The Northern 'Burbs
The area commonly referred to as the North Hills maintains its long-held status as a fine suburban place to live or go for a walk in a nature park, but the area also offers plenty of shopping and dining and play options. You can find just about any chain business in the country here — but there also are smaller local gems to discover.
photos by kristi jan hoover
This northernmost Allegheny County community, just south of the Butler County line, is mostly residential. It also contains two Indian trails, a meteorite, oil wells and more.
This upscale area, the hometown of pop princess Christina Aguilera, originally served as a summer getaway for wealthy Pittsburghers.
When you drive down Brandt School Road close to Interstate 79, you cut through the heart of Franklin Park. This area contains lots of fertile produce orchards, namely the popular Soergel Orchards (2573 Brandt School Road, soergels.com).
This booming suburban area, bisected by the upper section of McKnight Road, has a ton of new commercial development at McCandless Crossing (mccandlesscrossing.com).
Much of what we think of as Wexford, a postal area and village rather than an official municipality, is actually in Pine, including most of the commercial corridor along Route 19 above the McKnight Road split.
This affluent suburb earned the distinction of being named one of the top 10 places in the country for families by Family Circle magazine in 2010.
Singing star Jackie Evancho’s hometown is a community of more than 11,000 people and also the location of Chatham University’s eco-themed Eden Hall campus.
West Deer Township
This community has two golf courses and the unusual distinction of having a municipally operated dog shelter, which is run by volunteers.
Every shopping need you ever had can be met here. The McKnight Road corridor (often called “McKnightmare” by area residents due to dense traffic) hosts big-box stores, chains and outposts of local favorites.
This municipal doughnut hole surrounded by Ross Township has an old-fashioned business district along a stretch of Route 19. It once was the site of now-defunct Kennywood rival West View Park.
Once a small and relatively rural community, Butler County’s Cranberry Township — particularly the Route 19 corridor — now is a bustling commercial center. As of August 2015, Cranberry also hosts the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex, the training home of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Always the butt of Martian jokes, this quiet community has a sense of humor about its name — check out the flying saucer in the middle of town.
Route 19 turns into South Main Street when it cuts through this charming, historic town 28 miles north of Pittsburgh. The Zelienople Historical Society (zelienoplehistoricalsociety.com) operates two historical house museums: the Passavant and Buhl houses.
This town with German roots welcomes the holidays with the Harmony Museum’s annual Weihnachtsmarkt, a German-style Christmas bazaar. At the Harmony Museum (218 Mercer St., harmonymuseum.org), guests celebrate New Year’s Eve in old German style with the Silvester event.
As Ross Township surrounds West View, Adams Township surrounds Mars. The township, named for President John Quincy Adams, was founded in 1854 and underwent a population boom in the 2000s due to its proximity to busy Cranberry Township.
Follow Route 228 east from Cranberry Township, and you’ll drive right into this borough, which is 1 square mile but contains businesses and restaurants.
This borough is a destination for horror-movie buffs, as George Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead” was filmed in Evans City Cemetery. But the community isn’t all spooky; there’s a charming business district.
Some of the most interesting (and tasty) hamburgers in the region are found at Burgh’ers in Harmony. The rotating selection of wild game (alligator, kangaroo, wild boar, etc) sets this restaurant apart from the normal joint. 100 Perry Highway, burghersinc.com
Located in a surprising spot by the PennDOT Driver’s License Center in Allison Park, Blue North Restaurant provides a menu with mostly local, organic and sustainable ingredients and offers nightly wine and dinner specials. 1701 Duncan Ave., bluenorth1701.com
Bistro 9101, a McCandless restaurant nestled along Perry Highway, features Chef Sean Minahan’s cuisine. Guests are welcomed with a freshly roasted bulb of garlic and a toasted baguette. 9101 Perry Highway, bistro9101.com
photo by richard cook
When Ross native Chris Jamison did well in Season 7 of “The Voice,” big crowds of his fans gathered at Rum Runners Saloon for show-watching parties. Along with its drink list including beers, wines and cane-rum mojitos, Rum Runners offers a variety of burgers. 3385 Babcock Blvd., rumrunnerssaloon.com
Jergel’s Rhythm Grille in Warrendale is a bar and grill that is hosting more and more entertainment events. With a large “Wines That Rock” menu along with beer and mixed drinks, you can wet your whistle while watching acts such as Soul Asylum and Shooter Jennings, both recent visitors. 103 Slade Lane, jergels.com
No jokes about Mars Bars, please — but there are bars in Mars, including the Breakneck Tavern. This gastropub offers sustainable craft beers, along with farm-to-table dishes with Southern and Cajun accents. 273 Mars Valencia Road, breaknecktavern.com
photo by richard Cook
We would be remiss not to include the headquarters of North Hills shopping: Ross Park Mall. Here, you will find everything from national department stores to upscale retailers such as Nordstrom, LL Bean and Banana Republic. 1000 Ross Park Mall Drive, simon.com/mall/ross-park-mall
Farther north in Cranberry Township, shopaholics must stop at The Streets of Cranberry. This outdoor mall is packed with retailers including New York & Company and Merle Norman. 20406 Route 19, thestreetsofcranberry.com
If you want to do some farm-and-orchard shopping, check out Kaelin Farm Market in Franklin Park. It harvests produce from 140 acres; its peaches are legendary. 2547 Brandt School Road, kaelinfarms.com
Set to open this fall, the McCandless Town Museum will give local history lovers a new spot to visit. The replica of a one-room schoolhouse will hold the collection of longtime local history buff Joseph Bullick, with items from McCandless Township, the North Allegheny School District and surrounding communities. 900 block of Ingomar Road, townofmccandless.org
During any season of the year, you can find fun for all ages at Wildwood Highlands in Hampton Township. Here, you can try everything from bumper cars to laser tag. 2330 Wildwood Road, wildwoodpa.com
If you want to see a movie with quaint charm and avoid the crowded ultra-modern theaters, go to Zelienople’s landmark Strand Theater. In addition to recent and classic films, the Strand hosts musicals, stand-up comedy and more. 119 N. Main St., thestrandtheater.org
photo by laura petrilla
Food Critic's Pick
Some of the best pizza in Pittsburgh can be found tucked away in the Harmony mini-mall that houses Della Terra Italian Bistro. Executive chef/owner Fiore Moletz and his crew bake slow-fermented dough to perfection in a wood-fired oven. Moletz sources much of his food from neighboring farms, even sometimes using eggs from his own chickens in the pasta dough. That pasta, by the way, is very good. The menu changes with the seasons. (100 Perry Highway, dellaterrapgh.com)
— Hal B. Klein
Summer in the suburbs means festivals, swimming pools and fireworks. The Hampton Township Independence Day Community Celebration, held during the Fourth of July weekend at the Hampton Community Center, combines all three. There’s free swimming, free classic-rock and oldies concerts, games, a foul-shooting contest, food booths and other family-friendly activities. The daylong event culminates in a dazzling pyrotechnics display. (hampton-pa.org) — Lauren Davidson