10 Reasons Why Pittsburgh Owned 2013
From a giant rubber duck to cutting-edge restaurants to a yarn-bombed bridge, our city had the world buzzing this year.
By anyone’s standards, 2012 was a landmark year for Pittsburgh, capped off by “The Dark Knight Rises” hitting theaters and unveiling the ’Burgh as the fabled Gotham, not to mention National Geographic imploring the world's travelers to train new eyes on our formerly smoky city.
Little did we know, that was just the beginning. As we get ready to tuck this year away, let's take a look back at how Pittsburgh owned 2013.
Brace yourself, Portland.
Photo by Laura Petrilla
1. We made ALL the lists
I could cheat and simply fill this list with 10 other lists Pittsburgh made in 2013: The best city for newspaper readership. Thirteenth-most well-read city in America. Top five cities to retire. Top 10 cities where the American dream is still alive. The smartest city in America. Top places to visit in 2013. Seventh-healthiest housing market in the country. Top tier of cities for social mobility. Fourteenth-most generous city in America. One of the best cities for movie lovers, performers, working mothers, young professionals and on and on. Being the overachievers we are, we’ve already made a 2014 list with Bon Appetit calling Pittsburgh “the next big food town.” This alone is enough to make me almost feel sorry for every other city in America.
Photo courtesy of Dave Arrigo/Pittsburgh Pirates
2. A baseball town once more
A sports-rabid city like Pittsburgh is no longer quietly tucking away its embarrassing baseball team on a dark corner shelf to collect the dust of two decades of crushed hopes. This year, the resurgent Buccos grabbed the city by the lapels and growled fiercely, “We’re gonna make you love us again, dammit.” And they did. They fought and Zoltan’d their way back into the hearts of a city that has wanted nothing more than to rekindle the dormant fires of baseball passion. Our Buccos blew past a winning season and stormed right into real postseason ball. Meaningful ball in October. In Pittsburgh. The franchise of Roberto and Maz and Honus is back.
Photo by Dave Cole
3. And not a duck pun was left unquacked
It’s big. It’s yellow. It’s pure joy in the shape of a duck. With three scenic rivers embracing our landscape in their fluid arms, Pittsburgh fit the bill (ahem) for Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman‘s first American canvas for his "Rubber Duck Project." The duck, previously featured in such cities as Hong Kong and Sydney, was welcomed to the confluence with a raucous bridge party. During its visit, more than a million visitors flocked (ahem) to downtown for a chance to take selfies with our favorite new feathered friend. The popularity of the duck was not surprising, but that no Yinzers ran afoul (ahem) of the law by trying to ride it certainly was.
Photo by Annette Sandberg
4. They came, they saw, they yarn-bombed
It might not be climbing Everest, but looking at a 1,000-foot bridge and thinking, “Why not cover that thing in yarn?” takes some Everest-sized cajones. Squashing doubters from start to glorious, colorful finish, the Knit the Bridge group gamely hurdled each obstacle along its path to “Booyah!” Logistics be damned — that bridge was covered in hundreds of yarn blankets on schedule, becoming the largest structure ever yarn-bombed in America. Why yarn-bomb a bridge? Well, you see, because it was there. And because we are just that cool.
5. One app to rule them all
How do you say “Suck it, Portland” in German? Apple’s Free iPhone App of the Year, Pittsburgh-based-and-built Duolingo, might have the answer. With more than 10 million downloads, Carnegie Mellon University professor Luis von Ahn’s Duolingo is helping millions of users learn new languages without emptying their rainy-day funds on expensive software. It’s just one app, but it’s the perfect representation of Pittsburgh’s ever-growing footprint on the technology map. Our institutions are regularly churning out advances in medical research, robotics, gaming and more. Start-ups including Digital DreamLabs and SolePower are leading the way to the future. Everybody wants to rule the world, but one day, Pittsburgh just might.
6. Proud to be quirky
The city with the giant duck and the sweater-wearing bridge is getting a reputation for being a quirky city, and what’s quirkier than the ability to watch Andy Warhol’s grave 24 hours a day? The Pittsburgh-born, white-haired artist was “quirky” personified … once stating he’d like his grave to simply say “figment.” It doesn’t. It’s etched with his given surname of Warhola. In 2013, as a strange birthday present, The Andy Warhol Museum trained a webcam on his grave, allowing viewers to see the interesting tchochkes left by Warhol’s fans.
7. SurfPittsburgh … because why not?
Our shores may not have sand, but we’ve got water, and where there is water, there is the chance for waves. Sure, SurfPittsburgh has to create its own waves using the wake of its speed boat, but once the water obeys the laws of physics to rise up in that familiar curve, there’s no stopping Pittsburgh’s surfers from hanging 10 on a Mon breaker. Gnarly, dude.
8. All that’s missing is the paparazzi
In 2013, Pittsburgh further cemented its position as the “New Hollywood.” The Christian Bale vehicle, Braddock-filmed “Out of the Furnace,” was released; Nickelodeon’s locally filmed “Supah Ninjas” hit the small screen; and future Oscar contender “The Fault in Our Stars” and A&E’s “Those Who Kill” came to life in the City of Steel. We’re so popular that Legendary Pictures CEO Thomas Tull, producer of “The Dark Knight Rises," currently is renovating an 8,000-square-foot downtown penthouse. All we need now is our own Walk of Fame, and Hollywood can proceed to suck it.
9. Conflict Kitchen hits the world stage
2013 is the year Conflict Kitchen made the rest of America sit up and take notice of its ambitious geopolitical/culinary project in Oakland. Only plating foods from countries with which the United States is currently in conflict, the kitchen is doing more than simply serving meals — it’s serving as a daily reminder that those nations have cultures, cuisines and people worth protecting, despite the broader conflicts that wage on. This year the kitchen saw coverage in Canada and South Korea and was featured on Slate and Smithsonian Magazine’s online edition as well as dozens of American blogs and newspapers. Right now, you can have a taste of North Korea’s interesting cuisine.
Photo by Dave DiCello
10. Pittsburgh’s Old Faithful returns
Long serving as the confluence’s impressive aqueous welcome sign, the Point State Park Fountain went dry four years ago to allow for a $10 million overhaul that concluded in June. Finally flowing again, with the water shooting some 150 feet in the air, it circulates millions of gallons of aquifer water every hour. A stunning sight begging to be photographed, pictures of the Point from every vantage in the city are now complete again and likely drawing envious looks from other cities.