The Steel City may be known for its trifecta of professional sports teams, but this historic hub of Pennsylvania offers much more. From incredible outdoor opportunities to world-class museums and tours, these are the best things to do in Pittsburgh.
1. Ride the inclines
Funiculars were all the rage in the late 1800s, when two incline railways were constructed on Pittsburgh’s Mount Washington. Now, these remain two of the last operation inclines in America – the lingering remnants of a system that once contained 17 of these tiny railcars. Pittsburgh's twin funiculars, the Monongahela and Duquesne, offer beautiful views of downtown Pittsburgh and the confluence of the Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers. Located about a mile apart, visitors can ascend on one line and descend on another if they so choose.
2. Wander the West End Overlook
Pittsburgh has no shortage of serendipitous skyline views, but the best views likely come from West End Overlook. This vantage point atop Elliott’s Bluff offers a wide view of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers and downtown. Once a humble turnaround with a commanding view, the city renovated the location into a park with benches, gardens and a pavilion in 2003.
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3. The Strip District
Avenues of converted warehouses and gourmet eateries line the Strip District. This former industrial area now houses some of the city’s best international food and grocery spots, like S&D Polish Deli, Salem’s Market and the Pennsylvania Macaroni Co. The Strip District allows offers diverse educational opportunities. For example, you can visit the Senator John Heinz History Center to learn about the fascinating history of ketchup and then hit up the Carnegie Museum of Art for one of North America’s premiere contemporary art collections.
4. Carnegie museums
The Carnegie Museum of Art is just one of three Pittsburgh Carnegie Museums, each with its own all-star attractions. The Carnegie Museum of Natural History is home to a complete tyrannosaurus rex skeleton. The Carnegie Science Center houses an otherworldly planetarium.
5. Andy Warhol Museum
Pop art icon Andy Warhol was born and raised in Pittsburgh, and it's here that you’ll find an incredible museum dedicated to his life and art. This museum—located in an 88,000 square-foot facility— is the largest in North America dedicated to a single artist. The Andy Warhol Museum operates an annex in New York’s Lower East Side, but the main attraction is in Pittsburgh, where Warhol’s path toward international celebrity began.
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6. Mattress Factory
Speaking of contemporary art, there’s perhaps no equivalent to the spectacle at The Mattress Factory. Founded by Barbara Luderowski in 1975, this sprawling complex of the avant-garde houses 17 permanent installations and a rotating rogue’s gallery of exhibits that bewilder and bedazzle visitors. The Mattress Factory is historic, too. It’s often credited as one of the early catalysts for Pittsburgh’s modern revitalization.
7. Peruse Point State Park
Located at the tip of Pittsburgh’s “golden triangle,” Point State Park is a time capsule of Pittsburgh’s early history. Learn about the French and Indian War, the American Revolution and the city's early beginnings at the Fort Pitt Museum. This 12,000-square-foot museum is built on the bones of historic Fort Pitt, once the largest fortification in North America.
The state park also houses the Fort Pitt Block House, a structure predating the American Revolution.
8. Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens
Home to flower shows that change with the seasons, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens is a wonderland for lovers of botany and foliage. The stunning steel-and-glass architecture of the conservatory harkens to the height of the industrial age when its greenhouses brought orchids, cacti and tropical fruits to crowds of Pennsylvania locals. Today, you can see some of the same rooms for yourself.
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9. Take a Furnace Tour
Rivers of Steel offers an incredible tour of Pittsburgh’s industrial history at Carrie Blast Furnaces National Landmark. This remnant of the former U.S. Steel Homestead Steel Works offers insight into a bygone era of American manufacturing. During the two-hour tour, visitors hear stories about steel-making technology, steel workers and the incredible supply chain required to build the bones of 20th-century America.
10. Cruise on a Gateway Clipper
Sightseeing, dinner and even ghost cruises are available on the Gateway Clipper fleet. Gateway Clipper operates five riverboats ranging from 55 feet to more than 200 feet in length. Each week, they peruse the waters of the three rivers area, providing spectacular views, meals and libations for those who want to see the city from the water.
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11. Bicycle Haven
The world’s largest bicycle museum and shop is located on Preble Avenue. The museum began life as a bicycle repair shop in 1996 before adding a massive museum collection in 2011. Bicycle Heaven houses nearly 4,000 bicycles – from space-age fiberglass concepts to movie bicycles and more. Once more, cycle lovers can rent a bike at the museum and see Pittsburgh from two wheels.
12. Pittsburgh sports
The NFL’s Steelers, NHL’s Penguins and MLB’s Pirates give Pittsburgh a grand slam of professional sports franchises. Each has a loyal, local following and all share the city’s iconic colors of black and gold. Whether you’re a sports fanatic or not, catching a home game is sure to put you in the midst of fervent locals eager to share their own secrets about the Steel City.
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