To the New York Times (A.K.A. Actual Things to do in Pittsburgh)

Because my comment was too long to submit onto the actual article, I’m posting it on here. Maybe people will see it, maybe they won’t, but at least I’ll feel better about it.

The article that I’m commenting on is from the New York Times (released yesterday) and is called “36 hours in Pittsburgh,” and the only reason why I’m responding is because Pittsburgh is where I was born and raised. And currently live. And go to school at. And will always return to. Because I love it. But there wasn’t much love being shown in this article.

No, in both the actual article and the comments section, I feel a great injustice to the wonderful city I call home has been done, and so I’m here to comment in order to try to correct said injustice.

(Basically, I’m just going to be giving legitimate things to do in my city rather than the few silly ones mentioned in the article. Maybe I’ll throw some pictures in, too, since it’s on a blog now where pictures are allowed.)


So I’ve lived in Pittsburgh for my entire life, and I have to agree with all of the critics of this article who are sarcastically asking if eating and drinking are the only two things to do in the city. No, they aren’t. Duh. This article isn’t “Every single thing possible to do in Pittsburgh,” it’s “36 hours in Pittsburgh,” which you have to remember. There simply wasn’t enough time to do anything other than eat and drink in between what seems to be endless hours of walking around. So there’s no need to bash the article and say that Pittsburgh sucks. It’s just like any other city in the world; when you neither have the time nor want to sight-see/actually do stuff, then you settle for eating and drinking instead.

To answer some of the people who are legitimately asking what else there is to do in my city, though, honestly, the list would be too long if I sat here and named it all. So I’ll recommend a few of my favorites:

Visit the Heinz History Center, a very cool museum in the Strip District (that is also a Smithsonian, so you should know what kind of quality to expect). It has six levels, which means that you can definitely make at least a half-of-a-day out of it.

Also, make sure you actually take a walk through the Strip District.

In case you don’t know, it’s about two streets of the city that are dedicated to shopping mostly consisting of local foods (I know, the article really only mentioned food, which was one of the big complaints, but the Strip District is a cool experience that they left out in that department, so I feel the need to recommend it, nonetheless).

Personally, I say that when you go there, you have to stop into Wholey’s.

^ You’ll never find it this un-crowded, though.

Basically, Wholey’s is just a fish market (so mind the smell), but right in the front when you first walk in, they have some of the best, freshest sushi you will ever find — made right there to order by Andy, one of the best, freshest sushi chefs you’ll ever meet.

sushi

^ That last picture is what the last order I had from there looked like. And it was amazing.

Everything he offers is very inexpensive, too, so you can get lots of different rolls if you like. If sushi isn’t your thing, though, they also sell some pretty great fried fish sandwiches right next to the sushi stand…that are around the size of your head. And the macaroni and cheese is spectacular, too. Yes, you have to get an order of that.

(P.S. – If you walk straight back from where the food line lets out, there is a staircase on your left that leads to seating, so you don’t have to get your food to go.)

(^Hello to the dude in the window who photographed this.)

You also need to stop into Mancini’s Bakery for the best bread you’ll ever have in your life. It’s all homemade right there on property in the good, old-fashioned Italian style.

Seriously, though, it’s a local legend and will most definitely be some of the lightest, butteriest, best bread you’ll ever eat; I’ve been around a lot bread-wise, and I can still say that it’s the best I’ve ever had.

Get a pepperoni roll, too, while you’re there. You won’t regret it.

Do remember to ask to get your bread sliced, though, before you leave, especially if you don’t travel with a spare bread knife in your bag.

Now to address the general hate on so many food suggestions for Pittsburgh:

If you have an issue with that, the availability of delicious eats, then you’ll just need to get over it. This city is a place where you come to be fed well; we love food here and all know how to cook, so there’s tons of restaurants, all very good, too. So if you’re afraid to get fat or are on a diet, then I guess just don’t come.

As a side note, though, there are more real food places here than yuppity, hipster ones (like those mentioned in the article), so don’t let the sound of the food offered scare you away. The types of restaurants the Times went to are actually very new to this city, so if that’s not your taste, you won’t have an issue avoiding them. Actually, now that I mention it, I highly suggest avoiding them. I mean, sure those restaurants are trendy and green, but who really wants lamb heart bolognese? For $100? I know I don’t. So eat some real food from the real citizens of the city who were, most often, really born and raised here. I guarantee you’ll like it a heck of a lot more than whatever the world’s best chefs who have migrated over are serving — although, I can’t argue with a good French pastry, so I would still hit that place up (I’m referring to the article in case you’re confused) if you can. I mean, did you see their prices??

(Oakmont Bakery, however, is the best bakery in the city. By far.)

Let’s get away from food, though.

Also in the downtown area, there are lots of old theaters, so make some time to check out a show.

Try getting a ticket to something at The Benedum. It mostly offers broadway, but it’s an architectural masterpiece, so I say you should go there whether you’re into that type of stuff or not.

Also in the entertainment/music genre of fun, there’s a lot of old churches that have been turned into concert venues, so those might be neat to check out, too.

Staying on the theme of churches, there’s probably two or three on every block outside the downtown area, so you can always go church-seeing if you’re into old architecture.

Here is the First Presbyterian Church downtown:

And, yes, all of the rest are just as grandiose.

If you prefer to shop, go to the SouthSide Works,

Shady Side,

or Ross Park Mall (which is a bit outside of downtown, but bus fare isn’t very expensive if you don’t have a car).

Those three places are where the best shopping in all of the city is at. You’ll find everything from local boutiques to major chain retailers to high-end designer stores.

As is always mentioned with this city, if there’s a sport in season, go to one of the games. The atmosphere is always awesome (and friendly), and all of the stadiums offer beautiful views, as well as great action. The food is kind of over-priced at games, though, so maybe eat before or after elsewhere (since we do have a lot of restaurants).

See? Beautiful.

Speaking of beautiful…

I also recommend our parks and trails (which were briefly mentioned in the article). There’s tons of them, and they’re all pretty amazing, from both a landscape and recreation standpoint. Point State Park, specifically, is something you won’t find anywhere else, so if no others, definitely make sure you check that one out.

There you’ll find tons of open green space and trails,

a ridiculously gorgeous fountain,

and the old site of Fort Pitt, as well as a museum honoring both it and the French and Indian War.

Next, I recommend visiting Station Square for one reason only: Eating Sunday brunch at The Grand Concourse.

It was the P&LERR Railroad Station, but now it is an upscale restaurant that offers one of the best Sunday brunches I have ever been to. So if you’re okay with spending a little bit of money at one meal, definitely treat yourself by coming here. It’s an awesome experience.

And when you’re done, you can explore the rest of Station Square, even though there isn’t much left there anymore to explore.

The Amphitheater was turned into the Riverhounds’ stadium, the little mall now only has a few restaurants and odd boutiques left open, and everything else in the area is just more restaurants and a hotel. But if you like boats, you catch the Gateway Clipper Fleet from here, so maybe try hopping on one of those and seeing the city by river, instead.

Or do what every single tourist does and take the incline up to Mt. Washington, snap a picture at the overlook, and then ride back down.

Finally, you can always take a look at the writing, art, and film scene. There’s the Andy Warhol Museum (as well as all of the Carnegie museums in Oakland).

^ Warhol Museum

^ Carnegie Museum of Art

^ Carnegie Museum of Natural History

There’s also tons of indie theaters and coffee shops that typically offer pretty good literature readings (or local music).

^ The Sphinx Cafe

There’s also various film studios that you could try to get a tour at. Or simply sporadically visit. Or you can skip the studio altogether and just walk around the city trying to spot all of the locations that have been in movies lately.

^ Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl was filmed in Schenley Park. If you’re a fan of this film, see if you can find everywhere they were.

The Dark Knight Rises was filmed downtown. Watch the movie and see which settings you can find. (Hints: This battle scene was at the courthouse, and the final scene where he flies the bomb out over the water was…CGI. Mixed with Point State Park, of course.)

The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Duh.

Abduction

Adventureland, which reminds me to tell you to check out Kennywood if you can.

^ Look familiar?

There’s also all of these others that were filmed here, too, that you can try to spot scenes from.

And if none of the above seems cool to you, then you can come here with only the goal of walking over every single one of the city’s bridges in mind. Yes, all 446 of them. Which is the most in the world. And would easily take up the Times’ 36 hours.

All bitterness toward the people criticizing this city aside, though, I feel I need to point out that Pittsburgh isn’t like Chicago or NYC or LA or DC. You can’t come here and expect to instantly be overwhelmed by the amount of tourist activities available. Why? Because there’s just not really a tourist market in this city yet, that’s why, which shows through the fact that it’s still very weird for locals to see outsiders actually considering coming here for a visit, of all the places in the world. I work by the airport and am still always shocked when I get customers from all over the globe saying that they’re vacationing here. Here? Really? A vacation? Don’t you do that in like, Bali?

Which is why I think outsiders don’t know what to do once they get here.

I mean, sure, at the end of the day, there’s a lot to do here, but honestly, if you’re not a local, you’re not going to know where that stuff is. The city is set up in an odd way due to the water and mountains that surround us, which means that everything is kind of spread out and sporadic, so some of the coolest places are not in the direct metropolitan area where a visitor would stay — which means that those not from here (and thus who aren’t in the know) wouldn’t find them. So they would end up thinking the city is boring and only offers restaurants. But there actually is a lot more to do than that (as well as a lot more than what I brought up in this little post that consists solely of my favorites), which is why we have the T and buses and advertisements and car rentals and Google, so you can actually find and get to the cool stuff that there really is.

So just keep an open mind if you come here and remember that this isn’t a typical, touristy city. It’s made for the people who grew up here, whose families grew up here, who work and thus have their whole lives here, and knowing that will definitely help you be less underwhelmed when you arrive, thus making you probably actually like it.

But that’s just my opinion.


P.S. – I own only one of these pictures, the sushi one.

P.P.S. – Happy 50th post to me!

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