The 10 best things to do in Pittsburgh in August.
Not long ago, Pittsburgh was considered one of the least friendly cities for cyclists. But thanks to a new web of bike trails and lanes, plus bike racks on sidewalks and buses, the Steel City is slowly becoming a bicycle mecca. And we owe a lot of gratitude to Bike Pittsburgh, the advocacy group that led the charge. BikeFest, the organization’s annual fundraiser, is a two-week celebration of all things bike. You’ll find massive community rides, commuting workshops and even bike polo. Whether or not you like to pedal, the BikeFest Fundraiser Party (Aug. 10) is an epic bash, with food, DJs and a photo booth.
(Fundraiser Party held at Pittsburgh Opera, 2425 Liberty Ave., Strip District; bike-pgh.org)
When Linda Fang was a young girl in Shanghai, her teacher told her a story and asked her to retell the story in her own words. Years later, Fang is a professional storyteller who recounts tales of ancient China. She joins a full program of raconteurs for the Three Rivers Storytelling Festival, an annual tribute to oral narrative that’s considered one of the best events of its kind in the nation. This family-friendly revue will introduce patrons to folklore from around the world in the comfy setting of the Northland Public Library.
(300 Cumberland Road, McCandless; free; web)
Hip to be Square
In square dancing, the caller tells you exactly what to do; he says “do-si-do,” and you do-si-do. But serious square dancers know a whole lexicon of movements, and they’re a sight to behold. The Pennsylvania Square and Round Dance Convention is a competitive gathering, and it’s serious folk fun. Just remember the proper attire: Women wear “square dance dress with crinoline slip” while men don a “long-sleeve shirt and dress slacks or dress jeans. Bolo tie is recommended.”
(DoubleTree Hotel, 101 DoubleTree Drive, Green Tree; psrdf.org)
In every corner of Africa, there are markets and bazaars packed with tents and frenetic with activity. African Arts in the Park takes the best parts of the outdoor souk experience and plants them in scenic Point State Park. You’ll find sculptures, paintings, vestments and more, and you’ll learn about the diverse cuisine, décor and fashion of the Pan-African Diaspora, thanks to presenters UMOJA African Arts Co. Karibu!
(Point State Park, downtown; free; city.pittsburgh.pa.us)
“American Idol” may be the most interactive show in TV history. Hundreds of millions of people have tuned in to, voted on and talked about the verdicts as untold legions have tested their vocal cords in the auditions. And yet nothing can rival a live show. American Idol Live! celebrates the mythic talents made famous by the reality competition. See this season’s small-screen superstars, from Colton Dixon and DeAndre Brackensick to Elise Testone and Skylar Laine.
(CONSOL Energy Center, 1001 Fifth Ave., Uptown; 800/745-3000, consolenergycenter.com)
There are many reasons to love literal-minded comic Jim Gaffigan, but best of all is his standup persona. The Hoosier State native has performed in all kinds of movies and TV series, but there’s nothing like seeing him onstage. His tour is hitting hotspots across the country, and thanks to the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, you can catch his side-splitting set in a one-night appearance at the Benedum. See if the master of deadpan won’t do his famous Hot Pockets routine.
(719 Liberty Ave., downtown; 412/456-2600, trustarts.org)
Tons of Pun
Let’s face it: Elections are rough. The stump speeches. The attack ads. The baby-kissing. Second City For President isn’t just a badly needed break from the political mayhem — it’s like physical therapy for your funny bone. Using the “vote for funny” motto, Second City brings us Chicago’s finest young sketch and improv comics as they skewer politicians and flunk the electoral college. This recurring collaboration has become one of Pittsburgh Public Theatre’s proudest showcases.
(621 Penn Ave., downtown; 412/316-1600, ppt.org)
It’s sheer decadence: You board a cruise ship, you sit down for a sumptuous lunch — and by the time you’ve finished your champagne, the vessel has arrived at the Rivers Casino. Plus, you’ve got the “Frank and Dean Las Vegas revue,” a Vegas soundtrack, and a shuttle to take you back after you’ve cashed in your chips. The Casino Luncheon Cruise, hosted by the Gateway Clipper, is a particularly sublime voyage. Whether you’re there for the table games, the breathtaking views or some choice cocktails, this cruise will have you humming “My Way.”
(Station Square Dock; 412/355-7980, gatewayclipper.com)
Just when you thought Squonk Opera had done everything, the company goes and builds a mobile gypsy caravan built onto a flatbed truck. GO Roadshow literally drives into a space, opens up and lets the Squonkers do their thing. Pittsburgh’s eccentric opera company celebrates 20 years of avant-garde performance with a show about music, motion and hallucinatory set pieces. This month, Squonkers perform in Schenley Plaza, thanks to a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign (and years of funding from local foundations). If you’ve never seen one of their trademark outdoor shows — go.
(Schenley Plaza, Oakland; free; squonkopera.org)
Paint the Town
OK, take a white T-shirt. See how clean it is? Now, run through a tunnel of people armed with colored dust. Don’t worry — they’re just going to hurtle vibrant colors all over you for 5 continuous kilometers. Sound like fun? As the local running scene gets more popular — and eccentric — every year, the Color Me Rad race is pretty much par for the course in terms of track-based craziness. The colorful dust is actually just powdered cornstarch — by the time you reach the finish line, you’ll end up looking like a sandy rainbow.
(Washington County Fairgrounds, 2151 N. Main St., Washington; races start at 9 a.m; colormerad.com)