Thanks to its steep hills, broad rivers and numerous bridges, the oft-overlooked Pittsburgh is one of the most scenic cities in the States. Known for its industrial heritage and soaring downtown skyline, it has loads of delightfully diverse neighborhoods to explore with plenty of amazing museums and historic sites being dotted about.
Once a major center of industry, its old warehouses and mills now instead house bustling businesses and important cultural institutions. While the multicultural make-up of the city’s residents has had a profound impact on its development, so too have the three rivers that wind their way about town. Some of best things to do in Pittsburgh can be found along the shores as the rivers are now lined by pretty parks, riverside trails and major sports teams’ stadiums by the waterfront.
With exciting arts, culture and dining scenes to delve into and thrilling sports events to attend, Steel City really does have something for everyone to enjoy.
23. Carnegie Museum of Art
Packed with incredible paintings, photos and sculptures, the Carnegie Museum of Art can be found in the leafy college neighborhood of Oakland. Long one the most prestigious and popular galleries in the city, it features over 35,000 artworks, mainly from Europe and North America.
The first museum in the country to focus primarily on contemporary art, it was established in 1895 by wealthy industrialist Andrew Carnegie. Since then, its collection has expanded considerably with Japanese prints and Pittsburgh artists on show alongside ceramics, glassworks and decorative arts.
Particularly striking is the 1907 Grand Staircase and Hall of Architecture. This contains hundreds of full-size plaster casts of iconic architectural elements from around the globe. With everything from old altars and armor to African artifacts and ancient Greco-Roman vases, the museum is a must for art aficionados.
Fittingly billed as ‘Pittsburgh’s Most Colorful Landmark’, the radiant Randyland really will brighten up your day. At its immediately recognizable site on the city’s North Side, visitors are greeted by an explosion of colors with eclectic and imaginative murals.
Back in 1995, local artist, activist and living legend Randy Gilson bought the building and began transforming it into the unique artwork we see today. Absolutely every inch of the house, gardens and courtyards are coated with vivid colors. Most of its mannequins, models and oddities have been rescued and repurposed from people’s rubbish.
Meeting Randy is just as inspiring as his infectious positivity, friendly nature and joy for life rubs off instantly. Often described as ‘outsider art’, his quirky, upbeat world is now one of the most photographed places in Pittsburgh.
21. Three Rivers Heritage Trail
A wonderful way to see more of the city and its surroundings is to walk, run, jog or cycle along the Three Rivers Heritage Trail. This connects many of its neighborhoods and tourist sights. It also takes you past pristine nature spots and offers fine views of the sparkling rivers and city skyline.
Stretching around 33 miles in total, the paved pedestrian path meanders about both banks of the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio rivers. These three waterways meet at Point State Park with other standout sites, such as the Carnegie Science Center, Market Square and Andy Warhol Museum also lying nearby.
It’s a very convenient way to get around town, and just as many locals as tourists use the picturesque paths. Dotted along the rambling route are loads of public artworks and informative plaques which teach you more about the city and its sights.
20. Roberto Clemente Bridge
A massively impressive architectural and engineering marvel, the refined Roberto Clemente Bridge spans the Allegheny River in downtown Pittsburgh. One of the city’s similar-looking ‘Three Sisters’ suspension bridges, it connects PNC Park and the North Shore to the lively Cultural District.
Named after the famous Pittsburgh Pirates baseball player, it reaches 884 feet in length with two tall towers, steel girders and suspension cables all holding it up. The fourth bridge to stand in the same spot, it dates to 1928. It’s now only open to pedestrians on Pirates’ and Steelers’ game days.
As Pittsburgh is known as the ‘City of Bridges’, and almost 450 cross its waterways, it is well worth checking out the Roberto Clemente Bridge when in town. Aside from snapping photos of the superb structure, you can also enjoy excellent views over the city and river.
19. Frick Art and Historical Center
Another interesting and educational place to explore is the Frick Art and Historical Center. Set in the city’s Point Breeze neighborhood, it offers a fascinating look at the life, times and lavish living conditions of the wealthy industrialist family in the early 1900s.
Once the home of steel magnate Henry Clay Frick, the majestic mansion was turned into a museum in 1990. Since then, visitors have been able to take tours around the enormous 1860s Italianate-style house’s elegant interior, its gorgeous gardens and greenhouse.
Besides enjoying the extensive array of artworks, there is also a huge collection of shiny classic cars, carriages and other old automobiles. With so many different sides to it, the estate is sure to appeal to anyone interested in art, architecture, history and antique cars.
18. Kennywood Park
Despite its smallish size, Kennywood Park has been a firm favorite with families ever since it first opened in 1899. This is because the exhilarating wet and wild water slides and rollercoasters are such good fun. The lovely little amusement park is also noted for its nostalgic look and feel.
Located along the Monongahela River in West Mifflin, Kennywood Park lies just twenty minutes drive southeast of the city center. On top of shooting down its three wonderful old wooden rollercoasters, you can also try out its scary sling-shot and whirling giant disk rides.
Calmer rides such as swings, bumper cars and teacups can also be found dotted about its leafy site. Colorful and quaint old-style fountains and landmarks also lie alongside snack stands, picnic spots and souvenir stalls.
17. Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh
Back on the North Side of town is another of the city’s innumerable attractions that is sure to appeal to young ones: the magnificent Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh. In its exquisite Beaux-Arts, Art Deco and modern buildings, they can play, learn and experiment ‘til their heart’s content.
Founded in 1983, its interactive hands-on exhibits and fun play areas occupy the old Allegheny Post Office and the former Buhl Planetarium. While some sections focus on the arts and the movement of water, others encourage touch, play and discovery by making and designing things.
In addition to its exciting indoor exhibits, the museum has large outdoor spaces and gardens where children can immerse themselves in nature. Thanks to all its well-done displays and diverse range of activities, it is regularly ranked among the best children’s museums in the country.
16. Market Square
One of the best places to shop and dine in Pittsburgh is the recently renovated Market Square. Surrounded by countless cafes and shops, restaurants and fast-food outlets, the ever-popular pedestrian block always has something for locals and tourists alike to enjoy.
Remarkably enough, the sizeable square has been the center of the city since 1795 when its first courthouse and jail were built here. Nowadays, however, establishments such as Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts and Chipotles occupy the historic buildings lining it.
An important social and cultural hub, Market Square hosts all kinds of community events, concerts and festivals during the year. What’s more, a fabulous weekly farmers market takes place here as do children’s activities, yoga classes and dance lessons in summer.
15. Heinz Field
Pittsburgh is one of America’s greatest sports cities, so no trip is complete without catching an action-packed game. At the waterfront Heinz Field, you can watch the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers play in front of fervent fans who create an intoxicating, unforgettable atmosphere.
Opened in 2001, the state-of-the-art stadium boasts brilliant facilities with many seats and suites offering divine views over the city skyline and riverfront. You can grab a snack at its food stands or tour around the Hall of Fame.
While watching a game is an awe-inspiring experience, it is very tough to get a ticket as every Steelers’ home game has been sold out since 1972. As such, you may have better luck catching one of the big name concerts held here or a college football game of the Pittsburgh Panthers who share the stadium.
14. Monongahela Incline
Another quintessential Pittsburgh experience is taking a romantic ride on one its iconic old inclines. Just across from the center on the South Side, you can find the amazing Monongahela Incline which takes you to the top of Mount Washington and its phenomenal viewpoints.
The oldest continuously operating funicular in the United States, it was erected back in 1870 to help residents make it up the super steep hillside. One of only two remaining in the city, it is now a very popular tourist attraction with thousands of local commuters also using it daily.
Besides enjoying its old-time look and feel, and the peaceful ride itself, you can bask in breathtaking panoramas over the city’s skyline from the top of the National Historic Landmark.
13. Pittsburgh Zoo
Home to a marvelous menagerie of animals from all around the world, Pittsburgh Zoo is in the humongous Highland Park, alongside the Allegheny River. As well as exploring the expansive enclosures and exhibits, there are also large aviaries and aquariums to check out.
Founded in 1898, it has grown considerably with over 4,000 animals, birds, reptiles and fish of more than 475 species residing within the zoo. In themed sections like the African Savanna or Tropical Forest, guests can see everything from lions and giraffes to Komodo dragons, Amur leopards and Siberian tigers.
You can also stroke some farmyard critters at its petting zoos or stingrays in its touch tanks.
12. Cathedral of Learning
Towering dramatically above the University of Pittsburgh campus is one of the city’s most stunning and distinctive buildings: the colossal Cathedral of Learning. The tallest educational building in the Western Hemisphere, its 42 floors contain countless classrooms and labs, an auditorium and theater.
Commissioned in 1921, the astounding Late Gothic Revival-style skyscraper stands 535-feet tall in total. It has several grand cathedral-like halls with elegant arches lying within. Particularly interesting are its thirty or so Nationality Rooms. These are designed to celebrate the various cultures and countries that have contributed to Pittsburgh’s growth over the centuries.
Aside from wandering around the campus and visiting the adjacent Heinz Chapel, you can actually take guided tours around parts of the building. Your knowledgeable guide will teach you more about the history of the Cathedral and point out some of its most impressive architectural features.
11. National Aviary
As it houses over 500 beautiful birds of about 150 species, the National Aviary makes for a memorable day out. Set on the North Side of town, its sprawling site occupies much of Allegheny Commons West Park.
What started out in 1952 as a relatively small operation has since morphed into the country’s largest aviary. This saw it accorded honorary ‘National’ status by the United States Congress in the nineties. A colorful collection of birds both large and small now reside amidst the lush foliage and reflective pools that are designed to look like their natural habitats.
While strolling about, you can see flamingos and penguins, owls and eagles with even some slow-moving sloths and brightly colored parrots to be spied here and there.
10. Point State Park
Lying at the exact spot where the city’s three rivers meet is the pretty and peaceful Point State Park. This has lovely viewpoints and riverside walks, as well as delightful hiking, biking and boating to enjoy.
At the confluence of the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio rivers you can find a large fountain that spurts a jet of water 150 feet up in the air. While this makes for some fantastic photos, its gorgeous greenery and views of the city’s bridges, stadiums and waterfront are just as striking.
In addition, you can also wander along the granite outline of the old Fort Duquesne and stop by the Fort Pitt Museum. Informative plaques teach you about the park’s former fortifications that were fought over by the Native Americans, French and British due to their strategic setting.
9. Senator John Heinz History Center
If it has anything at all to do with Western Pennsylvania, then the excellent Heinz History Center’s artifacts and exhibits are sure to cover it. Named for the former senator, its diverse displays are found in the city’s Strip District, not far from the river.
Established in 1879, it has expanded into the state’s largest history museum and now occupies a renovated red brick warehouse. Across six floors, you can find enthralling exhibits on everything from the Civil War and steel industry to its successful sports teams and early settlers. Other areas look at Heinz Ketchup and various other important inventions and innovations from the Keystone State.
With thousands of fascinating items on show and so many compelling topics covered, it could take entire days to see all that the museum has to offer.
8. Andy Warhol Museum
On the opposite bank of the Allegheny River is yet another of Pittsburgh’s outstanding institutes: the massively popular Andy Warhol Museum. Located just a block east of PNC Park, its comprehensive collection lies next to the landmark bridge, which is also named after the world-renowned artist.
First opened in 1994, seventeen galleries and seven floors cover every aspect of the iconic artist’s paintings and prints, photos and films. As well as his incredible pop art creations, guests can see childhood objects, personal memorabilia and news clippings from the Pittsburgh native’s life.
The highlight though is of course perusing the colorful pieces and learning more about his creative process. Temporary exhibits also help shine a light on his lasting legacy and the profound impact he has had on countless generations of artists.
7. Carnegie Science Center
Make sure to stop by the superb Carnegie Science Center. Set right next to Heinz Field, the state-of-the-art museum and its planetarium overlook the Ohio River.
A firm favorite with families, it impressively has more than 400 interactive exhibits and hands-on activities across the facility’s four floors. While some sections look at engineering and electricity, others focus on gravity, space and sports. At its Roboworld exhibit, you can meet R2-D2, C-3PO and see other animatronics in action.
On top of all this, the city’s most-visited museum has a Cold War-era submarine, challenging ropes course and giant cinema screen for visitors to enjoy.
6. PNC Park
The other main stadium in town to watch unforgettable sporting spectacle is PNC Park: the much-loved home of the MLB’s Pittsburgh Pirates. You can cheer the team on while enjoying astounding views of the pristine pitch and the city’s dramatic skyline.
Modeled on past venues such as Forbes Field, it sports a terrific retro-style with modern amenities and classic design features. As such, fans benefit from comfy seats, sweeping sightlines and extensive food options with plenty of beer trucks and bars on offer.
All this makes for an electrifying ambience and regular fireworks nights only add to the fun. Built in 2001, PNC has regularly ranked among the league’s best ballparks due to its stunning setting, views and design.
5. Carnegie Museum of Natural History
One of four museums in the city to be founded by the wealthy industrialist, the marvelous Carnegie Museum of Natural History lies in the Oakland neighborhood. Not to be missed, it boasts one of the biggest and best paleontological collections in the world.
Crammed within the grand halls of classical-style building are a scarcely believable twenty million specimens. While spectacular dinosaur skeletons are the museum’s main draw, there are interesting Egyptian mummies, stuffed animals and other archaeological findings to peruse. What’s more, there are numerous educational activities to try out, such as dig for dino bones and grind corn in a Hopi home.
Since opening in 1895, it has been one of the States’ top institutes to focus on paleontology, biology, geology and anthropology.
4. Bicycle Heaven
While it may sound like a bit of a strange stop, the endless aisles of Bicycle Heaven are packed with thousands of amazing makes and models of every imaginable kind. The largest museum and shop in the world dedicated solely to bicycles, the collection is captivating to explore.
Situated in the North Side’s Chateau neighborhood, it showcases more than 4,000 rare and vintage bikes from around the globe. Countless more remain in storage. While the futuristic Bowden Spacelanders on the walls are the standout sight, prop bicycles from films like A Beautiful Mind and Fences also attract attention.
After having seen themed bikes for artists such as Elvis and The Beatles, you can always rent a bike and take a spin around town yourself.
3. Phipps Conservatory
Another of Pittsburgh’s top tourist attractions is the picturesque Phipps Conservatory. At the beautiful botanic garden, guests can stroll the pretty paths, around ponds and view colorful flowers and twinkling fountains.
Established in 1893, its green spaces and flowerbeds now sprawl across a huge part of Schenley Park’s northwest corner. Inside the steel-and-glass Victorian-style conservatory, you can find fourteen fabulous flora exhibits that contain desert shrubs, orchids and tropical plants.
While exploring the unique designs and layouts, you can also enjoy the sublime sculptures, water features and architectural elements. Afterwards, make sure to wander around the Japanese Courtyard Garden and Children’s Discovery Garden outside and snap some pictures of the charming conservatory.
2. Strip District
Home to an eclectic mix of shops and restaurants, bars and nightclubs, the city’s Strip District hums with life at any time of day. Another of Pittsburgh’s most popular spots to shop, dine and go out, the vibrant area lies alongside the Allegheny River, right next to downtown and the Cultural District.
As it was once home to loads of mills and factories, it has a wealth of interesting historic sites. Innumerable businesses and boutiques occupy its old warehouses. Thanks to its multicultural make-up, gourmet food shops and old-style greengrocers can be found next to Italian eateries, Polish delis and Thai restaurants.
In recent years, massive tech companies such as Apple and Facebook have also moved into the area. This hasn’t detracted from its happening nightlife scene, however. Plenty of farmers markets, food truck festivals and concerts also take place over the course of the year.
1. Duquesne Incline
Arguably the city’s most iconic attraction is the Duquesne Incline, which has been serving Pittsburghers now for well over a century. In no time at all, the famous funicular whisks locals and tourists alike up the steep side of Mount Washington and to its prominent viewpoints.
Now recognized as a National Historic Landmark, it was built back in 1877 with the track stretching just over 800 feet in length. From the splendid Second Empire-style station at the foot, it only takes five minutes to reach the top in a quaint old car.
The higher you go, the better the views get with the panoramas of the city’s sparkling skyline just out of this world. Besides enjoying the rides and vistas, you can check out the small gift shop at the summit and explore more of the South Side of the city.