What’s going on this week?
This question comes up a lot at City Paper HQ. The answer is always cause for alarm. A downside to living in Pittsburgh — or anywhere throughout Western Pennsylvania, really — is never having enough free time to get in on all the fun stuff. There is always a wedding to attend, an anniversary to celebrate, a big game to watch, and, well, you know the drill.
You should know we want to make the good life easier on yinz.
For our annual City Guide, we have built the bucket list for Pittsburghers of all ages and genders, for the been-here-since-birth crowd to the newbies around ’tahn. These recommendations are suggestions intended to intrigue lovers of art, music, food, sports, film, lazy Sundays, Friday happy hours, the city, the suburbs, and even a good argument. We pulled no punches in culling considerations for inclusion, and we tried to answer another question that comes up a lot: What do you want to do tonight?
That answer is always toughest to come by. There are so, so many options.
We hope you’ll enjoy ours.
1. On the rivers
There is a lot of water in Pittsburgh. Otherwise it’d be the “City of Viaducts.” So, it makes sense there is plenty to do in and around that water. Soak up some sun while exploring the three rivers by renting a kayak from Kayak Pittsburgh, next to PNC Park on the North Shore and paddling about to your heart’s content.
If you’d rather not dodge trash from the annual Kenny Chesney concert, hitch a ride on one of the Gateway Clipper fleet’s boats. Sightseeing tours are offered April through December. Gateway Clipper also offers themed cruises for kids and grown-ups alike, including holiday cruises and shuttling to and from each of PNC Park and Heinz Field.
Want a view of the city from the river while touring Downtown (without having to navigate traffic)? Check out a Just Ducky Tour. Catch a ride on a DUKW — pronounced “duck,” and a World War II amphibious vehicle — at Station Square and learn fun facts about Pittsburgh while cruising our “City of Champions.”
2. North Side’s weird side
Definitely come for the popular Andy Warhol Museum, but stay for more obscure North Side spots. After checking out Warhol’s soup cans and celebrity prints, take off your shoes and mingle with polka-dotted mannequins at Mattress Factory, a contemporary art museum with outside-the-box installation art. Get your selfie stick ready for Randyland, the Mexican War Streets' most decorated house with its courtyard full of salvaged art. If you’re lucky, you’ll meet Randy, the man behind the explosion of color; he’s always up for a photo. Don’t head for home without a trip to Chateau for the world’s largest bicycle museum, Bicycle Heaven. There, you can check out thousands of bikes, including one from the movie Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure.
3. Help furry friends
If you feel a tugging need to volunteer and give to the community, an animal shelter is always a solid bet. Unfortunately, there are people who leave animals always needing extra love and care. There are plenty of shelters around, but the Animal Rescue League is a good place to start.
4. Cruisin’ the Strip
Skip the grocery store and head to Strip District for fun and local shopping. Stop by the cheese counter at Pennsylvania Macaroni Company and drool over an incredible variety of imported cheeses and meats. Allegheny Coffee & Tea Exchange is great place to grab a cup of joe for the road, or a bag of beans for the house. If you’re looking for lunch, check out one of the food carts (Lucy’s Banh Mi, 2216 Penn Ave.) or head into Smallman Galley for a quick drink or a bite at one of its four rotating restaurant concepts.
5. Watch a radio show
Close your eyes and listen to the soothing sounds of thunder. Now open them. There’s an actor on stage, shaking a metal sheet. Midnight Radio at Downtown’s Bricolage theater is live theater at its best. Actors, often changing voices to take on multiple roles, perform a fake radio show, complete with a live band and hilarious commercial breaks. The Halloween show, a Pittsburgh twist on a traditional horror story, is a must-see. Don’t be surprised if you’re called on stage to participate.
6. Cycle in your skivvies
If you've ever seen someone riding their bike through Lawrenceville at night, wearing only underwear, and thought, "Wait, what?"… don't worry; those were the Pittsburgh Underwear Bike Ride riders. Now in its seventh year, the event promotes cycling, as well as body positivity. Join the bikers on the last Thursday of the month, May through October.
7. Hang with the dead
During a recent car ride, a friend said, "One of the best parts about Pittsburgh is that we have the sexiest cemeteries." You know, she's right. Allegheny and Homewood cemeteries are large swaths of Pittsburgh land that can also be lovely parks. There are beautiful trails, trees and wildlife to enjoy. Just watch out for the ghosts.
8. “(Run as fast as we can) to the lobby”
Sure, you could stay home this winter, watching a movie under blankets in the comfort of your own heated living room. But then you wouldn’t experience the fun of running to the snack bar as fast as you can between films at Coraopolis’ Dependable Drive-in. The theater is open year-round, which means they’ll shovel paths for cars when it snows. Hibernation is for suckers who miss out on eating freshly popped movie-theater popcorn under the cold night sky.
9. Day at Jerry's
The year was 2012. A lucky crate digger found a wicked-rare Robert Johnson 78 at Jerry's Records, and it turned out to be worth somewhere around $10,000. It's probably best not to expect such a lucrative haul for your visit, but you're sure to land some choice nuggets at this iconic record shop. Prices are reasonable, crates are stacked ceiling-high, playlists are expertly curated, and the folks behind the counter are friendly and knowledgeable. It's a must.
10. Seventh Heaven
With no due respect to Philadelphia, we’re still from the town with the great(est) football team. And from the day training camp opens at Saint Vincent College through the AFC Championship Game in January (yeah, we said it!), Pittsburgh is a Steelers town. Before home games, outside Heinz Field serves as world headquarters of the global Steeler Nation. Parking lots are packed with generational fans, beer, cholesterol-injected food spreads, beer, pickup football games, beer, people not wearing enough clothes, and … did we mention beer? Also, marching bands. The only thing more fun than a Steelers tailgate will be seeing Big Ben bring home Super Bowl win No. 7.
It started as a falling out between Italian immigrants with a knack for making pizza. It’s since become a friendly rivalry between two pizza shops just steps away from each other in Squirrel Hill. Employees at Aiello’s Pizza and Mineo’s Pizza House will argue their respective pies are better, but it’s a hard call for neutral bystanders. Try both and make your own choice.
12. (Pittsburgh) Gold oldies
Pittsburgh is known for identifying landmarks by what "used to be there," but there are still iconic spots around town untouched by the renovation bug.
Oakland’s Cathedral of Learning was built in 1926 and boasts the title of “fourth tallest educational building in the world.” Really rolls off the tongue, huh? The Cathedral is open most of the time, so check out the nationality rooms or head to the top and pretend you're looking down on Forbes Field for the ninth inning of the 1960 World Series. (“Here’s a swing, and a high, fly ball, going deep left …” Maz!).
If 1926 is too recent to scratch your history itch, treat yourself to a ride on one of Pittsburgh's curiously named inclines (duquesneincline.org and stationsquare.com). They decline just as often. These funiculars bring tourists and residents from South Side/Station Square to Mount Washington. Each was built in the 1870s, so they may creak and rattle. But they work as good as new.
13. Buy drinks for wolves
Few people could have predicted our Steel City would become a Furry capital, but here we are. Since Pittsburgh first welcomed Anthrocon in 2006, thousands of furries have walked the streets of this city. It gets hot under those suits, so why not buy a furry a drink and get to know our honored guests. Walk around Downtown this summer. You can't miss ’em.
14. Stare at marathoners
Jogging isn’t the worst. Jogging for 26 miles is the worst. But watching other people push their bodies to limits while visiting scores of great Pittsburgh neighborhoods … uh, that is the best. Grab a folding chair to sit in and watch pros (and schmos) run in the annual Pittsburgh Marathon. Make some signs. “I believe in you” and “you=awesome” are variations of perennial favorites. Jokey signs are good too. A favorite: “Worst parade ever!”
15. Bust a gut
Pittsburgh is a growing entertainment city, and that includes the comedy scene. See local talents bring audiences to tears at locations such as Arcade Comedy Theatre, Pittsburgh Improv Comedy Club and The Unplanned Comedy Warehouse. Not funny? Can’t even tell a knock-knock joke? The Pittsburgh Comedy Festival can help. It features workshops and programming for all ages — not that you can teach funny. Wait, can you? Knock, knock …
16. To the pointe
Though The Great Gatsby is an American classic, it’s not typically thought of in the company of, say, Swan Lake. Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre will subvert expectations with its production of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel. Other productions are Sleeping Beauty and, come the holiday season, The Nutcracker. We’d like to think Mr. Fitzgerald would have taken in all three.
17. Good cons
As only a few weekends are allowed to exist without a comic-book themed movie hitting theaters, at least Pittsburghers won’t have to quit the superhero stuff cold turkey. The 3 Rivers Comicon is usually a spring thing. We were digging the panels, especially “So You Want to be a Stormtrooper?” We’ll be way into Steel City Con at Monroeville Mall, Aug 10-12. Though, we’ll probably avoid attending celeb Martin Kove, just in case he is anything like his Karate Kid character, John “Sweep the Leg” Kreese. (Come to think of it, maybe checking out John Cusack isn’t a great idea, either. What if he leans into Martin Blank from Grosse Pointe Blank?)
18. Talking baseball
Ours is the best ballpark in America. Of course, our summers would be more enjoyable if America’s best baseball club belonged to Pittsburgh, too. But, well … hey, about PNC Park! Look, the Pirates aren’t winning now as much as they did when Andrew McCutchen (sniff) roamed supreme from 2013-15. Still, it’s tough to top walking across Roberto Clemente’s bridge and spending a night looking onto Pittsburgh from across the Allegheny River. The Pirates continue to keep ticket prices low, and their promotion game is World Series-quality with Fireworks Nights, Pup Nights and Dollar Dog Nights. (Don’t get the last two confused.)
19. Pick a little, talk a little
Every Wednesday, Elks Lodge No. 339 welcomes the Pittsburgh Banjo Club for Banjo Night. This banjo orchestra is mostly made up of old-timers and a few young folks who play and sing classic tunes. Sit amongst rows of communal tables, grab a songbook to sing along or drink a beer at the Lodge bar. Get in on raffle tickets or simple bar food. This event is must-see for anyone who loves Pittsburgh.
20. Late-night snackin’
Legendary sandwich shop Primanti Bros. was founded in Pittsburgh, but it has now expanded nationally. Out of over 35 locations, there are only two that are open 24 hours: Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., and the Strip District. Unless you have a sweet airline hookup, the Strip is probably your best bet for a 2 a.m.-sandwich to soak up the night's sins.
21. Diverse talents
Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company commits itself to bringing local talent to life. Doesn’t matter if the talented are writers or actors, either. Founded in 2003, Pittsburgh Playwrights’ goal is to reflect a rich variety within the community. With inclusivity as a guiding light, this company puts on a spectrum of shows to entertain any audience. Sometimes quality entertainment is delivered by quality people.
22. Have a (n)ice winter
Pittsburgh has become one of the world’s great hockey towns, but it’s always had a thing for ice rinks. Most recognizable is The Rink at PPG, which is regularly packed from late fall through midwinter. With a surface actually larger than the outdoor rink at Rockefeller Center in New York, this venue only serves to confirm how much better we have than our friends in the Big Apple. Plus, do New Yorkers have Schenley Park? Nope, and the rink there offers annual events that deliver cheer (Skate with Santa) and love (Valentines on Ice).
23. Casino boogey
Rivers Casino long ago established itself as more than a place for the “rank outsiders” Mick Jagger sang about in the Rolling Stones’ “Tumbling Dice.” Yes, this place is packed with slot machines and table games. But it’s just as fun to park yourself at the Wheelhouse’s bar to watch the Pirates gamble with their bullpen. We recommend a round for every relief pitcher required. A summer concert series regularly offers tribute bands that often sound and look better than the actual ones. And there are always enough drawings to give everybody decent odds at feeling like a winner. Or crash a wedding at an upstairs ballroom. (Actually, don’t. That’s a lot easier to do in a movie than real life.)
24. Chug pickle juice
Chugging beer is one thing. Real yinzers chug 32 ounces of briny, cold pickle juice. They do it fast. (They have to.) Witness their odd choices at the annual Picklesburgh festival, typically held in late July. This festival showcases all things pickled and always shuts down car traffic to a different one of Pittsburgh’s iconic bridges. Learn how to make pickles or pick the perfect spice blend. And, of course, sample gherkins, kimchi and dills from regional vendors.
25. Retail therapy
They say money can't buy happiness. Maybe. But it sure can buy material goods that will temporarily fill that immense void inside of you. Shadyside has everything from quaint knick-knack shops (Kards Unlimited) to classic mall finds (Gap) to mouth-watering treats at Millie's Ice Cream. Treat yourself, even if you don't deserve it. Which you don’t. Maybe.
26. City’s best view
You haven't fully lived in this city until you've stood at the Mount Washington overlook, trying to take a picture that encompasses your whole face as well as the whole city behind you. As the wind whips hair into your face, you realize everyone around you is doing the exact same thing. You would look stupid if the view wasn't so worth it. Sure, you could park on the street, like a peasant, but why not ride up in style on the Duquesne Incline?
27. Superior dining
Braddock’s hipster heyday is energizing this former steel town. Kevin Sousa’s anticipated Superior Motors is serving elevated cuisine with local food touches out of a former car dealership. Just down the block, theater company barebones productions and craft brewery Brew Gentlemen are worth visiting on their own or in tandem.
28. Day Trip to Polish Hill
Summer in Polish Hill is a particularly magical time. Start the day with insanely good breakfast and vegan pastries at Kaibur Cafe until 11 a.m., when Cruel Noise Records and Copacetic Comics Company open on the second and third floors, respectively, (3138 Dobson St.). Cruel Noise fills all needs from sick local vinyl and cassettes to zines, used records and a perfect dog named Demon. (Loves carrots, by the way).
After scoring goodies for the ears, head upstairs to Copacetic for the brain and eyes. Copacetic Comics is home to countless graphic novels, new and used books, zines, small-run published goodies and more. Owner Bill Boichel offers a wealth of information and great conversation, so don't be afraid to pick his brain.
In the afternoon heat, head to Polish Hill Pool (450 30th St.). Swim, splash and sunbathe with your newest read from Copacetic. This pool is queer-friendly and very casual, a must-visit.
Spend the night at Rock Room (1054 Herron Ave.) for cheap food, beer and punk rock, or head for pierogies, pool and probably live music down the street at Gooski’s (3117 Brereton St.).
29. Unwind with Hounds
It's hard to get Pittsburghers psyched about soccer. But Pittsburghers do love cheap beer. So, head to Highmark Stadium (510 W. Station Square Drive) to check out the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC. Arrive early for beers that are $2-3 before kickoff — including some tasty craft brews. When good and toasty, enjoy fast-paced play while soaking in a mighty fine view of our city’s iconic skyline.
30. Kick it with Kenny
Older than Arizona and twice as much fun, Kennywood has an undeniable old-fashioned charm. Historic highlights such as Lost Kennywood, Kiddieland and the legendary Jack Rabbit coaster aren’t for everybody. Still, show up for a day and chow down on barbecue, churros, ice cream and other assorted delectable carnival fare. You'll burn enough calories traversing the park on foot, so feel free to hit up Potato Patch for seconds.
31. Get JAZZed up
Cool like ice, Pittsburgh International Jazz Festival is usually toward the end of spring. Free concerts, workshops and special events are staged at state-of-the-art August Wilson Center and outside on Liberty Avenue, but vibe is as important as anything. Chances are, you’ll dig jazz even if you’ve never really listened. Fans from around the world make the trip for Pittsburgh’s jazz party. Least you can do is be cool, daddy.
Two for one is a great deal, especially when it comes to museums. Entry to the Carnegie museums includes both the Museum of Art and the Museum of Natural History. Learn about abstract sculpture, then dinosaur skeletons. Gaze at the photography of Pittsburgh gem Teenie Harris before hitting up a room full of actual gems.
33. Get your 15 minutes
“In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” Art All Night is your chance to prove the late Andy Warhol wasn’t kidding — or at least to become Pittsburgh famous. Our city’s largest art show is non-juried, meaning any original artwork submitted will be displayed. This free, annual, 22-hour event has been going strong for more than a couple of decades. Take your folks to see how talented their kid has become. (Warning: while family-friendly, a non-censored show means it’s almost a given there will be profanity.)
34. Fishin’ (and fryin’)
Every Lenten season, Pittsburgh churches come alive with the enticing sounds and smells of annual fish frys. Each church pulls out its best recipes and congregants get to work preparing cookie tables, coleslaw, pierogies and, of course, giant fish sammiches. Bring a couple of friends to communal tables and make some new friends over dinner. Catholic or not, these dinners are fun seasonal events with personality and big portions.
35. Breathe in bocce
Pittsburgh is a city of ethnic neighborhoods, and Bloomfield’s roots are in Italy. Little Italy Days festival serves as an annual reminder. Much of this event revolves around people slinging funnel cake and corn dogs, but some Italian traditions remain. In an alley off Liberty Ave, a bocce court is set up and old timers play like they’re pros. Reminisce and listen to their stories of old Bloomfield while enjoying its new energy.
36. Splash of fun
There is a joke about the “real” seasons of Pittsburgh: snow, slush, hot and construction. Well, we all need a place to cool off as the hot season bears down and the sun’s rays become ever more unforgiving. The Water Steps, wedged between PNC Park and Heinz Field at the North Shore Riverfront Park, are a perfect place to chill, especially if you have kids who need to stay cool and have fun.
37. Dark side in Allentown
Black Forge Coffee House’s cool, gothic interior provides the perfect place to sit, down a coffee that’s black as your heart and read Lords of Chaos: The Bloody Rise of the Satanic Metal Underground, by Michael Moynihan and Didrik Søderlind.
Around the corner is The Weeping Glass, a curiosity shop where you can acquire odd art, strange antiques and natural history goodies. Stock up on candles, sage bundles, human teeth, porcupine quills and an abundance of spectacular jewelry.
Just down the street is Skull Records (635 E. Warrington St.), a shop where you can acquire records, VHS tapes and early copies of rock magazines. There’s also a great selection of locally crafted jewelry, as well as hand-painted wall art and table tops.
By now you’ve probably worked up an appetite. There is a killer restaurant next door: Onion Maiden. This punk rock, vegan comfort-food shop turns out amazing chili cheese tots, hot dogs, bao buns and more. Also, the menu is full of outstanding metal, punk and horror puns. Just try to leave without a box of tantalizing pastries to take home.
38. Pittsburgh’s sporting women
We all know about the Penguins, Pirates and Steelers, but the most exciting sports to witness exist outside of this mainstream, dude-centric frame.
The Pittsburgh Passion is our women’s professional football team. A three-time champion (2007, 2014 and 2015), the Passion is electrifying to watch live — and its games feature a drumline in the stands.
Another hard-hitting sport worthy of infatuation is flat-track roller derby. For the uninitiated, roller derby is comparable to doing ballet through a defensive line … while on skates. Steel City Roller Derby is skater-owned and operated. It features five different teams: Steel Hurtin’ (varsity), Steel Beamers (junior varsity), and hometown interleague teams the Allegheny Avengers, Mon Monsters and the Penn Bruisers. All seasonal games are played at Pittsburgh Indoor Sports Arena in Cheswick (22 Rich Hill Road).
If the adult team isn’t enough, there’s also a junior roller derby team in town. The Pittsburgh Derby Brats is comprised of fearsome tweens and teens who are as exciting to watch as their adult counterparts, so catch one of their bouts at the Neville Roller Drome (5109 Neville Road).
Bonus: There are so many collegiate women athletes in town. Check out women’s basketball, volleyball or softball.
39. Hang with other species
Look, sometimes you just need to get out of the house and see a cheetah up close. The only legal place to do it in this town is at the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium. Our zoo also houses seals, elephants, tortoises, exotic pigs, rare rhinos and more. If that's not enticing enough, maybe take a look at the new lowland gorilla baby, born in June. Just, please, don't make any gorilla/zoo jokes around its young, unsullied ears.
Recently opened, Pittsburgh Food Truck Park (1923 Riverfront Dr.) packs a lot of deliciousness into one place. Part of Millvale’s plan to revitalize its riverfront, this park is home to a rotation of Pittsburgh’s most popular food trucks Friday through Monday. Live music and an in-house beer trailer serve to entertain while you dine. Kids and friendly dogs are welcome.
41. Movie night(s)
Pittsburgh's film scene goes far beyond Batman and a certain grumpy weatherman named Phil. The Steel City has a robust variety of annual film festivals ranging in size and topic. Programming that is reliably inventive, provocative and diverse. Mark calendars for these highlights: Pittsburgh International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, Silk Screen Asian American Film Festival, Reelabilities (films that promote stories of individuals with disabilities), JFilm (Jewish-themed films) — and keep an eye out for any new ones debuting in the near future. There is sure to be more soon.
42. Talk a walk on the South Side
Drink hard. But do it right. Settle into one of dozens of bars on Carson, drink a plenty, dance with friends, argue about sports. Repeat. Then do it again at: Dee’s Cafe (1314 E. Carson St.), Carson City Saloon (1401 E. Carson St.) and Smiling Moose (1306 E. Carson St.). For a more refined evening experience, enjoy cocktails at Tres Rios (1719 E. Carson St.) or whiskey and a burger at Winghart’s (1505 E. Carson St.). Everything is bunched together in a few blocks. Don’t drive while intoxicated, please.
43. Hit the streets
Doing yoga is pretty cool. Doing yoga on Penn Avenue in the heart of the Strip District? Even cooler. But yoga is just one of the many things to do during Open Streets. Ride a bike, run or skateboard down city streets that would usually be filled with bustling traffic, then stop and check out a local business while you’re on the move. A few times each summer, different areas play host to Open Streets, including: Carson, Forbes, Penn and Butler.
44. Drink like great grandad’s dad
One Pittsburgh bar and restaurant has remained for nearly 150 years. The Original Oyster House, located in Market Square, serves seafood and ales, and has played host to everyone from politicians to athletes. Featured in several movies filmed in the area, this staple is a generational favorite for eating and drinking. Oh, it’s also a certified historic landmark. So, uh, what are you waiting on?
45. Tour Hollywood East(ish)
More than two decades have passed since Jean-Claude Van Damme valiantly saved Civic Arena (and Pittsburgh at large) in Sudden Death. While that's a tough one to top, our city has since played host to plenty of top-shelf Hollywood films. No trip to Pittsburgh is complete without a mini-tour of iconic settings in "Hollywood East” — a name used by almost nobody.
Let's start with the big guns. The second and third installments of Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight franchise showcase memorable Pittsburgh scenery, including some unholy treatment of Heinz Field, plenty of yellow bridges and a geography-defying chase on Smithfield St. (Uh, how many Macy's are there in Gotham?)
Kennywood starred in Adventureland. So, if you're feeling nostalgic for late-1980s Pittsburgh, head to the park, ride some rides and blast "Rock Me Amadeus." If you're into Alanis Morrissette and/or Jay and Silent Bob, take trips to Sts. Peter and Paul Church in East Liberty or the Steel Building (Mooby Corp.) and relive favorite scenes from Dogma. And while we wouldn't recommend going full-Emma Watson out of the sunroof a la Perks of Being a Wallflower (seatbelts, people!), driving through the Fort Pitt tunnel is the only way to stylishly arrive in this Steel City.
Finally, check out the Pittsburgh Airport of She's Out of My League-fame on your way atta ’tahn. Neither the most famous setting nor best movie shot here, at least it's convenient.
46. Go see music ... fo’ free!
Pittsburgh has a plethora of free music festivals. Each offers an opportunity to explore a new part of town. See over 100 bands perform throughout the North Side for Deutschtown Music Festival or wander the music-filled streets of Millvale for Millvale Music Festival. Pittonkatonk, a May Day barbeque, is free and super family-friendly. Still, feel free to contribute spare dollars in the name of a year-round music education program and a lot of amazing cultural programming.
47. Walk famous landmarks
Hey, Pittsburgh has earned its “City of Bridges” moniker. There are 446 in these parts, so eat your heart out, Venice. And though most of our bridges often seem like parking lots for vehicles, many have been adjusted to include pedestrian-friendly walkways. Everybody has a favorite bridge, whether it is Roberto Clemente’s (Sixth St.) or Andy Warhol’s (Seventh St.). But the fact that there's a bridge for just about everybody you know is something Pittsburghers can hold over Clevelanders. OK, it’s something else we can hold over those people.
48. Get (pop) cultured
This isn’t your parents’ symphony. This is a larger-than-life experience that pairs blockbuster films with live performances of blockbuster music. Imagine watching Back to the Future on a big screen in Downtown’s historic Heinz Hall while the Pittsburgh Symphony performs the unforgettable score, or the delightful squeals from a roomful of kids dressed in Harry Potter cosplay for an evening of tunes from Hogwarts. Yes, the symphony still has standard concerts for its easy-listening regulars, but recent events targeting younger folks are worth a ticket.
49. Light ’em up
Fireworks are the only thing Pittsburghers love more than pierogies, football and giant rubber ducks. Displays are year-round — to the point that it actually seems like you can’t swing an old Terry Bradshaw jersey without finding fireworks. They come after a Pirate hits a home run at PNC Park, from Point State Park on the Fourth of July and even when the New Year arrives as part of First Night festivities. They’re everywhere, sort of like mosquitoes and municipality governments. Only, everybody loves fireworks.
50. Be in Burgettstown
Driving 25 miles from Downtown is worth it if at the end of the ride a great concert awaits. KeyBank Pavilion in Burgettstown is the region’s go-to spot for mainstream musical acts. In the coming months alone, this amphitheater will stage margarita parties (Jimmy Buffett), scary duos (Rob Zombie and Marilyn Manson), country honks (Miranda Lambert and Little Big Town), farewells (Lynyrd Skynyrd) and vocal wizardry (Pentatonix). Seriously, there is something for everybody. Make the trip.
51. Community touchpoint
If looking for a spot honoring Pittsburgh's rich cultural history while nurturing the next generation of talent, Kelly-Strayhorn Theater in East Liberty is it. Named for two of this neighborhood's iconic cultural exports (Gene Kelly and Billy Strayhorn), this theater space and community touchpoint offers a unique cross section of old and new Pittsburgh.
52. See (art) and be seen
Impress your date with a trip to one of Pittsburgh’s Gallery Crawls. Visit dozens of galleries and attractions for free. If you’re over 21, some venues even offer free booze. Must-see museums for Downtown’s quarterly Gallery Crawls include Wood Street Galleries (601 Wood St.), August Wilson Center (980 Liberty Ave.), SPACE Gallery (812 Liberty Ave.) and Future Tenant (819 Penn Ave.) For the East End crowd, make plans to see and be seen the first Friday of every month at Unblurred, a Gallery Crawl in Garfield. Highlights are glass-blowing demonstrations at the Pittsburgh Glass Center (5472 Penn Ave.), DIY activities at Workshop PGH (5135 Penn Ave.) and, in warmer months, the Garfield Night Market, where local artists sell their wares.
53. Out with a bang
Point State Park’s summers are filled by live music, fireworks and powerboat racing. Those three come together at EQT Three Rivers Regatta for a weekend of family-friendly fun. Recent Regattas have also featured jet-ski stunt shows and an “Anything That Floats” race. This summer, from Aug. 3-5, check out musical headliners Sugar Ray and Randy Houser.
54. Catch a cloud
Kids shouldn’t spend a whole day skipping rocks across the asphalt. (Wait, was that just us?) Fortunately, interactive exhibits at Children's Museum are better options for a summer day. It’s like playing with a favorite toy and learning something, too. Free public art exhibits outside the museum also make for time well-spent. Kids can create clouds. But they shouldn’t skip rocks at those. It’s dangerous.
55. Ghouls and witches
For a half-century, the Bloomfield Halloween Parade has been a dependable excuse to unleash your inner ghoul. Also, it’s a chance to dress up all spooky n’at. An event catering to people of all ages, this Monster Mash-and-March usually attracts over 10,000 spectators, making it Pittsburgh’s most popular evening parade. Get your costume on. The scarier, the better.
56. Under the sea
It’s not 20,000 leagues below, but the USS Requin still provides visitors a chance to experience submarine life. This submarine, which operated from 1945-1968, is docked at the Ohio River off the North Shore, just outside the Carnegie Science Center. Head inside to learn about everything from astronomy and anatomy to robotics and model railroading.
57. Out-of-the-box plays
If you've ever thought of plays as stuffy, check out East Liberty-based Quantum Theatre. These folks stage productions in non-traditional theater spaces, such as the Strip District Recycling Building or Carrie Furnace. The upcoming season includes a one-man show about gun culture and a reimagining of Shakespeare classic King Lear.
58. Celebrate a native son
August Wilson's name is everywhere in Pittsburgh. Sometimes it's easy to forget how lucky we are to share a hometown with such an important, talented and influential cultural icon. At the August Wilson Center, catch a diverse roster of plays, parties, music and educational programs. But for a more intimate exploration of Wilson's life and work, step into his Hill District childhood home to experience his plays from the very locations by which they were inspired.
59. Arts is festive
Three Rivers Arts Festival is free to attend, but it offers priceless entertainment. Music headliners are reliably fantastic. (Ella Fitzgerald and Ray Charles played in early days, and Aimee Mann and Mavis Staples showed up more recently). A local art marketplace highlights some of Pittsburgh’s best talent. Even those seemingly annual showers cannot prevent attendees from finding Pittsburghers who are in a better mood — outside of a Penguins’ playoff run or a Pirates’ winning streak.
60. Ride the river (trails)
No need to own to get in good ridin’. Rent a Healthy Ride bike from one of several stations along the city’s river trails to enjoy miles of car-free strolling. Stop at the Point State Park fountain, Millvale’s quaint riverfront park, or the North Shore and its numerous restaurants.
61. Hopped brews and hoppin’ breweries
Hot take: good beer is a good enough reason to cross a river. On the bank of the Allegheny, in towns such as Aspinwall, Sharpsburg and Millvale, breweries are doing a brisk business selling unique brews to enthusiasts. Spend a relaxing day (and maybe take a Lyft/Uber) hopping from one brewery to another. Put your finger on the pulse of the city’s brewing culture.
Hitchhiker Brewery and Tap Room moved last fall from Mt. Lebanon and into a spacious warehouse filled with light and great beer. After a brewski, head down the road to beer aficionado darling Dancing Gnome for a pint of one of its signature IPAs. Change towns and catch a ride to Millvale’s Strange Roots Experimental Ales for something a little different, such as a saison or American wild ale. Finish the night on the patio of Grist House Craft Brewery for a pint with fun and funky names: Undead Unicorn pale wheat ale or Batteries Included coffee stout.
62. Art again
Waste not, want not. At least, waste not any unused supplies or materials that could be put to use by people who visit a couple of Pittsburgh’s best bargain spots. Construction Junction and Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse are the places for people seeking reused paints, sculpture tools, appliances, office items and furniture — you name it. There are more than old art supplies to find. And there are never enough, so consider donating.
63. Glorious local wrestling
There’s a little something for every fan. For the old school and new/casual types, check out KSWA’s family-oriented shows at Spirit (242 51st St.) or head to its yearly solar-powered event, Brawl Under the Bridge, which is under the Homestead Bridge (just $5!). Independent wrestling enthusiasts should make one of IWC’s high-flying, energizing shows at Court Time Sports Center (95 Enterprise St.) to see past, present and future international stars. And don’t forget about AngelGate, Pittsburgh’s women-wrestlers-only event at The Battlegrounds (2125 Beacon St.).
64. Take flight
A true treasure on Pittsburgh’s North Side, the National Aviary is fun for folks of any age. There are a surprising number of free interactive activities at one of the region’s best-kept secrets.
There’s a baby sloth named after Vivien Leigh. Should be a case of “enough said,” but there’s also a machine that simulates how to fly like a bird, in New York City, complete with shifting winds. And if you think it’s easy, you’re wrong. Birds have it hard, man.
Whether during feedings of penguins or encounters with armadillos in a renovated FliteZone Theater, time spent at the National Aviary is guaranteed to smarten you to the important role these hundreds of species play on our planet. Education, specifically on the issues of conservation and preservation, is a responsibility staffers take seriously. While a day with the birds is fun, it’s also a unique opportunity for parents and kids to learn something together.
You might not know this place is available for events. So, if you’re planning a wedding and want to throw an unforgettable reception, well …
Arguably Pittsburgh’s best summer party, “Night in the Tropics,” is July 21. There will be fine food, sweet treats, a DJ and beachy beverages.
65. Hear local
Ever uttered these words: “There’s no good local music in Pittsburgh”? Well, you are entirely wrong. And are you even looking? On any night, at least one show is showing off local talent. Check out a Wild Kindness showcase at Spirit (242 51st St.) or peep a locals-focused show at all-ages dry space Mr. Roboto Project (5106 Penn Ave.) Bars such as Howlers (4509 Liberty Ave.), Hambone’s (4207 Butler St.), Rock Room (1054 Herron Ave.) and Gooski's (3117 Brereton St.) are always flaunting local talent. Get off your butt and get to the (local) gig!
66. Ketchup on history
Most users of the Veterans Bridge have noticed that 42 1/2-foot tall neon Heinz ketchup bottle. (It’s hard to miss, especially at night). That building under the big bottle, fittingly, is Sen. John Heinz History Center. Currently showing an exhibition on Heinz and its iconic ketchup, the History Center also is home to rotating exhibitions about everything from local sports to Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.
67. Night on the town
Looking for a classy night out? Downtown’s Theater District is the ticket. Check out packed schedules at the Benedum Center (237 Seventh St.) and Byham Theater (101 Sixth St.) for a show that intrigues, and then look for the perfect place to dine. Stop by Proper Brick Oven & Tap Room (139 Seventh St.) for a slightly dressed-up slice of pizza, pasta or glass of wine. If you’re willing to drop a little more cash, head to or, The Whale (463 Blvd. of the Allies) for fancy and delicious surf n’ turf.
68. Amped freebies
There is no such thing as a bad free lunch. Except that there is. But there really isn’t such a thing as lousy free music, because free music is guaranteed fun. Allegheny County Free Summer Concert Series brings the fun when the weather is best. A variety of artists perform, most free of charge — though some do, but even those shows are cheap compared to, say, Radiohead’s rare visit to Pittsburgh. The amphitheaters at South Park and Hartwood Acres are your tickets. We recommend bringing lawn chairs. And maybe a friend.
69. Say Pride!
There are many ways to celebrate Pride Month every June. Downtown’s streets are filled with Delta Foundation's street fair, concert and parade for a weekend. Join People’s Pride March hosted by SisTers PGH for a comprehensive celebration of the intense, diverse act of resistance that is Pride. If large crowds aren’t your thing, take a Dandy Andy tour at Warhol Museum, visit Blue Moon (5115 Butler St.) for a drink in a queer-friendly environment or dance away the night at Jellyfish at P Town Bar (4740 Baum Blvd.).
70. Go outside, yell about hockey
Even three Stanley Cup wins by Sidney Crosby and company haven’t been enough to keep diehard Penguins fans from shouting “shoot the puck!” after a couple of poor power plays. If a 13th consecutive postseason happens next spring, do yourself a favor and take in a game with thousands of fans outside PPG Paints Arena. They watch for free on a giant screen. Arrive early or risk getting stuck high on the hockey hill that becomes Washington Place.
71. Stage right
72. Let loose in Lawrenceville
It’s recommended to best enjoy Butler Street by popping in and out of all the hip places. (Feel cool, even if you’re not. Fake it till you make it, right?) Start at The Abbey on Butler for coffee or brunch, then stroll into La Gourmandine bakery for a sweet treat. Get a tattoo at Black Cat Tattoos or fresh style at Pavement. Finish the day with a local beer at Roundabout Brewery or Eleventh Hour Brewing.
73. Drag show at Blue Moon
Pittsburgh is home to some of the Rust Belt’s most vivacious, vibrant and wickedly creative drag queens. The best place to see their work is at Blue Moon in Lawrenceville (5115 Butler St.). Each Wednesday, Blue Moon plays host to an open stage that starts at midnight. So, leave behind the stress of your day and come ready to throw dollar bills at the finest queens around.
74. The people’s theater
Modern classics, canon hits and experimental new works converge in Pittsburgh Public Theater's expert programming. Growing out of the 1970s stage scene, this theater house has evolved into a staple of Pittsburgh's cultural offerings with the national recognition to match. Haven't checked out its beautiful new thrust-style Downtown stage, O’Reilly Theater ? Get on that ASAP.
75. A piece of Pittsburgh n’at
A day-old Primanti’s sandwich might seem like a good souvenir at 3 a.m., after drinking in the Strip District. But a better idea is to visit one of Pittsburgh’s rad gift shops, such as Wildcard (4209 Butler St.) or love, Pittsburgh (301 Shiloh St.) — and then you can buy locally made items more likely to warm someone’s heart. Grab an “Everybody Loves Pittsburgh” T-shirt from Commonwealth Press (691 Washington Rd.) or some Yinz socks from Steel City (625 Smithfield St.). Hot tip: a Primanti’s gift box or one of Prantl’s famous burnt-almond tortes can be delivered for ed-Pitts.