Got Guests? A Non-Traditional Guide for Visitors to Pittsburgh

Our city is more than sandwiches stuffed with French fries and incline rides (not that there's anyone wrong with that). See this short list of alternatives for anyone who's dropping by.


Maybe you’re visiting family members that you haven’t seen in a while. Maybe you’ve landed in the Pittsburgh International Airport on a new flight connection and decided to stay a while. Maybe you’re a student who has come to study at one of our notable universities or sample from our many breweries. Either way, you're here.

I got my first glimpse of Pittsburgh in December 2013. I was looking into transferring to a different university (which ended up being the University of Pittsburgh), and my mom and I were driving back to Connecticut for winter recess. We stopped in Pittsburgh to tour the school, but we didn’t reach the city until after dark. I was tired, my mom was tired and neither of us wanted to be in our compact Nissan Versa for much longer. We drove through the Fort Pitt Tunnel, the repetitious golden lights scanning each speeding vehicle.

To challenge a popular cliche, there was no light at the end of the tunnel. But there was something better, albeit less metaphorical.

The city of Pittsburgh welcomed us with towering buildings outlined in whites and blues and reds. The PPG building soared like a glass cathedral, with the Highmark building rising above it. As we drove, I stared out the window, eyes wide open to the city in front of me. Seeing the city like that made me think that yeah, I could get used to this. And I have.

What to see:


For the curious scientist: Center for Postnatural History:

With the Carnegie legacy, Pittsburgh has its fair share of museums with modern and classic art, as well as history and science. But there’s a side to the city that veers toward the unnatural, and it’s definitely something to be embraced.

The Center for PostNatural History in Garfield has very limited hours (Sundays, the first Friday of the month and by appointment), so you better get there when you can. The center studies organisms that “have been intentionally and heritably altered by humans,” so you won’t find these squirrels coming up to you in Schenley Park. Here, you can check out a ribless mouse embryo and a turnspit dog, whose purpose was predominantly to play the part of a motor, slowly rotating roasting meat by walking in a circle.


After that, you can walk (see: run away) down Penn Avenue to Spak Brothers for a bite to eat. The pizzeria, which also offers wings, hoagies and salads, is big on offering healthier food. So maybe that’s a good thing after all of the genetically mutated animals you’ll see at the Center for PostNatural History.


For the eccentric artist: Randyland

If you’re wandering around North Side, a beacon of color and joy may greet you. Randyland is overflowing with eccentricity, and it takes up space at the corner of Arch and Jacksonia streets.


For the craft-beer aficionado: Roundabout Brewery

Ask any local and they will tell you that our beer culture is hopping. You can sample it in many places, including Lawrenceville's Roundabout Brewery, which has served food from outside vendors. The husband-and-wife duo who run the place opened in 2013, and they’ve been keeping busy ever since.


For the movie marathoner: Row House Cinema

Do you think cult classics are dead? Not true — they’re alive and well in Pittsburgh.

Row House Cinema, located on always-bustling Butler Street, awaits you with a single silver screen. The theater shows a different string of movies each week based on a theme. For instance, coming up Oct. 18-20 are classic Drive-In horror flicks such as "House on Haunted Hill," "The Brain that Wouldn't Die," and the classic, "Night of the Living Dead," just to name a few.



For those needing public transportation: The T

As a university student with free Port Authority access (or, it’s factored into by tuition — thanks, Pitt), I’m a big fan of the city’s public transportation. Sure, buses are late sometimes or it feels like they’ll never show up, but when the system works, it works. By far, my favorite part of the system is the T, formally known as the Port Authority's Pittsburgh Light Rail (which runs from the South Hills to downtown Pittsburgh).

It has uber-clean subway stations. If you think that public transportation means being in close quarters and sitting (or standing) in someone else’s personal space, the T will certainly prove you wrong!

As for the rest of the Port Authority system, you best learn to hold your breath.

Categories: The 412