Ten reasons why Pittsburgh is the US city for you (especially if you like pickles…)
From Steel City to seriously cool, Pittsburgh has everything you could want from a holiday destination – vibrant arts and culture, a thriving culinary scene and some serious sporting action. Plus, of course, British Airways now flies there directly from London Heathrow. Here’s why the Pennsylvanian city should be on your book-it-now radar
Pittsburghers are very proud of the fact that the King of Pop Art hails from their city and The Andy Warhol Museum – the largest single-artist museum in North America – houses more than 12,000 pieces of Warhol’s work, including his Brillo Box sculptures and Elvis paintings. The Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History are also world class, providing a family-friendly environment to discover and learn (the dinosaur fossils at the latter are extraordinary). For cutting-edge, immerse yourself in installations by living artists at the art museum-meets-experimental lab Mattress Factory.
The Cultural District
To fully appreciate the dynamic arts and entertainment scene, there’s only one place to go: the Cultural District. Located in the heart of Downtown, the 14-square block area buzzes with galleries, restaurants, shops and no fewer than seven theatres. Contemporary music, modern dance, visual art, theatre, classical music, opera, ballet, musicals… Whatever your genre, it’s always show time in Pittsburgh.
A toe-tapping good time
It’s safe to say that this is a city that loves to have fun, from festivals and fairs to parades and performances. Music fans, in particular, are spoilt for choice. There’s the Three Rivers Arts Festival – ten days of free art and music in Downtown; the Black Music Festival, a celebration of the history and heritage of Black music; the Deutschtown Music Festival, which sees more than 400 bands perform; and the International Jazz Festival, a soulful weekend of jam sessions. One thing’s for sure, they’ll strike all the right notes.
The Steelers, Pirates, Penguins and Riverhounds
There’s a reason why Pittsburgh is often referred to as the ‘City of Champions’. Sport is huge here. And we mean huge. The metropolis is home to four professional teams: the NFL’s storied Steelers; ice hockey favourites the Penguins; the Pirates, the baseball team commonly referred to as the ‘Bucs’; and soccer’s Riverhounds. On game days, the streets become a sea of black and gold as fans flock to the stadiums for touchdowns and home runs. Join them if you can – the atmosphere is electric.
A bite of the ’Burgh
From fine dining to food trucks, hole-in-the-wall spots to supper clubs, you won’t go hungry in Pittsburgh. Get a taste of its innovative chefs, gourmet restaurants and bustling markets with ’Burgh Bits and Bites, which offers different culinary tours around town. No visit would be complete without swinging by Primanti Bros. for its legendary overstuffed sandwich, piled high with coleslaw and crisp French fries. Dessert won’t be necessary.
Savour the scene
A James Beard Award – so named after the pioneering American chef – is the pinnacle of achievement for any chef or restaurant, and Pittsburgh is home to more than a dozen award semi-finalists. Being lauded for its ever-evolving culinary landscape by such heavyweights as Bon Appétit, Yelp and Zagat, the latter declaring it the best food city in America, further cements Pittsburgh’s status as a destination serving up creativity and talent with every dish.
A craft beer revolution
Where once you might have come across steel works lining Pittsburgh’s streets (it was the beating heart of the country’s steel industry in the 19th century) these days you’re more likely to find a brewery. There are now more than 50 craft beer breweries in the city, each watering hole different from the next. Whether you’re after a crisp brew or a fruity IPA, one thing’s for certain, there’s never a shortage of beer in the ’Burgh.
The pickles festival
Yes, you read that right… There is a festival in Pittsburgh that is entirely devoted to the pickle – Picklesburgh. Taking place every summer, the ‘dill-ectable’ event is much more than a celebration of the humble gherkin (though there are lots of them, too). It’s a weekend filled with homemade fare and artisan cocktails featuring pickled ingredients, as well as stalls, live music and more. There’s even a pickle juice drinking contest for those feeling brave enough.
City for all seasons
Warm days are made for kayaking down the river (Pittsburgh has three waterways: the Allegheny, the Monongahela and the Ohio), hiking and biking, live music and cinema in the park, outdoor festivals and fireworks. But this is a city for all seasons. Cooler weather is the perfect excuse to sample the dining scene, take in a show, hit the galleries, museums and, of course, the shops. And when it snows? Head for the slopes on the nearby Allegheny mountains for excellent skiing and snowboarding.
British Airways has reinstated its direct flights from London Heathrow to Pittsburgh, so it couldn’t be easier to visit. In just over eight hours, you could be exploring the city’s 90-or-so neighbourhoods, crossing one of its 446 bridges or hopping aboard the Duquesne Incline, a renovated cable car dating from 1877 that’ll whisk you up Mt. Washington for sweeping views of the city’s skyline. Pennsylvania’s coolest city… it’s just a plane-ride away.
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