What to do Your First Time in Pittsburgh - A Guide

Originally published January 24th, 2017.

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Welcome to Pittsburgh! I'm so happy you are stopping through.  Even more so, I am happy that you chose my guide over the plethora of others on the internet.

This may not be the first guide of its kind, but it's probably the first Pittsburgh guide that doesn't include The Incline, eating a sandwich from Primanti Brothers, and going to Bicycle Heaven (seriously, is that place paying Trip Advisor?

So, why are you visiting?  Does your Auntie live here?  Did you Dad grow up here? Do you love professional sports? 

...or...*holds breath* did you forgo Austin, Portland, and Asheville, and decide to come here, of your own volition, for a weekend trip?  Did you read about us in the New York TimesVouge?  Harper's BazaarAFARLonely PlanetZagat? Well jeez, hold on a second while I roll out the red carpet. 

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This is a guide for people visiting Pittsburgh for the first time.  I left out a lot of great areas, hidden gems, and secret spots.  Frankly, you haven't earned them yet.  First you need to complete Pittsburgh: Level 1.  

I didn't plan on making this, but I couldn't stand what other guides were saying to do.  I literally read a Pittsburgh city guide today that said to eat at Ruth's Chris Steak House and go to the zoo. Come ON... give me a break. Are we trying to scare visitors so they don't love Pittsburgh, move here, and raise the cost of rent? Wait a second, now that you mention it...

Without further ado...

WHAT TO DO AND WHAT TO SEE YOUR FIRST TIME IN PITTSBURGH:

FRIDAY NIGHT: Lawrenceville

Pittsburgh's hippest neighborhood that is quickly becoming passé.  Yes, it has cool restaurants and bars, but there is no need to plan your whole weekend around the place.

DINNER

The Vandal
New American (BYOB)
4306 Butler St
Pittsburgh, PA 15201
(412) 251-0465

B52
Vegan
5202 Butler St
Pittsburgh, PA 15201
(412) 781-5204

Franktuary 
Gourmet hotdogs (personal favorite) 
3810 Butler St
Pittsburgh, PA 15201
(412) 586-7224

Pusadee's Garden
Thai food (summer/nice weather only)
5321 Butler St
Pittsburgh, PA 15201
(412) 781-8724

Cure -
Contemporary Mediterranean, home-cured charcuterie
reservation necessary
5336 Butler St
Pittsburgh, PA 15201
(412) 252-2595

DRINKS

Round Corner Cantina
Margaritas y tequila
3720 Butler St
Pittsburgh, PA 15201
(412) 904-2279

Allegheny Wine Mixer
Craft cocktails and wine by the glass
5326 Butler St,
Pittsburgh, PA 15201
(412) 252-2337

Remedy
A gross bar with cheap drinks
5121 Butler St
Pittsburgh, PA 15201
(412) 781-6771

Arsenal Cider
Home-brewed cider (personal favorite)
300 39th St
Pittsburgh, PA 15201
(412) 682-7699

Brillobox
Cocktails and live music
4104 Penn Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15224
(412) 621-4900

Blue Moon
LGBTQ-friendly
5115 Butler St
Pittsburgh, PA 15201
(412) 781-1119

ACTIVITY

Row House Cinema
Hip movie theatre with attached beer shop
4115 Butler St
Pittsburgh, PA 15201
(412) 904-3225

Hambone's Comedy
Bar with frequent comedy events
4207 Butler St
Pittsburgh, PA 15201
(412) 681-4318

Spirit
Always has some event going on, serves delicious pizza
242 51st St
Pittsburgh, PA 15201
(412) 586-4441

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SATURDAY:

Morning: Coffee and a Pastry

Save your hunger for lunch. 

Just Good Donuts
South Side
The donuts of your wildest dreams
1830 E Carson St
Pittsburgh, PA 15203
(412) 381-2447

Biddle's Escape
Regent Square
Delicious coffee for hipsters
401 Biddle Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15221
(412) 999-9009

Aspinwall Beans'n'cream
Aspinwall
Best breakfast sandwiches in the 'Burgh
16 Brilliant Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15215
(412) 708-4500

La Gourmandine
Lawrenceville
Really good French pastries
4605 Butler St
Pittsburgh, PA 15201
(412) 682-2210

Jean-Marc Chatellier's French Bakery
Millvale
Really, really good French pastries
213 North Ave
Millvale, PA 15209
(412) 821-8533

4121 Main
Bloomfield
Coffee shop/florist - very beautiful
4121 Main St
Pittsburgh, PA 15224
(412) 708-4500

Tazza D'oro
Highland Park
Strong coffee, brewed the way it should be
1125 N Highland Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15206
(412) 362-3676

Local chains: Commonplace Coffee, the Coffee Tree Roasters, Crazy Mocha

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LATE MORNING: The Strip District

A Saturday morning spent in Pittsburgh's world famous Strip District is a Pittsburgh rite a passage. Watch Yinzers get their food for the week, vendors push sport's memorabilia, and families in minivans fight over parking. 

Luckily, I made a guide to Pittsburgh's Strip District back in July. Put on your Steelers hoodie and have a great morning. 

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LUNCH

For this, I have a lot of options.  It all depends on your mood, what you want to do for the day, and how far you want to explore. I have a few afternoon plans picked out, but if you are starving and need to eat right away, I will start with some places to get lunch in the Strip. 

You're already hungry and can't wait: Stay in the Strip

Smallman Galley
Four different kitchens, one galley hall
54 21st St
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
(412) 281-0949

DiAnoia's Eatery
Italian (enough said)
2549 Penn Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
(412) 918-1875

Edgar's Tacos
Authentic tacos
2627 Penn Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
(412) 849-8864

Gaucho Parrilla Argentina
Cafe style Argentinian food (personal favorite)
1601 Penn Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
(412) 709-6622

Now that your'e all grubbed up, pick an activity below for the rest of your afternoon...

You're looking for art, culture, and exercise: Head to the North Side

Nicky's Thai Kitchen
Great Thai food, great patio
856 Western Ave
Pittsburgh, PA
(412) 321-8424

Casellula @ Alphabet City
Cheese bar and shareables
40 W North Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15212

El Burro Comedor
Huge burritos
1108 Federal St
Pittsburgh, PA 15212
(412) 904-3451

Benjamin's Burgers
900 Western Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15233
(412) 224-2163

Legends of the North Shore
Italian/American (one of those)
500 E North Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15212
(412) 321-8000

Now that you have eaten, bring on the art, culture, and exercise:

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You want to go on a craft beer tour: Go to the East End

Smiling Banana Leaf
Neighborhood Thai
5901 Bryant St
Pittsburgh, PA 15206
(412) 362-3200

Sharp Edge Beer Emporium
50 beers on tap... oh, and there is food
302 S St Clair St
Pittsburgh, PA 15206
(412) 661-3537

Tan Izakaya
Typical Japanese Izakaya
815 S Aiken Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15232
(412) 688-0188

Park Bruges
American/Belgian, amazing mussels
5801 Bryant St
Pittsburgh, PA 15206
(412) 661-3334

The Fireside Public House
Pub food, huge portions
6290 Broad St
Pittsburgh, PA 15206
(412) 661-9900

Harris Grill
Grill food, great burgers
5747 Ellsworth Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15232
(412) 362-5273

Now that you have eaten, bring on the brews:

  • Porter Tours Pittsburgh puts on a fantastic craft brewery tour of Pittsburgh.  They take patrons to three brewries around the city, where they sample several different beers.  The best part?  Riding in their amazing van! The tour usually picks up outside of the Ace Hotel in East Liberty.  Booking information can be found on their website - book early!  The bus only holds 15 people!
  • If you want to spend your afternoon drinking beer, but don't want to go on a Porter Tour, figure out your designated driver situation, and then check out my Pittsburgh Brewery List
  • Vantastic also does brewery tours, and private charters
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You want to watch a sporting event: Head to the North Shore

Do not eat on the North Shore.  Look at my North Side recommendations above. 

Now that you have eaten, bring on the sports:

  • Personally, if I was visiting a city for the first time, I would be livid if I had to waste time at a sporting event.  However, you might feel differently, so...
  • See a Pittsburgh Penguins game at PPG Paints Arena
  • See a Pittsburgh Steelers game at Heinz Field
  • See a Pittsburgh Pirates game at PNC Park
  • Did you know that Pittsburgh is the only city where all of its professional sports teams have the same colors?

You want to have a chill day, and maybe walk through a park: Head to Frick Park

Check out my East End restaurant suggestions above.  Also:

Bangkok Balcony
Thai
5846 Forbes Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15217
(412) 521-0728

Everyday Noodles
Great Chinese, famous soup dumplings
5875 Forbes Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15217
(412) 421-6668

The Cafe at the Frick
The classiest place to eat lunch in Pittsburgh
7227 Reynolds St
Pittsburgh, PA 15208
(412) 371-0600

Now that you have eaten, bring on the nature:

This is the largest park in the city of Pittsburgh, donated by the one, the only, Henry Clay Frick. Sure, the guy wasn't perfect, and Frick Park wasn't even his idea... but it is a beautiful green space in the city, and every Pittsburgher appreciates it. 

An afternoon spent wandering around the park is an afternoon well spent.  The park is surrounded by several neighborhoods, and has several entrances.  Basically, pick a restaurant, and then find a place to enter nearby. 

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EVENING:

Andy Warhol Museum

If you have the energy to conquer a museum, the Andy Warhol Museum downtown is certainly worth your time.  Andy Warhol was a Pittsburgh native, and although he spent most of his time in Pittsburgh wishing he was somewhere else, we are proud to claim him as our own.  The museum houses the world's largest collection of his art (as you would hope).  Be sure to check out the silver clouds installation. Also, admission is half price on Friday nights, if you want to do this then instead. 

Mt. Washington Viewpoint

This is one of the few Pittsburgh tourist cliches that I will allow.  I am incredibly bias, but the view of Pittsburgh from Mt. Washington may be the best view of a city I have ever seen.  I mean, this is better than anywhere I have ever travelled.  

Even though I am including Mt. Washington, I will NOT include the incline.  With the exception of children under the age of 5, I don't know anyone who has walked away from the include not disappointed.  Drive up, park, take your picture, and leave. 

DINNER: Dine with DeShantz

Richard DeShantz is responsible for four of Pittsburgh's most successful, and delicious, restaurants. Although they are all very different, once you realize they are owned by the same person, it makes sense.  You can't leave Pittsburgh without having a meal at either Tako, Butcher and the Rye, Meat & Potatoes, or Pork & Beans.  Read their descriptions on the DeShantz group website, and be sure to make a reservation.  My favorite is Tako.

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SUNDAY MORNING: BRUNCH 

The Abbey on Butler Street
Lawrenceville
Buffet
4635 Butler St
Pittsburgh, PA 15201
(412) 682-0200

Eggs R Us
Green Tree
Diner
2350 Noblestown Rd # 13
Pittsburgh, PA 15205
(412) 922-5828

Kaya
Strip District
Island Food
2000 Smallman St
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
(412) 261-6565

Station
Bloomfield
Fancy American
4744 Liberty Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15224
(412) 251-0540

Hough's Taproom & Brewpub
Greenfield
Pierogie plate and four types of hash
563 Greenfield Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15207
(412) 586-5944

The Commoner
Downtown
Fancy American
458 Strawberry Way
Pittsburgh, PA 15219
(412) 230-4800

Eden
Shadyside
Vegan and gluten free
735 Copeland St
Pittsburgh, PA 15232
(412) 802-7070

SUNDAY AFTERNOON: GET COLLEGIATE

Visit the campuses of Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh in Oakland.  This is Pittsburgh's most typically urban area, and it is very fun to walk around, grab a cup of coffee, and people watch all the students going to class. Finding parking isn't fun, but I believe in you...

  • Visit the Cathedral of Learning, the 42-story gothic tower on Pitt's campus.  The building houses the University's humanities, philosophy, and religious studies departments, among others. Famously, the building also has 30 "Nationality Rooms," representing different nationalities and ethnic groups that are part of the Pittsburgh community.
  • Stop through the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh: Oakland branch. The branch of the Carnegie Library system was completed in 1895.  The exterior and interior are stunning, but that is not the best part - the stacks overlook the dinosaur room at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, so you can look at real dinosaur fossils as you study.  
  • Drive through Schenley Park, another beautiful green space in the city.
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Alright, enjoy! Come back when you're ready for Level 2.

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HAPPY GALLIVANTING!