Why Pittsburgh is Cool Again

by Sandra Scott

If your image of Pittsburgh is one of a dying steel town, you may be surprised. The city has transformed itself from a dirty industrial town to a clean, green, happening place, and has been named one of America’s most livable cities.  Located at the confluence of the Monongahela, Allegheny and Ohio Rivers, Pittsburgh is often referred to as the “City of Bridges” — there are well over 400.

Here are five reasons why the Steel City is topping travel lists.

Credit: Sandra Scott

Credit: Sandra Scott

The History

I never realized how many “firsts” happened in Pittsburgh until I spent the morning at the Heinz History Center. Pittsburgh is the home of the first jeep and first Ferris wheel, was where the polio vaccine was first tested on the public, and more. The Heinz Center is the perfect place to learn about local history and the Pittsburghers who made it.

The View

Get a spectacular view of the city from the Duquesne Incline. Completed in 1877, the 800-foot funicular is one of two remaining in Pittsburgh. At one time there were 15 or more in the city, which were used to ease the commute from hillside communities to the workplace. It has been voted one of the best cityscape viewpoints in the world by USA Today. There is a museum at the top.

The Art

The Andy Warhol Museum is one of the four Carnegie Museums in Pittsburgh. Dubbed the “art-that-dares” museum, the Warhol is one of the few museums dedicated to a single artist, and Warhol, a Pittsburgher, is considered one of the founding fathers of pop art. Pay homage to him and leave a memento — a tomato soup can, perhaps — at his burial site at St. John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Cemetery.

Credit: Sandra Scott

Credit: Sandra Scott

The Strip District

The Strip was once home to factories and mills but has since been reinvented as the city’s destination for trendy restaurants and specialty shops. Enjoy the classic Pittsburgh sandwich — any sandwich stuffed with French fries. And there is an amazing collection of ethnic restaurants to be found on the Strip. I took a culinary walking tour with Burgh Bits and Bites, during which I sampled Polish perogies, Parma sausage, Syrian hummus, Italian pastries and more.

Credit: Sandra Scott

Credit: Sandra Scott

The Quirk

I love unique discoveries. While waiting for a walking tour, I went into old St. Patrick Church, where there is a replica of the Kneeling Stairs in Rome (on which you kneel and say a special prayer on each step). The Church Brew Works is a former church that has been transformed into a gastropub, while the Altar Bar is a music venue in a restored church. Take note of the Bridge of Sighs, which is similar to the one in Venice, Italy — and which at one time was used to transport prisoners from the Allegheny County Courthouse to the jail.