When it comes to visiting Pittsburgh, the worst advice is not to visit at all. Pittsburgh is a goddamn phoenix rising; it has burned its reputation as a polluted, industrial wasteland and been reborn as the most livable city in America and Zagat’s food city of the year.
Eat a Primanti Bros. sandwich
For decades, the gluttonous french fry coleslaw laden sandwich has been a staple of the city for tourists and locals alike. It tastes good but brother it doesn’t feel good. Now that Pittsburgh has been baptized as a food capital the city’s sandwich game has been upped. A stone’s throw from Primanti’s Strip District location is Gaucho and their epic rosemary braised beef. Further afield is The Vandal in Lawrenceville where they make their own vanilla lemonade and straight bring it with a fried chicken and carrot slaw sandwich.
Skip Kentuck Knob
An hour south of Pittsburgh sits the cantilevered Fallingwater, Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural magnum opus. It’s stunning to be sure but equally worth a visit is Kentuck Knob, a Wright designed usonian home just a few miles beyond Fallingwater. Built on a hexagonal plan and virtually into a hilltop the interior mimics the close quartered feeling of a ship. Perhaps the quarters were too close which might explain the partial conversion of the house into a museum. The acreage that surrounds the property is home to a sculpture garden with fragments of the Berlin Wall and a middle earth-esque commission by environmental sculptor Andy Goldsworthy.
Attend a home game
Pittsburgh is a sports town and the view from PNC park is among the best in the city but you don’t have to shell out for a ticket or an obscenely over-priced beer to get in on the sweat and camaraderie. All weather, by land or by river, no one throws a tailgate like the good people of Pittsburgh. If your vacation is budget minded, wander any stadium parking lot and you are bound to find a friendly tribe of black and gold bannermen that will lavish you with gifts of IC Light and BBQ ham.
Take a cab
Nope. The ratio of cabs to drunks on any Friday evening in the city of bridges is staggeringly low. There’s even a Facebook group dedicated to the faultiness of the cab industry in Pittsburgh. The best bet for transport is to have an uber or lyft app at the ready or pick up a set of pedals through Pittsburgh Bike Share.
Ignore the fringe museums
Home to two Andys — steel baron Andrew Carnegie and pale faced pop art pioneer Andy Warhol — Pittsburgh has its share of cultural institutions. Under the umbrella of Carnegie is the museum of art, science center, the Andy Warhol Museum, and the museum of natural history. All four offer a totally satisfactory way to extinguish an afternoon and one even has a decent snack bar but the real glory of Pittsburgh lies in its bounty of fringe museums.
The Center for Postnatural History harbors a collection of genetically modified organisms ranging from sea monkeys and fish that illuminate under UV light to Biosteel goats that grow spider silk proteins in their milk.
Modeled after the wonder rooms German aristocracy would fill with curiosities, Trundle Manor — an appointment-only treasury in Swissvale — presents the kind of spoils you would expect from a John Waters-Rob Zombie swap meet. Billed as the world’s most unusual tourist trap the Manor is home to taxidermy, medieval torture devices, an impressive cleaver collection, and a pretty rad gift shop.
The legacy of an eccentric rich guy with a fondness for Scooby Doo is the foundation for the city’s Bayernhof Museum; attractions include an indoor waterfall, an array of automatic musical instruments, a manmade cave, and a system of trap doors and secret passageways.