Driving three and a half hours northeast of Charleston brings you to Pittsburgh, PA. Home to the awesome Pittsburgh Steelers (you can see where my loyalties lie), amazing bridges (446 to be exact), beautiful parks, world-class museums and gardens, plus the National Aviary, it would be hard not to have an epic time in this diversified city. Here is what you might want to see and do.
WHAT TO SEE & DO IN PITTSBURGH
Pittsburgh is a metropolitan city with world-class attractions and entertainment. You can’t go wrong with any sporting events, and the museum scene is off the hook. Two of my favorites are the Carnegie Science Center, where you won’t want to miss the miniature train exhibit, and the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Art lovers will go wild for the Andy Warhol Museum, one of the city’s most famous past residents. A ride on the Duquesne Incline is a must for any first-timer to Steel City.
The National Aviary is located in Pittsburgh. This place is impressive, full of birds, raptors, disabled endangered species, and a few surprises. I once saw baby armadillos up close and personal, plus you can walk through and hand-feed many of the birds. The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium is nearby, with 8,000 animals representing 600 species. Ocelots, penguins, African elephants, and California sea lions are among those.
Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens is a fantastic attraction anytime, especially during the Christmas holidays with the Holiday Magic Winter Flower Show. Two other fun holiday offerings are the classic Nutcracker Ballet at Benedum Center for the Performing Arts and Holiday Lights at Kennywood, a nostalgic amusement park.
I like to spend time in the Strip District, an industrial hub with lots of cool shops, markets, and restaurants. WFH Oriental Food Market and Stamoolis Brothers Co. (the best Greek honey) are excellent places to stock your gourmet food pantry, while Penzeys Spices is your spice connection. I recommend shopping for stocking stuffers (or for yourself) at Mon Aimee Chocolat, one of the best chocolate shops in the nation. The double-dipped malt balls’ selection is primo!
Two rainy day activities would be visiting the Hard Rock Cafe at Station Square and shopping the indoor Ross Park multi-level mall with 170+ stores, including Apple, Louis Vuitton, Madewell, and Nordstrom. You’ll also find a Cheesecake Factory and Barrio Tacos here.
WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK IN PITTSBURGH
You certainly won’t want for excellent eats while visiting Pittsburgh, PA. For breakfast, I love Waffles Incaffeinated, with plenty of sweet and savory combinations. Funky Monkey is remarkable for the sweet tooth, and the Waffle Benny is for those wanting a more hearty dish.
Head over to Primanti Bros, a Pittsburgh original eatery with billowy white bread sandwiches piled extra high with hand-cut fries and vinegar slaw for lunch, or Pamela’s Diner (I prefer the Strip District location) for specialty crêpe-style hotcakes, homemade hash, and yummy wraps with Lyonnaise potatoes.
Dinner is sensational with Bavarian-style pierogis, schnitzel, and bratwurst from Hofbräuhaus Pittsburgh. Or, to celebrate a special occasion or romantic date night, how about a three-course fondue meal from The Melting Pot, including cheese, main course meats, and chocolate for dessert?
An anytime-of-day restaurant with multiple locations is Burgatory, with outrageous burger concoctions, sea-salt and herb fries, and thick, hand-spun milkshakes, hard versions included. My fave is Choco’s Tacos.
Two unique places to grab sweets are Peace, Love, and Little Donuts, and Pittsburgh Popcorn Company with the best Wisconsin cheddar cheese corn. Another interesting flavor to try is watermelon.
WHERE TO STAY IN PITTSBURGH, PA
Pittsburgh has dozens of lodging choices, with Inn on the Mexican War Streets as a B&B option (with complimentary breakfast and gourmet cookie service), Omni William Penn Hotel as a luxury stay, and Drury Plaza Hotel Downtown as a middle-of-the-road accommodation choice.
I like to stay at the Homewood Suites by Hilton in the Strip District. It’s within walking distance of many fabulous Pittsburgh attractions and hotspots; you don’t have to worry about parking. It is also close enough to walk to a Pirates or Penguins game.