Have Fun with Your Friends

Tired of the same old? Have fun with your friends by heading to Trundle Manor, racing dragon boats, partying bier-hall style and more.




Photo by Laura Petrilla
 

 

CULTIVATE YOUR SENSE OF WONDER AT TRUNDLE MANOR: Wunderkammer is a German noun that means “room of curiosities, one filled to the brim with a collection of the weird.” Welcome to Trundle Manor, modern-day wunderkammer and home of Mr. ARM and Velda von Minx. It features everything from a collection of well-worn cleavers to a baffling array of taxidermy (picture a duck with bat wings or a black bear wearing a top hat). And while it may seem strange at first to see a 1920s X-ray machine in the corner near the vintage syringes, by the end, you might find yourself casually discussing the circumstances by which an animal becomes mummified … and maybe that’s the strangest thing of all. 7724 Juniata St., Swissvale. 412/916-5544, trundlemanor.com

JUMP OUT OF A PLANE: There is nothing quite like kneeling on the edge of a doorway and staring down at 13,000 feet of open air. And when the instructor yells, “Go!”, you enter a whole new world, dropping out of the sky in uninterrupted free fall. Skydive Pennsylvania offers one of the most exhilarating experiences available to ordinary folks, and thanks to the tandem jump (where you’re strapped to a certified jumper), skydiving is perfectly safe and lots of fun. Promising “maximum excitement,” Skydive Pennsylvania will take you to new heights—all above the bucolic scenery of Grove City. The only real danger of tandem jumping is that you might get hooked. Grove City Airport, 496 Old Ash Road, Mercer County. Info: 800/490-3483, skydivepennsylvania.com

RACE DRAGON BOATS WITH THREE RIVERS ROWING ASSOCIATION: You know you’re better than your co-workers at a lot of things. Now, hit the water and prove it. Three Rivers Rowing Association will put your corporate (or any other) group in two dragon boats so you can paddle for bragging rights. Staff will provide everything you need, including safety gear and coaches. Your teams will do several sprints on the Allegheny River, paddling to the beat of a dragon-boat drum. The dock is located at the association’s Millvale facility, which, conveniently, also provides a great space for a post-race cookout. If you’ve already proven your paddling prowess on the job, check out other dragon-boating opportunities for paddlers of all ages (available all summer). 300 Waterfront Drive, Washington’s Landing. Info: 412/231-8772, threeriversrowing.org

BOWL A STRIKE IN ACID-WASH JEANS: I have no desire to relive the ’80s—mostly because of the awful fashion (and the horrible yearbook photo reminders). But Arsenal Lanes hosts a retro party of Debbie Gibson proportions that makes all that hair-crimping and neon attire worthy of one more trip down memory lane. Every Thursday night, it’s all-you-can-bowl, complemented by all of the big-hair bands you can handle. All-you-can ’80s is split between good fun and cheesy music, and you might even find yourself battling over your favorite teen idol. There are prizes for that—none of which include a scrunchie, I hope. The ’80s strike back, literally. Arsenal Lanes, 212 44th St., Lawrenceville. Info: 412/683-5992

MAKE YOUR BOOK CLUB A COOK CLUB AT CHOP, WOK & TALK!: Who wants to spend an evening sobbing over the latest “Oprah” tearjerker? Dry those tears, and reconvene the book club at Chop, WOK & Talk!, a completely hands-on cooking school in Bloomfield. Proprietor Dorothy Tague will design a private-party menu for your club’s tastes and teach you how to cook a meal worth writing about. No club? No problem. Join any of the 12 public classes scheduled each month—they’re just as lively. Greek, Indian, Thai, Spanish … She’ll even let you in on the secret to General Tso’s chicken. By appointment only. 5404 Penn Ave., Bloomfield. Info: 412/362-0679, chopwoktalk.com

GET YOUR ZOMBIE ON AT THE EVANS CITY CEMETERY: Critics praise Night of the Living Dead for ushering in the era of modern horror movies. Evans City Cemetery is where it all began: Drive south of Evans City on Franklin Road, and you’ll find the very spot where Johnny playfully joked, “They’re coming to get you, Barbara.” Find the gravestones and buildings that viewers caught a glimpse of in that opening scene. Odds are you won’t get mauled by zombies like poor Johnny did, which means you can go home and watch the classic thriller in total safety. Of course, you may want to board up the windows … just in case.

PARTY BIER-HALL STYLE AT THE HOFBRAUHAUS: You might not be German, but after a night at the Hofbrauhaus, you’ll certainly feel like a Deutschmann. Modeled after the legendary hall in Munich, traditions of Germany run as heavy as the steins. And that beer? It’s brewed on the premises and served in mugs larger than the biggest German you know. Grab a bench in the giant hall, and sway along with fellow partiers to live music. The waitresses are costumed in traditional Bavarian dress, and you might see a bartender in lederhosen. Consider it your passport stamp without the hassle of an airport. 2705 S. Water St., SouthSide Works. Info: 412/224-2328, hofbrauhauspittsburgh.com

GET IN TOUCH WITH YOUR POLISH ROOTS AT BLOOMFIELD BRIDGE TAVERN: The Bloomfield Bridge Tavern is easy to find: It’s the building with the Polish heroes painted on the side. Once inside, the aromas will take many back to childhood, when all of their female elders gathered in the kitchen and conversed in a foreign language. Homemade pierogies—what’s more Pittsburgh than that?—are available, and the Polish Platter is highly recommended (and will remind you of holidays spent with your Busia). Dubbed as Pittsburgh’s Polish party house, the live music might not always be accompanied by an accordion, but I’m sure no one would mind you requesting the Pennsylvania Polka. 4412 Liberty Ave., Bloomfield. Info: 412/682-8611, bloomfieldbridgetavern.com

WORSHIP YOUR BEER AT THE CHURCH BREW WORKS: Step inside, let your eyes adjust and behold: an altar dedicated to beer brewing. If that doesn’t offend your sensibilities, then have a seat at the bar, or slip into a booth (both of which are made from old pews), and get comfy in one of the most pleasurable examples of reuse in Pittsburgh. This is one restaurant where you don’t want to take advantage of patio seating. It brews its beer on site, has a great menu and, like many local churches, has some of the best pierogies around. Heaven? Maybe. Delicious? Absolutely. 3525 Liberty Ave., Lawrenceville. Info: 412/688-8200, churchbrew.com

SEARCH FOR SAUCY GHOSTS AT PAPA J'S CENTRO: Papa J’s, a downtown bar and Italian restaurant, was a PM pick in November’s “20 Hot Bars” feature, largely due to its history. The 150-year-old building loves to highlight its chief claim to fame: the ’Burgh’s first house of ill repute (the website is, cheekily, notabrothel.com). But buildings this old breed rumors of ghosts and spooky bits of history, and Papa J’s is now one of Pittsburgh’s favorite spots for the paranormally inclined. Ask your servers about their run-ins with the spirits, or explore for yourself: The spooky upstairs is perfect for making a supernatural friend. 212 Blvd. of the Allies, downtown. Info: 412/391-7272, notabrothel.com

PEDAL WITH FELLOW BEER DRINKERS TO & FROM EAST END BREWING CO.: What every bike ride needs is more beer. And during the spring, East End Brewing Co. brings together more than 800 like-minded cyclists and beer lovers for the Pedal Pale Ale Keg Ride. While a truck would be much easier—where’s the fun in that?—delivering its seasonal brew to a local bar unites a continually growing community of adventure-seekers. For the brave (and true craft-brew fan), a significantly smaller group travels the six-plus miles for the Reverse Keg Ride at the end of fall to return the empty keg back to its brewery. A complimentary “beer coat” is given to all who participate. 6923 Susquehanna St., Homewood. Info: 412/537-2337, eastendbrewing.com

BUY A ROUND OF SHOTS POURED BY THE MANBOY: Rub elbows with the little people every Monday and Saturday during a proclaimed night of “midget madness” at Casey’s Draft House. Shaun, the house’s “manboy,” appears from his cave whenever a patron buys a round of shots (which costs $10) for the bar. Seeming to appear out of nowhere—and in random costumes, nonetheless—he travels up and down the bar to pour his drink of choice straight down the throat of whomever needs more libations. While it may not be politically correct, this crazy night in the South Side remains one of those Pittsburgh experiences that everyone continues to talk about. 1811 E. Carson St., South Side. Info: 412/431-3595

GET DOWN & DERBY AT A ROLLER DISCO: It sounds crazy: Strap on some roller skates, order cheap beer and dance the night away. But this kind of mayhem is a monthly occurrence at Belvedere’s, host of the Down & Derby roller-dance party. This club has plenty of room and level floors, so daring skaters with good balance are free to roll from couch to table to bar. The dress code encourages ’80s fashion, and because rentals are limited, guests can bring their own skates. The floor is hard, so exercise extreme talent or extreme restraint. 4016 Butler St., Lawrenceville. Info: 412/613-4707, skatedrinkdance.com

CURE YOUR HANGOVER AT THE COUNTRYPOLITAN SATURDAY BRUNCH: The Brillobox is hip, urban and founded by New York City veterans. But when Saturday rolls around, the B-box gets countrified. If you’re the kind of fella who enjoys a side of whiskey with his scrambled eggs, huevos rancheros or farmhouse French toast, well, son, the Countrypolitan Saturday Brunch might just be for you. Every city slicker needs some old-fashioned good times and good tunes (a little Johnny Cash makes every Saturday feel right). If you’re feeling blue after a wild night, recoup with a little firewater and fine cookin’—just like Ma’s. 4104 Penn Ave., Lawrenceville. Info: 412/621-4900, brillobox.net

LET YOUR STREET GO UP IN SMOKE AT THE SPHINX CAFE: For several years, The Sphinx Cafe has been reclaiming the hookah’s reputation. First off, a traditional Middle Eastern water pipe is called a shisha. Second, the water filtrates most of the bad chemicals out of tobacco smoke. Third, it’s only available to visitors 18 and older. Also, it’s relaxing, aromatic and tasty. But if shisha still isn’t your bag, you can kick back with a cup of “shai” (tea), let your pals puff away and experience the aromas of an Egyptian street market right here in Oakland. 401 Atwood St., Oakland. Info: 412/621-1153

GET YOUR ACT TOGETHER AT FRIDAY NIGHT IMPROVS: Comedy isn’t easy, especially after 600 shows. And who stars in these weekly jams? Why, you do. Touted as Pittsburgh’s only “all-audience participation comedy show,” the Friday Night Improvs are somewhat of a humorists’ potluck: Anybody can volunteer to come onstage and play an improv game, and nine times out of 10, the scenes are downright hilarious. What’s more: Attendees are forbidden to boo. The group may perform in the basement of the Cathedral of Learning, but every week, the University of Pittsburgh’s Studio Theater is packed with rabid comedy fans. Upbeat, fast-paced and stomach-achingly funny, the improvs have wowed regulars and newcomers for nearly two decades. Studio Theater, Cathedral of Learning, 4200 Fifth Ave., Oakland. Info: 412/624-7529, fnipgh.com

PLAY GAMES WITH DRAG QUEEN AT OUTRAGEOUS BINGO: Ladies, pack your ink dabbers. And practice that winning yell because we’re going to B-I-N-G-O. But, as the sassy host exclaims, this “ain’t your grandma’s bingo.” Popularly known for its over-the-top drag queens and rowdy fun, a diverse crowd—and yes, even some grannies—meets once a month (September through May) for OUTrageous Bingo. The payouts are as sure as the sequins and loud makeup (be sure to stick around for the halftime performance), and proceeds benefit local gay-service organizations. Dressing in drag is not required; you can leave that to the professionals. Catcalling is encouraged, however. Temple Rodef Shalom, 4905 Fifth Ave., Oakland. Info: 412/422-0114

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Tired of the same old? Have fun with your friends by heading to Trundle Manor, racing dragon boats, partying bier-hall style and more.
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