When you come to a game in Pittsburgh, you are obviously coming to a city not just a campus. That makes it hard to narrow to three.
I agree with ndlutz, as far as food, if you there is one thing you must have, it is a Primanti's
. It is not that I even think this is the best thing to eat in Pittsburgh, but it is quintessential Pittsburgh, and unique to the culture of Pittsburgh.
But definitely, get a Primantis. These are available throughout the city, including in Heinz Field and in Oakland section where the university is located.
The other thing you should know, if you order a chicken salad or a steak salad in Pittsburgh, expect it to come with french fries on top. It is also big time perogie town, as evidenced by the racing perogie mascots during Pirate games.
Another thing unique to Pittsburgh is its answer to San Francisco's cable cars: the Inclines. They are some of the only working funiculars left in the country, and a trip up one of the inclines will result in a spectacular view of downtown Pittsburgh from Mount Washington. This view was once rated as the 2nd most beautiful vista in the US (after one in Hawaii) by USA Today Weekend.
Don't be fooled by the rolling look of the vegetation covered hill that these cars climb. It is a steep, sheer cliff, and without fail every year, emergency crews have to chopper out some stupid kids who think they can climb down after a night of drinking.
View from Mount Washington after taking the Mon Incline.
There are two working inclines, the Monongahela
and the Duquesne
. If you are in for a weekend game and stay to Sunday, I'd recommend heading over to Station Square (on the South Side) for the Sunday Brunch Buffet (menu
) at the Grand Concourse
(Every Sun. 10am-3pm). I think it is $25, but it is rather indulgent and has been written up in the NYTimes, etc. Don't miss the donut machine for fresh donuts. Despite the fancy look, you can go casual.
Thus, you can hit brunch at the Grand Concourse and then walk across the street and head up the incline to take in the view from Mount Washington if you hadn't already done that the night before.
I count that brunch-incline-view experience as one thing.
For a third thing, it really depends what your interests are and what time of year it is.
If you are a baseball fan and it is in the fall, you definitely want to check out PNC Park
if there is a homestand the same weekend. PNC is constantly rated as one of the two or three best ball parks in America...often as the #1.
If you are into architecture, Fallingwater
is a must, but it will require driving outside the city. Another Frank Lloyd Wright house, Kentuck Knob
is just down the road from Fallingwater so it really makes the excursion worthwhile. If you don't have time to leave the city, then there are various walking architecture tours of downtown (see the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation
for details). Pittsburgh is one of the highest rated architectural cities for its size. A can't miss is the Allegheny County Courthouse
which is Henry Hobson Richardson's masterpiece.
If you are into art, and don't want to stray far from the North Side where Heinz Stadium and PNC Park are, hit up the Andy Warhol Museum
. It is the largest single-artist museum in the country, and even if you aren't a big fan of Warhol, it is pretty neat to check out. There is also a art installation museum nearby the Warhol called the Mattress Factory
. The city's main art museum, the Carnegie
, is in Oakland across from Pitt's Cathedral of Leaning and is connected to the main Museum of Natural History. There also is the smaller Frick Art and Historical Center
in Point Breeze which is a few miles past Oakland, as well as the Toonseum
If you are into gambling, there is Rivers Casino
right next to Heinz Field.
If you are into birds, animals or nature, the National Aviary
is also on the northside next to the stadium. There is the Zoo and Aquarium
, which is nice, but unless you have an urge specifically for a zoo, I would save that for a later trip, plus the fact that it is located in a part of the city that is a little out of the way from other attractions (and you can see zoos in other cities). Botanists and flower lovers will definitely want to check out Phipps Conservatory
in Schenley Park
in Oakland, one of the biggest and nicest victorian-style greenhouse botanical gardens left in America. It now also boasts of being the "greenest" building in the world. And of course, there is Carnegie Museum of Natural History
in Oakland across from Pitt's Cathedral of Learning. and one of the only full T Rex skeletons. It is connected to the Carnegie Museum of Art, so you get two museums for one price....and as I said, the Cathedral of Learning
and its Nationality Rooms
are across the street so you could hit all three: Phipps, Cathedral, and Carnegie Museums if you have the good part of a day.
History buffs will may want to check out the Heinz History Center
museum (a Smithsonian affiliate) and the Fort Pitt Blockhouse and museum (now run by the history center). The Fort Pitt Blockhouse is the only structure left of the British Fort Pitt that once commanded the rivers from the Point. There is a lot of French & Indian War history in and around Pittsburgh, and of note, this area is where British Colonel George Washington cut his teeth as a military officer. Outside the city, Fort Necessity
was constructed by George Washington to defend against the French and the present day reconstructed fort occasionally offers reenactments. The Oliver Miller Homestead
is only open on Sundays, but brings you to ground zero of the Whiskey Rebellion. You can also look to explore the area's industrial history with tours of the massive relics of big steel at the Homestead Works Carrie Furnace
or take other tours and trails offered by the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area
. Not far outside the city in Ambridge, a unique slice of religious communal life can be toured at Old Economy Village
If you have kids, the Children's Museum
and Carnegie Science Center
(with the included interactive SportsWorks) may be of interest.
If your lucky enough to come up during the early fall, and love rollercoasters, Kennywood
has some of the best. A throwback, turn-of-the-century traditional amusement park, Kennywood is one of the few surviving trolley parks left in America. Small in square footage, it is packed with rides and some old-time dark amusements not often found at other parks these days. The "Steel Phantom's Revenge" and "Thunderbolt" are continually ranked as among the top steel and wooden coasters in the world by enthusiasts.
And for foodies and shoppers, hit up the The Strip District
, Pittsburgh's old produce and warehouse district that is now full of shops and eats, as well as still being a produce terminal for the region. It is especially lively on weekend mornings or early afternoons.
People looking for outdoor activities, depending on the time of year, can rent kayaks
or stand-up paddle boards
right in the city (kayak rentals right next to PNC Park...or you can do something less strenuous like take a Gateway Clipper Cruise
). Class II to V whitewater rapids are available outside the city at Ohiopyle State Park
(out of the city by Fallingwater). The Yough River at Ohiopyle is ranked among the five best rivers in country for white water. Public golf courses are also scattered throughout the city and suburbs.
Night owls will probably want to hit up East Carson Street on the South Side
for one of the longest strips of bars in the country. Beer connoisseurs should check out Penn Brewery
or Church Brew Works
, among others. Of course, if evening performances are your thing, Pittsburgh has professional performance art and musical companies
of just about every type and taste.
I could keep going on. Really, you are not going to see everything in weekend football trip to Pittsburgh, which is good, since you'll probably be more than once. If you want to know about things to do and see on Pitt's campus, go to this thread here.
And while I may seem like a homer here, I don't currently live in Pittsburgh and I grew up two hours east of the city. I have lived there (while at Pitt), but I've also lived in Miami, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Washington, DC. I can honestly say, without reservation, it is probably the most under-the-radar city in the nation...although, it keeps winning awards and most livable rankings and was one of only two locations in the US to make National Geographic's places to visit last year, so perhaps it not under the radar anymore.