Pittsburgh has three rivers—the Allegheny, the Monongahela, and the Ohio-- and five main districts—North Side, West End, South Side, East End and Downtown, all of which are comprised of many other smaller districts. Everything else, such as the
It's a short trip from the airport to Downtown. Here stand the old, classic parts of Pittsburgh, including
The North Side is dominated by two baseball and football stadiums. It's an old working-class neighborhood that is noteworthy for the interesting architecture of the many 19th-century homes that line the streets, such as the
This neighborhood is often overlooked for its busier counterparts, but West End holds its own treasures. It encompasses the Mount Washington district, and the best view from the 400-foot top of Mt. Washington. The whole city and the mighty, muddy Monongahela River are laid out below, like a postcard. Among its most interesting features are its inclined railways, or funiculars, that run up the Appalachian hills in and around the city, a remnant of the old mining industry. Still, there are many things to do in this district. The
This is the place to be on weekends, with plenty of restaurants and bars within walking distance of each other. Once the crowded home to thousands of mill workers, this has become a trendy place to live and also a great place to scope out art.
This area is primarily known for its universities and ritzy neighborhoods. Both
Whether you like opera or alternative music, ballet or football, concerts or museums, Pittsburgh has something for you.
Near downtown is Pittsburgh's cultural district, a six-block area containing the Benedum Center for the Performing Arts, Heinz Hall and the Byham Theater. These are the heart of culture and performing arts in Pittsburgh.
Museums & Galleries
For those who prefer to view the Masters, the Carnegie Museum of Art is a must. The museum balances impressionism and cubism with modern art and photography exhibits. On the other side of the building, the Carnegie Museum of Natural History enthralls visitors with exhibits on Native Americans and ancient Egypt. But the favorite exhibit is the Dinosaur Hall. One of America's first teams of paleontologists was sent in search of fossils and dinosaur bones. They brought back a skeleton, which they named Diplodocus Carnegie in honor of the museum's founder, Andrew Carnegie.
If you like to learn while you have fun, be sure to visit the Carnegie Science Center on the North Side. In addition to a variety of exhibits and interactive stations for kids, the museum has an Omnimax Theater, which thrills visitors with its huge screen and breathtaking films.
Schenley Park is the site of many summertime concerts and events, while the pool and baseball field at Riverview Park attract many locals. Hikers spend long hours exploring Highland Park, and the Allegheny County Parks attract fisherman, boaters and golfers. The many species of plants and flowers at Phipps Garden Center, as well as the restaurant, pull in many visitors and locals alike.
Also on the North Side, two new stadiums dominate the north side of the Allegheny River. Pittsburgh may no longer be the City of Champions (as it was known in the 1970s), but Pittsburghers still love their sports teams. Every Steelers game is sold out at Heinz Field and devoted fans continue to support the ailing Pirates, especially on nights featuring fireworks after the game at PNC Park. Across town, the National Hockey League Pittsburgh Penguins take the ice at SMG/Mellon Arena.
Pittsburgh can be a good place to explore by taking a day to wander or bike around, but if you want something a bit more organized, there are things to do and see that you might not have considered on your own.
Colonial Trust Building
Take a walking tour through the bustling Downtown district, where you'll pass the City-County Building, the Allegheny County Courthouse, the Frick Building and the Colonial Trust Building, which now houses the impressive Carnegie Library. Grab a bite at Caffe Amante, where Italian is the specialty.
The Strip offers many restaurants, cafes and shops that attract visitors year-round. The nearby History Center, the largest museum in the state, is a must for art lovers. Grab a bite to eat at the Rosebud Cafe or the Primanti Bros. Restaurant for a giant, delicious sandwich. Take a stroll along the waterfront to the historic Point State Park. The Boardwalk features live music and several nightclubs if you'd like to do some dancing.
The main concourse of Union Station is one of the most stunning areas in the city. A space of important historical significance, it has now been restored and the enormous skylight repaired to recreate the original setting. The Benedum Center for the Performing Arts has also been recently restored, and offers various interesting cultural performances throughout the year. Dine at nearby Christo's Mediterranean Grill or 1902 Landmark Tavern. Tour the home stadium of the Steelers, the mammoth Heinz Field.
Carnegie Science Center
The Carnegie Science Center contains an aquarium, a planetarium, three live theaters and a movie theater, all to help visitors to learn about science. Have lunch at Donnie's. Walk through one of the six Allegheny County Parks, or go to the nearby Sandcastle Waterpark, which has over 10 different water slides. Observe the 600 species at the National Aviary.
Carnegie Museum of Natural History
Downtown offers plenty of small art galleries, as well as large museums. The Space Art Gallery and La Fond Galleries hold contemporary art pieces. Grab a bite at nearby Bossa Nova. The Wood Street Galleries feature unique video and multimedia exhibitions. For a larger selection of art, stop into the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, where you'll surely get lost for a few hours.
Consulting a tour operator is a definite way to make sure your trip is well-planned and comfortable.
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The earliest inhabitants of Pittsburgh were the Iroquois Indians, part of a larger nation of Native American tribes living in the region. The first European influence came from visiting British and French traders who began establishing trade routes along the nearby rivers. The first written record of the area is from 1749, when two French explorers visited the location, centered on the point at which the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers meet to form the Ohio River. In 1754 the French built Fort Duquesne at this critical junction, but the English overtook it in 1758 during the French Indian War. Seeing the strategic benefits of this location, the British built another fort at the same site and named it Fort Pitt after their Secretary of State, William Pitt the Elder. As it was the first of their forts not to be burned down by the French, the name stuck, and the surrounding region soon became known as Pittsborough. During this time, many farmers were drawn to the security of the fort and the area's fertile farmland, establishing strong roots in the region.
In 1770, farmers plowing the land discovered rich deposits of coal in an area near the fort. The great promise of wealth drew large numbers of people from cosmopolitan cities like Boston and New York. Minerals have been the prime industry here ever since: coal, glass, aluminum, and, of course, steel. By 1816, the booming manufacturing industry in the area prompted the incorporation of Pittsburgh as a city, and by 1840, it was one of the largest metropolitan areas in the region. A devastating fire destroyed large sections of the downtown five years later, but it was quickly rebuilt and continued to grow, modernizing its industries and cityscape accordingly. During the Civil War, the city's iron factories were major suppliers to the Union army, providing warships, armor plates and weaponry to troops. In the decades that followed, over 60 glass factories sprung up in what is now the South Side neighborhood, and in 1888, production began on a new material called aluminum, taking the manufacturing industry by storm.
Iron was a large industry here even before the Civil War, and by the time Andrew Carnegie built his mills in the 1870's, steel had developed into the giant industry of legend. Trains, suspension bridges, railways, and skyscraper girders were important exports of the factories, and by the beginning of the 20th century, new inventions like the electric toasters, light fixtures, and automobiles were keeping the city moving. Consequently, with the rise of commerce, came the birth of the labor movement- the American Federation of Labor (AFL) was founded here in 1881.
Pittsburgh was a major supplier of military equipment during the two World Wars, and consequently this dramatically worsened the already large pollution problem that had developed in the area. Following WWII, the city began a campaign called the "Renaissance" that was meant to promote efforts to clean the air and revitalize the cultural life of the city. These labors were not in vain, and a vibrant art world began to flourish in what was previously considered solely an industrial city.
The donations of many nonprofit organizations and wealthy benefactors helped create a strong artistic and cultural base in Pittsburgh. Dance, theater, film, and radio all have an important place in the country's entertainment industry. The city is home to many “firsts” in these sectors: in 1905 The Nickelodeon opened as the first theater in the world that only showed movies, while the world's first commercial radio station, "networked" television station, and non-commercial television station all have their roots here. This rich cultural tradition produced several well-known media figures as well. Perhaps the most famous is the late Andy Warhol, who popularized the style of Pop Art and was honored in 1994 by a museum celebrating his work. Another icon is Fred Rogers, the beloved figure of “Mister Rogers' Neighborhood” who spent much of his life living and working in the Pittsburgh area.
Sports have a long history in Pittsburgh, both on the professional and collegiate levels. The Pittsburgh Pirates were the first team in Major League Baseball to field an entirely African-American team in 1971, while the Steelers have been five-time National Football League champions. With a number of coaching legends, Olympic winners, and all-star players, Pittsburgh has gained the appellation of the "City of Champions".
Despite the infamous dip in the American steel industry during the 1970's, the economic health of the region has generally been good. Though Pittsburgh initially suffered a great deal of job losses, it rebounded and has become an example of how cities can economically diversify following a major industry shake-up. It is still home to many large corporate headquarters, and has developed strong banking, technology, and health care industries. There are hundreds of research labs on the forefront of scientific discovery, and the city boasts one of the highest populations of scientists and engineers holding doctoral degrees. Academics have always been an important part of the life of the city as well. With nearly 30 universities in the region and 10 within the city itself, a great deal of focus is placed upon higher learning. Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh have a long history of important scientific discoveries and are among the top rated establishments in the country.
In 1977, the "Renaissance II" project was launched, concentrating on the development of a stronger cultural base and promotion of neighborhood health. In fact, the city usually rates as one of the most livable metropolitan areas in the country. The FBI named Pittsburgh as the safest metropolitan area with a population of 1,000,000 or more. With a variety of parks, restaurants, museums, artistic venues, it is no wonder that Pittsburgh continues to grow.