Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

5 Best (Non-Food Related) Things about Pittsburgh

I’m one of the lucky people that joyfully gets to intertwine my work interests with my life interests. However, while you might not know it from my Instagram feed, I do sometimes spend my time doing things that don’t involve eating or drinking.




PHOTO BY CHUCK BEARD
 

Banjo Night

I’d been living in Pittsburgh for five weeks when a new friend asked me if I wanted to go to Banjo Night. “Is that some kind of country music thing?” I asked, unaware that “Banjo Night” is shorthand for the open rehearsal the Pittsburgh Banjo Club holds at the Allegheny Elks Lodge on the North Side. Now, I’m a regular. Every Wednesday night, 15 to 30 members of the club take to the stage to pluck sing-a-long, old-time jazz, Dixieland and polka on their 4-string banjos (sometimes accompanied by a few horn players).

Consider making a reservation if you want to sit in the front room, particularly if you’re with a group; the long communal tables in the bright space tend to fill up with groups of all ages. There always is quite a social scene at the rectangular bar in the back room, where weekly regulars mix with newcomers over economically priced pitchers of beer. Wherever you sit, the music is catchy — and the crowd is terrific. 

Pittsburgh Public Theater’s New Direction 

The 2019 season of the Pittsburgh Public Theater, the first under artistic director Marya Sea Kaminski, was for me its most exciting in my nine years in Pittsburgh. Kaminski’s six-play season ranged from classical to contemporary, with a winning blend of easy-to-enjoy and thought-provoking content.

Two productions moved me the most: “The Tempest,” adapted and directed by Kaminski, featured an all-women cast led by McKeesport native and Carnegie Mellon University graduate Tamara Tunie as Prospero. I appreciated how Kaminski’s spin on Shakespeare made for smart social commentary without feeling gimmicky; also, the clowns were knee-slap hilarious.

The season’s penultimate play, “Indecent,” had the most emotional impact. I might be a bit biased because I once was lucky enough to work with the show’s director, Risa Brainin, but … wow. The emotional journey of the artfully staged, smartly timed and thoughtfully crafted work highlighting the history of antisemitism and fear of immigrant culture was a reminder of the power of the theatre. 


PHOTO BY DOUGLAS DUERRING

The Allegheny Cemetery 

One of my favorite rites of spring is a stroll through the Allegheny Cemetery as the scores of native and ornamental trees break into flower among the final resting places of more than 124,000 people — you’ll see a lot of Pittsburgh street names on the headstones — buried in the 300-plus acres of “rural” cemetery. It’s a reminder to slow down and to live in the moment.

In summer, the parklike cemetery provides perfect picnic grounds (I hope I don’t need to say this, but leave the place cleaner than when you started). In autumn, it’s my favorite place in Pittsburgh to read fiction, immersed in storylines as the crisp wind rustles the colorful leaves overhead. And in winter, it’s a pleasant spot for respectful sledding and a slightly less polite snowball fight. No matter the season, I would never, ever, sneak into the cemetery at night for a stroll. Never. 


photo by paul g wiegman
 

Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

I’m a borderline obsessive gardener, and Phipps Conservatory is one of the places I go to find inspiration; the annual May Market, where growers gather on the lawn of the 125-year-old institution, is like a holiday for me.

Throughout the year, I love to wander, lost in my thoughts, through the permanent, seasonal and special exhibits in the conservatory’s 14-room glasshouse. Phipps’ Winter Light Garden is a glowy seasonal pick-me-up, too. I love that in addition to being a showcase of botanical escapism and conservation, Phipps also is a world leader in progressive, sustainable living philosophy.

Its Center for Sustainable Landscapes, for example, is one of the greenest buildings in the world, earning top marks for its LEED Platinum certification and for meeting the goals of the Living Building Challenge. The institution’s educational programming offers the opportunity for both kids and adults to learn how to apply some of the tools to live a more beautiful and sustainable life, and I think that’s pretty fantastic, too. 


 

Community 

A few weeks ago, I waved to greet a friend in the crowd at Pittonkatonk, the wildly fun brass band festival that happens every spring near the Vietnam Veterans Pavilion in Schenley Park. Four people waved back. Because that’s Pittsburgh, the city that often resembles a village.

From events such as the Polish Hill May Day parade to summer afternoons spent with pals at the city’s public pools to the restless spirit of volunteerism, Pittsburgh’s interwoven friendship groups, supportive spirit and community focus make this city a standout place to live for many of us. That doesn’t mean it’s all peaches and roses; not everyone feels this way, and as a city, we need to continue to make sure that we’re doing the work to help people who don’t feel included.

On top of that, as Pittsburgh grows, we need to be mindful it’s an opportunity to pull more people in rather than a moment that leaves those on the fringes feeling left out.

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit Module Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

The Latest

Why These 6 Days in 1969 Were So Important to Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh Magazine is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, but we're not the only ones. We take a look at six notable events from 1969.

Women in Power: The Pros Changing Allegheny County

Allegheny County breaks the old boys’ club by placing women in key positions.

Growing Together: Farmers and Chefs Elevate Pittsburgh Dining

These seven farmer/chef pairings are leading the charge toward more vital vegetable dishes.

Afraid to Go to the Dentist? Consider the Sedation Solution

For some patients, dental work wouldn’t be possible if they were fully alert.

Restaurant Review: Spirits & Tales at the Oaklander Hotel

Executive chef Jessica Lewis’ strong voice is undermined by inconsistencies throughout the restaurant.

Perspectives: A Big Life

A former newspaper reporter's assignment leads to a lifelong friendship with a man who battled a food addiction.

George S. Kaufman’s Sensational Scandal

The Pittsburgh-born playwright made tabloid headlines in the 1930s. (it didn’t slow him down a bit.)

You Can Ride a Roller Coaster Classic

Roller coaster history is hidden nearby — and not where you might think.

Tea, Cake and Death: A Safe Place to Discuss a Scary Subject

“Death Cafes” seek to reduce taboos around the act of dying.

How He Makes the Mundane Sound Magical

Experimental sound artist R. Weis creates otherworldly sonic compositions from everyday materials.

Uber’s New Service Puts Riders in the Driver’s Seat

Passengers in Pittsburgh now can pay for a most customized experience with Uber Comfort.

The 400-Word Review: Secret Obsession

Netflix is on a bit of a hot streak with its original thrillers. Unfortunately, this dud isn't part of it.

After Dark Hall of Fame: Primanti Bros.

The beloved bar-and-restaurant chain has become a Pittsburgh emblem. It's the 10th inductee in the After Dark Hall of Fame.

Do You Want to Pay More Taxes to Improve Parks?

The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy hopes to restore the city’s parks to their former glory, but they may need a tax increase to do so.

The Latest Restaurant and Bar Openings in Pittsburgh

We say hello to a new concept from Justin Severino, a summer-long dance pop-up and a new spot for cocktails.
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags


Uber’s New Service Puts Riders in the Driver’s Seat

Uber’s New Service Puts Riders in the Driver’s Seat

Passengers in Pittsburgh now can pay for a most customized experience with Uber Comfort.

Comments

Do You Want to Pay More Taxes to Improve Parks?

Do You Want to Pay More Taxes to Improve Parks?

The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy hopes to restore the city’s parks to their former glory, but they may need a tax increase to do so.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
The Latest Restaurant and Bar Openings in Pittsburgh

The Latest Restaurant and Bar Openings in Pittsburgh

We say hello to a new concept from Justin Severino, a summer-long dance pop-up and a new spot for cocktails.

Comments

Recommended Pittsburgh Eating: 4 Recent Dishes I Loved

Recommended Pittsburgh Eating: 4 Recent Dishes I Loved

PM Dining Critic Hal B. Klein says a corned beef sandwich, Sichuan smashed eggplants, smoked chicken wings and a cornbread dessert have his attention.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
5 Best Spots to Hang Out with Your Dog

5 Best Spots to Hang Out with Your Dog

For those who can’t stand the idea of leaving their dogs home alone on a beautiful day, these dog-friendly stores, restaurants and bars in the Pittsburgh area welcome humans and canines alike.

Comments

5 Races You (Yes, You) Can Run This Year

5 Races You (Yes, You) Can Run This Year

Even novice runners can work their way up to these fun and (mildly) challenging races.

Comments


After Dark Hall of Fame: Primanti Bros.

After Dark Hall of Fame: Primanti Bros.

The beloved bar-and-restaurant chain has become a Pittsburgh emblem. It's the 10th inductee in the After Dark Hall of Fame.

Comments

The Park After Dark

The Park After Dark

Kennywood’s “Night Rider” tickets may be the best bet for many visitors.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Pirates’ Possibilities Include Contention in Surprising Season’s Second Half

Pirates’ Possibilities Include Contention in Surprising Season’s Second Half

It hasn’t gone according to the original script, but the Pirates have found a way to stay relevant — and may yet be capable of finishing what they started.

Comments

Pens’ Conundrum: The Coach and the Culture

Pens’ Conundrum: The Coach and the Culture

Try as he might, General Manager Jim Rutherford has so far been unable to change the makeup of his team as intended. It may, thus, ultimately fall on head coach Mike Sullivan to adjust the attitudes of players with a recent track record of resisting change for the greater good.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
The 400-Word Review: Secret Obsession

The 400-Word Review: Secret Obsession

Netflix is on a bit of a hot streak with its original thrillers. Unfortunately, this dud isn't part of it.

Comments

The 400-Word Review: Point Blank

The 400-Word Review: Point Blank

Netflix's action thriller is forgettable, but serves well as a quick throwback.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Book a Band for a Different Kind of Wedding Sound

Book a Band for a Different Kind of Wedding Sound

For many couples, family and tradition means everything. Having a band that helps reflect those can be a great way to pay tribute to your heritage, while getting your guests on the dance floor.

Comments

Eleven Couples to be Married after Love at First Bite

Eleven Couples to be Married after Love at First Bite

Wedding bells will be chiming for multiple couples this weekend … and it’s taking place at Primanti Bros. in the Strip District.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
5 Pittsburgh Vintage Homes Stores You'll Want to Explore

5 Pittsburgh Vintage Homes Stores You'll Want to Explore

PM Editoral Intern Ellie Pesetsky shares some of her favorite up-cycled furniture and home decor stores in and around Pittsburgh.

Comments

Oakmont Glassware Company Looking to Join the Big Time

Oakmont Glassware Company Looking to Join the Big Time

Amanda Lee began painting glasses in her basement to help pay for her college education. Today, she ships her products across the globe from a new, shabby-chic warehouse and gift shop.

Comments