Have Fun by Yourself
Fly solo with this list of one dozen fun things to do by yourself in Pittsburgh.
Photo courtesy of Photo Antiquities
TUNE UP YOUR MUSIC COLLECTION AT JERRY'S RECORDS: If you haven’t fallen in love with records, then you’re either completely behind the times or not behind enough. Either way, Jerry will set you straight. Jerry’s Records is a labyrinth of rooms and hallways walled off with shelving seemingly created because there were just so much vinyl that the only option left was to build up. With nearly 1 million records in stock, Jerry’s was named one of the top record stores in the nation in 2010 by Rolling Stone. It’s your best bet in Pittsburgh for the music you’re looking for … unless you’re looking for it on a CD. 2136 Murray Ave., Squirrel Hill. Info: 412/421-4533, jerrysrecords.com
GEEK OUT AT THE COOL & COZY ARKHAM GIFT SHOPPE: Forget the stereotype of the cranky comic book guy who treats you like a trespasser in his store. Arkham Gift Shoppe owner Jeff Bigley is all about answering questions and catching customers up on the latest storylines from the worlds of heroes and villains. The vibe is friendly, the shelves are stocked with comics and toys and an ever-changing selection of vintage treasures will time-warp you back to grade school. Bonus: Bargain bins are filled with action figures that cost less than $1. And during summer, you may find free hot dogs grilling in the parking lot. 3973 Route 8, Allison Park. Info: 412/486-3140
DISCOVER THE HISTORY OF PHOTOGRAPHY AT PHOTO ANTIQUITIES: It may not sound like the hippest thing to do, but you’d be surprised how quickly the historical photography collection at Photo Antiquities becomes fascinating. First of all, you don’t have to know anything walking in, which is a plus. Your tour guide will explain daguerreotypes and antique cameras, and then you’re on to Pittsburgh’s own history: the Strip District during the Depression or the construction of Forbes Field. And if you ever need some excitement, just slip in a penny to watch an “artistic figure studie” with April Showers—don’t worry, it was approved by the New York Census. 531 E. Ohio St., North Side. 412/231-7881, photoantiquities.org
MELT YOUR MUSCLES AT PITTSBURGH CENTER FOR COMPLEMENTARY HEALTH & HEALING: Turn off your cellphone. Have a cup of tea. Prepare yourself to leave the world of extensive to-do lists and glaring computers. Each room at the Pittsburgh Center for Complementary Health and Healing is a warm sanctuary fragranced with the oils that your masseuse will rub into your too-tense muscles. This is where you can choose your indulgence: hot stones along your spine, red mud on your hands or a honey soak for your toes. Whatever you decide, clear your calendar for this one. All you’ll want to do afterward is drape around the house with a goofy smile and marvel at how wonderful you feel. 1124 S. Braddock Ave., Regent Square. Info: 412/242-4220, pghhealthandhealing.com
FLOOR IT WITH FORMULA DRIVETECH AT BEAVERUN MOTORSPORTS COMPLEX: Where is it legal to get behind the wheel of a Porsche Boxster and drive as fast as you possibly can? The driving experience provided by Formula DriveTech at Beaverun MotorSports Complex provides the luxury sports cars, the safety gear, professional instruction and at least 15 minutes of track time to make your lead-footed dreams come true. If Porsches don’t get your blood boiling, choose a Formula car instead. Packages start at $499 for the next sessions offered in August by Formula DriveTech. Beaverun Motorsports Complex, 201 Penndale Road, Wampum. Info: 724/535-1000, formuladrivetech.com
ENJOY THE VIEW FROM THE TOPS OF THE SOUTH SIDE SLOPES: Why do some Pittsburghers mark the start of springtime as “whenever it’s no longer too slippy to go up and dahn the South Side Steps?” Because nothing makes you feel more like a considerably eloquent version of Rocky quite like reaching the top. For the social approach, register for the annual StepTrek, a self-guided group tour through a few of the neighborhood’s approximately 60 staircases that’s usually scheduled for a Steelers bye week or away weekend during October. For roughly $12, you get a T-shirt, refreshments, a local marketplace and realtors’ open houses. South Side Slopes Neighborhood Assn. Info: 412/488-0486, southsideslopes.org/steptrek
TAKE IN OAKLAND WITH A SELF-GUIDED PUBLIC ART TOUR: The Office of Public Art is responsible for a pair of walking tour books highlighting the works of art in plain sight all over Pittsburgh. The general tour covers everything from the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh to the Boulevard of the Allies, but the Oakland guide is a great introduction to the University of Pittsburgh campus and beyond. Never stopped to take a good look at the statues on top of the museum? Unaware of the beautiful Westinghouse memorial in Schenley Park? Take a relaxing walk (probably about three hours), and appreciate the details of an iconic neighborhood. Books are free. 810 Penn Ave., Suite 200, downtown. Info: 412/391-2060
FEEL PEACE IN THE MIDDLE EAST (END) AT RODEF SHALOM'S BIBLICAL BOTANICAL GARDEN: Find your personal oasis at the Biblical Botanical Garden at Rodef Shalom Congregation, where carefully curated nature brings scripture tenderly to life (free admission; open June 1-Sept. 15). The lush garden includes a waterfall, a desert, a stream, and a miniature River Jordan, which meanders through the garden from mini-Lake Galilee to the mini-Dead Sea. Biblical history was never so fragrant and delicious-sounding: more than 100 plants, including cedar, olives, dates, pomegranates, figs, wheat, barley, millet and herbs valued by the ancient Israelites, all labeled with the passages that describe them. Hit Ali Baba on Craig Street afterward to satisfy your cravings. 4905 Fifth Ave., Oakland. Info: 412/621-6566, rodefshalom.org
EMBRACE YOUR DARK SIDE AT THE MATTRESS FACTORY: Despite the word “mattress” in its name, this factory has no connection to anything sleepy. Edgy, quirky, provocative and mind-bending, this alternative museum, with a focus on installation art, has been pushing the art-velope since 1977. In addition to changing exhibitions, you’ll find 16 permanent installations here. For the truly mysterious and metaphysical, don’t miss James Turrell’s three “sculptures” inspired by light (or lack thereof): “Catso, Red”; “Danaë,” a study in purple; and the darkest, most challenging and most time-demanding of all: “Pleiades.” 500 Sampsonia Way, North Side. Info: 412/231-3169, mattressfactory.org
RECEIVE A DELICIOUS TAROT CARD READING AT GYPSY CAFE: The South Side’s Gypsy Cafe is known for fresh dishes, modest but excellent wine and beer lists and contact with the spirit world. If you’re in the market for a tarot card reading, make reservations for Friday (5-11 p.m.) or Sunday (4-9 p.m.) dinner and a table-side tarot session with resident reader Rebecca Bloom. We can’t guarantee that a beam of mystic knowledge will strike you over dessert, but Gypsy Cafe should have a direct line to the other side; built in the basement of the former First United Presbyterian Church of Birmingham, it’s likely that a handful of parishioners were once buried under this floor. 1330 Bingham St., South Side. Info: 412/381-4977, gypsycafe.net
FREE YOUR MIND AT ZEN CENTER OF PITTSBURGH: You can meditate anytime, but during the spring and summer, the social calendar at Zen Center of Pittsburgh is in full bloom. Strew flowers and share some birthday cake and a potluck lunch for Buddha’s Birthday on April 10, or follow the party downtown on May 1 to celebrate the holiday Vesak with an open house of local Buddhist groups representing various strains of Buddhism from all over Asia. Try chanting, meditation and washing a statue of the Baby Buddha to symbolize renewal, then join the journey to the confluence of the Three Rivers to release his peace-infused bathwater into the world. 124 Willow Ridge Road, Sewickley. Info: 412/741-1262, deepspringzen.org
BIKE CANTON AVENUE … IF YOU DARE: We know what you’re thinking: It’s springtime, the ice is melting and the birds are singing. It’s time to pull out your trusty old bicycle, give it a squirt of oil and take a leisurely ride up … the steepest street in America. At a grade of 37 percent (a rise of 37 feet every 100), that would be Canton Avenue in Beechview. Sure, it sounds tough, but you’re a ’Burgher, right? You scoff at hills. You have calves of steel. You defy gravity on a daily basis. Did we mention half of it is brick-paved? You’re gonna love it.