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Allegheny River Communities

Each borough and municipality in this northeastern corner of Allegheny County contains surprises. To those who live along the river’s edge, they’re familiar, hometown destinations and sights; to visitors, they’re spots worth making the drive out along (the finally construction-free) Route 28. Make a day trip to explore a chunk of the region off the beaten path — you might get so attached that you start thinking about a permanent move up the river.




photos by kristi jan hoover
 

What's Here?

Harrison
Here, industry and nature both have a home. Harrison hosts facilities for manufacturing company ATI Metals as well as the 500-acre Harrison Hills Park (alleghenycounty.us/parks/hhfac.aspx).

Frazer Township
Eat, drink and catch a movie at The Galleria at Pittsburgh Mills (pittsburghmills.com). While some of the storefronts in the mall proper are seeking new tenants, the sprawling shopping area surrounding it continues to thrive.

Brackenridge
This former mill town is a mostly residential community today. Its residents can enjoy daily, riverfront rest and relaxation at quiet Brackenridge Memorial Park.

Tarentum
Brackenridge’s big brother (in terms of size) is home to a number of bars, restaurants and businesses along East Sixth Avenue. It’s also a destination for bikers, thanks to busy Gatto Harley-Davidson (gattoharley-davidson.com).

East Deer Township
East Deer, the birthplace of the storied Pittsburgh Plate Glass Co., has many more trees than homes. A handful of quiet neighborhoods enjoy plenty of shade.

Fawn Township
Where there are deer, fawns often follow — the township was named because it was seen as an offspring of the pre-existing Deer Township. Fawn was a big baby, however; at the time, it included present-day Harrison and Brackenridge, too.

Springdale
This borough along a bend in the Allegheny River is the birthplace of noted conservationist Rachel Carson, whose book “Silent Spring” played a part in the early days of the environmental movement. You still can visit her homestead (rachel_carson_homestead.myupsite.com) today.

Springdale Township
Springdale’s neighbor to the north typically is referred to by the names of its two primary neighborhoods, Orrville and Harwick. Residents cool off at Bouquet Park Pool (bouquetpark.com), which celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2016.

Cheswick
The small borough along Pittsburgh Street is no less proud of Rachel Carson than its neighbor Springdale. Rachel Carson Park is the site of Cheswick’s annual Strawberry Festival (cheswick.us).

Fox Chapel
Beautiful homes, bucolic parks and a pair of golf clubs — the Pittsburgh Field Club (fieldclub.org) and Fox Chapel Golf Club (foxchapelgolfclub.org) — define Fox Chapel. Education also is a priority here thanks to Shady Side Academy and the Fox Chapel Area School District.

Harmar Township
Most visitors encounter Harmar Township via the string of businesses and restaurants along Freeport Road. Don’t miss this large municipality’s wealth of natural beauty, including Allegheny Islands State Park, accessible only by boat.

Oakmont
The host community for the 2016 U.S. Open also is one of the region’s most distinctive hometowns. The longstanding Oaks Theater (theoakstheater.com) has converted into a destination for live performance (while remaining a single-screen theater as well).

O’Hara Township
Surrounding Fox Chapel, O’Hara Township is home to many people — more than 8,400 as of the last census — and a location to work for many more, thanks to the bustling RIDC Industrial Park.

Blawnox
While it was named for a pair of steel mills — the Blaw Steel Construction Co. and the Knox Pressed and Welded Steel Co. — this small borough also contains one of the county’s most untouched conservation projects, the undeveloped Sycamore Island.

Verona
Follow Allegheny River Boulevard north and you’ll discover a wealth of small, independent businesses in Verona, Oakmont’s southern neighbor.

Indiana Township
Most of favorite summertime destination Hartwood Acres (alleghenycounty.us/parks/hartwood/index.aspx), one site for the county’s popular free concert series, sits within Indiana Township.
 

Eat

The line might be long when you visit Oakmont Bakery, but that’s fine — more time to select delicious desserts and treats to take home. When all of those irresistible scents make you hungry, grab lunch in the bakery’s cafe.  531 Allegheny Ave., oakmontbakery.com.

Try the delicious lamb burger or order a seasonal selection at Hartwood Restaurant & Whispers Pub in Indiana Township. The intimate pub is perfect for a date or a quiet solo meal.  3400 Harts Run Road, hartwoodrestaurant.com.

Gatto Cycle Diner in Tarentum will serve your favorite greasy-spoon specialties. Dive a little deeper and you’ll find choices you’re unlikely to encounter in many train-car diners, such as a great muffaletta sandwich.  139 E. Sixth Ave. & 117 E. Seventh Ave., gattocycle.com/dealer-info/diner.
 

Drink

Feelin’ the blues? There may be no better place in Allegheny County to exorcise those demons than Moondog’s, the longstanding bar and music venue in Blawnox. Throw back a few cold beers and listen to licks from a local or touring act.  378 Freeport Road, moondogs.us.

Select a craft beer at Fusion Bar & Grill in Harmar Township and pair it with Indian food. It’s a family-friendly place, so if you need a spot for good beer that also offers a kid’s menu, Fusion fits the bill.  775 Freeport Road, fusionpittsburgh.com.

The O’Hara Township branch of local chain The Coffee Tree Roasters gladly will make your morning favorite — but don’t ignore the indulgent frozen options among its seasonal selections.  48 Fox Chapel Road, coffeetree.com.
 

Shop

Looking for a read that’ll leave you guessing? That’s the specialty at Mystery Lovers Bookshop in Oakmont. The store carries pulpy adventures, classic whodunits and much more; it also hosts frequent author visits.  514 Allegheny River Blvd., mysterylovers.com.

Explore the winding corridors and hidden rooms of all three floors of the E.N. Miller Antique Mall in Verona, and you’ll leave with a new treasure — as small as a refrigerator magnet or as large as a bedroom set.  615 E. Railroad Ave., 412/828-3288.

The world has changed: Everything that once was nerdy now is cool. Outfit yourself with comics, toys, apparel and more at New Dimension Comics in The Galleria at Pittsburgh Mills in Frazer Township.  590 Pittsburgh Mills Circle, ndcomics.com/stores/pittsburgh-mills.
 


photo via flickr creative commons
 

Do

Feel like spending your day inspecting rare, automatic musical instruments? That’s simply one of the pleasures at the remarkable Bayernhof Museum in O’Hara Township. Reservations are required.  225 St. Charles Place, bayernhofmuseum.com.

Can it really be considered summer before you’ve spent a night with miniature golf and a frozen treat? Get both in one stop at Glen’s Custard in Springdale Borough.  400 Pittsburgh St., glenscustard.com.

Sometimes you need to go bowling. Relax like Lebowski at FunFest Entertainment Center in Harmar Township. The large facility also offers laser tag, arcade games, a connected bar and more.  2525 Freeport Road, funfestcenter.com.
 

Food Critic's Pick

Get set to crush some of the best wings in Pittsburgh at Nox’s Tavern and Grille in Blawnox. Nox’s serves 21 flavors of wings, so there’s something for just about everyone here; my favorites are hot garlic-Parm, hot sauce and sriracha-lime. If for whatever reason you’re not in the mood for wings, the original steamers — half-pound beef burgers steamed and served with a variety of toppings — also are a solid choice. (720 Blaw Ave., noxstavern.com) — Hal B. Klein
 

Signature Event

For more than 40 years, people have been flocking to the Burtner House Strawberry Festival in Harrison for a dose of history and a slice of famous strawberry shortcake. Always held on the third Saturday in June, the event, sponsored by the Burtner House Restoration Society, features Civil War re-enactors, genealogy researchers, guided tours of the historical home and more. If you can’t make it in the summer, head over in the fall for the annual Harvest Fest at the home. (724/493-9678) — Lauren Davidson
 

 

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