Downtown Pittsburgh at night
Downtown Pittsburgh is the main business district and urban center of life in the city. It is bordered by the Allegheny River on the north, the Monongahela River on the south, Duquesne University and the area surrounding Mellon Arena on the east, and the railroad tracks at the very northeastern corner of downtown.
Downtown Pittsburgh is constrained by two rivers, the Allegheny on the north and the Monongahela on the south. They join at what is known as the "Point", forming the Ohio River. Because it is thus limited it has been forced to grow upwards, and although Pittsburgh is in some ways a small town, its downtown contains some big town structures.
While many U.S. cities of Pittsburgh's size struggle to create an active downtown, Downtown Pittsburgh is a thriving, bustling metropolitan center that is truly at the heart of the region. Office workers stream in and out on the weekdays, packing buses, light rail trains, and the bridges during rush hours. Tourists and sightseers walk the streets, checking out attractions here and nearby. Shoppers still come downtown, even if much of the retail stores have moved to the suburbs in recent decades. Downtown very much remains the urban center of life in Pittsburgh.
Driving in over the bridge offers a stunning view
Downtown Pittsburgh is readily accessible by a number of freeways and bridges. From the east, I-376 (The Parkway East) connects downtown to the eastern side of Pittsburgh and I-76, the Pennsylvania Turnpike. I-279 (Parkway North/West) is your best option for coming in from the north, as well as from the airport and western suburbs. From the southeast, Liberty Avenue (which enters the Liberty Tunnel and then becomes the Liberty Bridge) is a good option.
By public transit
Coming from the south, Pittsburgh's light rail and subway system ("The T") provides easy access to Downtown, with four stops in the district: First Avenue, Steel Plaza, Wood Street and Gateway Center. First Avenue is a surface station, while the other three are subway stations.
Once downtown, buses are also very common, and in Pittsburgh most bus routes go downtown.
Downtown Pittsburgh is optimal for walking as it is small (covering approximately 0.7 square miles)and very dense. Buses are the norm downtown as well as the light rail/subway ("The T") which has three subway stops at: Steel Plaza, Wood Street and Gateway Center, as well as a surface station at First Avenue. Fares on buses and The T are free within downtown. Taxis are more difficult to come by and typically accessed by request at one of the various hotels.
- August Wilson Center for African American Culture, . Currently closed, will reopen in a new facility in 2009.
There are numerous landmark buildings and notable structures in downtown.
- U.S. Steel Tower (formerly known as the USX Tower), 600 Grant Street (between 6th and 7th Avenues). A 64 story office building which is the tallest in Pittsburgh, and briefly held the honor of being the tallest building in the world outside of New York City and Chicago. It is constructed of a special type of steel, "Corten" steel, developed by USS. It is not painted and is intended to rust to a tough, brown finish and then stop rusting. (One hopes.)
- One Mellon Center, 500 Grant Street. A 55 story building which holds the title of the city's second tallest building. One of its unique features is the building's eight-sided design.
- PPG Place, between Forbes Ave and Boulevard of the Allies, east of Stanwix Street, . A unique set of buildings developed by Pittsburgh Plate Glass as their headquarters. All the buildings are faced entirely with a glittering, sun inhibiting plate glass and sport ornate, yet modern, glass pinnacles like candles on a birthday cake. One PPG Place (the tall one) is one of the most recognizable buildings in the skyline and the city's third tallest. Among these buildings is an unusual park which, in the winter, is flooded with water and used for ice skating, like Rockefeller Center in Manhattan.
- Highmark Place, between Penn and Liberty on Stanwix. The city's fourth tallest building, this building is easily recognizable due to it's pyramid-shaped top with its tall mast.
- Oxford Centre, 4th & Grant. A gleaming white set of buildings, the tallest of which is the city's fifth tallest. At night they are lit up rather nicely.
- Gulf Tower, 435 Seventh Avenue. Completed in 1932, this building was the city's tallest (and for that matter, the state's tallest) until the U.S. Steel Tower was completed in 1970. Today, it's the city's sixth tallest. The building is named for the Gulf Oil company, and the top of the tower is designed to resemble a step-pyramid/mausoleum which is illuminated at night.
Other Interesting Buildings
- Alcoa Building (also known as the Regional Enterprise Tower), 425 6th Avenue, . The first all aluminum building ever constructed. It stands 30 stories tall and was built of aluminum panels in 1953. Alcoa recently built a new building on the North Side and no longer occupies this landmark building.
- Allegheny County Courthouse, on Grant between Forbes and 5th Avenues. A gorgeous stone building built in 1884 that serves as the seat of the Allegheny County government. You can walk into the lovely courtyard with its fountain, overshadowed by the building's prominent 5-story tower. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and widely regarded as one of the most beautiful courthouses in the nation.
- City-County Building, 414 Grant Street. Built in 1917, the City-County Building is a grand structure which still serves as the seat of government for the city of Pittsburgh.
- David L. Lawrence Convention Center, 1000 Fort Duquesne Blvd. Completed in 2003, the new convention center is quite a sight, with its sweeping design facing the Allegheny River.
- Union Trust Building, 435 Grant Street. A gorgeous Flemish-Gothic structure built in 1916 by Henry Clay Frick, the structure is decorated with a steep mansard roof, terra cotta dormers, and two chapel-like towers. The church-like appearance of the structure owes to the previous use of the land, a nineteenth century catholic cathedral.
Point State Park
101 Commonwealth Place (at the western end of downtown), ☎ +1 412 471-0235 ([email protected]), . Daily 7:30AM-10PM. Free. (latitude,)
Point State Park is a delightful 36 acre park located at the tip of downtown where the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers join to form the Ohio. Lawns, gardens, riverfront promenades, and sweeping views of the rivers, hillsides, bridges, and tall buildings of Pittsburgh make it a very scenic place to stroll and relax. At the parks apex, where the three rivers meet, is a large fountain, 200 feet in diameter at the base, that forces a column of water 150 feet in the air.
The Point has a very rich history, as indicated by the many plaques and monuments throughout the park. In the 1700s the Point was a very strategic location for the British and French forces in North America to claim control of this portion of the continent. George Washington, who at the time was fighting for the British, said:
- I spent some time in viewing the rivers, and the land in the fork; which I think extremely well situated for a fort, as it has absolute command of both rivers. -- journal entry by George Washington, November 1753
In 1754 the French built Fort Duquesne at the Point. George Washington was sent to capture the fort, but suffered his only defeat before he could reach the Point, at Fort Necessity 50 miles to the southeast. Other British attacks in the area were repelled until 1758 when a large British force led by John Forbes threatened the fort, forcing the French to burn down Fort Duquesne and abandon the site just before the British arrived. Soon Fort Pitt, one of the most elaborate British forts constructed in North America, was built on the site.
Fort Pitt lasted for several decades, defending the small settlement on the Point against various Native American attacks and serving the Americans as a headquarters for the western theatre of the Revolutionary War before being decommissioned in 1792. The growing settlement of Pittsburgh built on top of the remains of the old forts. The Point was occupied by commercial and industrial structures until the 1950s, when the city used eminent domain to acquire the land and construct the current park.
- Fort Pitt Blockhouse. Tu-Sa 9:30AM-4PM, Su 12PM-4PM. A former redoubt - a structure that extends the line of fire beyond the walls of a fort - the Fort Pitt Blockhouse is the only standing structure from Fort Pitt and the oldest standing structure not only in Pittsburgh, but perhaps all of Western Pennsylvania. It is currently operated by the Daughters of the American Revolution as a museum/gift shop, with numerous artifacts from colonial times. Free.
- Fort Pitt Museum, +1 412 281-9284, . W-Su 9AM-5PM. Housed above the remains of one of Fort Pitt's structures, the museum explains some of the history of the forts on the Point, from the French and Indian War to the Whiskey Rebellion after the American Revolution. While parts of the museum may seem a bit bare, some of the exhibits and artifacts are very interesting and give a good insight into the history of the site. $5 adults, $4 seniors/AAA members, $2 children, 5 and under free.
- The Cultural District  is the name of an area where you may see symphony orchestra performances, opera, plays and many other events. The link offers a detailed map of this unique area in downtown Pittsburgh and provides a current schedule of events, nearby restaurants, parking, etc.
- Part of the cultural district is the new (2003) David L. Lawrence Convention Center. You can check here for their schedule courtesy of PGHevent.com.
- Mellon Arena  is an enclosed stadium where many events are scheduled. If you are an "ice" fan it will interest you to know that it is the home of the Pittsburgh Penguins hockey club. The arena also hosts many other events including NBA basketball, concerts -- both rock and classical. Check the link for the current event schedule.
- Three Rivers Arts Festival. Three Rivers Arts Festival provides seventeen days of art through the month of June for the people with a mix of free art, live music, fine food, and festival fun. The most popular parts of the Three Rivers Arts Festival are the program of free outdoor concerts, and the vibrant artist market where artists from all over the country display and sell their wares. The festival is located in Stanwix Triangle at Penn and Liberty Avenues at Stanwix Street. On weekends, street closures will expand the area, creating a plaza to accommodate the larger events. Other Three Rivers Arts Festival locations include Gateway Center Plaza, Market Square and PPG Plaza.
There are two large department stores downtown, Macy's, the oldest of the remaining department stores in Pittsburgh, and Saks Fifth Avenue.
- SW Randall Toyes & Gifts, 630 Smithfield St, +1 412 562-9252, . An old-fashioned toy store, SW Randall is a survivor from Pittsburgh's heydey and worth a visit for its idiosyncratic collection.
- Dumplinz Cafe, 411 Seventh Avenue (facing Smithfield), +1 412 281-6062, . Brand new addition to the eat-in or takeout quick service breakfast and lunch restaurants. Serves filled pastas of the world such as Italian ravioli, Eastern Eurapean pierogies and Russian pelmeni. Outstanding alternative to Subway and Quiznos for about the same price.
- Steel City Diner, 961 Liberty Avenue, +1 412 434-6440. Great little establishment with wonderful food. Breakfast and lunch menus available - from pancakes to delicious hoagies. For breakfast try the Steel City Special.
There are numerous hotels in downtown Pittsburgh, from the venerable old Omni William Penn, where innumerable political deals were cut and business deals sealed, to the Hilton hotel near Point State Park.
- File:Pitmc phototour01.jpgPittsburgh Airport Marriott, 777 Aten Rd, +1 412 788-8800, Fax: +1 412 788-0743. Located just 5 miles from Pittsburgh International Airport and 12 miles from downtown Pittsburgh, this smoke-free, pet-friendly hotel is ideal for business and vacationers. Enjoy free airport shuttle and excellent guest service at this full-service Marriott. Try Regatta Bar & Grill when staying at Pittsburgh Airport Marriott.
- Courtyard Pittsburgh Downtown, 945 Penn Avenue, +1 412 434-5551, .
- DoubleTree Downtown Pittsburgh, 1 Bigelow Sq, +1 412 281-5800, . 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 complimentary swimming pool, on top of all the normal DoubleTree features, such as the warm cookie at check-in and SweetDream bedding.
- Hilton Hotel, 600 Commonwealth Place (across the street from Point State Park), +1 412 391-4600, .
- Marriott City Center, 112 Washington Place, +1 888 456-6600, .
- Omni William Penn, 530 William Penn Place, +1 412 281-7100, . 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.
- Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel, 107 6th Street, +1 800 468-3571, .
- Westin Convention Center Pittsburgh, 1000 Penn Avenue, +1 412 281-3700, .
|This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!