Pittsburgh: Like No Place Else

What sets Pittsburgh apart? Serious sports fans, serious museums and more.

Frank Lloyd Wright's architectural masterpiece Fallingwater.

Frank Lloyd Wright's architectural masterpiece Fallingwater.
By: Tim Puko
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Sports Culture. Think of Pittsburgh and you’re bound to think of the city’s sports history. After all, the city is home to the winningest team in Super Bowl history, the six-time champion Steelers.

Pittsburgh was the first city to employ a rally flag -- the famous Terrible Towel created by the late great sportscaster Myron Cope. The Immaculate Reception -- passed by Terry Bradshaw and caught by Franco Harris -- is arguably the greatest play of all time and ushered in the City of Champions era in the '70s, when the Steelers and the Pirates baseball team each won multiple championships.

And everyone knows that Steelers fans are legendary in the lengths of our loyalty. This is a town where fan gear goes beyond T-shirts and caps, where it’s not uncommon to see women toting Steelers purses and wearing earrings with the team’s logo. Fans packed rallies in the weeks leading up to the 2009 Super Bowl and packed the streets for a victory parade, with an estimated 350,000 people crowding downtown sidewalks to cheer on their believed Steelers. Keep in mind that the city proper only has about 300,000 residents and you’ll understand just how big this phenomenon is.

Visitors can experience Pittsburgh sports culture firsthand at the Senator John Heinz History Center and Sports Museum. That’s right -- sports are considered to be a crucial part of history here, and the museum features artifacts and immersive exhibits designed to educate and delight.

It can be tough and pricey to score tickets to a Steelers game, but tours of Heinz Field are open to the general public for under $10 per person. The Pirates may not be currently enjoying a winning streak, but it’s still very worthwhile to take in a game at PNC Park, which offers incredible panoramic views of the downtown skyline and a hilarious between-innings race between four giant pierogies, a nod to Pittsburgh’s largely Eastern European heritage.

The Inclines. One of the best views of the Pittsburgh skyline is from the hilltop Mt. Washington neighborhood. While you can drive to the top, the hands-down best way to get there is via one of two inclines. The Duquesne Incline and the Monongahela Incline are railcars that travel up the side of the 600-foot hill, taking commuters to and from work and taking tourists to Mt. Washington’s scenic overlooks.

Carnegie Museums. The legacy of steel tycoon Andrew Carnegie is felt throughout Pittsburgh, and in particular at the city’s four iconic Carnegie Museums. Each has its own character and flavor and none should be missed.

  • Carnegie Museum of Natural History: Carnegie’s riches and scientific curiosity helped build the collection of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Oakland, beginning at the turn of 20th century when he acquired a Diplodocus skeleton for the people of Pittsburgh. Flash forward to the present: On any given day, the museum displays more than 10,000 specimens from its collection of 21 million, ranging from common backyard birds and rodents to ancient fossils and exotic species of flora and fauna from deserts, rain forests and Arctic plains.
  • Carnegie Museum of Art: Admission to the Museum of Natural History also enables you to visit the attached Carnegie Museum of Art, where the collection spans past centuries and the exhibitions offer exciting views into the future of art. The annual Carnegie International is a must-see.
  • Carnegie Science Center: On the North Shore, a truly interactive learning experience. Visitors can explore a real World War II Navy submarine, visit the four corners of the earth in the Omnimax theater or blast off to the galaxy in the Buhl Digital Dome planetarium. Along the way, there are plenty of fun, hands-on activities.
  • Andy Warhol Museum: The fourth and final Carnegie museum carries on the legacy of another storied figure in Pittsburgh culture -- native son Andy Warhol. The seven-story space, also located on the North Shore, features the acid-bright silkscreens, portraiture, short films and illustrations that have provided Warhol with far more than 15 minutes of fame. While you’re there, check out what might be one of the coolest museum shops ever.

Fallingwater. It’s not exactly in Pittsburgh, but visitors to the region would be remiss if they didn’t make a pilgrimage to Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterwork, one of the most famed creations of American architecture. Constructed atop a rushing waterfall, the home’s cantilevered balconies and rough-hewn stone materials offer a breathtaking organic interplay with the natural surroundings. Fallingwater is nestled in the rural woods nearly an hour-and-a-half to the southeast of the city and the estate’s caretakers recommend that visitors follow suggested directions rather than attempt to map a route themselves.

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