8 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions & Things to Do in Pittsburgh
On the north-western Allegheny Plateau, at the point where the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers join to form the Ohio, lies the city of Pittsburgh, surrounded by the wooded hills of the western Appalachians.
The wealth of the city came from these hills: the coal mined here was the basis of a great steel industry which at one time produced half the total requirements of the United States. However, Pittsburgh is no longer the soot-encrusted coal and steel town of the past, but rather a metropolis with fine parks and gardens flanking the rivers and a modern city centre with established cultural institutions such as the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and the Pittsburgh Opera.History
The first Europeans to reach the "Golden Triangle" between the rivers were Frenchmen, who built Fort Duquesne. The French fort was destroyed by the British in 1758 and replaced by Fort Pitt (named after William Pitt the Elder). The settlement which grew up round the fort was named Pittsburgh; the local coalfields began to be worked and blast furnaces were built. The demand for iron and steel for the Civil War brought prosperity to heavy industry, and thereafter industrialists like Andrew Carnegie and Henry Clay Frick built up their empires. Pittsburgh enjoyed further booms during the two world wars, but thereafter the crisis in the steel industry made a process of readjustment necessary.
Pittsburgh was one of the birthplaces of the American trade union movement: the American Federation of Labor was founded here in 1881, and the city was frequently the scene of bitter conflicts between workers and employers.
Pittsburgh is the dominant city of southwestern Pennsylvania, a place that has successfully transformed from a polluted, working-class steel town into a one of the most livable cities, according to several polls. Pittsburgh sits on the confluence of three rivers, the Monongahela, the Allegheny and the Ohio, known as the Golden Triangle, which has made the city a natural commercial and transportation center since the eighteenth-century.
Today, Pittsburgh boasts such attractions as the Andy Warhol Museum in tribute to its famous son, the Carnegie Museums, the historic Point State Park, and nearby Fallingwater designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
See also: Where to Stay in Pittsburgh
1 Phipps Conservatory
Real estate baron Henry Phipps donated these botanical gardens to the city in 1893. Set in Schenley Park, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens offers visitors a variety of experiences. The central feature is a 13-room Victorian glasshouse providing something new for visitors with each changing season. The highlights include Japanese, perennial, aquatic and children's theme gardens. The Discovery Garden has butterfly and bird gardens, a color wheel garden, and a sensory garden.
Address: 1 Schenley Park, Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3830, United States
2 Carnegie Museum of Art
The Carnegie Museum, one of Pittsburgh's most internationally recognized institutions, houses extensive collections of Impressionist and post-Impressionist paintings, American and European paintings over the past two centuries, sculpture, decorative art, and architecture. On display are such items as models, drawings, casts and photos. The museum is named for its founder Andrew Carnegie who embarked on his vision for an art center in the late 1800s.
Address: 4400 Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15213-4007, United States
3 Carnegie Science Center
In North Side, on the north bank of the Allegheny River, is the huge Carnegie Science Center with a focus on science and technology. The museum offers more than 250 hands-on exhibits dealing with science and technology. Among the subjects dealt with are industrial processing methods, the use of energy and socio-cultural aspects of nutrition.
Some of the unique features include the Pacific Coral Reef Aquarium which displays a wide range of tropical fish, and the Rangos Omnimax Theater with a with a dome four-story domed IMAX Theater. The Henry Buhl Jr. Planetarium and Observatory provides a unique glimpse of outer space. Meanwhile, the Miniature Railroad and Village document the state's history and culture.
Also on site is the USS Requin, a World War II submarine that held a crew of eighty. Guided tours are given by former submariners.
Address: One Allegheny Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15212-5850, United States
4 Andy Warhol Museum
The museum contains a comprehensive collection of the city's most famous artist and American Pop Art pioneer. Exhibits cover all facets of Warhol's prolific career as a painter, filmmaker, record producer, stage designer, author, magazine publisher, and celebrity-gazer.
The Andy Warhol Museum, opened in 1994, is devoted to the life and work of this Pop Art artist, who was born in North Side. Housed in a restored warehouse, it displays paintings, drawings, prints, films and videos by Warhol.
Address: 117 Sandusky Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15212-5890, United States
5 Frick Art and Historical Center
The Frick The Frick Art and Historical Center is a complex of museums and historical buildings located across five acres of lawns and gardens in Pittsburgh's residential East End. The property belonged to Helen Clay Frick, daughter of Henry Frick. The highlight is the Frick Art Museum which displays the art collection of Helen Clay Frick. It is located in the Clayton, which was Henry Frick's mansion and the only surviving one on Millionaire's row. On display are pictures ranging in date from the early Renaissance to the end of the 18th century. The collection contains Italian, French and Flemish paintings through the eighteenth-century; sixteenth-century tapestries and Chinese porcelains.
Also on site is the Car & Carriage Museum including a 1914 Rolls Royce and 1931 Pierce Arrow 43 Club Sedan.
Address: 7227 Reynolds Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15208-2919, United States
6 Duquesne Incline
Since 1877, this funicular railway has served the residents and businesses of the Duquesne Heights and Mount Washington sections of Pittsburgh. From the cars there are great view out over the city. Utilizing two original 1877 cable cars, the Duquesne Incline is a working museum, with the upper station providing photos and displays on the history of the incline. Visitors can also see the inner workings of the incline.
Address: 1220 Grandview Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15211, United States
7 Strip District
The Strip District, on the Allegheny River at the north-east corner of the Golden Triangle, was formerly occupied by warehouses and railroad installations but is now one of the city's main tourist centers and a scene of lively activity throughout the day. The area is home to shopping, art, dining, and all kinds of markets to buy produce, meat, and a variety of other foods. Visitors may want to come down here to simply enjoy a meal or spend a whole day wandering in and out of the small shops lining the Strip. Saturdays are particularly busy but also a fun time to visit.
8 Point State Park
The heart of Pittsburgh is the "Golden Triangle" at the junction of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers. At the tip of the triangle is Point State Park, with one of the country's largest fountains, symbolizing the birth of the Ohio. This was the site of Fort Pitt, of which there now remains only a blockhouse. The fort's original appearance is shown in dioramas in the Fort Pitt Museum, a re-created eighteenth-century bastion of the famous British fort.
The 36-acre park commemorates the British settlement of the frontier outpost in 1754 until the French seized the area. Later, the British regained supremacy and erected a new fort.
Address: 101 Commonwealth Place
Where to Stay in Pittsburgh for Sightseeing
Downtown Pittsburgh is relatively compact with many of the top attractions, as well as restaurants and shops, all within easy walking distance of each other. The most convenient option for travelers is to stay right in the city center. Below are some highly-rated hotels in convenient locations.
- Luxury Hotels: In the heart of the city center is the historic and elegant Omni William Penn Hotel, first opened in 1916. This grand landmark hotel, which still offers a traditional afternoon tea service, has hosted many famous people over the years. The Renaissance is a boutique hotel, also housed in a beautiful historic building in the downtown area, but complemented with contemporary decor. The Fairmont is another good luxury option, with a prime location and bright rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows. This is a pet friendly hotel with an onsite "canine ambassador" that guests can take for a walk.
- Mid-Range Hotels: A good mid-range option in the city center is the Courtyard Pittsburgh Downtown, in a renovated historic building in the Cultural District and near the Strip District. Just a few minutes outside the downtown core on the North Shore, but still in a good location, is the historic boutique hotel, The Priory. A former monastery, this is a hotel with character and charm, and a variety of room sizes and rates. A good option in the trendy Strip District is the Hampton Inn.
- Budget Hotels: The best budget options are just outside the city center. The Comfort Inn is a short drive north of the city center and offers comfy rooms. A little further afield is the Econo Lodge, with basic rooms but usually good prices. The Red Roof Plus+ is also well outside the city center but offers decent rooms at reasonable rates.