Claudia has lived in Northwest Pennsylvania for over 10 years and enjoys visiting Pittsburgh as often as possible.
I have to admit that when we moved to this area more than 10 years ago, I had reservations. I'd always heard about how dirty and boring Pittsburgh was. Well, I can tell you that even though I live about 45 minutes away, I have gotten to love the city and come here often.
Pittsburgh, otherwise known as the Steel City, the City of Bridges, or the 'Burgh, was once regarded as one of the nation's dirtiest cities because of all of the industry. Most of that is gone now, and in the last 30-plus years, Pittsburgh has cleaned up its act.
With its clean air, thriving cultural scene, trendy neighborhoods, excellent medical services, blossoming restaurant reputation, and proximity to natural resources, it's become popular. You'll often find it listed as one of the United States' most livable cities.
Who can also forget that Pittsburgh is a big-time sports city? It's often called the City of Champions because of our teams.
With all of this going for it, it's easy to see why people are visiting more. It's also easy for those visitors to make some mistakes when they do. So if you are planning to come, here are five mistakes to avoid, as well as some things that shouldn't be missed.
Mistake 1: Not Having a Map or Good Directions
Make no mistake about it, Pittsburgh is a hard city to get around in. There are one-way streets all over the place. There are bridges going everywhere except where you want to go (at least it always seems that way to me), and if you get in the wrong lane on a bridge, good luck getting in the right one.
I've taken many a wrong turn and ended up in a tunnel going out of the city, only to have to figure out how to get back in.
Before you go, make sure your GPS is up-to-date and it doesn't hurt to have a paper map of the city too. Even now I find that the GPS isn't always correct, and I rely heavily on it when I go to the city. Ask for directions or help at your hotel. They may be able to give you some insider hints.
Mistake 2: Visiting While Other Big Events Are Occurring
Unless you are attending a big sports event or concert that is going on during the weekend you want to go, try planning your visit at another time.
I always check the sports schedule when I'm making theater reservations because parking is virtually impossible downtown if there is a baseball game going on at the same time.
When we first moved to the area we had out-of-town guests visit over Labor Day weekend and decided to go to the city. We couldn't believe it—most of the city was shut down and there was a huge parade downtown. The streets were closed, traffic was crazy, and we ended up canceling our plans and heading to a nearby park for a relaxing walk.
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Check the calendar of events before you reserve your hotel. Of course, if you are coming to the city for a big event, then plan accordingly.
Mistake 3: Skipping the Neighborhoods
Many people come to Pittsburgh and only tour a couple of areas. Visitors tend to concentrate their stay in the downtown area where there's easy access to sports arenas and theaters, or in Oakland, where the bulk of the larger museums and medical centers are.
However, there are many other neighborhoods to visit as well. Don't miss them. There are wonderful shops and smaller museums that are frequently overlooked.
The 10 Best Pittsburgh Neighborhoods
Also known as "Little Italy," there are many shops and restaurants.
Corporate businesses as well as the theaters can be found here.
Mexican War Streets
One of the more historic areas in Pittsburgh, with exquisitely maintained homes. In addition, there's an interesting art scene.
The best views of the city can be found here, with many of the iconic photos of the city being taken from this vantage point.
If you love sports then this is the place to go, with the big stadiums and bars and restaurants all around.
Along with universities, a number of the large museums are in this area.
Trendy and upscale shops and restaurants can be found in this residential area.
Rowdy nightlife can be found here along with shops and restaurants.
Residential area which boasts many shops and restaurants.
Originally the location of many warehouses, this area is always evolving with all sorts of ethnic food shops, restaurants and other fun stores to browse.
Mistake 4: Thinking You Can Rely on Public Transportation
I don't usually like to say negative things about public transportation because often it's a great way to get around an unfamiliar city. But in this case, it's not one of the city's better features.
There is a subway called the T, but it has a limited number of stops and is mostly used by locals going to work in the downtown area, or to a sporting event. Pittsburgh has a decent bus system, but again, it's designed mostly for locals and seems to run rather slowly.
The nice thing about the attractions in the city is that, for the most part, there is decent parking, either in a lot or on the street.
Mistake 5: Not Staying Long Enough
If you only have a couple of days to visit, then so be it, but if at all possible, extend your time. There are some really fun things to do in this city.
We have friends from out of town who were visiting the area and only scheduled one night in the city. They ended up being disappointed because they weren't able to see everything they had wanted to.
If you can, stay three nights, but if you can't, at least stay two. That gives you two plus days to explore everything the city has to offer.
Things Not to Be Missed in Pittsburgh
Despite a few possible pitfalls, this city is a wonderful place to visit, with something for everyone.
Here are some of the highlights that shouldn't be missed.
Andy Warhol Museum
Carnegie Museum of Art
Carnegie Museum of Natural History
Carnegie Science Center
Fort Pitt Museum
Frick Art & Historical Center
Heinz History Center
Incline (Duquesne or Monongahela)
Mattress Factory Museum
Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens
Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium
With a little bit of planning and enough time you should have a fantastic visit!
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© 2018 Claudia Mitchell