Grille; an American-themed restaurant; and a complementary swimming pool, on top of all the normal DoubleTree features, such as the warm cookie at check-in and SweetDream bedding. Also be sure to check out DoubleTree at hotels.com. [25] This pleasurable hotel also boasts a 4.6 out 5 satisfaction rating.
  • Four Points by Sheraton Pittsburgh Airport, 1 Industry Lane, +1 724 695-0002, [26]. Luxury Pittsburgh hotel offers business amenities and luxury for the weary traveller.
  • Microtel Inn & Suites Pittsburgh Airport, 900 Chauvet Drive, +1 412 788-7200 [27]. Offering convenience and comfort for the traveller looking for a great deal.
  • Omni William Penn,530 William Penn Place, +1 412 281-7100 [28]. Located in the heart of the downtown business district, the renowned Omni William Penn Hotel is a historic landmark elegantly renovated for the 21st century traveler, while retaining its 1916 charm. Just steps away from the Convention Center, sporting and cultural venues, and a variety of shopping.
  • Wyndham Garden Hotel - University Place, 3454 Forbes Avenue, +1 412 683-2040, [29]. Minutes from downtown and close to many of Pittsburgh's renowned universities, including UPMC Health System, Carnegie Mellon and University of Pittsburgh.
  • Wyndham Pittsburgh International Airport Hotel, 777 Aten Road, +1 412 788-8800, [30]. Just outside the state-of-the-art Pittsburgh International Airport and only 20 minutes from downtown, the Wyndham Pittsburgh Airport Hotel is a regular hub of business and cultural diversity.

Stay safe

Pittsburgh is routinely ranked as one of the safest cities among others of comparable size in the US. Nonetheless, as with all cities, there are areas which visitors should avoid wandering into (especially at night), including the Hill District (the area between Downtown and Oakland), Homewood, some parts of the North Side, and Wilkinsburg. Common sense guidelines regarding safety apply at all times.

Contact

Pittsburgh is one of those cities where you must use an area code even when dialing locally. There are three regional area codes 412, 724 and 878. Use of a "1" prefix when dialing these codes locally is optional.

Get out

  • Cleveland - a couple of hours to the west (though it's questionable to most Pittsburghers as to why anyone would ever want to go there)
  • Finger Lakes
  • Holiday Valley
  • Seven Springs



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