Best of the 'Burgh 2011: Sports and Recreation
From the best zumba studio to the best indoor pool, our editors pick the best in Pittsburgh sports and recreation.
Best place to 1-2-cha-cha-cha
If you haven’t heard of Zumba, you must be living under a rock—one thick enough to block out the Latin music. Latin Rhythmz is the region’s only studio exclusively devoted to this spicy fitness craze. Fans swear by Zumba’s potent combo of easy-but-toning choreography, nonstop cardio and addictive grooves—including one Latin Rhythmz class member who recently lost 138 pounds. Come for the workout, but stay for the dance party (or is it the other way around?). —Celanie Polanick
5500 Steubenville Pike, Robinson Township; 412/498-5406, latinrhythmz.net
Best local wildlife-preservation effort
The Pennsylvania Bluebird Society
This eclectic group of nature lovers is dedicated to the preservation and propagation of the Eastern bluebird in Pennsylvania—especially protecting this delightful little azure-and-pink symbol of happiness from the hostile invasive species that steal its nests (and sometimes peck the birds to death). The society is headquartered in Mechanicsburg, but president Harry Schmeider lives in Butler, Pa. Schmeider, county coordinators or one of numerous volunteers will happily give advice on putting up a bluebird house, which looks like a tiny outhouse placed on a 4-foot pole, in your backyard so you can help the birds spread their natural, blue-egged spring optimism far and wide. —C.P.
PO Box 756, Mechanicsburg; thebsp.org
Most relaxing way to feed a village
Spiritworks Yoga Studio
There are a great number of places to get your yoga on, but only one will let you send the good vibes you get from your downward-facing-dog pose halfway around the world. Spiritworks Yoga is a nonprofit that’s operated by Patricia D. Brown and Maureen McMahon. All proceeds from the volunteer-run studio are sent to Arlene Brown, Patricia’s mother who lives in Rwanda. Arlene’s Hope Made Real organization is the main source of support for 50 Rwandan children, and it helps 300 more obtain an education. Why not meditate on the thought of those kids eating and learning on your dime? —Sean Collier
103 Yost Blvd., Forest Hills; 412/475-9642, spiritworks.org
Best spooky bike trail
Ghost Town Trail
Rural Pennsylvania is full of old towns, abandoned buildings and creepy ruins. For ambitious cyclists and runners, the 36-mile Ghost Town Trail is like riding through a dozen spooky campfire stories at once. During the warmer months, the trail is a gravel path with scenic woods and countryside all around, showcasing the rich wilderness of Indiana County and Cambria counties. But on a misty autumn morning, the trail may chill your bones as it cuts through forgotten work camps and past old mines and railroads. Delve into the history of this eerie region with a copy of the Ghost Town Trail Guidebook. Seeing the old black-and-white photographs of deceased miners will get you in the “spirit” of it. —Robert Isenberg
Ebensburg, Indiana and Cambria counties; indianacountyparks.org
Most dignified indoor pool
Carnegie Library of Homestead
When Andrew Carnegie built his public library in Homestead, he spared no expense. Set on a grassy hill, the building is a veritable castle that contains a track, a basketball court and a voluminous music hall. But one of the library’s most beautiful features is a subterranean pool, whose decorated walls and marble pillars are modeled on Roman baths. What’s remarkable is that this pool, built more than a century ago, still hosts swim programs and aqua-based fitness classes. —R.I.
510 E. 10th Ave., Munhall; 412/462-3444, homesteadlibrary.org
Best hike location that looks like it’s out of a movie
Breakneck Falls at McConnells Mill State Park
The waterfall is stunning to behold, but find it at your own risk: No ravine is more aptly named than Breakneck Falls, the deadly jewel in the center of McConnells Mill State Park. The park’s 2,546 acres are all lovely, dark and deep, but adventurers will delight in Breakneck’s treacherous cliffs, angular boulders and freshwater pools littered with dead tree trunks. Descending the roots and rocks is dangerous, but if you can swallow your fear of heights and take it slow, the sight at the bottom will leave you breathless: Breakneck Falls pours crystal-clear water over a cavernous mouth, and on a clear day, sunlight trickles through the evergreens like threads of gold—as mythic as a landscape of Middle Earth. It has to be seen. —R.I.
More of Best of the ‘Burgh:
Pool photo courtesy of the Carnegie Library of Homestead; Bird photo courtesy of The Pennsylvania Bluebird Society.