If there’s one thing that’s for certain, it’s the fact that I love my hometown. I am a proud native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and its idiosyncrasies. Not only do I think this city is highly underrated, but I don’t think enough people take the time to factor it into their travel plans.
The no-frills, blue-collar Appalachia town isn’t glamorous, but it is definitely a special spot on the North American map. It’s revitalized itself in a perfect way; former steel mill yards are now renowned art spaces and unique eateries. Community centers have found a home in renovated warehouses. Despite the city’s recent advances, us Pittsburghers will always remain true to our hometown heroes: the sports players. Expect to see lots of black and yellow attire worn in support of Pittsburgh’s various title-winning teams while in town.
While Pittsburgh might be one of the country’s less popular tourist spots, it’s certainly worth visiting. So, for those of you interested in stopping through the Steel City, I’ve put together this quick guide to help you figure out what to do for 24 hours in Pittsburg
24 Hours in Pittsburgh
To start off the day, act like a local and grab some coffee and massive pancakes at the Oakland neighborhood breakfast joint Pamela’s. Trust me: it’ll be worth the wait. If you’re with someone else, I suggest splitting the meal as you’ll be doing a lot of eating today.
Since you’re already in the area, head over to the University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning and take a tour of the 30 historical national rooms. Each of the rooms has been donated to the university by the national and ethnic groups that helped build the former steel town. Each room holds a different character and highlights the diversity that brought Pittsburgh to life.
If you’re not feeling too cultural, you can always take a stroll over to Phipp’s Conservatory and meander through some of the city’s best nature. Nearby to the conservatory is Schenley Park where you can catch a quick concert by a local busker, encounter some sort of civic protest or have a roll-down-the-hill race. Seriously, the hills are lush and prime for rolling.
If you’re in the mood for a quick snack, pop over to Conflict Kitchen, one of the town’s most unique eateries. It only serves up fare from a country with which the United States is currently in conflict. The food comes served with informational blurbs so you can better understand the situation. If you’re not hungry, that’s okay too. I told you to split the pancakes!
After your snack, hop in a cab (5 minutes), bus (27 minutes) or walk (1 hour) over to The Andy Warhol Museum. Most people don’t know that the art legend originally hails from the ‘burgh – an anecdote of which natives are proud. Wander through the multi-level art haven and get a glimpse of why his art became – and still is – an international success.
If contemporary art museums aren’t your cup of tea, head over to the Heinz History Museum to open your world to some Pittsburgh propaganda and history.
One of the must-see views on any trip to Pittsburgh is the cityscape atop the famed Mt. Washington. You can hitch a ride up to the top to take in the sights by riding a mountainside funicular known as the Duquesne Incline for under $5. There are several lookout points to choose from but remember it’s going up on the ‘gram so choose wisely.
After peeking through some of the city’s relics, grab a cup of coffee at Smallman Galley’s Coffee Shop located in the Strip District’s unique chef incubator. It’s home to a number of start-up restaurants and hosts some of the city’s most innovative up-and-coming chefs, which is pretty badass.
If you’re feeling up for midday drinks, head over to Church Brew Works to sip on a locally brewed pint in a unique setting. When was the last time you could say you enjoyed a fresh, locally brewed pint within the confines of a restored Roman Catholic church? Formally known as St. John the Baptist Church in Pittsburgh’s trendy Lawrenceville neighborhood, Church Brew Works has been serving a hearty menu to pair with its award-winning beers. Cheers, y’all.
No trip to the Steel Town is worth it without paying homage to the city’s booming restaurant scene. Sure it’s known as a sports town with an affinity for fried fodder and cheap beer, but Pittsburgh is so much more. One of the most notable farm-to-table joints in town is Cure, a rustic space which serves up some of the best – yep, you called it – cured meats. Herbivores, don’t you fret. The chefs at APTEKA aim to bring Pittsburgh’s historical influence of Central and Eastern Europe to life through their fresh, vegan fare. Be sure to grab a pierogi or seven while you’re in there.
Finish the busy day with a nightcap at Arsenal Cider House and Wine Cellar, a Civil War-themed watering hole that celebrates the Union Army’s Allegheny Arsenal. This little spot is a great place to listen to live tunes and relax in a backyard in Pittsburgh’s up-and-coming Lawrenceville neighborhood.
It’s worth noting that if you choose to order a salad at the Arsenal Cider House, it comes with french fries on top, a common Pittsburgh trait.
10 tips for 24 hours in Pittsburgh
- Be prepared to drink lots of beer
- Get ready for lots of hills
- Give back to the local mom and pop shops (they’re everywhere)
- Visit in the summer or autumn
- Rent a bike
- Peep the local happy hour specials here
- Definitely take the incline to Mt. Washington
- See live music at Mr. Smalls Theater (it’s a renovated church)
- Carry change with you for bus fares if needed
- Have Google Maps handy
- Cabs: I suggest Uber over cabs – cheaper and easier to find *Fun fact: Pittsburgh is the first city in the USA to utilize “driverless cars!”
- Public transportation: Easy on the wallet and reliable. Bus service in the downtown area between 4 am and 7 pm is FREE.
- Rail: Limited; The trolley system is great for going out to the suburbs, but shouldn’t be your public transportation system of choice.
- Bikes: Pittsburgh has plenty of bike paths and bike-friendly routes for those interested in this mode. For more information, check out the Pittsburgh Bike Map.
- Foot: Pittsburgh has plenty of paths for those who prefer walking. However, be prepared as the terrain is not flat by any means!