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Travel Logs August 2012

Compulsive Traveler

Experience the Pittsburgh Renaissance

By Sandra Scott

Pittsburgh is the home of many firsts: first jeep, first Ferris Wheel, where the polio vaccine was tested on the public, and more.

Pittsburgh transformed itself from a dirty industrial city to a clean, green happening place noted for its excellent universities, renowned hospitals and great things to see and do. It has been named one of America’s most livable cities. Located at the confluence of the Monongahela, Allegheny and Ohio Rivers is often referred to as the “City of Bridges.”

  1. v_scottpitts08cA bus tour: The Pittsburgh Bus Tour with hop-on hop-off at 21 stops gives a good overview of the city and its sights with interesting side notes. Visitors may find it cheaper than taking taxis, which are not always easy to find, plus more convenient than driving in the traffic and looking for a place to park.
  2. The view: Get a spectacular view of the city from the Duquesne Incline. Completed in 1877 the 800-foot funicular is one of two remaining ones. At one time there were 15 or more that were used to ease the commute from hillside communities to the workplace. It has been voted one of the “Top Ten Cityscape Viewing Sites in the World” by USA Today. There is a museum at the top.
  3. Heinz History Center: The perfect place to learn about local history and Pittsburghers who made history. Pittsburgh is the home of many firsts: first jeep, first Ferris Wheel, where the polio vaccine was tested on the public, and more. One area is devoted to a sports museum.
  4. Carnegie Museums: Two of Pittsburgh’s Carnegie museums are on one site: art and natural history. The art museum has an outstanding contemporary art collection and you don’t have to be a kid to be awed by dinosaurs. Also part of the Carnegie at a different site is the Andy Warhol Museum dubbed the “art-that-dares” museum. It is one of the few museums dedicated to a single artist. Warhol, a Pittsburgher, is considered one of the founding fathers of Pop Art. Pay homage to him and leave a memento – a tomato soup can, perhaps – at his burial site at St. John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Cemetery.
  5. Sporting time: Pittsburgh and sports are synonymous with winners like the Steelers, Pirates and Penguins. Pittsburgh is truly a “City of Champions.” And, even the fans are champions when it comes to tailgating. Besides football, hockey and baseball, sports fans can watch the Pittsburgh Panthers basketball and other sporting events.
  6. The Strip District: Enjoy a Pittsburgh sandwich stuffed with French fries or gourmet dining, but all foodies will head to the Strip District to sample a variety of homemade food brought by the ethnic groups who immigrated to the city over the years. Try Italian mele, Polish perogies, Syrian hummus, and more. Take a guided culinary tour with Burgh Bits and Bites.
  7. Kidsburgh: Pittsburgh is truly a fun destination for kids. Beside the dinosaur exhibit at
    the Carnegie, the Science Center has Roboworld, the world’s largest permanent exhibit of robotics. The Children’s Museum has been rated one of the 10 best children’s museums; the zoo and aquarium are home to 400 species, and Kennywood Park boasts thrilling rides.
  8. Nature: Pittsburgher Rachel Carson would be thrilled with today’s Pittsburgh. Visit the National Aviary where daily events include learning about penguins and more than 800 birds. The Botanical Gardens is a living museum with a historic Victorian glasshouse. Enjoy the river from a sightseeing cruise on the Gateway Clipper or rent a kayak to explore on your own. There are 22 miles of scenic riverfront trails, and Schenley Park has been named one of America’s Coolest City Parks.
  9. The new Whiskey Rebellion: President Harry Truman called the Whiskey Rebellion one of the six turning points in American history. Today it is possible to pay homage to Phillip Wigle and the Whiskey Rebellion and the new Wigle Distillery where the tour includes both the history of the Rebellion and the making of whiskey.
  10. Quirky: Stop by Old St. Peter’s Church to see the Holy or Kneeling Stairs, one of only three replicas in the world. Or the church that is now the Church Brew Works or the one that is now the Altar Night Club. Take note of the Bridge of Sighs similar to the one in Venice, Italy, which at one time was used to transport prisoners from the Allegheny Court House to the jail.

There is plenty more to see and do including the famed Frick Museum, plenty of fun festivals, performing arts and great nightlife. Consider staying at the sleek Fairmont Hotel where the chef makes dog biscuits and handmade soap from rendered beef fat. On permanent display at the Fairmont are artifacts that were recovered during the 2007 excavation -- most of which date from 1840 to 1872. Or stay at a stunning Historic Hotel of America, the Omni William Penn, considered Pittsburgh’s “Grande Dame” accommodation. Walking into the lobby graced with three immense sparkling chandeliers is like stepping into a more elegant and refined era. The hotel has retained its 1916 classic elegance and has been visited by every seated president since Theodore Roosevelt. For more information check


Sandra Scott travels the globe recording the top attractions at every destination.

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