A Newcomers Guide to Pittsburgh Arts and Culture | City Guide | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

A Newcomers Guide to Pittsburgh Arts and Culture

Local faves and hidden gems, including galleries, theaters, tours, comedy, and more

click to enlarge A Newcomers Guide to Pittsburgh Arts and Culture
CP photo: Kaycee Orwig
Local Hidden Gem for Animal Experiences: Black Cat Market Co-owner, Indigo Baloch
Pittsburgh boasts a number of great ways to see and experience art and entertainment. Some are more obvious, like the major museums located in the city’s Oakland and North Side neighborhoods. Others are a little harder to find, but no less interesting or worthwhile. See below for Pittsburgh City Paper’s list of local faves and hidden gems, including galleries, theaters, tours, and other fun ways to spend a day with friends or family, or on a solo adventure.

Art Museum

LF: Carnegie Museum of Art. 4400 Forbes Ave., Oakland. cmoa.org
Experience new exhibitions, dynamic programming, and permanent collections featuring every major art movement, as well as local artists like photographer Charles “Teenie” Harris, at this important Pittsburgh cultural institution.

LF: Mattress Factory. 500 Sampsonia Way, North Side. mattress.org
Open your mind to new art forms and emerging artists at this contemporary art museum. Explore multiple floors at the main building, or visit the Monterey Annex.

HG: Frick Museum of Art. 7227 Reynolds St., Point Breeze. thefrickpittsburgh.org
Located on the attractive Frick Pittsburgh campus, the museum houses Helen Clay Frick's personal collection of fine and decorative arts, and hosts a diverse array of creatively curated exhibitions.

History Museum

LF: Carnegie Museum of Natural History. 4400 Forbes Ave., Oakland. carnegiemnh.org
Adults and kids alike will delight in the expansive, educational presentation of dinosaurs, architecture, gems and minerals, and more in this historic building.

LF: Senator John Heinz History Center. 1212 Smallman St., Strip District. heinzhistorycenter.org
Get a fun crash course on Pittsburgh at this museum covering the full history of the city, from its founding to its many important contributions and figures.

HG: Kelso Museum of Near Eastern Archaeology. 616 North Highland Ave., Highland Park. pts.edu/museum
Located in the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, the Kelso Museum covers an array of archaeological finds from modern day Israel, West Bank, and Jordan.

Dedicated Space

LF: The Andy Warhol Museum. 117 Sandusky St., North Side. warhol.org
Did you know Andy Warhol was born and raised in Pittsburgh? The influential pop artist has his own museum, covering his prints, films, and more, as well as new voices in the art world.

LF: August Wilson African American Cultural Center. 980 Liberty Ave., Downtown. aacc-awc.org
This architectural beauty honors the legacy of late playwright August Wilson, whose plays highlighted the Black experience in Pittsburgh, with art exhibitions, live music, talks, and more.

HG: Maxo Vanka Murals. St. Nicholas Croatian Catholic Church, 24 Maryland Ave., Millvale. vankamurals.org
Croatian artist Maxo Vanka graced the walls of this Catholic church with an incredible collection of murals rich in political and social commentary. Guided tours are regularly scheduled on Saturdays.

HG: The Clemente Museum. 3339 Penn Ave., Strip District. clementemuseum.com
This museum pays tribute to the late Pittsburgh Pirate Roberto Clemente, one of the most celebrated athletes in Pittsburgh, and overall sports history.

Family Fun

LF: Carnegie Science Center/Highmark SportsWorks. One Allegheny Ave., North Side. carnegiesciencecenter.org
Help the kids exercise their bodies and minds with a day at Carnegie Science Center and Highmark SportsWorks, two state-of-the-art facilities full of fun, interactive activities.

LF: Kennywood. 4800 Kennywood Blvd., West Mifflin. kennywood.com
Generations of families have enjoyed the many rides, games, and events at this historic theme park. Be sure to try the Potato Patch fries and brave the Phantom's Revenge roller coaster.

HG: Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village. 401 Meadowcroft Road, Avella. heinzhistorycenter.org/meadowcroft
Right outside the city is one of the earliest examples of human habitation in North America. Learn about prehistoric life with fascinating demonstrations and other programs.
click to enlarge A Newcomers Guide to Pittsburgh Arts and Culture
CP Photo: Jared Wickerham
Owners Nicole Capozzi and Josh Hogan of Boxheart Gallery, a Hidden Gem in Bloomfield

Art Gallery

LF: Pittsburgh Cultural Trust Galleries. Various locations, Downtown Pittsburgh. trustarts.org
Downtown Pittsburgh offers several expertly curated art galleries all within walking distance of one another. See shows at Wood Street Galleries, SPACE, 707 Gallery, and 937 Gallery.

LF: Brew House Association. 711 S. 21st St., South Side. brewhousearts.org
This longtime space hosts a regular rotation of exhibitions focused on showcasing and nurturing local artists and curators.

HG: BoxHeart Gallery. 4523 Liberty Ave., Bloomfield. boxheartgallery.com
Nestled in Pittsburgh's bustling Bloomfield neighborhood, this eye-catching storefront gallery recently celebrated its 20th anniversary and often offers dual artist exhibitions on its two floors.
click to enlarge A Newcomers Guide to Pittsburgh Arts and Culture
CP Photo: Jared Wickerham
Hidden Gem Bicycle Heaven

Specialty Gallery

LF: Pittsburgh Glass Center. 5472 Penn Ave., Friendship. pittsburghglasscenter.org
See innovative works and try your hand at glass-blowing at this center dedicated to the glass arts.

LF: Silver Eye Center for Photography. 4808 Penn Ave., Bloomfield. silvereye.org
Breathtaking exhibitions feature artists pushing the boundaries of contemporary photography.

HG: Trundle Manor. 7724 Juniata St., Swissvale. trundlemanor.com
This offbeat "tourist trap" invites guests into a world of weird taxidermy, macabre finds, occult objects, and more. Tours are appointment only, so make yours today.

HG: Bicycle Heaven. 1800 Preble and Columbus Ave., North Side. bicycleheaven.org
Pittsburgh is becoming a more bike-friendly city, and not just in terms of transportation. See tons of cool, classic, and even famous bikes at what's touted as the world's largest bicycle museum and shop.

Performing Arts Theater

LF: Benedum Center. 237 Seventh St., Downtown. trustarts.org
As one of the city's lead venues, the Benedum Center hosts popular Broadway shows and musicals, ballet, live comedy, and more.

HG: Kelly Strayhorn Theater. 5941 Penn Ave., East Liberty. kelly-strayhorn.org
Named after two of the city's most famous performers — movie star Gene Kelly and jazz pianist Billy Strayhorn — this community theater focuses on new dance, music, and more, particularly by artists from under-represented groups.

Concert Hall Performances

LF: Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. Heinz Hall, 600 Penn Ave., Downtown. pittsburghsymphony.org
The city’s Grammy award-winning symphony orchestra celebrated its 125th anniversary in February, and after a year of virtual performances, is returning to in-person productions this summer at Hartwood Acres Park. In non-pandemic times, you can find the orchestra performing at Downtown’s beautiful Heinz Hall.

HG: MCG Jazz. 1815 Metropolitan St., Manchester. mcgjazz.org
Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild’s program is one of the longest-running subscription jazz series in the country, presenting an eclectic mix of musicians and vocalists of the genre.

Animal Experiences

LF: Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium. 7370 Baker St., Highland Park. pittsburghzoo.org
Explore the animal kingdom on land and under the sea while strolling through this major zoo and aquarium that offers educational opportunities and a number of close-up encounters.

LF: National Aviary. 700 Arch St., North Side. aviary.org
Soar to new heights at the National Aviary, where you can meet tropical birds, owls, and other winged species, as well as penguins and a sloth.

HG: Black Cat Market. 5135 Penn Ave., Garfield. blackcatmarketpgh.com
Meet a new furry friend at this locally owned and run cat cafe, where you can interact with adoptable felines, enjoy a cup of coffee, and buy fun cat-themed merchandise.
click to enlarge A Newcomers Guide to Pittsburgh Arts and Culture
CP Photo: Jared Wickerham
Local Fave Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

Botanical Beauties

LF: Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. One Schenley Park, Oakland. phipps.conservatory.org
This giant domed jewel contains a long list of plant and flower species from around the world. Gaze at vibrant seasonal blooms, check out various exhibits and events, and find healthy snacks at Café Phipps.

HG: Pittsburgh Botanic Garden. 799 Pinkerton Run Road, Oakdale. pittsburghbotanicgarden.org
Take a stroll through acres of planned gardens, conserved woodlands and meadows, and more at the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden.

HG: The Frick Pittsburgh Greenhouse. 7227 Reynolds St., Point Breeze. thefrickpittsburgh.org
The Frick Pittsburgh welcomes visitors into its renovated and partially reconstructed greenhouse, which served industrialist Henry Clay Frick's family from 1897 through the 1970s.


LF: Arcade Comedy Theater. 943 Liberty Ave., Downtown. arcadecomedytheater.com
This theater group first moved its shows to the virtual stage during the pandemic, then to a cozy spot outdoors in the Cultural District for Arcade at the Oasis, a comedy-variety show featuring a rotating set of local and national comedians.

LF: Steel City Improv. 5950 Ellsworth Ave., Shadyside. steelcityimprov.com
Best known for its improv classes, Steel City has been physically closed during the pandemic, but has been offering skits on Twitch throughout, including Dubs of our Lives, a regular comedy act where performers improv lines over episodes of an old reality TV show.

HG: Mildred the Lunch Lady. Blue Moon Bar, 5115 Butler St., Lawrenceville. facebook.com/mildredthelunchlady
Mildred the Lunch Lady, once voted Pittsburgh’s no. 1 Bartender by City Paper readers, is an 84-year-old lunch lady who works at Blue Moon, an LGBTQ bar in Lawrenceville. She’s the alter ego of drag queen Alistair McQueen, and is worth a trip — and a tip! — for a drink and some laughs.

Movie Time

LF: Row House Cinema. 4115 Butler St., Lawrenceville. rowhousecinema.com
Set to reopen in late September 2021, this single-screen movie theater offers a curated schedule of classic, popular, and arthouse films. You can also grab a beer at the connected Bierport bottle shop and bar. And until the reopening, it’s offering private rentals and virtual screenings.

HG: Riverside Drive In Theatre. 1114 Lees Lake Lane, Vandergrift. riversidedrivein.com
Take in a double-feature under the stars at this drive-in theater located just a short drive outside of Pittsburgh. Besides new films, the theater also hosts weekend horror movie marathons and other special events.


LF: Walk The Burgh Tours. 1049 Penn Ave., Downtown. walktheburgh.com
What better way to learn about the city than by foot? Walk The Burgh offers a variety of guided tours covering famous landmarks, film locations, and even haunted sights.

LF: Gateway Clipper Fleet. 350 W.Station Square Drive, South Side. gatewayclipper.com
Become familiar with the city's waterways during a trip on the Gateway Clipper Fleet. The riverboat service invites passengers to sightseeing tours, as well as themed parties, romantic cruises, and more.

HG: Cathedral of Learning Nationality Rooms. 4200 Fifth Ave., Oakland. nationalityrooms.pitt.edu
Learn more about the towering University of Pittsburgh landmark with a look at its many Nationality Rooms, classrooms decorated to represent countries from around the world. Tours are on hold due to COVID-19, but check back for reopening dates and virtual resources.