The locale: A quick three-hour drive south of Buffalo, via only two major highways, will deliver you to the fellow blue-collar Rust Belt city of Pittsburgh.
Lay of the land: Bridges and hillsides, two of this city’s charms, will welcome you. The City of Bridges has 446 total, which tracks for a region founded where three rivers meet. And there will no doubt be times on your travels that you’ll swear you are at the highest geographical point—and then you’ll go higher. It’s a very deceptive topography in that regard, but adds fun layers to an already interesting city.
Pittsburgh is a city of neighborhoods, including and most notably Mister Rogers’ own. When planning your trip, group activities by neighborhood to more efficiently fill your itinerary.
Where to stay
Embassy Suites Downtown is situated on the top floors of the historic Henry W. Oliver building, giving a new meaning to a room with a view. The all-suite hotel enjoys close proximity to all sports arenas.
Morning Glory Inn is a Victorian-style bed and breakfast in the city’s South Side. Each room has its own decor and personality, and its complimentary breakfast only adds to a most charming atmosphere.
Places to eat
With several locations throughout Pittsburgh, you’ll have your shot at breakfast at Pamela’s Diner—albeit with a wait. The crepe-style pancakes, I’ve found, are well worth it. If you’re looking to offset the sweet selection, the Lyonnaise potatoes are the perfect side.
In the bustling Cultural District...an Italian triple threat. Sienna Mercato offers three dining experiences under one roof: There’s Emporio for your meatball fix—served as a hoagie, panini, slider or all on their own. The secret is in the sauces, though, which range from basil pesto cream to mushroom gravy to “crack” sauce (ranch dressing and hot sauce). The second floor Mezzo is where you’ll find wood-fired pizzas, pastas and fine wines. And finally, Il Tetto is a rooftop beer garden with 36 drafts, cocktails and wine with light fare.
Soba in Shadyside doesn’t skimp on portions or ambiance. The Pan-Asian restaurant offers large shareable plates like bi bim bap, lo mein and pad thai along with a beautiful cascading water wall and glass staircase to gaze at while you wait.
If popular sandwich chain Primanti Brothers is on your list, I suggest hitting it on the way home in close-by Grove City.
What to do
For the best (and cheapest) views of the Pittsburgh skyline, you must scale Mt. Washington in a century-old cable car at the Duquesne Incline. It’s a charming but antiquated operation with a quirky souvenir shop. And for movie buffs, the Incline was featured in 1983's "Flashdance."
Visual artist and Pittsburgh prodigal son Andy Warhol has a seven-floor museum on the North Shore dedicated to his art. You’ll recognize countless pieces from the expansive collection including “Campbell’s Soup Cans” and celebrity portraits including Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley. Plus, one of the most colorful public art displays ever is a mere 20-minute walk away in Randyland. The landmark boasts several “selfie spots” making it the perfect place for tourists to drop in.
If the Pittsburgh Pirates are playing at home during your stay, try to swing a game at PNC Park. A permanent fixture on any Best MLB Ballparks list, PNC Park is known for its views, the best being the iconic yellow Roberto Clemente Bridge just beyond center field. Named after the famed right fielder who played 18 seasons with the home team, the bridge is closed to traffic on game days so fans can use it as a walkway.
The Senator John Heinz History Center is a great way to pay homage to Pittsburgh pastimes. The Heinz ketchup exhibit is packed with fascinating tidbits on the brand’s early marketing techniques and you can’t miss the 11-foot bottle compromised of 400 individual ketchup bottles. The actual living room set from “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” is in the Special Collections Gallery on the fourth floor. The museum also includes extensive coverage of Pittsburgh sports history.
There are also several bike rental opportunities throughout Pittsburgh. Whether self-guided or a group tour, it’s the perfect way to enjoy all those bridges and hillsides.