There’s something magical about this city. Pittsburgh City Paper has been around since 1991, and we’re still discovering something new ourselves nearly every week. We’re highlighting some of our favorite finds below — from brand new venues in town like Liberty Magic to old favorites like tours at Carrie Furnaces.
This guide is only the beginning of the adventure, of course. We’re hoping our recommendations will help cast a spell on you like they’ve done to us, leading you to go on even more adventures throughout this magical city we’re proud to call home.
At the freaky and fascinating Center for PostNatural History (www.postnatural.org), visitors can see a ribless mouse embryo, the body of a goat modified to produce silk in its milk, and a chestnut tree engineered to be resistant to blight. The free museum specializes in collecting and studying organisms that have been intentionally altered by humans and the effect they might have on human culture and evolution. 4913 Penn Ave., Garfield
One of the city’s most unconventional history lessons can be found on a pedestrian trail beside one of the city’s busiest highways. Walk parallel to Route 28 on the East Ohio Street Corridor and learn about the North Side’s rich history and Croatian immigrants from its landmark signs, sandblasted artwork, and a statue of Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto, all while traffic zips by a few feet away. Enter trail in parking lot across from Penn Brewery on Troy Hill Road.
Eat at Grandma's (sort of)
If you don’t have a grandma in Pittsburgh willing to make you some home-cooked soul food, replicating that stick-to-your-ribs taste can be difficult. But Bloomfield residents are in luck with Nana’s Place by Gibsons (www.nanasplacebygibsons.com). The Penn Hills soul food joint opened up a satellite location in Bloomfield in 2015, named for co-owner Amicia Collins’ grandmother. The decor and the food are grandma-esque, with an old comfy couch were you can enjoyf roast beef or catfish dinners. 4510 Liberty Ave., Bloomfield
Where the Bison Roam
When most people want to see bison, they travel to more northern and remote parts of the country. But did you know there are bison roaming in Pittsburgh? The South Park Game Preserve (www.alleghenycounty.us) has been home to a herd of bison since the 1920s. The free park has plenty of other wild animals, as well as over 20 miles of trails. 2075 Buffalo Drive, South Park
No one who’s lived in Pittsburgh has left a legacy quite like Charles Brown III. Not only did he build a German-style mansion in O’Hara Township in the late 1970s, but he filled it with a collection of odd, antique music boxes and machines, many over a century old. Visitors to Bayernhof Museum can take a tour of the house, including secret caves and a lavish indoor pool. 225 St. Charles Place, O’Hara Township. www.bayernhofmuseum.com
Lasagna is Discontinued
The oldest ride at Kennywood (www.kennywood.com) is Garfield’s Nightmare, which was originally built in 1901. It’d be cool if Garfield had existed back then, dreaming about lasagna at the turn of the century, but he was not. The water tunnel ride, previously called "Old Mill," used to feature skeletons holding guns and playing banjo. Now it features surreal and garish neon images from the depths of Garfield’s psyche, and it rules. 4800 Kennywood Blvd., West Mifflin
Swim Like a Steelworker
Open since 1915, the Oliver Bath House (www.pittsburghpa.gov/citiparks) is a throwback to when private pools were rare and most were shared by the public. Entering the historic South Side building, you can easily imagine a steelworker jumping into the large pool, cooling off after a grueling day at the mill. The prices are historic, too. An annual pass costs city residents $30, meaning a dip a week equals about 60 cents per trip. Closed for the summer, reopens Sept. 3. 38 S. 10th St., South Side
You won’t believe your eyes when you visit Liberty Magic (www.trustarts.org), the only all-magic venue in Pittsburgh. See sleights of hand, amazing illusions, daring escapes, and more. The intimate venue gives everyone a front row seat to some of the most incredible tricks ever performed on stage. Does someone look familiar? Many of the touring acts have been featured on television shows like America’s Got Talent or Masters of Illusion. But that’s not the only magic act in town. Pittsburgh illusionist Lee Terbosic, one of Liberty Magic’s artistic advisers, also performs 52 times a year. Catch his 90-minute performance 52 Up Close (www.52upclose.com) a few blocks away at the hip Hotel Monaco. Liberty Magic, 811 Liberty Ave., Downtown; 52 Up Close, 620 William Penn Place, Downtown
Bark at the Park
There’s nothing better than a game of baseball with your best friend. No, not a human friend. We’re talking about bringing your dog to a Pirates game. Every Tuesday home game is Pup Night at PNC Park (www.mlb.com/pirates), where doggos are welcome with a special ticket. Limit one dog per person, and a release must be signed before the game. Proceeds benefit local animal shelters. Tuesday home games during Pirates season. 115 Federal St., North Side.
Heavy Metal Food
Onion Maiden (www.onionmaiden.com) started as a pop-up food cart and is now a brick-and-mortar restaurant in Allentown. The heavy metal-themed vegan restaurant specializes in Asian and American comfort food like rice-noodle salad and a wide variety of vegan hotdogs with names like “War Pig” and “Kale Satan.” There are also vegan baked goods such as donuts, muffins, and fruit-filled turnovers. Onion Maiden is cash only, but there’s an ATM on site if you forget. For a one-dollar fee, you can also BYOB. 639 E. Warrington Ave., Allentown
Show Off New Underwear
The concept of shopping local applies to underwear, too. Trusst (www.trusstbrands.com) specializes in an underwire-free bra line aimed to support women of all shapes and sizes. Trim Pittsburgh (www.trimpittsburgh.com) brings men’s socks, underwear, swimwear, and clothing brands from around the world to ensure people are comfy from head to toe. Soma (www.soma.com), found in South Hills Village, Ross Park Mall, and The Mall at Robinson, is designed by and for women with undergarments that are both comfortable and beautiful. There are a plethora of places in the ‘Burgh to find well-fitting underwear for every body. Find your favorites and show them off at the Pittsburgh Underwear Ride (www.facebook.com/pghunderwearbikeride) on the last Thursday of every month from May–October. The goal is to have fun and support body positivity.
Zippity Zoo Zah
Experience the thrill of flight when you strap into the Zipline at the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium (www.pittsburghzoo.org). Start at the highest point in the zoo overlooking the Allegheny River and then coast over exotic animals from all over the world. See a Pygmy hippo, ocelots, fossa, and giant anteaters from an exciting bird’s-eye view. Guests must be at least 6-years-old and weigh between 60-250 lbs. to zip the line. Open through Labor Day. 7370 Baker St., Highland Park
There is little that Pittsburgh Oddcast (www.oddpittsburgh.com) creator John Schalcosky doesn't know about the city’s history. On his podcast, appearances on local news, and his Facebook page (The Odd Mysterious & Fascinating History of Pittsburgh), Schalcosky shares secrets behind locations Pittsburghers encounter every day, as well as famous national histories with unknown Pittsburgh connections. Recent posts include the 1888 Downtown spot “Dime Museum of Human Freaks” and a full episode recorded with Mayor Bill Peduto in his office.
Escape to the tropics with a taste of tiki. Tiki Lounge (www.tikiloungepgh.com) in the South Side takes cues from retro, 1950s-era tiki culture. Inside, it’s a fantasy world; the cavernous bar is a maze of waterfalls, life-size statues, and bamboo bars. For a more modern take, visit Hidden Harbor (www.hiddenharborpgh.com) in Squirrel Hill. Drinks boast rum, rum, and more rum, with the bar serving an impressive 320 varieties. Cocktails are inventive, using tropical fresh fruits and returning to the classics (think fresh pineapple cups and mermaids). Try tiki on the river courtesy of Cruisin' Tiki (www.cruisintikis.com/pittsburgh-pa), a fleet of floating bamboo huts. These BYOB boats offer a unique way to see the sights or “boat-gate” a Steelers game.
Hot Pizza, Cold Toppings
The Pittsburgh region has its own style of pizza, but even locals barely know about it. Ohio Valley pizza is square, with a light, doughy crust, topped with sweet tomato sauce and baked quickly. Toppings are added cold after baking and typically melt in. These spots are usually located near the Ohio River, hence the name. Beto’s (www.betosoriginalpizza.com) in Beechview is the most well-known and piles toppings so high, most don’t melt. Pizza House in Ambridge (aka Police Station Pizza) adds some cheese before the bake. Beto’s Pizza, 1473 Banksville Road, Beechview; Pizza House, 1007 Merchant St., Ambridge
Make an appointment to tour Trundle Manor (www.trundlemanor.com), a museum gallery touted as the “most unusual tourist trap in the world meets the most bizarre private collection on public display.” Enjoy a smoke or alcoholic beverage (yes, they’re allowed) as you view items curated by Mr. Arm and Velda Von Minx, including antique taxidermy, jarred animal specimens, medical implements, and unusual weaponry. Open by appointment. 7724 Juniata St., Swissvale
Life Imitating Yoga
Twist into rabbit pose among real, live bunnies. Downward dog with puppies. Do yoga with goats! Two Pittsburgh organizations, Animal Friends (www.thinkingoutsidethecage.org) and Have U Herd (haveuherd.com), bring animals and yogis together for a relaxing, mindful practice, complete with a few snuggles. Animal Friends, 562 Camp Horne Road, Ben Avon Heights; NamastHay Goat Yoga of Pittsburgh, various locations
The North Side neighborhood of Fineview features a piece of Victorian history. Heathside Cottage (www.heathsidecottage.com), a nationally registered Historic Landmark, was built in the mid-19th century by architect James Andrews, who was known for building bridges. The cottage has since been renovated back to its early Victorian style, demonstrated by its features throughout the gothic interior and the garden. Open for special events. 416 Catoma St., North Side
We Can Be Heroes (or Zombies)
Grab your pelt, pick up your sword and shield, and gear up for an epic battle through Pittsburgh Roleplaying Organization (www.pittsburghroleplaying.com), one of the region’s biggest LARP communities (Live Action Role Playing). If medieval fantasy isn't your speed, games also include zombie apocalypses and less violent world-rebuilding. It’s a great opportunity to break up the monotony of daily life, rock clothes you'd never wear down the street, and be the hero (or villain) you've always wanted to be.
Sleep On It
Grab a sleeping bag and pajamas for Science Sleepovers at the Carnegie Science Center (www.carnegiesciencecenter.org). Stay over for a night of hands-on learning, movie screenings, laser light shows, and other activities designed for kids and their caregivers. Each sleepover has a different theme where attendees can explore the galaxy, play to their hearts' content at game night, or celebrate with events tailored for Halloween or the winter holidays. One Allegheny Ave., North Side
Want to gaze upon a banana seat classic complete with bendy handlebars? Bicycle Heaven (www.bicycleheaven.org) has several, as well as hundreds of other bikes, trikes, and other pedal-powered vehicles. Described as the world’s largest bicycle museum and shop, visitors can wander its large warehouse rooms and find unique cycles available no place else. The free museum is located just a couple blocks from the Three Rivers Heritage Trail that follows the Ohio and Allegheny rivers, so you can even ride your bike there. 1800 Preble Ave., North Side
The Hill District is not the first neighborhood people associate with Jewish communities in Pittsburgh, but it has a rich, slightly hidden history woven throughout its streets, known as the Jewish Holy Houses. Take a walk through the Hill and keep an eye out for buildings adorned with plaques recognizing the Hebrew calendar and weathered Stars of David. Highlights include the Hebrew Institute (now the Blakey Program Center) and Lebovitch Synagogue (now Enon Baptist Church).
There are over 700 city-owned steps in Pittsburgh, but only one of them also serves as a free public swimming hole. North Side’s Pittsburgh Water Steps are made of up 500 blocks of sandstone and provide a perfect spot to take the kids to cool off on a summer day. Kids love running up and down the hill of steps and diving into the shallow water. Adults can join in on the fun too — stick your feet in the water and soak in the sun and city skyline views. North Shore Riverfront Park, along the Three Rivers Heritage Trail.
The dark and bizarre items on the shelves at The Weeping Glass in Allentown include animals, strange art, and more — the perfect place to search for a gift for the Wednesday Addams in your life (even if that’s you). The shop also holds performances, tarot readings, and classes, so customers who don’t want to buy an animal that’s been taxidermied by someone else can learn to do it themselves. 817 E. Warrington Ave., Allentown. www.moroseandmacabre.com
Into the Furnace
Admire a monolith of Pittsburgh’s industrial history during a tour of the Carrie Blast Furnaces National Historic Landmark. Towering 92 feet over the Monongahela River, the remnant of the Homestead Steel Works now hosts everything from music festivals to theater productions. Rivers of Steel (www.riversofsteel.com) guides visitors through this preserved marvel while highlighting the site’s iron-making technology and the culture of its workers. Tours offered seasonally from May through October. Carrie Furnace Blvd., Rankin
Hidden in the small neighborhood below Troy Hill known as Washington’s Landing is one of Pittsburgh’s best seafood restaurants. Redfin Blues (www.redfinblues.com) sits next to boat docks on the Allegheny River and is known for its pub-style seafood, shellfish, and buckets of beer. 100 Waterfront Drive, Washington’s Landing
The Allegheny Cemetery (www.alleghenycemetery.com) in Lawrenceville is not just an attraction for Pittsburgh tourism, it’s also a National Historic Landmark. Many Pittsburgh legends are buried in the cemetery, including 22 mayors, as well as sports stars, actors, composers, and more. Some big names include Thomas Mellon, Stephen Foster, Lillian Russell, John Baptiste Ford, and Don Brockett. Guests can experience the history at Allegheny Cemetery through guided or self-guided tours. 4715 Penn Ave., Lawrenceville
Acclaim of Thrones
A good public toilet is hard to find, but in the tradition of Pittsburgh's “roll up your sleeves and get things done” work ethic, a local YouTube channel has taken on the task. VintageToiletsPittsburgh's toilet review videos have racked up more than a million views since 2008. Some entries review an entire restroom, some just a urinal, but they're all weirdly passionate and serious (and if you think it sounds gross, it's mostly not). No. 1 of all time? That's a side-spud Welling toilet at the Washington Trust Building in Washington, Pa. Search "VintageToiletsPittsburgh" on YouTube
Fans of street art will be happy to discover more of it popping up around town, with area businesses hiring artists to make the city more colorful than ever. Pittsburgh artist Jeremy Raymer (www.jmraymer.com) has combined the fad with one of the city’s other great loves: sports. Explore the city with a tour of the artist’s sports murals, from a huge painting of iconic Pirates superstar Roberto Clemente in Troy Hill to Steelers great Troy Polamalu and Penguins captain Sidney Crosby in the Strip District. His website includes a map to all of his murals, including non-sports related pieces.
Christmas in July
Try to find an empty space on the wall at Bob’s Garage — we dare you. This iconic dive bar is covered wall-to-wall in festive lights and decorations year round. During the holidays, the bar is a seasonal sensory overload in Christmas lights or St. Patrick’s Day ornaments, and in summer, decor goes South, diving into the tropics. 1372 Freeport Road, Blawnox. Search Facebook for “Bob’s Garage”
Step It Up
Pittsburgh is home to hundreds of public steps (more than any other city in the U.S.) helping people navigate its many hills and inclines. In the South Side Slopes (www.southsideslopes.org), a neighbor-driven public art project brightens up the risers of the Oakley Street steps with a mosaic tile image. At the bottom, you can see an entire scene depicting animals, houses, plants, and people. Check out the mosaic on your own or during one of the South Side Slopes StepTrek urban hike events. 27th and Josephine St., South Side
Rock ’n’ Roll Hall
Johnny Angel is a local rock musician whose career has spanned over 50 years. Angel currently plays with his band Johnny Angel and the Halos, a group that performs music from the ’60s and ’70s. Throughout the years, Angel collected plenty of memorabilia from shows and other experiences in the music business. He showcases his many pieces of musical history at Johnny Angel's Ginchy Stuff (www.jaginchystuff.com), his free museum and store on the North Side. 1800 Preble Ave., North Side
Home Sweet Home
Take some time to explore the Troy Hill Art Houses (www.troyhillarthouses.com), a series of homebound art installations commissioned by Pittsburgh collector Evan Mirapaul. The art houses are private works open to curious strangers by appointment. Examples include the “La Hütte Royal” (or “The Royal Hut”) and “Kunzhaus,” two houses on Rialto Street showcasing the work of their respective artists, Thorsten Brinkmann and Robert Kuśmirowski.
The largest biblical garden in North America is right here in Shadyside. Rodef Shalom Biblical Botanical Garden (www.rodefshalom.org) features a third of an acre of natural beauty, including a waterfall, a stream, and representations of biblical places such as River Jordan, Lake Galilee, and the Dead Sea. The free garden also boasts more than 100 different types of plants on display, each labeled with bible verses. 4905 Fifth Ave., Shadyside
If there’s one place in Pittsburgh to see a killer drag show, it’s Blue Moon. From karaoke to pageants to frequent performer Sharon Needles (Ru Paul Drag’s Race season 4 winner), Blue Moon has a welcoming vibe, divey aesthetic, and cheap drinks. 5155 Butler St., Lawrenceville
People (and Dinosaur) Watching
The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh-Main (www.carnegielibrary.org) is a sight to behold, from the outside and the inside. Its grand architecture and marble staircases make it one of the more regal libraries in the city. But past the main library area is something special; in the stacks in the back of the library, among the narrow shelves cramped with books, is a window into the adjacent Carnegie Museum of Natural History (www.carnegiemnh.org). Grab a book, take a seat on the bench, and read while glancing out at visitors gawking at dinosaur bones. 4400 Forbes Ave., Oakland.
Walk on Wood
Wood streets have all but disappeared in the U.S., but Roslyn Place in Shadyside has lasted for more than a century. The residents of the 250-foot cul-de-sac take pride in their street, built from more than 26,000 brick-shaped wooden blocks in 1914. The street is narrow and parking is limited, so park on nearby Ellsworth Avenue. Roslyn Place, Shadyside.
There’s no way to make karaoke, the act of singing badly in front of strangers, any weirder right? Wrong! BOOM Concepts (boomuniverse.co) in Garfield offers Puppet Karaoke every eight weeks, making it a little easier for those with stage fright. Meanwhile, the Tennyson Lodge (www.facebook.com/thetennysonlodge) in Bethel Park offers Bareoke every Friday. Patrons belt out their karaoke songs while fully nude dancers gyrate to the beat (so maybe don’t pick “Daughters” by John Mayer). Then there’s Punk Rock Karaoke Collective Pittsburgh (www.facebook.com/pg/punkrockkaraokepgh). With an all-punk catalog, the group holds events to raise money for social justice issues.
A wheel-y Good Time
At the Wheel Mill, bikers, BMXers, and even unicyclists, can increase their riding ability without ever going outside. With eight rooms inside the “park” featuring all kinds of terrain from mountain bike trails to a foam pit with varying difficulty, bikers of all ages and skill levels can push the pedal to the metal. All-women classes are available to ensure a comfortable and safe learning environment for all. 6815 Hamilton Ave., Homewood. www.thewheelmill.com
It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s … VR
Fly through a Jurassic landscape like an ancient bird. Birdly, the National Aviary’s virtual reality flight simulator, transforms humans into a pterosaur, where you can soar past waterfalls and dinosaurs. The virtual reality responds to body in real time to simulate flight. 700 Arch St., North Side. www.aviary.org
Piping Hot Memes
In a country as divided as this one, there are at least two things people can agree are necessary: pizza and memes. Better yet, memes about pizza! The Instagram account @Pittsburghpizzamemes (www.instagram.com/pittsburghpizzamemes) posts Pittsburgh-specific memes about pizza, but occasionally memes about local politics and celebrities. In one post, the account made a fake Pittsburgh City Paper Best Of plaque, awarded to Red Baron frozen pizza at ShurSave. Get ’em while they’re hot!
Beer to Go
Need that beer to go? Some of Pittsburgh’s beer distributors will let you go through the drive-thru lane. There’s Brookline Beer Distributor in Brookline and Sudz Brew Thru Beer Distributor in Homewood West, as well as McTighe’s Drive Thru Beer Distributor in Glenshaw, a short drive from the city. Though Pennsylvania’s open container law means customers can’t crack their wares open until reaching home, the convenience of the drive-thru means they’ll get there that much sooner.
Ssssssshow and Tell
It’s easy to see reptiles at the zoo, the aquarium, or even your own backyard. But rarely is it possible to see as many at one time as at the Pittsburgh Reptile Sale and Show (pghreptileshow.com) at the Harmar House. The monthly event features thousands of animals, including snakes, turtles, birds, frogs, turtles, mice (live and frozen) and more. 9 a.m.-3 p.m. 1321 Freeport Road, Cheswick.
Take Me to the River Beach
Neville Island bar and bowling alley Paradise Island Bowl & Beach (www.paradiseislandbowl.com) describes itself as “Pittsburgh’s most exotic bowling center, on the shore of the island.” And they’re not wrong. The bar has a full bowling alley, as well as a riverside beach complete with tiki torches, a bar, and sand to wiggle your toes in. There’s even a sand volleyball league and a place to dock boats. 4601 Grand Ave., Neville Island
The reliquary at St. Anthony's Chapel (www.stanthonyschapel.org) in Troy Hill is home to the second largest collection of catholic relics in the world (first place goes to ... the Vatican). The story of how Pittsburgh landed this treasure trove is long and fascinating and worth hearing in completion during a tour. Some of the most stunning relics include a thorn from the Crown of Thorns, partial skull fragments from several saints, and St. Anthony's actual tooth. Open 1-4 p.m., Sat.-Thu. 1704 Harpster St., North Side
Meet New Meat
Strip District Meats is the city’s prime spot for exotic meats. Ostrich comes in steaks, python is coiled into spring rolls, and kangaroo is cut into filets. Test your mettle with alligator andouille and ground camel, or just stick to the selection of “normal” meats. 2123 Penn Ave., Strip District. www.stripdistrictmeats.com
Off the Track
Most know of Pittsburgh’s Rivers Casino (www.riverscasino.com), right on the Allegheny River, where many a night of gambling, dining, and entertainment can be had. But betting folks looking for a trip back in time need only travel up the road to Meadows Harmar. You’re likely to find a room full of smoking yinzers yelling at a hodgepodge of TV screens as they toss back a few cold ones and wager on ponies at this unique off-track betting spot. 1 Anchor Drive, Harmar. www.meadowsgaming.com/racing/racing
South Side has more to offer than just regular bars — some of them are themed! Feeling spooky year round? Check out Jekyl and Hyde (www.facebook.com/jekylhydesouthside), a Halloween-themed bar where every cocktail comes with plastic fangs. Like to bike? Over The Bar Bicycle Cafe (www.otbbicyclecafe.com) is decorated floor-to-ceiling with murals, upcycled bike gears, wheels, and entire bike frames. For the inner child (who can legally drink), Bar11 (www.facebook.com/pittsburghsouthside) offers candy necklaces and fun little toys with the purchase of a drink.
Screen Under the Stars
Dependable Drive-In (www.dependabledrivein.com) is a four-screen outdoor theater that shows movies year round, so the whole family always has a place to see new releases under the stars. Pack up the car and head over for a regular double-feature, or make the trip for one of its special events. There are also plenty of tasty treats at the snack bar, including classics like popcorn, nachos, and cold drinks, as well as a full menu of hot food items and frozen goodies. 549 Moon Clinton Road, Moon Township
Wholesome Adult Games
Play is an essential act for everyone, not just kids. City of Play (www.cityofplay.org) aims to create more opportunities for adults to interact with one another and have fun in an urban environment with its pop-up play events. Offering a variety of game play options, including life-size board games, dodgeball, immersive theater, and more, City of Play shows up for public gatherings, neighborhoods, workplaces, festivals, and private groups.