Get Active this Weekend: Salsa, Beats & Hiking

After a trip to The Big Easy, I've come back with some high-energy activities to help you bring in 2011.
embury bartender

Allison Contreras crafts the drinks at Embury with quality liquor, fresh juices and herbs and homemade syrups.

Photo by Jim Judkis


All right! New year! 2011! Let’s do this!

If I seem a bit more energized than usual, I must reluctantly confess that it is not enduring the wonders of Pittsburgh nightlife that injected some pep into my step. This year, my wonderful girlfriend and I trekked down to New Orleans for New Year’s Eve (the first trip to the Crescent City for both of us) and had a blast. Come midnight, we were hanging off of a balcony above Bourbon Street, screaming in Creole jubilation. I do love Pittsburgh with all my heart, but I have to recommend that you make this journey at least once in your life.

The rowdy spirit followed me home, though, and (as of yet) hasn’t been deterred by the cold. That’s why, this weekend, I’m recommending a trio of high-energy events to shake out of your winter lethargy (and New Year’s hangover.) We boarded a plane to find somewhere warm, but I’ll bet you can heat things up here in the ’Burgh if you try hard enough.

So no sitting at the movie theater or saddling up to a bar this weekend: It’s time to get moving.


Friday night Salsa dancing at the Cabaret Theater—the surprisingly adaptable, somewhat hidden theater tucked behind the Backstage Bar in the Cultural District—is a regular occurrence. Apparently for at least 99 weeks, because this Friday is a special version commemorating their centennial session of shaking it to south-of-the-border beats.

The regular schedule will be followed, which means that if you’re far more familiar with salsa as a tomato-based dip than a form of artistic expression, you can show up at 10 p.m. for a quick lesson. If you know what you’re doing (or you’re confident enough to wing it) you can roll in at 10:30 when the fiesta begins in earnest.

Just for the 100th party, though, a guest DJ is in from Detroit, and the night will be a 70’s theme party, so bust out that ultrasuede and flash back to an alternate reality where Latin rhythms swept the nation in the summer of 1972. (Salsa Fridays Third Annual 70’s Theme Party, Friday, 10 p.m. $5. Cabaret Theater, 655 Penn Ave., downtown. Info: 412/325-6769,


I must confess that the highly admired Firehouse Lounge is not one of my favorite joints—if only because Embury is. The swanky lounge above the Strip is a fine place for a drink, but their downstairs component, full of old-school cocktails and enduring, bluesy charm is, to me, a better bet—and open just about the same hours as Firehouse. However, I must admit that the lounge upstairs would make for an ideal sweaty little dance hall on a cold winter’s night.

Saturday nights at Firehouse Lounge feature accomplished house jockey DJ Strobe spinning an eclectic global house mix, fairly unique in a city where the art of the DJ is still finding its footing. If you dance yourself sweaty upstairs and break it up with tasty, boozy concoctions from Embury downstairs, you’ll have a night to remember. Please note: more than two or three Embury cocktails will actually make it a night you’re unable to remember. (DJ Strobe and DJ Outtareach, Saturday. 2216 Penn Ave., Strip District. Info: 412/434-1230,


Now I know that asking you to go outside … with your dog … in the morning … is about as far away from “nightlife” as I can possibly get. But we’re trying to go with this active theme here, and there’s only so much movement you can handle on a Sunday in January. Plus, you’ll be socializing, and so will Fido.

Venture Outdoors hosts Sunday hikes for owners and mutts at various spots throughout the county. The dogs will have a meet-n-greet—can’t be sniffing each other in the middle of a rocky climb, now—and then five miles will be covered. They promise that the trail will occasionally be a bit challenging, so this one might not be for novice hikers (or tiny puppies.)

They do ask you to please register (all the details are on the website, linked below,) so they can have an idea of just how many canines they’ll be parading all over creation. Not your typical Sunday morning, but a great chance to meet some fellow dog owners and begin working off all that eggnog. (Doggie Day Trek, Sunday, 10 a.m. Location TBD, presented by Venture Outdoors. $10. Info: 412/255-0564 x21,

Categories: After Dark