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5 Mistakes to Avoid When Visiting Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Claudia has lived in Northwest Pennsylvania for over 10 years and enjoys visiting Pittsburgh as often as possible.

Planning a visit to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania?  Make sure not to make any of these mistakes.

Planning a visit to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania? Make sure not to make any of these mistakes.

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.

Pittsburgh at night.  There's usually some entertainment in the theater district.

Pittsburgh at night. There's usually some entertainment in the theater district.

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.

There's a sporting event in Pittsburgh practically any time of the year.  Here's PNC park getting ready for a game.  Let's Go Bucs!

There's a sporting event in Pittsburgh practically any time of the year. Here's PNC park getting ready for a game. Let's Go Bucs!

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, most of the city was shut down and there was a huge parade downtown. Streets were closed, traffic was crazy, and we ended up cancelling our plans and heading to a nearby park for a relaxing walk.

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.

Randyland is a fun and colorful place to visit.

Randyland is a fun and colorful place to visit.

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

Bloomfield

Also known as "Little Italy", there are many shops and restaurants.

Downtown

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.

Mt. Washington

The best views of the city can be found here, with many of the iconic photos of the city being taking from this vantage point.

North Shore

If you love sports then this is the place to go, with the big stadiums and bars and restaurants all around.

Oakland

Along with universities, a number of the large museums are in this area.

Shadyside

Trendy and upscale shops and restaurants can be found in this residential area.

South Side

Rowdy nightlife can be found here along with shops and restaurants.

Squirrel Hill

Residential area which boasts many shops and restaurants.

Strip District

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.

It can get hazy, hot and humid in the summer.  The view of downtown from the stairwell of a museum in the Mexican War Streets area of Pittsburgh, PA.

It can get hazy, hot and humid in the summer. The view of downtown from the stairwell of a museum in the Mexican War Streets area of Pittsburgh, PA.

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.

Phipps Conservatory at the holidays is breathtaking and worth a visit.

Phipps Conservatory at the holidays is breathtaking and worth a visit.

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

Children's Museum

Fort Pitt Museum

Frick Art & Historical Center

Heinz History Center

Incline (Duquesne or Monongahela)

Mattress Factory Museum

National Aviary

Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium

Primanti Bros.

Randyland

Station Square

Strip District

With a little bit of planning and enough time you should have a fantastic visit!

I'd Love to Know

© 2018 Claudia Mitchell

Comments

Judy Coloma in Bremerton,WA on May 21, 2020:

Lived in Mt Lebanon almost into the Allentown neighborhood as a kid in the early '60's. Mostly a blue collar street. I can still remember some of the neighbors. Family did regret moving back to Hbg. a little bit.

U. of Pitt. was my road not taken. I should have taken it.

Alan Abrams on November 09, 2019:

Born and raised in the Burgh and get to visit once a year for Stillers game. I would add avoid being anywhere near downtown when there's a Steelers home game. Station Square has great restaurants but UPMC has taken over the building that housed the shops and restaurants. Go early if visiting the Strip on Saturday - traffic and parking are awful. If they want a great meal and a fantastic view of the city at night try LeMont - Thanks

Claudia Mitchell (author) on September 13, 2019:

That's a good one and quite beautiful to see in Pittsburgh! Thanks.

Lisa on September 07, 2019:

My daughter, from California, lives there now with her hubs...we try to visit at least once a year. My favorite Pittsburgh attraction is the Cathedral of Learning and its Nationality rooms. A fantastic display of many different countries’ traditional interior decor in over 30 classrooms, each room representing a different country. A must see!

Sandra on August 27, 2019:

Grew up and lived north of Pittsburgh most of my life. Left in 2014 died hard steeler fan.

TIMOTHY d RILEY on August 22, 2019:

It actually has been clean for about 60 years.

Cathy Smith on July 25, 2019:

We are leaving Saturday for a two week trip there, camping outside of the city. I am hoping to find some Rock and mineral shops there.

JeanneI on July 19, 2019:

I grew up in the burg now living in va beach i miss home.

Claudia Mitchell (author) on July 18, 2018:

Hi Gregory - Squirrel Hill is one of my favorite places in the city, especially Little's Shoes! It's a great neighborhood to walk around in. Glad you liked the article.

Gregory DeVictor from Pittsburgh, PA on July 18, 2018:

Thanks for a great article about the city where I live. Much of what you say is true, particularly about PAT. I’ve lived in North Squirrel Hill near Chatham University for years. It’s a very safe and walkable neighborhood. Squirrel Hill is in my blood because many relatives on my mother’s side of the family were originally from this neighborhood.

Claudia Mitchell (author) on July 18, 2018:

Thanks Readmikenow - I appreciate it.

Readmikenow on July 18, 2018:

Excellent article. Enjoyed reading it.

Claudia Mitchell (author) on July 18, 2018:

Thanks FlourishAnyway. I have always found when I travel that I make quite a few mistakes that I learn from. Gives me a good excuse to go back and visit again.

Claudia Mitchell (author) on July 18, 2018:

I don't think Pittsburgh is high on most people's lists to visit Linda, but it has really been changing. Lots of tech companies coming and it's definitely a changing city.

Claudia Mitchell (author) on July 18, 2018:

Hi Peggy - It's interesting how many people (myself included) don't know how much Pittsburgh has going for it. I was incredibly surprised when we moved up here. Hope you get to see it some day.

Claudia Mitchell (author) on July 18, 2018:

Thank you Liz. I hope you visit Pittsburgh sometime soon. It's a lot of fun.

Claudia Mitchell (author) on July 18, 2018:

I'm glad you found the article useful. Thanks for reading.

FlourishAnyway from USA on July 17, 2018:

More people need to do articles like this about their home cities or cities they frequently visit.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on July 17, 2018:

Thanks for sharing this useful information. I have to admit, until now Pittsburgh has not been on my list of places in the U.S. that I'd like to visit. I'm interested in some of the attractions that you've mentioned, though. The city certainly sounds worthy of a visit.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on July 17, 2018:

It sounds as though Pittsburgh has a lot going for it. Thanks for all of your suggestions about places to visit as well as your other tips. I would enjoy visiting there someday.

Liz Westwood from UK on July 17, 2018:

There are some great commonsense tips here, which I'm sure most of us have missed in the past when exploring cities.

NGUYEN THI PHU DUONG from MAKATI, THE PHILIPPINES on July 16, 2018:

thank you for your tips very helpful