A long weekend in the summer calls for a road trip! So that’s just what we did on Fourth of July weekend. We packed up and headed to Pittsburgh to spend, roughly, 36 hours. From Philadelphia, it is roughly a four or five hour drive across the state. We kissed the puppy goodbye, hit the road early and lucked out with relatively light traffic.
Pittsburgh is a relatively large city and the second largest in the state of Pennsylvania. The Steel City attracts a lot of attention these days and is definitely a trendy location. The city is considered extremely livable, has a foodie reputation, low crime and they’ve got winning sports teams. It’s just the right size for exploring on a brief stop over or a longer excursion. It’s also just the right size to see large portions on foot. But, there are a lot of hills and somethings are spread out so a car can offer much needed convenience.
Here’s a quick guide of what we did and what we say on our whirlwind trip! Yinz ready? (That’s Pittsburgh-ian for “you ready?”)
What to Do in Pittsburgh
Andy Warhol is, arguably, Pittsburgh’s most famous son. To that end, a seven-storey building has been converted into the Warhol Museum to honor the late artist. With brick walls painted silver just like his studio The Factory, the museum is full of familiar sights. During our visit, a special exhibit by Ai Weiwei was on display. The museum seamlessly melded the two artists together, comparing and contrasting their experiences in life and in art. At times it was difficult to tell where one began and the other ended, so similar were their works. The museum tries to tell the story of Warhol from birth to death and had a decent number of works on display.
The focus seems to be on involving the visitors to the museum. You can zone out on white sheet covered furniture while groovy videos are projected on the walls and droning music from the Velvet Underground plays. Or you can create your own screen test, similar to the ones Warhol used to create.
For serious fans, the Warhol Museum might not shed any new light on the often eccentric artist but it is a pilgrimage spot not to be missed.
Frick Art & Historical Center
The Frick Art & Historical Center is situated east of the downtown area in the Point Breeze section of the city. It’s a very quiet residential neighborhood and a breath of fresh air from the downtown hustle. The 5.5 acre estate was once owned by Henry Clay Frick, an industrialist with an eye for art. On the property are several buildings most notably an art museum, a historic greenhouse and an antique car and carriage museum. The family’s lavish 19th century mansion is also still standing and can be toured. What’s impressive about the Frick is that the majority is free of charge. Only tours of the home and any special exhibits require a fee.
Admittedly the collections are small and I have a sneaking suspicion that all the “good” art is in the family’s other art museum: the Frick Collection on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. But the facilities are impressive and you can’t complain for the price. It’s a lovely way to spend an hour or two.
What to See in Pittsburgh
To get the best view of any city you have to go up. In Pittsburgh that means a ride on one of two funiculars from the 19th century. The Monongahela Incline and its sister just a stone’s throw away, Duquesne Incline, offer quick rides up and down the steep wooded hillside. Once at the top, riders can take in the view from one of several overlooks. Take in the rivers, the bridges and the entire skyline of the downtown area. The Monongahela Incline is the country’s oldest continuously operating funicular, reason enough to take a ride in one of the restored wooden cars.
Be wary of the information on the Monongahela Incline’s website; I found the website’s listed hours and price to be incorrect.
Downtown Pittsburgh is extremely walkable. And with buildings like those on the streets of Pittsburgh you’d be a fool not to use your feet. The downtown area is a blending of old buildings and newer, more modern buildings. The city skyline has a number of notable buildings. Two, in particular, caught my attention. There is PPG Place, a complex of glass buildings rushing up to pierce the sky with pointed spires. And the U.S. Steel Tower, whose facade is made to look like — what else — steel beams. But there are plenty of buildings from the 19th and early 20th centuries. Buildings full of character and details that are hard to come by these days. Take to the streets and don’t forget to look up. You won’t regret it!
Next up, I’ll share some great places to eat and stay.
Have you been to Pittsburgh? Can you recommend any must-see sights?