By Steve Atlas
Last month, we began our Car Free Journey to Pittsburgh. We introduced the city, described how to get there, where to stay, how to get around without needing to drive, and discussed some of the top attractions that make this a special place to visit. Here is a link to last month’s column: http://www.ecocitybuilders.org/car-free-journey-pittsburgh-part-1/
This month, we will focus on what to do during your visit. We will learn about some interesting walks, neighborhoods to explore, attractions that meet a variety of special interests and needs, places to eat, and entertainment you can enjoy while you are here.
A special note for readers who are 65 or older: Pennsylvania allows seniors to ride free on public transit systems throughout the state. Simply show your Medicare Card.
Local and regional public transportation is provided by the Port Authority of Allegheny County. For detailed schedules and fares, visit www.portauthority.org, or call (412) 442-2000.
How much does it cost to ride Port Authority buses and the “T” light rail?
The Port Authority’s Free Fare Zone exists for both the light-rail subway (a.k.a. the “T”) and the bus system, and includes all stops within Pittsburgh’s “Golden Triangle,” plus T rides from downtown to the North Shore. Aboard the T, the North Shore and Downtown are included in the free fare zone, with these stops: Allegheny, North Side, Gateway, Wood Street, Steel Plaza and First Avenue.
From there, fares are based on whether the stop you’re searching for is in Zone 1 or Zone 2. Zone 1 includes the city of Pittsburgh and many “inner-ring suburbs” with a standard cost of $2.50. Zone 2 includes everywhere else, or neighborhoods considered to be “outer-ring.” A trip to zone 3 costs $3.75. The Port Authority website tries to make planning your trip as easy as possible, and it’s definitely recommended for first-time riders to plan their bus trip ahead of time using this link: http://www.portauthority.org/paac/SchedulesMaps/TripPlanner.aspx
- Senior citizens age 65 and older ride free with a Medicare card.
- Riders with disabilities and children ages 6-11 pay half of the regular fare.
- Transfers cost $1 and must be used within 3 hours.
For a complete list of fares (including surcharges to ride the T light rail), and special passes, go to http://www.portauthority.org/paac/FareInfo/FareInformation.aspx.
There is no one-day pass. A weekly pass costs $25 (1/2 price for persons with disabilities and children ages 6-11. However, weekly passes start on a Sunday and end at 12 midnight the following Saturday. For that reason, they generally don’t make sense for most weekend visitors and other vacationers.
If you don’t want to carry a lot of cash, you can buy a ConnectCard at any Giant Eagle Supermarket. Just go to the Customer Service desk and say that you want to purchase a Connect Card, and the amount of cash you want to put on the card (up to $200). Then every time, you take a trip on a Port Authority bus or train, the amount of the fare is deducted from your ConnectCard.
Another option, if you are flying into Pittsburgh International Airport is the ConnecTix from a ticket vending machine, located at Baggage Pickup, near Door 6. For $25.00 you get a card with 10 $2.50 trips. That should be enough for your visit. If not, you can always use one of your rides to get to a Giant Eagle supermarket and purchase a Connect Card. For a list of where you can purchase passes, go to http://www.portauthority.org/paac/FareInfo/FareInformation/WhereToBuy.aspx
Here is a Different Way to Explore Pittsburgh
Port Authority operates an inclined plane or funicular (simply known here as “the incline”) from the south end of the Smithfield Street Bridge to the top of the ridge of Mt. Washington. The Monongahela Incline is accessible on foot from Downtown or by taking the “T” from any Downtown subway station. Use the RED LINE or BLUE LINE rail routes to Station Square.
A second incline, called The Duquesne Incline, which is operated privately, is near the south end of the Fort Pitt Bridge. It is accessible on foot via a bridge sidewalk that starts in Point State Park or via bus route G2 WEST BUSWAY. Take the G2 to the first stop after crossing the bridge. The Duquesne Incline offers a historical museum at its top station.
You can ride both inclines on one excursion by walking Grandview Avenue on the ridge of Mt. Washington between the two. This walk offers a stunning view of Pittsburgh’s skyline and is about one mile long.
Taxi Companies and Ride Sharing Services
For times when walking or public transportation won’t work for you, here is a list of local taxi companies and ride-sharing services:
- Yellow Cab Co. 412-321-8100, operates 24/7
- Classy Cab 412-322-5080, operates 24/7
- Uber—must have app downloaded, operates 24/7
- Lyft—must have app downloaded, operates 24/7
See last month’s column for a list of major attractions and shopping areas that are served by Port Authority buses and/or rail, and a list of Pittsburgh neighborhoods that are served by public transit—and what routes serve each neighborhood. Again, here is the link to last month’s column: http://www.ecocitybuilders.org/car-free-journey-pittsburgh-part-1/
Tips for Visitors
Chrysann Panos, a summer intern at VisitPITTSBURGH who grew up in Pittsburgh’s South Hills area, is currently a student at Syracuse University. She offers these suggestions for any of you who want to visit Pittsburgh without needing to drive during your visit: “Plan ahead and download the necessary apps, e.g. Lyft, Uber or zTrip. And most definitely plan out your public transportation routes in advance. The Tiramisu app (www.tiramisutransit.com/) lets you know when the next buses are planned – but you have to know what bus you want to take in order for it to be helpful. Many bus routes become less frequent after 8 p.m., and some run just sporadically after 10 or 11 p.m.
“Another great option is to rent a bicycle! And while there are a growing number of dedicated bike lanes and “sharrows,” there is a fabulous river trail system here that can keep riders off the road.”
Chrysann shares how she feels about being a summer intern here without needing to drive:
“While I don’t live in the city, I love having access to the T from where I live in Pittsburgh’s South Hills. It’s an affordable and easy way to get to my internship each day, and I find that I prefer to use it when going downtown for other activities as well. It definitely cuts out gas and parking costs! When I’m downtown, it’s so easy to walk to wherever I need to go. My friends and I love grabbing a bite to eat at different restaurants in town before crossing the bridge to the North Side for a Pirates game at PNC Park or a concert at Stage AE.”
How do you want to experience Pittsburgh while you are here?
- Focus on one or more neighborhoods: staying there and exploring attractions and restaurants that are located in or near that neighborhood.
- Select one or more of your special interests. Then, plan an outing or weekend around that interest.
- Check out one or more of the transit or walking self–guided tours recommended here.
Let’s start by spotlighting a few of Pittsburgh’s distinctive neighborhoods that you might visit:
- Oakland: A thriving commercial and residential area. In fact, Oakland is Pennsylvania’s third-largest “Downtown.” Long considered the cultural center of Pittsburgh, Oakland is home to the Carnegie Library Main Branch, Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History, Carnegie Music Hall, Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Garden. Oakland is home to world-class educational institutions, including the University of Pittsburgh, where you will find the Cathedral of Learning and the one-of-a-kind Nationality Rooms. In short, Oakland is the cultural, medical, educational, spiritual, and technological center of Pittsburgh, boasting many world-renowned institutions and attractions. This is an easy bus ride or short taxi ride away from downtown. There are many hotels in Oakland, so you can stay right in the heart of the neighborhood!
- Lawrenceville: Located just east of Downtown Pittsburgh, this neighborhood is located about two miles from Downtown Pittsburgh and runs along the banks of the Allegheny River. Lawrenceville is fast becoming known as one of the hottest neighborhoods in Pittsburgh, with a large, vibrant community of artisans, and a shopping district full of specialty boutiques, renowned restaurants, yoga studios and cozy neighborhood coffee shops. Despite all the buzz, Lawrenceville has retained its authentic, community feel.
Expect to walk into the shops and be greeted by the friendly business owners, who will likely refer you to other shops in the area if you don’t find what you’re looking for. The Allegheny Cemetery and The Clemente Museum are located in Lawrenceville.
- South Side: Divided topographically into the Flats and the Slopes, the South Side is located south of both Downtown Pittsburgh and Oakland. Commuters and visitors to the South Side enjoy convenient public transportation in the form of buses and—at the edge of South Side—the Light Rail. The entire length of East Carson Street is designated as an historic district and features unique retail shops, galleries and restaurants.
Pittsburgh’s South Side is a unique mix of residents; older neighbors whose families have lived on the same street for generations and young families or single. The neighborhood has developed a thriving arts and cultural community. Numerous churches stand representative of the area’s varied ethnicity. Row houses dominate the South Side flats, while town homes are available in new developments along the river. Window shop along East Carson Street. You can also shop or dine in the SouthSide Works. The trail along the Monongahela River is part of the Three Rivers Heritage Trail, which will take bike riders from Pittsburgh along the Great Allegheny Passage to Washington, D.C.
- Squirrel Hill: Located east of Downtown Pittsburgh, this neighborhood is one of Pittsburgh’s most popular, with a variety of ethnic restaurants, delis, bakeries, old-fashioned grocery stores (which still deliver), and landmark taverns, as well as chic new eateries, trendy boutiques, movie theaters, and upscale shops. Frick Park and Schenley Park border Squirrel Hill, offering residents a wide range of recreational activities including biking (be prepared for hills), walking, rollerblading, ice-skating, tennis, and golf. Homes in Squirrel Hill range from high-rise apartments on Forbes and Murray Avenues to sprawling brick mansions on Fair Oaks. Whether you’re looking for a quaint apartment, or a contemporary house with a garage, you’ll find it in Squirrel Hill.
- North Shore: The North Shore boasts great views of Downtown. Most famous for its iconic sports venues – Heinz Field and PNC Park – it’s also home to world-class museums and award-winning attractions. (Think: The Andy Warhol Museum, Mattress Factory, National Aviary, Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh.) Walk across any of the “Three Sisters” bridges for spectacular views of downtown. (It’s also one of the best places in the city to watch fireworks.)
- Port Authority suggests checking out these additional walkable neighborhoods Bloomfield, Shadyside, and East Liberty to the east;
- Brookline, Mt. Washington and Mount Lebanon to the south; and
- the Mexican War Streets, Allegheny West and Deutschtown in the North Side.
Let’s plan a vacation around one or more of your special interests. Here are some ideas:
- Families—In addition to the Carnegie Science Center and Highmark SportsWorks, Heinz History Center, Carnegie Children’s Museum, Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, the National Aviary, Phipps Conservatory, and the Frick Art & Historical Center, other family-friendly attractions include: Just Ducky Tours, The Gateway Clipper Fleet, Pittsburgh’s Inclines, Kennywood Park, and the Sandcastle Waterpark
- Museums and other cultural attractions—Carnegie Museum of Art, Carnegie Science Center, Carnegie Museum of Natural History, The Andy Warhol Museum, Heinz History Center, Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, Frick Art & Historical Center, Mattress Factory, Fort Pitt Museum
- Parks, zoos, and other natural attractions—the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, National Aviary, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, Schenley Park, Highland Park, Frick Park, Riverview Park
- Science related—Carnegie Science Center and Highmark SportsWorks, Carnegie Museum of Natural History
- Shopping: Chrysann Panos offers these suggestions: “There are boutiques scattered throughout Pittsburgh’s many different neighborhoods. Different boutiques include Boutique la Passerelle, Pavement, Figleaf Boutique, Mid-Atlantic Mercantile, and more! You’ll also find a few outdoor malls like Southside Works and The Waterfront filled with dining and shopping options.
- “Or take a ride on the T to South Hills Village Mall. If that still isn’t what you’re looking for, other malls in the area include Ross Park Mall, The Mall at Robinson, or Century III Mall. Port Authority busses offer service to most malls in the area.”
- Sports, Major League: Visit PNC Park to watch a Pittsburgh Pirates baseball game, Heinz Field, the home of football’s Pittsburgh Steelers. Enjoy a hockey game at Consol Energy Center: home of the Pittsburgh Penguins. If you are a soccer fan, take time to cheer on the Pittsburgh Riverhounds during a game at Highmark Stadium
- Tours: Guided: Pittsburgh Tours & More offers food tours, a sports tour, winery tours, brewery tours, movie tours, and birthday tours
- Tours: Self-guided walking tours (neighborhoods, parks etc.)—The Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation has a list of five free self-guided walking tours that explore Grant Street, Market Square, Penn and Liberty Avenues, Fourth Avenue, and the bridges and river shores. For details, visit: http://www.phlf.org/phlf-tours-events/self-guided-tours/
Another popular self-guided tour is the Pittsburgh Art in Public Places (Downtown Walking Tour) from the Pittsburgh Office of Public Art. Both of these are free.
- Tours: Water: Are you looking to break a sweat during your stay? Check out
A Special Welcome to Bicyclists and Walkers
- Bicycling: Pittsburgh is bike-friendly! Check out Bike PGH to find bike maps and places to rent-a-bike. Bike travel makes it easy to discover downtown, the North Side, the South Side, Oakland, and nearby attractions
The City of Pittsburgh recently installed a protected bike lane along Penn Avenue—one of the main thoroughfares—for cyclists and pedicabs to ride throughout the city stress-free. Renting a bike in Pittsburgh is a great way to explore all the city has to offer. Bike travel makes it easy to discover downtown, the North Side, the South Side, Oakland, and nearby attractions! Rent a bike from Golden Triangle Bike Rentals and Tours.
Pittsburgh Bike Share recently started the Healthy Ride System in a partnership with Highmark Blue Cross, Blue Shield and the Allegheny Health Network. The Healthy Ride System has placed bikes and bike racks all over Pittsburgh to make bike travel an accessible option.
- Walking: Friends of the Riverfront has great trail maps. Many parks in Pittsburgh are popular spots for anything from a lunch picnic to a bike ride or hike. Different Pittsburgh parks include: Point State Park, Frick Park, Riverview Park, Schenley Park, and Highland Park. From downtown, it’s easy to reach the Three Rivers Heritage Trail, which includes 24 miles of trails along the riverfront.
One of the best walks is from downtown Pittsburgh through the Strip District to Lawrenceville. It’s totally flat, and full of character. If you’re too tired to walk back (about 3 miles to Central Lawrenceville), you can always hop on a bus.
Port Authority staff offer these suggestions for good walks that are close to public transit:
- Pittsburgh has a well-developed rails-to-trails network with numerous trails radiating from Downtown or just across a river from Downtown. The Great Allegheny Passage Trail runs from Downtown Pittsburgh and ends in Cumberland, MD. – this is accessible from most of Port Authority’s routes.
- Most of the City’s urban parks have walking and hiking trails (including Schenley, Frick and Riverview Parks).
Schenley Park, is in the Oakland/Squirrel Hill area and is accessible by bus routes 61A NORTH BRADDOCK, 61B BRADDOCK-SWISSVALE, 61C McKEESPORT-HOMESTEAD and 61D MURRAY which will get you to the edge of the park. Routes 53L HOMESTEAD PARK LIMITED, 58 GREENFIELD and 93 LAWRENCEVILLE-HAZELWOOD will travel into the park.
Frick Park, between Squirrel Hill and Regent Square, is accessible via bus routes 61A NORTH BRADDOCK and 61B BRADDOCK-SWISSVALE.
Riverview Park, north of Downtown in the Observatory Hill neighborhood, is accessible via the 8 PERRYSVILLE.
- For a unique walk through Pittsburgh’s sloped neighborhoods, visitors can find numerous streets that are not paved for cars but rather consist of sets of public steps, known here as “City Steps.” Some of these flights contain hundreds of steps. City Steps are uniquely Pittsburgh and give an unparalleled glimpse at the nooks and crannies of the city. The various city steps locations can be located using Google Maps. The best areas to tour the steps are in the South Side Slopes accessible via bus route 51 CARRICK or on the North Side in the Fineview neighborhood accessible via 11 FINEVIEW.
- Short Outings to enjoy Without a Car: The T (Pittsburgh’s light rail system) makes day outings easy. Station Square is accessible from the Station Square stop just south of the city and has a wide selection of boutiques and restaurants. A few more stops on the T’s Red Line will take you through Dormont and Mt. Lebanon, two suburban areas with their own respective “towns,” little shopping areas and restaurants all lined up in a row. Or take the Blue Line straight to South Hills Village Mall!
Restaurants and other ideas for Eating Out
There are plenty of unique and delicious restaurants all over Pittsburgh! First time visitors to Pittsburgh must get a bite at Primanti Bros.: a sandwich shop with locations all over the Pittsburgh area. Try their Almost Famous Sandwich stuffed to the brim with meat, provolone, coleslaw, tomato, and French fries between two slices of fresh Italian bread. Primanti Brothers is a true Pittsburgh experience!
Any of the many restaurants in Market Square make dining a delight. Nola on the Square is a New Orleans jazz brasserie, complete with live jazz music on weekend evenings. There’s also Il Pizzaiolo, Las Velas Mexican Restaurant and the Original Oyster House – each with its own unique charm.
Dream Cream Ice Cream got its start in 2012 as a program aimed at revitalizing downtown neighborhoods. This ice cream shop funds dreams via ice cream sales by having sales of different flavors benefit different causes. In just two short summers Dream Cream has helped 100 individuals and organizations make their dreams come true, raising over $70,000 to repair churches, marry marines, adopt children, research cures, and so much more! Oh, and the ice cream is delicious!
Butcher and the Rye boasts a 350+ whiskey bourbon collection and a creative menu of small plates that combines the familiar with the unique. Two bars, upstairs and downstairs, provide an opportunity to experience different styles of drinks and the craft of bartending. Enjoy a whiskey house, tavern vibe on the main floor, while the upstairs is amazingly designed to the style and class of the supper club and grand cocktail era.
Other favorite downtown restaurants include Meat & Potatoes, Nicky’s Thai Kitchen, Nine on Nine and Habitat Restaurant in the Fairmont Pittsburgh hotel.
Entertainment and Nightlife in Pittsburgh
The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust runs many theatrical events throughout downtown Pittsburgh. You can find information on free jazz concerts, musicals, plays, art galleries, ballet performances, symphony performances and more. Different venues in Pittsburgh include: Heinz Hall, the Byham Theater, Cabaret at Theater Square, the Benedum Center, Trust Arts Education Center, O’Reilly Theater, Arcade Comedy Theater and the August Wilson Center for African American Culture.
Row House Cinema is a single screen theater in Pittsburgh’s Lawrenceville neighborhood that has a new movie theme each week.
Regent Square Theater and Harris Theater are both owned and operated by the Pittsburgh Filmmakers and offer a variety of alternative films, film series, and events.
Different restaurants throughout the city host Jazz Nights at least once a week. NOLA on the Square has different performers every Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday nights. Andy’s Wine Bar hosts jazz nights Wednesday through Saturday. BNY Mellon sponsors JazzLive, a year-round free live jazz series at the Cabaret at Theatre Square, Katz Plaza, and the Backstage Bar every Tuesday from 5-11pm.
As for Pittsburgh nightlife, almost everything is within walking distance of a bus stop of T station while downtown. Popular late-night spots include Sienna Mercato’s Biergarten, Perle, Three River’s Sports Pub, and more!
Consider one or more of these Walking Itineraries to Explore Pittsburgh:
- This short walk, recommended by VisitPittsburgh, captures the unique flavor of Pittsburgh: A walk from downtown to the Strip District will give you an opportunity to really connect with Pittsburgh’s roots. The Strip, as it’s called, is foodie heaven and as authentic as it is fun. Locals love it for its low, low prices and tremendous selections. The one-half square mile shopping district is chock full of ethnic grocers, produce stands, meat and fish markets and sidewalk vendors. Bordering Downtown, this neighborhood is pure Pittsburgh with its gritty and authentic vibe. Walk down Penn Avenue past the David L Lawrence Convention Center toward the end of the Strip District and treat yourself to an ice cream cone at the old-fashioned Klavon’s.
- Three short walks within or near the Fare Free Zone of Pittsburgh. On these excursions, you won’t spend money using buses or rail.
- North Shore
- From the Westin Convention Center Pittsburgh Hotel turn left onto Penn Avenue and Walk toward 7th Street and make a right onto the Andy Warhol Bridge (one of the three sister bridges).
- Walk across the Andy Warhol Bridge and make sure to turn around and take a photo of the incredible skyline!
- Stop in at the Andy Warhol Museum: one of the largest museums dedicated to a single artist!
- After taking a photo with the famous Campbell’s Soup Cans, walk over to PNC Park, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
- If the Pirates aren’t playing, grab a bite to eat at SoHo right across the street from PNC Park. They have a delicious menu with weekly specials and drink specials! http://www.sohopittsburgh.com/index.html
- To walk off that meal from SoHo, walk past the Roberto Clemente Statue (Photo op!) and down to the Three Rivers Heritage Trail. Walk alongside the Allegheny River and make sure your camera is ready because there are tons of spectacular views of Downtown Pittsburgh and Point State Park!
- Finally, walk over the Roberto Clemente Bridge back into Downtown Pittsburgh and stop in the Wood Street Galleries and SPACE.
- Point State Park
- From the Wyndham Grand Downtown Pittsburgh Hotel, walk right across the street to Point State Park.
- While walking through the park grab a cup of coffee or tea at the Café at the Point.
- Make sure to take a tour of the Fort Pitt Block House, the oldest authenticated structure west of the Allegheny Mountains!
- Visit the Fort Pitt Museum and explore the history behind Pittsburgh’s birthplace!
- After the Museum, walk down to the confluence of the three rivers! That’s where the Monongahela and Allegheny rivers join to form the Ohio River!
- At the confluence take in the mighty Point State Park Fountain which shoots water 150 feet into the sky!
- Station Square
- From the Omni William Penn Hotel, walk down Sixth Avenue and make a left onto Smithfield Street and walk towards the Monongahela River.
- Take a stroll across the Smithfield Bridge, the oldest steel bridge in the United States!
- Once across the bridge, make a right hand turn into Station Square where you can find a plethora of attractions, sporting events, and fine dining establishments!
Three Outings near Public Transportation, recommended by Port Authority staff:
We’ve already learned about several Pittsburgh neighborhoods. The following three outings suggest ways to explore them using public transportation to get there:
- -From Downtown, take the 91 BUTLER STREET to Lawrenceville (48th Street), walk Butler Street to 34th Street passing mom and pop shops, vintage boutiques and coffee shops and restaurants. Then from Butler or Penn at 34th Street take the 88 PENN or the 91 BUTLER STREET to the Strip District at 21st Street, walk Penn Avenue through the Strip District for more shops and food back to Downtown.
- -Take the 48 ARLINGTON to E Carson Street at S 22nd Street, walk the South Side business district, a significant portion of Pittsburgh’s nightlife, to S 10th Street, take bus routes 48 ARLINGTON or 51 CARRICK or walk back to Downtown using the S 10th Street Bridge.
- – Take the 71A Negley, 71B HIGHLAND PARK, 71C POINT BREEZE, 71D HAMILTON to Fifth Avenue in Oakland. Walk from Oakland, through Shadyside for more shopping, to East Liberty. Take the P1 EAST BUSWAY-ALL STOPS from East Liberty Station on the East Busway back to Downtown.
For More Information
For information about what to do and where to stay:
VisitPITTSBURGH: http://www.visitpittsburgh.com/ 412-281-7711
For Information about Public Transportation and how to get where:
Port Authority: http://www.portauthority.org/paac/default.aspx 412-442-2000
Port Authority also recommends these additional web sites:
- Websites: portauthority.org; www.connectcard.org
- Routes in real-time: truetime.portauthority.org,
- Mobile apps: http://www.portauthority.org/paac/RiderServices/MobileApps.aspx
- For riders who are unfamiliar with the Port Authority system: onthemove.portauthority.org
Steve Atlas welcomes your comments and suggestions for places and vacation destinations you would like to be featured in an upcoming Car Free Journey column. E-mail email@example.com