I’m not going to lie: Pittsburgh is a spectacular city. And I’m not just saying that because it’s my hometown (although I may be just a little biased). It is a city that is rich in culture, extremely proud of its history and people, and filled with unique sites that you will find nowhere else. If you ever have a chance to drive through our city, here are ten places to visit in Pittsburgh that you need to make sure you visit before you go.
1. Cathedral of Learning
Built to resemble a gothic cathedral, Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning opened up to students for classes in 1931. With its massive fireplaces, medieval archways, and thick wooden doors, this building is unlike any you have or probably will ever see again in America. In fact, it’s actually the second-tallest gothic-style building in the world. But its real claim to fame is its thirty nationality rooms. Throughout the years, these rooms have been dedicated by leaders of their countries and teach each country’s heritage through their artwork, symbols, and books. This beautiful building is still used for college courses at the University of Pittsburgh today, and is a must to visit when you come to Pittsburgh.
2. Duquesne Incline
Completed in 1877, the Duquesne Incline was primarily created to carry cargo to the top of Mount Washington, then later to transport residents up to their mountain-top homes. After being shut down in 1962 and re-opened again in 1963, the incline has become one of Pittsburgh’s favorite places to go to get a vast view of the city below. This is one of the coolest places to visit in Pittsburgh because of it’s unique history!
3. Mount Washington
Once you’ve taken the Duquesne Incline, look out over Pittsburgh from the view on Mount Washington. You’ll be able to see all of Downtown Pittsburgh, commonly called the Golden Triangle by Pittsburghers (named because of where the two rivers meet and are bordered by the golden bridges).
4. PPG Place
The breathtaking PPG Place looks like a gigantic crystal palace and features a water fountain in the summer and an ice-skating rink in the wintertime. It’s a favorite of mine because it brings back so many Christmas memories of ice-skating around the rink with the huge decorated tree in the center and then visiting its hall of Santa Clauses (which are surrounded by award-winning gingerbread houses, I might add). PPG place is an enjoyable experience for all ages.
5. Klavon’s Ice Cream Parlor
Originally founded by James and Mary Klavon as a drugstore and ice cream shop in 1923, this Depression-era parlor offers ice cream and a step back into history when you visit. Sit on a marble slab stool as you wait for your ice cream or pretend to phone a friend in the old wooden phone booths. This parlor also displays a fascinating story in Pittsburgh’s history. If you look up at near the ceiling on one wall, you’ll see the water mark left from a flood that went through Pittsburgh in 1936. And if you order the Super Bowl of ice cream and eat the whole thing, you’ll get your picture on the wall for posterity. This is one of the sweetest places to visit in Pittsburgh!
6. Carnegie Museum of Natural History
The first thing you’ll see before you enter into the Carnegie Museum of Natural History is the huge statue of a Diplodocus carnegii (fondly referred to as “Dippy the Dinosaur”). Originally founded by Andrew Carnegie in 1896, this museum features hundreds of displays for visitors to explore the complex design of the natural world. And there’s one taxidermist’s display that has some dark history behind it. You’ll have to check it out.
7. Strip Distract
Unlike what its name seems to imply, the Strip District is actually a very family-friendly place, named that way because of all its shops located along a single strip. Various murals and venders await you around every corner. With so much diversity of interests along this strip, you’re sure to find something unique that peaks your interest.
8. Heinz History Museum
Pittsburgh boasts of having the largest history museum in Pennsylvania. With six floors featuring everything from American history to Pittsburgh history, you can spend hours at the museum and still not see everything it has to offer. It rotates exhibits constantly, so watch out in its newsletters for your favorite displays so you can catch them before they are taken down.
9. Phipp’s Conservatory and Botanical Gardens
Founded in 1893, this historic botanical garden is located in Pittsburgh’s Schenley Park. The garden features fourteen rooms full of exotic plants and floral exhibits a,s well as a grounds full of Victorian metalwork. And all of the environmentalists out there will be pleased to know that the conservatory and gardens ranks one of the “greenest” worldwide. This is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Pittsburgh!
10. Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium
Ever since I was a little kid, I can remember going to the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium for family trips and school field trips. Each visit has offered me a completely different and wonderful experience, regardless of my age. Take a beginner scuba diving lesson, watch the polar bears swim above your head, or watch a sea lion show. Baby animals are always a favorite at this zoo, so keep an eye out for little ones with their parents. You’ll want to spend several hours here when you visit. Just don’t get lost in the monkey house. That’s really easy to do.
So there you have it. I encourage you to make as many of these stops as possible as you make your way through my beautiful city of Pittsburgh. Oh, yeah, and one more thing: make sure you say “yinz” and not “y’all.” That way, you’ll fit in even better on your visit to the Burgh.