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Best of the 'Burgh 2014

60 of our favorite things — from mobile fashion trucks to off-menu items and big-top apprenticeships.

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Best Place to Cruise on a Summer Friday

Starlite Car Cruise
Cars still head to the site of the old Starlite Drive-In theater in the summer — for the car cruise. Now in its 13th season, this free Friday-night event — one of the country’s largest weekly cruises — features more than 1,000 vehicles that range from classic cars to street rods, plus motorcycles. The cruise, sponsored by North Way Christian Community, also offers food vendors, picnic tables and a DJ spinning oldies in a family-friendly environment. Starlite Car Cruises runs from Memorial Day through Labor Day, weather permitting. — MM

12121 Perry Highway, Pine Township/Wexford. 724/935-6803, ext. 2222, starlitecarcruise.com; photo by Chuck Beard


Best Museum That’ll Leave You on a High Note

Bayernhof Museum
Perched high above the Allegheny River, this little museum treats you with the eye candy of its views, but those aren’t the only high notes. Bayernhof also offers ear candy via its collection of 85 antique automatic musical instruments. These are the collecting legacy of the late Charles B. Brown III, founder of the museum now housed in his home, with its charming Bavarian inspiration and gemütlichkeit. Secret doors, hidden passageways and a mysterious place called “The Cave” also await. — MM

225 St. Charles Place, O’Hara Township; reservations required; 412/782-4231, bayernhofmuseum.com


Best Place to Get Up Close With Lions, Tigers and Bears

Living Treasures Wild Animal Parks
At Living Treasures, you can marvel at the Barbary Lion snoozing a few feet away; snap a photo of the rare white Bengal tiger, which appears on most of the billboards; and warily gaze into a pond of small alligators. But your most memorable moment here probably will be forging a connection with an animal you’ve fed; buy a bag of carrots or a bucket of feed on entry. Who are you to resist the charms of the Highlander cattle? — SC

268 Fox Road, New Castle, 724/924-9571; 288 Route 711, Laurel Highlands, 724/593-8300, ltanimalpark.com; photo by Tom Davidson


Best Day Care Affording Nontraditional Learning Opportunities

Doodle Bugs! Children’s Center
A 2-story play village, as well as Tae Kwon Do and dance classes? Your little ones may not want to come home from day care. Doodle Bugs! Children’s Center is all about education-based child care with hands-on learning. An in-house curriculum aligns with research-based best practices. Children love the activities, and adults love the focus on nutrition and safety — the WatchMeGrow camera allows parents to keep an eye on their children remotely, and the center’s doors feature secure, biometric access. — LD

8900 Duncan Ave., McCandless Township; 412/358-0225, doodlebugs.com


Best Local Photographer Leading the Charge on Equine Shots

Nicole Begley
Special skills are needed to take a portrait of Flicka. Now there’s Equestrian Experience, a service of Nicole Begley Photography. Based in Marshall Township, Begley is a Certified Professional Photographer, an equestrienne and an animal trainer. She works on location and offers two distinct experiences: “On the Farm,” traditional portraits of horse and horse and rider at the equine home, and “Show Day,” a session at show grounds including “under-saddle” action shots. — MM

724/766-6103, nicolebegleyphotography.com; photo by Nicole Begley


Best Place to Throw a Children’s Birthday Party, Complete with Furry Pals

Animal Friends
Although a birthday party at Animal Friends is full of animal-themed activities, the kids’ favorite part is when a shelter cat or dog stops by for cuddling and playtime. The $175 donation also covers the birthday boy or girl’s party-room reservation (for as many as 8 guests), invitations, a pet-themed game, a goodie bag for each child, a Bruster’s ice cream cake, a T-shirt for the guests to sign, a group photo and the opportunity for the birthday child to name an incoming animal of his or her choice. — LD

562 Camp Horne Road, Ohio Township; 412/847-7040, thinkingoutsidethecage.org; photo courtesy Animal Friends


Best Urban Garden Icon

We love Octavia, the black-and-white mosaic octopus snuggled in the center of the garden beds of the Octopus Garden in Friendship. Originally part of a putt-putt, she is made of recycled material and now serves as an urban garden centerpiece. Octavia’s current situation is a bit of a community project: Originally designed and decorated by Laura Jean McLaughlin and constructed by Bob Ziller, Octavia was invited into the garden by Kristin Hughes; Hughes also initiated Octavia’s new companion, a sea creature named Doris, designed by McLaughlin and Ziller as part of a community art project with local children. — KB

133 S. Aiken Ave., Friendship


Best New Fashion Line for Top Dogs

American Beagle
On April Fool’s Day, website teams appear to feel obligated to go overboard with elaborate hoaxes. American Eagle Outfitters’ American Beagle line started as a complex viral stunt. The firm released a press release and Web landing page promoting forthcoming canine fashions. Customers could sign up to get info on the pooch products and buy human versions of the advertised garb. A portion of the proceeds went to the ASPCA, so American Eagle raised more than $100,000 for charity during the promotion. When AEO eventually revealed that American Beagle didn’t exist, customers were crestfallen. Because chic doggie fashions are in high demand, the company plans to launch the “whimsical [and] fun” apparel line, says Bob Holobinko, vice president of brand management, in stores and online in November. — SC

; photo courtesy AEO


Best Way to Wash Your Car Without Making a Splash

Easy Auto Wash
It’s true — you can worsh your car without water. Easy Auto Wash will make your vehicle spick-and-span; you don’t have to stick around while it’s being done (or leave your keys). Make an appointment for this same-day wash, clean or wax service, park your vehicle in one of more than 30 locations in and around downtown, and a cleaning team will arrive to do the rest by hand. This environmentally friendly procedure makes use of waterless car products in spray bottles and microfiber towels. — MM



Best Place to See a Replica of the Holy Stairs

St. Patrick Catholic Church
Amid the hustle and bustle of the Strip, St. Patrick Catholic Church provides a zone of unexpected peace and tranquility. A walled garden oasis precedes the entrance to the landmark. Inside, there’s another surprise: a replica of the Holy Stairs in Rome. The originals, brought to the Eternal City from Jerusalem, were supposedly the staircase Christ ascended to be tried and sent to his death, tradition says. The Rev. James Cox, the famous pro-labor “Radio Priest,” commissioned the stairs here in the 1930s. Today, faithful in Rome and Pittsburgh continue to ascend these 28 steps on their knees as a devotional exercise. — MM

17th Street, Strip District; 412/471-4767, saintsinthestrip.org; photo by John Altdorfer


Best Catalog of Changing Landscapes

Used to Be a Pizza Hut
You’ve noticed one, driving past a cafe, bank or maybe Fat Pocket Pawn in North Versailles: “That place totally used to be a Pizza Hut.” The roof, the windows — they’re unmistakable. Only one man had the foresight — and, frankly, the free time — to begin cataloging them. Mike Neilson, a mobile software designer living in Kennedy Township, established Used to Be a Pizza Hut in 2008. After a few years, the site went viral; now it catalogues more than 400 former Pizza Huts worldwide. In February, design podcast “99% Invisible” profiled the site, prompting an even greater flood of submissions. Don’t ask Neilson for topping suggestions, though; “I haven’t had Pizza Hut pizza in years,” he says. — SC



Best Recurring Celebration of Music and Food

Weather Permitting at Shadyside Nursery
It’s Sunday evening. You’re not about to cook dinner. You also don’t want to give up on the weekend. It’s summer. There’s got to be something — perhaps something family-friendly, sunny and green. Enter Weather Permitting. The event at Shadyside Nursery features local bands, food trucks and beer. For the kids, there are likely to be hula-hoops, squirt guns and (of course) Popsicles. It’s pretty much everything you need on a Sunday — weather permitting, that is. — KB

510 Maryland Ave., Shadyside; weatherpermittingpgh.com


Best Neighborhood Opportunity to Rummage for Knickknacks

Regent Square Community Yard Sale
There is no greater sign of spring than a yard sale. There is no greater sign of awesome’s arrival than Regent Square’s annual yard sale, a community extravaganza generally held the weekend after Mother’s Day. Its treasures will leave you in a daze. We’re not telling you what to do, but if you like to plan, nab a copy of the map of participating houses and businesses and the list of what they’re selling. Whether it’s furniture, clothing or a tasty treat, you’re certain to find something worth your while. — AW

yardsale2014@regentsquare-rsca.org, regentsquare-rsca.org


Best Unified Event of Pride

Pittsburgh PrideFest
Think of a time when gender could matter just a little less. Imagine a place — say Liberty Avenue between Sixth and Tenth streets — where people might comfortably blur gender and sexuality so easily that the boundaries seem insignificant. Welcome to PrideFest, produced by the Delta Foundation of Pittsburgh. The free bash, generally held in June, comprises everything from bouncy castles and carnival games to two stages of nonstop singing, dancing and drag. It’s a celebration of the LGBT community that invites you to be exactly who you are, without definitions. — KB

Liberty Avenue, downtown; 412/322-2800; pittsburghpride.org; photo by John Altdorfer


Best Time Investment for Aspiring Handymen and Women

CCAC’s No-Credit Home Improvement Basics — Do-It-Yourself Session
You’ve been there: Your friends are showing off a newly renovated half-bath, and you’re thinking, “I could do that.” With the Community College of Allegheny County’s no-credit Home Improvement Basics class, you can acquire the necessary skills to get started. The three-hour course meets eight times, covering everything from tool and safety basics to the finer stuff of plumbing, electricity and drywall. Don’t worry — if the class leaves you realizing you’re not cut out for DIY home improvement, you’ll also learn how to find and hire a reputable contractor. Either way, you’ll save money and prevent headaches. — AW

Allegheny Campus, 808 Ridge Ave., North Side; 412/237-2525, shopcommunityed.ccac.edu

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