The Ohio River is born at the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela in downtown Pittsburgh, which happens to be less than five hours away by car. Over the last decade, the city has transmogrified from a Rust Belt relic to a metropolis teeming with public art projects and great restaurants. Don’t believe us? Keep reading.
Pittsburgh has a long legacy of arts patronage, thanks in large part to its 19th-century industrialists—think Carnegie, Frick, and Heinz.
The 2013 Carnegie International, one of the oldest contemporary art shows in the world, opens with a gala on October 4. It often supplies new permanent collection pieces for the host Carnegie Museum of Art in the collegiate Oakland neighborhood. The International will feature 35 artists from 19 countries, along with The Playground Project, which traces the history and design of play areas.
The Andy Warhol Museum on the North Shore holds thousands of paintings, sculptures, photos, prints, and videos from the legendary Pop artist, who grew up in the city’s Oakland neighborhood and studied at what is now Carnegie Mellon University. Visiting the museum makes for a great date night: There’s half-price admission and a cash bar every Friday evening. A new show going up October 6 features works by appropriation artist Yasumasa Morimura, who inserts himself into photographic recreations of cultural and historic images.
Explore the plentiful public art in downtown Pittsburgh, the North Shore, and Oakland with the Office of Public Art’s downloadable walking tours. You can get more hands-on with workshops in paper making, wire crochet, or glass flameworking at the Society for Contemporary Craft.
The Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation offers self-guided historical architecture tours of downtown; you can book a docent-led walking tour with a few weeks’ notice.
Peer into the homes of real Pittsburghers in two self-guided house tours on October 6 in Lawrenceville (their version of OTR). And no trip to the ’Burgh is complete without a ride on one of its two functioning funiculars (that’s a fancy word for cable cars). The cable-powered Monongahela and Duquesne inclines opened in the 1870s and are still used by commuters today. The stunning views of downtown are totally worth the $2.50 one-way fare.
The Steel City’s Pulitzer Prize winners are as plentiful as its bridges. Author Michael Chabon’s school years in Pittsburgh influenced his novels Wonder Boys and The Mysteries of Pittsburgh—the “cloud factory” is on CMU’s campus. Historian David McCullough grew up in Point Breeze, as did author Annie Dillard. Playwright August Wilson often wrote about life in the Hill District, where he grew up. The Center for African American Culture that bears his name regularly hosts events on weekday evenings.
Biologist Rachel Carson, born in nearby Springdale, helped spark the environmentalist movement with her 1962 book, Silent Spring. Carson studied at what is now Chatham University, and the Ninth Street bridge downtown bears her name. Her homestead is open for a public tour on October 12.
The Pittsburgh Arts and Lectures series brings authors Sue Grafton and Ian Frazier to Carnegie Music Hall in October; tickets start at $15. The venue is right around the corner from the main branch of the majestic Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, which is worth a visit itself. Fun fact No. 1: The very first Carnegie library in the U.S. was built in Pittsburgh’s Braddock neighborhood in 1889 and is open to this day. Fun fact No. 2: Cincinnati is home to nine Carnegie Libraries, which were built with funds—and architectural style requests—provided by the man himself.
Room & Board
Downtown Pittsburgh has luxury accommodations ranging from the historically opulent to the utterly modern. Established in 1916 by Henry Clay Frick, the Omni William Penn embodies old-world elegance. Its nearly 600 modernized rooms and suites have housed movie stars and notable dignitaries.
The Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel offers nearly 300 smartly appointed quarters, some overlooking PNC Park and the North Shore. In the lobby, Braddock’s American Brasserie offers up a robust whiskey menu and a collection of Continental-style entrées such as mussels with frites and onion soup gratinée.
The newest luxury property in town is the Fairmont, a LEED-certified building with great city views and a canine ambassador named Edie. A highlight at Habitat, the second-floor restaurant, is the piping hot naan from its tandoor oven, along with its “one-cow” burger topped with Pennsylvania cheddar.
The cured meats made in house at Cure in Lawrenceville will haunt the dreams of the most die-hard carnivores. And the heirloom tomato soup this summer was practically performance art: The server poured a little carafe of creamy liquid into a bowl lined with mustard aioli, greens, rye bread crumbles, and a hearty chunk of pork belly. In the mood for early morning comfort food? Pamela’s Diner serves up buttery crepe hotcakes and other brunchy delights at six city locations. When you need a good drink to cap off your trip, head to longtime hipster haunt Brillobox; it has great eats alongside a robust drinks menu. The name is taken—wouldn’t you know it?—from a Warhol sculpture.