NLC’s Alyia Gaskins – a Pittsburgh native – shares her favorite things to see and do while visiting the city.
Today, nearly 3000 city leaders will begin to arrive in Pittsburgh for the National League of Cities’ 2016 City Summit. For some, this will be their first trip to the ‘Burgh. Many are familiar with city’s past – its history and legacy as the Steel City. Few are familiar with the Pittsburgh of today.
Pittsburgh is my hometown – and it’s where my love of cities first began. From Squirrel Hill and Lawrenceville to the Hill District, Pittsburgh is a city of neighborhoods, and each has its own unique character, charm, and attractions. As a native Pittsburgher, I encourage you to adventure beyond the convention center and explore the city during your stay. Here are just a few of my favorite things about Pittsburgh:
The View: In 1988, The New York Times referred to Pittsburgh as the “only city in America with an entrance.” If you are arriving from the airport, as you exit the Fort Pitt Tunnel a magical view of the city will unfold before your eyes: historic bridges, iconic buildings such as PPG Place, and Point State Park (where the Monongahela, Allegheny and Ohio rivers converge). For another unforgettable glimpse of the breathtaking skyline, ride the famous Duquesne Incline, one of the few remaining working inclines in the country, or enjoy a cocktail at the Monterey Bay Fish Grotto atop Mt. Washington. If the weather is nice, rent a bike from Healthy Ride or Golden Triangle Bikes and visit the city’s rich landmarks, bridges and parks.
The History and Culture: When I go back to visit my hometown, I’m always surprised that I continue to learn new things about the city. There are a number of notable museums throughout Pittsburgh, including the Senator John Heinz History Center, the August Wilson Center for African American Culture, and the Andy Warhol Museum. And if you’re looking for a fun, interactive history lesson, tour the barrelhouse at Wigle Whiskey to learn about the city’s history as the epicenter of American Whiskey production. Every tour begins with a barrel aged cocktail, ends with a tasting, and covers Pittsburgh’s history from the 1800s until today.
The Food: By now, you’ve probably heard that Primanti Bros. is a “Pittsburgh tradition.” (French fries on your sandwich – what’s not to love?) But it may surprise you to learn that Pittsburgh is fast emerging as a culinary epicenter. The Strip District and Market Square are a short distance from the David L. Lawrence Convention Center and home to local culinary destinations such as Deluca’s Restaurant, Sienna on the Square, and Pizzaiolo Primo. Some of my favorite restaurants in the city include Fat Heads and Pamela’s Diner.
Greenfield: You probably won’t find the Greenfield neighborhood on any travel brochure, but I promise it’s one of Pittsburgh’s hidden gems. Greenfield is where I was raised. It is where I first learned that buildings and infrastructure alone do not make a great city – vibrant streets lined with caring neighbors are what make visitors come back again and again. From local establishments such as Hough’s, Copper Kettle Brewing Company, and J. Goughs Tavern to new attractions such as The Escape Room, Greenfield is a one-of-a-kind Pittsburgh neighborhood.
The People: Pittsburghers are unique. We bleed black and gold, speak our own language, and wear Steelers, Penguins or Pirates apparel to formal functions – but most importantly, we love our city and would love to tell you about it. Whether you meet someone who refers to Pittsburgh as the City of Bridges or the City of Champions, ask them about the best local places to experience. They’ll be happy to share their insider knowledge.
On behalf of all the city’s residents, welcome to the ‘Burgh! I promise that Pittsburgh will leave a lasting impression on your heart – and you’ll soon realize it’s much more than just the “Steel City.”
About the author: Alyia Gaskins is a Senior Associate for Health and Community Wellness at NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education, and Families. Follow Alyia on Twitter at @a_gaskins412.