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Pittsburgh is the second largest city in Pennsylvania. The city itself has just over 300,000 inhabitants though the total urban county has around 2.4 million people living there. Located at the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers, which form the Ohio River, Pittsburgh is known as both "the Steel City" for its more than 300 steel-related businesses, and as the "City of Bridges" for its 446 bridges. The city features 30 skyscrapers, two inclines, a pre-revolutionary fortification and the Point State Park at the confluence of the rivers. The city developed as a vital link of the Atlantic coast and Midwest. The mineral-rich Allegheny Mountains made the area coveted by the French and British empires, Virginia, Whiskey Rebels, and Civil War raiders.
Pittsburgh has more than its fair share of incredible architecture in many different styles, largely thanks to the wealth of its earlier industrialists and diverse influences of its many immigrants. Following the decline of the steel industry, the city has prioritized historic preservation and sustainable building as the city modernizes. Architecture buffs will find something interesting in every corner of the city, but there are some highlights:
Naturally, Downtown gets the lion's share of attention here. Walking some of the narrow downtown streets gives a very notable urban canyon effect, unusual for a midsized city. Pittsburgh has an impressive skyline for a city of its size, with the U.S. Steel Tower being the tallest building in the city. However, it's Phillip Johnson's shimmering PPG Place that captures much of the attention, with its glass pinnacles that make the building resemble a castle right out of a fairy tale. Beneath these towering structures are numerous historic buildings from the early 20th century, built by the biggest names in industry at the time. H.H. Richardson's Allegheny County Courthouse and Jail are gorgeous stone structures that still serves as a government building, while just across the street the Frick Building and the Union Trust Building are prime examples of commercial architecture from the time. Recent years have brought buildings like the David L Lawrence Convention Center, an impressive modern structure along the Allegheny River.
Pittsburgh is home to many wonderful museums, including some truly world-class institutions. The Carnegie Museums in Oakland are absolutely spectacular; enclosed in one massive building is the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, with extensive exhibits on paleontology, geology, and biology, and the Carnegie Museum of Art, with classical and contemporary works by many fine artists. Nearby is the Frick Art and Historical Center, which is the home of steel magnate Henry Clay Frick's mansion, now open for tours. In the Strip District is the Senator John Heinz History Center, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution and the largest history museum in Pennsylvania, with six floors of permanent and changing exhibitions on the history Western Pennsylvania. The Toonseum in Downtown is one of only three museums in the country exclusively dedicated to the cartoon arts.
North Side is home to quite a few museums. The Andy Warhol Museum is one of the most comprehensive single-artist museums in the world, with exhibits of the artist's life and work, recreations of portions of "The Factory", screening of films, and educational programs about the Pittsburgh-born artist as well as other contemporary and pop artists. The Carnegie Science Center, a major science museum which is another of the Carnegie Museums, and the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh are both very popular with kids. The Mattress Factory is contemporary art on the installation-scale, with several notable James Turrell works in their permanent collection. The National Aviary allows you to get up close with plenty of exotic birds.
Pittsburgh lies in the humid continental climate zone and has four distinct seasons: winters are cold, cloudy, and moderately snowy, springs and falls generally mild with moderate levels of sunshine, and summers warm to hot and humid. As measured by percent possible sunshine, summer is by far the sunniest season.
The warmest month of the year in Pittsburgh is July, with an average of 22.6 °C. Conditions are often humid, and combined with highs reaching 32 °C on an average 10 days a year, a considerable heat index arises. The coldest month is January, when the average is -2.0 °C, and lows of -18 °C or below can be expected on an average 3 nights per year. Officially, record temperatures range from -30 °C, on January 19, 1994 to 39 °C, which occurred three times, most recently on July 16, 1988; the record cold daily maximum is -19 °C, which occurred three times, most recently the day of the all-time record low, while, conversely, the record warm daily minimum is 28 °C on July 1, 1901.
Average annual precipitation is 970 mm and total precipitation is greatest in May while least in October; annual precipitation has historically ranged from 575 mm in 1930 to 1,458 mm in 2004. On average, December and January have the greatest number of precipitation days. Snowfall averages 105 cm per season, but has historically ranged from 22 cm in 1918-19 to 208 cm in 1950-51.
|Avg Max||0.9 °C||2.7 °C||9.4 °C||15.7 °C||21.4 °C||26.1 °C||28.1 °C||27.1 °C||23.5 °C||16.9 °C||10.2 °C||3.7 °C|
|Avg Min||-7.5 °C||-6.5 °C||-1.2 °C||3.8 °C||9.1 °C||13.8 °C||16.4 °C||15.7 °C||11.9 °C||5.7 °C||1.2 °C||-4.2 °C|
|Rainfall||64.5 mm||60.7 mm||86.6 mm||80 mm||91.2 mm||94.2 mm||95.3 mm||81.5 mm||75.4 mm||59.9 mm||72.4 mm||74.2 mm|
Pittsburgh International Airport (IATA: PIT, ICAO: KPIT) receives many domestic flights and is located about 20 miles (32 kilometres) from downtown Pittsburgh. It has a few international connections, including flights to, Paris and Toronto and seasonal flights to Cancun and Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic.
To/from the airport:
Trains operated by Amtrak which serve Pittsburgh include:
The city proper is served by three interstate routes that spur from the triangular-shaped beltway formed by I-76 (PA Turnpike) to the north and east, I-79 to the west and I-70 to the far south. These three spurs form what locals often refer to as "parkways". The Parkways West and East are signed as I-376, and the Parkway North is signed as I-279.
The interstate system links Pittsburgh with many cities. If coming from the east or west, your best bet into the city is I-76, the Pennsylvania Turnpike. From the west, take exit 10 (New Castle) and follow I-376 east to downtown. If coming from the east, take exit 57 (Pittsburgh) and follow I-376 west to downtown. From the north, use I-79 and take the exit to I-279 south. From the south, use I-79 and take the exit to I-376 east.
Within the metro area several limited-access turnpike spur routes have been partially or fully completed recently including the Mon-Fayette Expressway linking the historic "Steel Valley" area to State Route 51 in Jefferson Hills (and eventually to Monroeville). PA Route 66 in nearby Greensburg offers a quick jump on the eastern side of the metro from I-70/I-76 (Turnpike mainline) junction area to the Kiski Valley in the northeast, and the newly completed Findlay connector offers quick access from the airport terminal to points west and south of the airport such as Steubenville, Ohio, and Weirton and Wheeling, West Virginia. PA 65 along the northern section of the city of Pittsburgh, PA 28 along the Allegheny Valley from downtown through the Oakmont and 76/Turnpike area to beyond Kittaning in Armstrong County and PA 60 from the I-279/79 junction through the airport area and up through Beaver to New Castle and I-80 are all toll-free state limited access highways in the region. US 22 from Robinson through to the Findlay airport connector and on to the West Virigina panhandle and east-central Ohio offers toll free interstate like travel as well.
Greyhound, ☎ +1 412 392-6513, toll-free: +1-800-231-2222. Serves Pittsburgh from a station in the transportation center at 11th and Liberty in Downtown.
Fullington Trailways, ☎ +1 814 765-7871, toll-free: +1-800-252-3893. Also serves Pittsburgh out of the Greyhound station. Twice daily direct Service to DuBois, PA, along with one daily (5:00am departure) connecting service to Buffalo, NY, Wilkes-Barre, and Harrisburg. As a Greyhound alternative, you can travel to New York City by taking the 5AM Fullington departure and connecting in Wilkes-Barre with the Martz Trailways bus to NYC, for a less-crowded bus (but longer trip).
Megabus, toll-free: +1-877-462-6342. Serves Pittsburgh with service from various cities in the Northeast. The bus stop is located under the David L. Lawrence Convention Center just north of the intersection of 10th Street and Penn Avenue. Fares from $1 and up.
With a multitude of hills and valleys, Pittsburgh is an eclectic town to travel by car for even the natives. Very little is straightforward about Pittsburgh travel via car, but some constants help road warriors get by.
Major highways include the Parkways East, West (both Interstate 376), and North (Interstate 279). The PA Turnpike (Interstate 76) connects Pittsburgh to Harrisburg and Philadelphia while Interstate 79 provides connections to Erie in the north and Morgantown, West Virginia in the south. Other major routes include Interstate 579 (Crosstown Blvd), PA 51, PA 28, PA 837, PA 885, PA Turnpike 43 (Mon-Fayette Expressway (partially completed)), US 19, US 22, and US 30.
Many international rental companies have a wide selection of rental cars and these include Hertz, Avis, Dollar, Thrifty, Enterprise, Budget and Alamo/National. Most companies will require you are at least 25 years of age, although younger people might be able to rent cars at slightly higher rates and with some insurance differences as well. A national driver's license is usually enough, but an additional international one is recommended. Also note that it usually costs more to include lots of other extra things. For example extra drivers, GPS, the first full tank, SLI (Supplemental Liability Insurance), PAI (Personal Accident Insurance, usually covered already at home), road assistance/service plan, and drop-off costs for one-way rentals.
If you want to book a car, it is recommended that you book your car before arriving in the USA. This is almost always (much) cheaper compared to just showing up. Also, try and book with a so-called 'broker', which usually works together with a few or many car rental companies and can offer the best deal. Some examples include Holidayautos, Holidaycars and Sunny Cars. Some of the cheapest deals to book from Europe, includes Drive-USA, which also has a German version.
For more information and tips about renting cars and campers, additional costs, insurance, traffic rules, scenic routes and getting maps and fuel it is advised to check the USA Getting Around section.
The Port Authority, +1 412 442-2000 (or PAT as some residents refer to it), operates bus, light rail and incline service in Pittsburgh. Bus service covers much of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County and, for the most part, is reliable and clean. Light rail (commonly referred to as "The T") connects the south side of the city to downtown and the stadiums, but doesn't connect to many other points of interest.
Routes can be confusing, but both the Port Authority's website and Google Maps (which is perhaps better) offer trip planners. Google Maps also shows bus and trolley stops. Bus stops are typically marked with a simple blue sign reading "Bus Stop" and listing route numbers and names.
Before boarding a bus or trolley, check Port Authority's schedules (all of which are available on their website) and confirm its destination with the driver.
Gateway Clipper and Pittsburgh Water Limo offer shuttle services to sports events at Heinz Field and PNC Park. Gateway Clipper operates all cruises from Station Square in the South Side. Pittsburgh Water Limo operates all shuttles from 23rd Street in the Strip District.
Pittsburgh has some fine biking trails, most of which run along the rivers. Historically, Pittsburgh has not been friendly to street cycling - the streets are narrow, are often very rough, and much of the city is very hilly. The city has been adding bike lanes to numerous streets for the past few years, so the situation has improved somewhat, although experience in urban cycling is still recommended.
The Pittsburgh restaurant scene is a little different than most cities. In many neighborhoods, they can be difficult to find and are often patronized mainly by locals. The hills and rivers make the roads tricky. So, if you're from out of town your best bet is to pick up a local copy of the Pittsburgh magazine and do a quick search of the "Best Restaurants" section.
Each district has its unique restaurants, but the main districts for eating are the Strip District, South Side and, of course Downtown. Mt Washington, Lawrenceville, Shadyside, Oakland, Bloomfield, and Squirrel Hill also contain a wide variety of restaurants. If you're willing to go a little off the beaten path, you'll also find gems tucked away just slightly further out which are still accessible by PAT bus.
Pittsburgh is a city serious about its drinking. A popular anecdote tells of the priorities of earlier Pittsburghers: It's said that for every church, there's a bar across the street (and there are a lot of churches!). A Slavic drink ethic has made the city largely "a shot and a beer town." Even today, trendy and pretentious bars are scarcer than elsewhere, but almost any taste in bars and clubs can be found.
Beer is very dear to Pittsburgh, highlighted by Penn Brewery, in the North Side, a popular German beer hall and restaurant in a beautiful historic old brewery building, which also hosts an annual Oktoberfest. The Hofbräuhaus Pittsburgh on the South Side is modeled after the legendary 400+ year-old Hofbräuhaus in Munich. In addition, East End Brewing and the Church Brew Works are two local breweries whose beers can be found on tap all over the city.
Coffee is just as important to many Pittsburghers as beer. Some of the best can be found at: Tazza D'Oro in Highland Park (said to be the best); Coffee Tree in Squirrel Hill and Shadyside; Nicholas Coffee Downtown; and Crazy Mocha, which has many locations around town. The Strip District also has three roasters, notably La Prima Espresso.
Downtown has the greatest concentration of hotels. It is sometimes possible to get a room at some of the top downtown hotels (the Marriott, the Hilton, and the William Penn, for example) at bargain basement prices ($45-$70) from discount sites such as priceline and hotwire, so do a search before calling the hotel itself. For those visiting the universities or other attractions in the Oakland area, there are a number of convenient options. Airport accommodations, located near the airport outside of Pittsburgh itself, are mostly in Robinson Township, about 12 miles west of Pittsburgh. Bear in mind that hotels close to the city are booked solidly in advance and/or inflated in price around the time of Steelers home games, so plan ahead.
|Motel 6 Pittsburgh||211 Beecham Drive, I-79 At Steubenville Pike, Exit Pittsburgh, PA, 15205||Hotel||-|
|Not Another Hostel||Penn Avenue||HOSTEL||-|
The City of Pittsburgh is home to many colleges, universities and research facilities, the most well known of which are Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), Duquesne University, and the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt). Also located in the city are Carlow University, Chatham University, Point Park University, The Art Institute of Pittsburgh, and a branch campus of the suburban Robert Morris University as well as the Community College of Allegheny County and the Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Science. Oakland is the hub of college activity, home to CMU, Pitt, Carlow, and Chatham Universities. The greater Pittsburgh region boasts even more colleges and universities.
The city also has an extensive library system, both public and university. Most notable are the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh and the University of Pittsburgh's University Library System, which rank 9th largest (public) and 18th largest (academic) in the nation, respectively.
There is a very small internet bar/cafe culture in the USA. Even then most of the internet bars/cafes tend be located in major urban centers. Accessible WiFi networks, however, are common. The most generally useful WiFi spots are in coffee shops, fast-food chains, and bookshops, but also restaurants and hotels more and more have a network to connect on. Some of them might require you to buy something and you might need a password too, especially in hotels.
See also International Telephone Calls
The general emergency phone number is 911. The USA has a great landline phone system that is easy to use. The country code for the U.S. is +1. The rest of the telephone number consists of 10 digits: a 3-digit area code, and a 7-digit number. Any small grocery store or pharmacy has pre paid domestic or international phone cards. These phone cards are very cheap and offer good rates. The once ubiquitous pay phone is now much harder to find. Likely locations include in or near stores and restaurants, and near bus stops. The cellphone network in the states is slowly getting better but is still not as good when compared to other western countries. Cell phones tend to operate using different frequencies (850 MHz and 1900 MHz) from those used elsewhere in the world (2100 MHz). This used to prevent most foreign phones from working in America. Phones must be tri- or quad-band to work in the U.S. Fortunately, technology has meant that most phones should now be able to pick up one of the U.S. networks. Prepaid phones and top-up cards can be purchased at mobile phone boutiques and at many discount, electronics, office supply and convenience stores. A very basic handset with some credit can be had for under $40.
The US Postal Service is a very good and well priced mail system. There are post offices in every small and large town for sending packages internationally or domestically. Although some might keep longer hours, most are open at least between 9:00am and 5:00pm. If wanting to send a letter or postcard it is best just to leave it in a blue mail box with the proper postage. First-class international airmail postcards and letters (up 28.5 grams) cost $1.10. There are also private postal services like FedEx, UPS, TNT and DHL, which might be better value sometimes and are generally very quick and reliable too.
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