Get Out Of Town!: Pittsburgh

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Downtown Pittsburgh's skyline gleams at night. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

For those planning upcoming travel, if the opportunity arises to visit Pittsburgh, by all means, go! Pittsburgh is a fantastic city in southwestern Pennsylvania, with great food, cool shops, wonderful museums, parks and cultural activities, tons of history and a lot of fun things to do outside.

Downtown Pittsburgh is a great place to stay, amidst historical buildings, old forts and castles, Victorian homes and gleaming new skyscrapers. While the pandemic hit downtown hard, the city is working to bring the area back to life and provide services for those in need.

The Cultural District along Sixth Street houses several theaters, the Pittsburgh Ballet, the Pittsburgh Opera and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, along with numerous cafes and restaurants.

Everything is pretty walkable in downtown Pittsburgh, but for ease of getting around the larger area, we recommend a private vehicle – the streets can be narrow, though, with a lot of one-ways and confusing signage, so pack your patience for driving around the area.

Pittsburgh boasts 28 bridges that cross the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio Rivers, with a total of 446 road, pedestrian and train bridges in the city. Home to the Pittsburgh Pirates, Steelers and Penguins, sports fans have long made the trek to the city for games and music fans have as well for big name concerts.

Pittsburgh with a view of the Steelers’ stadium and some of the 28 bridges that cross the three rivers that meet at the city. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

We’ve found Pittsburgh very friendly and charming in general, with nature everywhere – the rivers, paths, parks, trees – despite the steel town, coal mining, very industrial foundations of the city. We’ve also enjoyed the largely kind and progressive attitude of most of the area’s inhabitants.

There are several large, world-class universities and colleges in Pittsburgh, including Carnegie Mellon, University of Pittsburgh, Duquesne University.

One fascinating stop was the Duquesne Incline located on Mount Washington across the Fort Pitt Bridge. Operating since 1877, the museum is engrossing, displaying the operating machinery with information on function and dates of installation. Visitors can ride the funicular to the bottom and back up to the top of the steep hillside for $5 round trip.

On our most recent trip to the ‘Burgh, we thoroughly were smitten with the Phipps’ Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. The Gardens were hosting a Billy Porter-inspired fashion-themed installation throughout the buildings featuring plants as the media, dressing mannequins in very colorful and creative ways.

Phipps’ Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Pittsburgh. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

The area around Carnegie Mellon University has a lot of nice restaurants and shops and staying in this area would also be a very nice option. We really enjoyed the strong selection of local beers, burgers and sides at Stack’d – everything was made fresh to order and served piping hot.

One of our favorite restaurants in the world is located in Pittsburgh: Monterey Bay Fish Grotto. We are always overwhelmed by the high quality of the plates and the absolute excellence of service in this gorgeous high end restaurant. Located on the top floor of a tower along Grandview Avenue, with floor to ceiling windows showing off an expansive view of the downtown skyline, this restaurant is a must visit for us every time we are in Pittsburgh.

In downtown Pittsburgh, we really like Proper Brick Oven and Tap Room for pizza, salads and local beers. For breakfast, we always have to grab a latte and freshly made pastry or quiche from La Gourmandine.

Alihan’s Coffee and Breakfast in downtown Pittsburgh offers the absolutely excellent traditional Menemen, an egg and tomato dish made with spicy sausage and Kashvar cheese, along with other healthy and tasty breakfasts.(Photo By Lisa Paredes)

We were bowled over by our breakfast at Alihan’s Coffee and Breakfast in the Cultural District. We ordered the traditional egg and tomato dish Menemen, adding spicy sausage and Kashvar cheese. It was served with fresh from the oven Turkish bread, along with strong Turkish coffee, a salmon crepe and waffles. Phenomenal. The owner also operates Alihan’s Mediterranean Cuisine, open for dinner across the street.

Randyland in Pittsburgh. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

Another colorful stop was Randyland, located in the Mexican War Streets neighborhood on the North Side of Pittsburgh. The colorful, outdoor display of found art, founded by Randy Gilson, has been a fixture in the area for more than 20 years.

There’s so much to do in Pittsburgh that we haven’t had a chance to explore, including boat tours and kayaking on the rivers, Fort Duqesne, Fort Pitt, Allegheny Riverfront Park, Three River Heritage Trail, the Mexican War Streets, the Andy Warhol Museum, the Carnegie Museums and Science Center, the Cultural District, Allegheny Commons Park, Grandview Park and Schenley Park to name a few.

The easiest way for Burbankers to get to Pittsburgh is flying in to the Pittsburgh International Airport, located about 23 miles west of the city. There are shuttles and ride shares to get visitors into the city and we found the adjacent rental car services easy to navigate.

So whether you have a day or a few, we highly recommend Burbankers to Get Out of Town and check out Pittsburgh if they’re able. It’s a wonderful city with a lot to offer.

Editor’s Note: While there’s always a lot going on in Burbank, myBurbank’s “Get Out Of Town!” highlights some of our favorite activities and events outside the town borders.

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