When it comes to Pittsburgh and cool things to do in and around the city, the list is practically endless. But when it comes to things you can only do in Pittsburgh, the list is even cooler. From modern art heroes to museums dedicated to sports heroes, here are 11 things you can only do in Pittsburgh!
Disclosure: I was hosted on a media tour with Visit Pittsburgh to make this post possible. However, all of the opinions in this post are my own!
Ahh, Pittsburgh. And I write that in the most endearing way possible. The city bridges offer a golden hue (Aztec Gold, if you want the true color name), the locals are friendly, and the food is hearty. But when I’m talking about things you can only do in Pittsburgh, the list makes me smile as there’s something for everyone. Here are your best bets for cool Pittsburgh attractions if you’re a visitor or a local.
The Clemente Museum
In my home, it’s all about hockey. Having written that, my husband was a huge baseball fan when he was a boy, so there’s some happy nostalgia when it comes to the game.
At The Clemente Museum, there are plenty of fun facts about the baseball legend, but it’s so much more than that. You’ll be able to see signed baseball from celebrities, rare baseball cards, and even cool art. But the really cool part is the basement.
It’s been turned into a wine cellar where, if you have enough cash to throw around, you can have your own, personal wine barrel stored to be tapped whenever you like. It’s a hangout for celebrities like Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder and sports players as well.
August Wilson African American Cultural Center
But recently, I had the chance to mosey around when it was only a few of us and, I have to write, it really is a beautiful space. Filled with natural light, the building itself is just gorgeous.
Keep you eyes peeled for the opening of August Wilson: The Writer’s Landscape, the first-ever permanent exhibition dedicated to the life and works of the Pulitzer Prize-winning and Pittsburgh raised playwright. Opening very soon (early 2022), it’s all about Pittsburgh’s people and places that helped to shape not only the city, but our world.
When we toured, we weren’t even allowed to take a peek at the gallery, which makes me want to see it in person even more.
How do I even begin to describe Randyland? In the bluntest of phrases, it’s the home of a man who turned junk into beautiful art and invites us to do the same at one of the coolest Pittsburgh attractions there is.
Again, the description doesn’t do it justice and it’s something you have to see in person to believe. An eclectic mix of random pieces that come into the hands of owner, Randy Gilson, it’s a place of respite and happiness. Add in the fact that it allows you to bring out your inner artist, and it’s well worth the trip to the Northside.
When I was in high school, and I’m not kidding when I write this, I watched the movie “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure” everyday for months. I fell in love with the score and it was a way for me to kick back and laugh. To this day, you’ll either love or really dislike watching it with me as I can say the lines right along with the actors.
Having the chance to see Pee Wee’s bike in person at Bicycle Heaven was a dream come true. It’s one of 12 made for the film (a bit of trivia I didn’t learn until I visited) and if you look close enough, you’ll see most of the details on it were painted by hand.
Here’s the fun stuff: the museum is the world’s largest transportation museum dedicated to bicycles. With over 6,000 in the building, I took a tour with owner, Craig Morrow and asked him to show me the one he’d never part with.
After checking out a bike that you have to bounce to move the wheels, ones with long skirt barriers to save women in petticoats from getting their dresses caught in the spokes, and plenty of vintage bikes from around the world, I learned there’s not one in particular. Now, I like to think of them as his children – there’s no way to name a favorite child.
You can go to loads of cities for a meal and find a “Pittsburgh Sandwich”, but there’s nothing like trying one in the place it originated – Primanti Bros. Located in The Strip District (plus plenty of additional places all around Pittsburgh), there’s nothing like sitting down to no frills service and eating off butcher paper that’s been working its gastro-magic for almost 90 years.
Each sandwich gives you a choice of protein, savory coleslaw, and tomato, but it’s the hand cut fries on top, sandwiched between two think slices of Italian bread that’s the kicker for me. You can order one to go, but it’s best served straight off the griddle.
Address: 46 18th St, Pittsburgh, PA 15222
Phone: (412) 263-2142
Walk toward PPG Paints Arena on a hockey game night and it’s a sea of black and gold. Heck, walk anywhere downtown for any major sports game and it’s a sea of the two colors.
At my home during any game night, watching one is my lullaby. Seriously, the movement of the camera against the ice puts me straight to sleep until Mr. Locke makes a “Whoop!” for a goal. And it’s true, hockey games are so much better in person than on the tele.
I’ve been to several Pittsburgh Penguins games for both regular season and playoffs, but there’s really nothing like sitting in a seat and watching the game live. So much goes on between plays and periods that the time flies by and, before you know it, you’re walking to your vehicle in a sea of black and gold.
You’ll have to take my word for the Moonshot Museum until it opens later this year, but it’s going to be an (pardon the pun) out of this world experience. The first American lander since Apollo is being built right inside the museum, and it will offer an unprecedented opportunity to get up close (and behind the scenes) of our nation’s return to the surface of the Moon.
And if that wasn’t enough to pique your space curiosity, we’ll have an astounding view of a real, Astrobotic Clean Room Workshop, a theater, and a hands on lab.
Andy Warhol Museum
The largest museum in North America dedicated to a single artist, the Andy Warhol Museum gives insight to the life of the pop culture artist. Sure, you’ll see his famous Campbell Soup Can art, but you dig into wha made him the way he was.
I love a good backstory and Warhol’s is unlike any other. Born during the Depression, he grew up knowing not to throw anything out. That turned into his daily time capsule collection that you can check out in the museum.
He really pushed the bar with his pieces (check out the one called “Oxidation”) but filter through the outgoing persona and eccentric manner and you’ll find a boy from Pittsburgh that wanted to make his mark in the art world and truly succeeded.
Address: 117 Sandusky St, Pittsburgh, PA 15212
Senator John Heinz History Center
Want to know about the history of Pittsburgh and what makes it cool in a few hours? Head to the Senator John Heinz History Center. With multiple floors of Pittsburgh memorabilia, a massive sports area, and of course, a tribute to my beloved childhood hero, Fred Rogers, it’s a place to spend a few hours or the entire day.
If I had to give my favorite place in the whole museum, the lower level is the place to be (apart from the set pieces from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood). Check out the authentic trolley car and Kennywood Racer train car from the park.
Address: 1212 Smallman St, Pittsburgh, PA 15222
Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s Dippy the Dinosaur
If there’s one thing I know about Pittsburgh, the word Dippy is not just for a favorite style of breakfast eggs. It’s the pet name of Carnegie Museum of Natural History‘s first dinosaur. Dippy the Dinosaur, a Diplodocus, is considered to be the most famous dino in the world and for good reason: beginning in the early 20th Century, Andrew Carnegie cast the skeleton many times and sent them to museums all over the world.
In addition to Hall of Dinosaurs, the museum is filled with 20 galleries of exquisite historical pieces. Again, if I had to name a favorite place inside, it’s a tie between Hillman Hall of Minerals and Gems and Invertebrate Paleontology, a section of which my favorite movie, “Silence of the Lambs” was filmed.
Address: 4400 Forbes Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15213
Kennywood Park’s Old Mill & Kangaroo Rides
And last, but certainly not least, are the historic rides at Kennywood Park. With three that are always at the top of my must-ride list, here’s a quick rundown of each:
The Old Mill – Once a dark water ride with a mill theme, it changed to Garfield’s nightmare then back to original-ish theme last year. Opening in 1901, the tunnel of love-style gives the slow-moving ride a chance to cozy up to your sweetheart.
Turtle – Yes, the line to ride is particularly slow, but the wait for Turtle is so worth it. It’s in the back of the park, so the view of the valley and Monongahela River is spectacular. It dips and rises to the sound of “Turtle! Turtle!” and it makes me giggle just thinking about it.
Kangaroo – Kennywood lovers take note: Kangaroo is coming back for 2022. A true nostalgic theme park ride, yes, and it’s a bit painful to partake but the hop then slam down to the ground I wouldn’t miss.