Friday, October 6, 2023

Pittsburgh Highlights

Laura and I have visited Pittsburgh, PA twice this year - once in the spring and once in the fall. The spring highlights included riding the historic Duquesne Incline, passing through the colorful Randyland open air museum, and food + palinka at Huszar Hungarian restaurant. Both stays also included a Pirates game at PNC Park. One win and one loss. 

The point of this post is to mention the fall highlights. Here they are.

City Steps and The Steepest Street

Pittsburgh has more public staircases than any other city in the United States. Over 800. It would take years to walk them all, so as a visitor I had to prioritize and I chose the Rising Main Avenue steps for my first steps excursion. At 371 steps these are the longest steps in Pittsburgh. They are also among the most unusual, as they seem to rise to nowhere. Despite being in the city, it's like you are hiking straight up a mountain in the woods (on a cement staircase). After making it all the way to the top of Rising Main Ave., we wound our way down through the Fineview neighborhood to the stunning Middle Street Steps which took us back down to the hustle and bustle.

Rising Main Avenue

Pittsburgh also has the steepest street in the USA - Canton Avenue - so of course we had to check out its 37 degree incline. After parking at the base of the street it was a surprisingly easy walk up...easy only because it's a short street. As a bonus, we managed to find the Coast Avenue Steps near the top of Canton Avenue and cautiously walked back down those winding, little used steps. This made it like a loop and added to the adventure. 

Canton Avenue sign

Murals and Painted Houses

Artist Jeremy Raymer has many murals throughout Pittsburgh, and there's a cluster of them on Mulberry Way near 35th St. in the Lawrenceville neighborhood. Despite rain at this time, we set out to see the Yoda mural and were able to find it as well as several others on that block of Mulberry, many of them Simpsons themed. Apparently there are several other Raymer murals nearby but the downpour kept us from lingering. We definitely missed some in the nearby vicinity. 

Yoda mural, Mulberry Way

The next morning we strolled along Sampsonia Way on the Northside where City of Asylum has rehabilitated a stretch of houses for use by its artists-in-residence, with each house being turned into a painted "House Publication" of public art. These include House Poem at 408 Sampsonia, Jazz House at 324 Sampsonia, and Comma House at 308 Sampsonia. Amazing.

Points of View

Pittsburgh is known for its views and nothing beats the overlook from Point of View Park at 1435 Grandview Avenue, atop Mount Washington. It's pretty much the quintessential Pittsburgh photo op. You'll know you're at Point of View Park because of the larger-than-life bronze sculpture depicting a meeting between George Washington and Seneca leader Guyasuta in the year 1770.

Pittsburgh view

Another great vantage point awaits those who make it over to the West End Overlook. We were there in the morning, but I bet this would also be a great place at night. Speaking of views, almost any seat inside the Pirates' PNC Park is going to have a great city scape, but especially the third base side.

Honorable mention goes the view from the top of the aforementioned Middle Street Steps in the Fineview neighborhood. This is the where the cover image of Bob Regan's Pittsburgh Steps book takes place. This spot offered a totally different perspective of the Steel City.

Middle Street Steps

Haunted Brews and Spirits

We rain into a rainstorm and ducked into Church Brew Works to sample some of their selections. This former church turned brewery was featured on the show Ghost Hunters. It didn't feel haunted when we were there but the traditional style beers, such as their Dunkel, sure tasted good. On another day we darkened the Tap Room at the esteemed Omni William Penn Hotel in downtown. Approaching one-hundred years old, this bar-room is most certainly haunted, according to our friendly bartender Laurie who recounted a couple encounters she's had herself. 

Church Brew Works

Maybe not haunted, but the Leo A. Public House cocktail bar in the Manchester neighborhood rose to the top of the cool factor because the bartender will make improvised cocktails for you. On top of that, the music is solely provided by vinyl records that he plays for patrons behind the bar. You can bring in your own records or pick from the in-house selection. I squinted through the stacks and picked out Real Gone by Tom Waits and an out of left-field Bad Brains album choice while we were there. The mixologist played them both!

Pierogis and Pizza

We're not foodies, per se, but after walking up the Rising Main Way steps and back down the Middle Street Steps, we kept hoofing it south across the Sixteenth Street Bridge and turned left into The Strip to make a bee-line for SD Polish Deli where we had some pierogis and haluszki. These weren't the only pierogis I had in PGH, but certainly the ones I walked the most miles to taste.

SD Polish Deli sign

When a wide open afternoon of nothing planned presented itself, we journeyed out to Squirrel Hill with the goal of trying both Aiello's and Mineo's pizza to settle this much hyped debate once and for all, LOL. We went to Aiello's first and unfortunately a "small" pizza there was actually pretty doggone big, leaving no room for trying Mineo's. Oh well next time. The pizza at Aiello's wasn't really anything all that great after all. I don't see what the big deal is. We probably could have just stayed closer to our home base and tried Badamo's pizza instead. Live and learn.

Bicycle Paths and a Museum

We nixed a few attractions along the way, but this shifting of priorities freed up time to make some spontaneous pivots, and one of those pivots was to Bicycle Heaven, the largest bicycle museum in the world. There we saw vintage Harley Davidson bicycles, some penny farthing replicas, the bike from the movie E.T., the Pee-Wee Herman bike, and a bicycle ridden by The name a few. There's approximately 3,500 bicycles on display and another 27,000 in storage.

Inside Bicycle Heaven

On our way to the Pirates game we walked along the North Shore River Trail to Three Rivers Heritage Trail and caught glimpses of the Mr. Rogers statue and the Roberto Clemente statue. This would be a great place to ride a bike. There seem to be lots of great bike paths all over PGH. 

Until Next Time

During the next vist we might do a sightseeing cruise on the Gateway Clipper riverboat, eat at Apteka vegan restaurant and/or one of the many ethnic restaurants in Squirrel Hill, visit the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Schenley Park, and do a tour of the Andy Warhol Museum. I'm sure there will be plenty to do.


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