As the second biggest city in our native state of Pennsylvania and the city we now call home, Pittsburgh is a place that we know very well! At one point it would’ve been fair to say that Pittsburgh was past its prime, but that is no longer the case. Recent years have seen a major influx of young adults and young families, and the city is back on the map as an awesome place to be, and a really cool city to visit.
Pittsburgh is one of the best places to visit in Pennsylvania!
The Best Things to Do in Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh is a really unique place, and its history has led to a really cool blend of things to do. From great museums to beloved sports teams and historic sites still in action, there is no shortage of things to do in the Steel City. This list is by no means exhaustive, but it’s a good start to pinning down some of the best things to do in Pittsburgh.
Back before cars were commonplace, factory workers needed a way to get from their homes to work. The factories are traditionally located along the three rivers, as the easiest way to transport heavy metals is by ship, and the workers’ homes were traditionally up in the hills surrounding the city.
As a result, walking to work was not a great option for most people, and walking home from work was virtually impossible. The city constructed several inclines, or cable cars, to bring people from the hills into the city.
As owning a car became fairly standard the inclines slowly disappeared, leaving only two functioning inclines in service today. These are both on Mount Washington, and the Duquesne Incline is the much more popular one to ride these days. The incline is almost 150 years old and provides spectacular views of the Pittsburgh skyline.
Additionally, there is a museum of Pittsburgh history located in the station at the top. The fare to ride the Duquesne Incline is the same as the city’s bus fare, which is $2.75.
2. Get a Taste of the Strip District
The Strip District is one of the coolest and most unique neighborhoods of Pittsburgh. Made largely of old converted warehouses, the Strip District is the home of ethnic grocery stores, meat and fish markets, Italian restaurants, hip bars, and high-end boutiques ranging from artisan coffee to high-end chocolate.
As one of the most culturally diverse areas in Pittsburgh and now one of the most popular places to spend a Saturday, the Strip District deserves a visit on your next trip to Pittsburgh.
There are plenty of places to check out in the Strip District, and everyone has different recommendations. However, I would recommend visiting Wholey’s Fish Market, Pennsylvania Macaroni Company, and Allegheny Coffee Company.
Some of the other things on this list, including a couple of museums, are just a quick walk from the heart of the Strip District, too. The Strip District has a little something for everyone, and a stroll through its half-square-mile range is easily one of the best things to do in Pittsburgh.
3. Check out the Mattress Factory
The Mattress Factory is widely considered to be one of the coolest museums in the city and one of the best things to do in Pittsburgh as a whole.
First things first, no – you will not be going home with a Tempur-pedic or a Sleep Number mattress. The Mattress Factory is a museum of modern art that believes in creating art that can appeal to everyone, or “art you can get into.”
Yes, it is in an old mattress factory. But the Mattress Factory is so much more than just that. The non-profit organization that the Mattress Factory is incorporated through has put in a lot of effort to restore the nearby community in Pittsburgh’s North Shore.
The Mattress Factory has been going strong for almost 50 years now, and it is conveniently located very close to the Strip District.
The museum is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, so be sure to take that into account when you visit! Admission costs $20 for adults and $15 for students and senior citizens.
If you enjoy visiting churches while traveling, Valladolid has plenty more options for you. The Iglesia de San Servacio is located right by the zocalo, and it is possibly the most beautiful church in the entire city. Valladolid is known for its colorful streets and colonial architecture, and many of the most colonial buildings in the city are churches.
4. Go on a Free Walking Tour
No visit to a city is truly complete without a walking tour, and when there are free walking tours on offer, you’d be silly to miss out.
Free Pittsburgh Tours is a company dedicated to providing high-quality, educational, and fun walking tours of the Steel City while allowing you to name your price. The tour itself is free, and the guides are rewarded with whatever you decide to tip at the end. This is a can’t-miss opportunity in Pittsburgh!
I really love walking tours, because I find that you really don’t know what you don’t know until you know it. Walking tours are a really cool way to learn neat things about the place that you are visiting while also getting a little bit of physical activity.
Going on a walking tour is not just one of the best things to do in Pittsburgh but probably one of the best things to do when you visit any city. When the tour is free, there’s simply no reason not to do it!
5. Explore the Best Museums in Pittsburgh
Many people don’t think of Pittsburgh as a museum city, but you’d be very wrong to overlook the abundance of great museums that this city offers!
The Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History are often cited as the two premier options, but there are great museum options of every kind in Pittsburgh and you could spend days checking them all out.
If art isn’t really your thing, there are plenty of other museums that you might find more interesting. The Heinz History Center is dedicated to preserving the local legacy and Pittsburgh’s history, the Carrie Furnaces are a really interesting spot to check out, and the Fort Pitt Museum is a must for any history lover, just to name a few.
Regardless of your interest, one of the best things to do in Pittsburgh is to spend at least an afternoon in one of its museums.
6. Take a Trip to Fallingwater
Fallingwater is a house located about an hour and a half southeast of Pittsburgh, meaning that not everybody will want to make the trip out. However, it is a really unique and interesting place to visit, and I definitely recommend taking the time to check it out if you can.
Fallingwater was designed by renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright for one of the wealthiest families in Pittsburgh, and the house itself is really cool. It might be a stretch to call this one of the best things to do in Pittsburgh, given its location 70 miles away, but it really is worth the time if you are already in the area.
Frank Lloyd Wright had a passion for organic architecture – like buildings woven into the natural fabric of the world – and this house is the perfect example of that. It is right on the edge of a small waterfall!
This home has been named the “best all-time work of American architecture” and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you like architecture, you can’t miss this.
7. Wander Through Phipp’s Conservatory
Phipp’s Conservatory is the premier botanical garden in Pittsburgh, and exploring its glasshouse is a great way to spend a morning or afternoon. The greenery and flowers at Phipp’s Conservatory are beautiful, and the diversity of plants they have inside is both really interesting and really educational! Seeing the wide range of plants that exist and how different they all can look is a really cool experience.
The Conservatory also has a nice cafe where you can grab a good bite to eat or a nice cup of coffee. When we visited, we even had a glass of wine while talking about how beautiful of a place the conservatory is. It is a wedding reception favorite, and a quick stroll through its gardens will show you why.
8. Head to a Sporting Event
Few cities as small as Pittsburgh have such a prominent sports scene. With just under half a million residents, Pittsburgh is by no means a big city.
However, the Steel City has the Penguins, the Steelers, the Pirates, and some pretty great college sports as well. Sports are very much a part of Pittsburgh culture, and a night out at a sporting event is one of the best things to do in Pittsburgh.
Even if you aren’t much of a sports fan, going to a sporting event is a really good time. Honestly, who doesn’t love good stadium food and the time out with friends and family? Pirates tickets especially are quite cheap, meaning a summer night at the ballpark shouldn’t even put much of a dent in your wallet.
9. Eat Up at the Pickle Festival
Every year in late August, Pittsburgh hosts arguably its biggest event of the year, which is a massive pickle festival. They call it Picklesburgh, and it is an absolute must if you happen to be visiting while it is going on. In fact, Picklesburgh has been named the top specialty food festival in the entire United States for the past two years.
This festival celebrates all things pickled, and it is definitely a unique experience. From food vendors to pickle juice drinking contests, there is always something going on during the three days of pickled fun. Be sure to check their website for information about visiting and future dates.
10. Relax by the Rivers at Point State Park
Point State Park is an outdoor park located at the confluence of Pittsburgh’s three rivers. The park is dedicated to the remembrance of the area’s strategic importance during the French and Indian War, where its position on the three rivers led to significant interest and eventual battle.
Point State Park is located on top of where Pittsburgh’s two most important military forts stood – Fort Pitt and Fort Duquesne – and visitors can learn all they want about the conflicts at the Fort Pitt Museum.
The park is not just about history – it is also just a great place to hang out and socialize. If you are looking for a breath of fresh air during your time in Pittsburgh, make sure to pop over to Point State Park and take in the views of the city and check out the iconic fountain located at the tip of the park. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can go kayaking here too!
Best Places to Eat in Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh is a great city for foodies to visit, with great restaurants spanning just about every type of cuisine. From fantastic foreign cuisines like Thai and Mexican to some really great waffles, Pittsburgh has it all. Here is a list of some of the best restaurants in Pittsburgh and what you can expect there:
- Umami (for sushi)
- Ramen Bar (for ramen)
- Bahn Mi and Ti (for bahn mi and bubble tea)
- Gauchos (for great cuts of meat)
- Salems (for Arab food)
- Butter Joint (for cocktails and finer dining)
- The Abbey (for American food, best for brunch)
- Waffles Incaffeinated (for the best waffles in Pittsburgh)
- Streets on Carson (for a cool experience of global cuisines)
- Fuel and Fuddle (for great pub fare)
How to Get to Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) is located about 20-30 minutes outside of the city. The city is in the process of reinventing itself, and the airport is one of the major factors leading that charge as it is often ranked among the top 10 airports in the entire country.
While it is not a massive hub airport, it does offer 50 direct routes, both domestic and international.
To get from the airport into downtown Pittsburgh there is only one public transportation option, which is to take the 28X Airport Flyer bus. This route costs $2.75 and the fare must be paid in exact change. The bus departs every 30 minutes outside of baggage claim door 6 and makes a few stops on the outskirts of the city as well as downtown.
If you don’t want to take the bus and don’t have your own ride, your only other options are to take a taxi or call an Uber. Both of these options tend to cost around $50, but the prices fluctuate heavily.
Pittsburgh International Airport is also served by several budget airlines, including some that made my list of the best American budget airlines.
If you are worried or apprehensive about flying on budget airlines, don’t be. They’re awesome and offer so many great benefits. For more information about flying on budget airlines, check out my in-depth budget airline guide.
How to Get around Pittsburgh
BUS | METRO | BIKE | CAR
Pittsburgh is moderately well connected by public transportation. The bus network is pretty extensive with 98 different routes, there is a modest three-line metro system connecting a few different parts of the city, and a large-scale bikeshare program also exists to help you get where you want to go.
Fares for buses and the metro are $2.75, and children under 5 years old ride for free if they are with a fare-paying adult. The best way to plan your public transportation is to use either the Port Authority’s real-time map or the Port Authority’s route map.
If you don’t have a car, public transportation will have you covered! But if you do have a car, parking is plentiful and cheap, and the traffic is usually tolerable as long as you avoid tunnels at rush hour.
Is Pittsburgh Worth Visiting?
Pittsburgh is a really unique place, and in recent decades it may not have been very high on many peoples’ bucket lists of places to go. After all, the city did decline a lot from its former glory as the steel hub of the United States.
In the past decade, though, the city has really rebounded and is a vibrant, bustling place to visit filled with very enjoyable and unique things to do. If you’re wondering “is Pittsburgh worth visiting?” hopefully this post has given you the answer. If you are still not convinced and are looking for more reasons to visit Pittsburgh, here are a few:
That’s all we have for you about Pittsburgh! Hopefully, this Pittsburgh travel guide helps you to plan the best possible trip to the Steel City.
If you’re planning a trip to Pittsburgh, comment below! We’d love to chat ahead of time and answer any questions you have.