Having attended college in northeast Ohio, I knew plenty of people from Pittsburgh, and they didn’t exactly sing their hometown’s praises. Which was why when I arrived for my summer-long internship working with a Pittsburgh-based nonprofit, I was surprised and delighted by just how vibrant, interesting, and enjoyable a city it turned out to be.
Through the Tunnel: Love at First Sight
My first and brightest memory of my summer in Pittsburgh was driving through the Fort Pitt tunnel as it opened up on downtown. The buildings were nestled in a sea of green trees and with the windows down, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the famous scene in The Perks of Being a Wallflower; truth be told, that moment of emergence from the tunnel did make me feel a little infinite. It was my first introduction to a city that would proceed to capture my heart.
Discovering Pittsburgh on Foot
My coworkers at the nonprofit suggested I take a walking tour of Pittsburgh during my first week of living there to familiarize myself with the city. It helped me get a more holistic understanding of the city’s history, architecture, and sense of community. I also learned how to speak “Pittsburghese,” but I won’t give away any trade secrets here.
I was a tourist all summer long, of course, but starting off with a free tour definitely gave me a leg up and helped me not stick out like a sore thumb among the locals. A single summer isn’t enough time to see everything there is to see in Pittsburgh, but I certainly did my best.
So Many Museums, So Little Time
As an art history minor, I absolutely had to visit the Carnegie Museum of Art, which is famous worldwide for its impressive collection. The exhibitions there are always changing, so I’m sure next time I’m in Pittsburgh I’ll have to make another stop. The Carnegie Museum of Natural History is right next door, so if you want, you can make an entire day out of it.
I also spent way too much time at the Andy Warhol Museum, which honors Warhol’s legacy in a really special way. Warhol was a Pittsburgh native, so visiting the museum is a unique opportunity to really get to know the artist in a way you couldn’t anywhere else.
Eat, Drink, and Be Merry
Between working at the nonprofit and wandering through museums, you’d think I wouldn’t have any time left for anything else - but you’d be wrong. I had the privilege of making a few local friends during my time in Pittsburgh, and they showed me the best dining and shopping spots the city has to offer, from the typical tourist traps to best-kept secrets.
Pittsburgh has the most bars per capita of any America city, and it showed. The renovated warehouse neighborhood of the Strip District is one of the trendiest places in Pittsburgh to shop and eat out. Right on the river, it makes for the perfect shopping day in nice weather or for a romantic date night. I felt like I could really connect with Pittsburgh’s history here on the waterfront; its past in the steel industry resonates in the architecture.
The Strip District isn’t the only place to find a good bite to eat in Pittsburgh, but it is the most diverse and picturesque. E Carson St. on the South Side is an endless street of bars, tattoo parlors and interesting restaurants. With each neighborhood having something unique to offer, there’s no reason one should ever be bored in the Steel City.
A Tight-Knit Community
What really made my summer in Pittsburgh special, though, wasn’t the art, the architecture, or the food. It was the people. Even when I was obviously touristy, I never felt anything but hospitality from the Pittsburgh locals, who are down-to-earth, friendly, and funny. They call it America’s Most Livable City for a reason - and now I know why.