Pittsburgh

Length of stay: 1 day
Visited: November 2021

The city of Pittsburgh is located in southwestern Pennsylvania at the junction of three rivers. It is often referred to as Steel City because of its hundreds of steel-related businesses. It is also known as the City of Bridges as there are 446 of them, which is more than any other city in the world. Pittsburgh provides plenty of opportunities to step back in time to learn about its history, appreciate American art and just enjoy the skyline.

We’ve spent the past two years exploring Ontario during the pandemic. While we’ve enjoyed visiting as many provincial parks as we can and experiencing more of Ontario’s rugged wilderness, we were ready for a change of scenery. We’ve been a bit hesitant to hop on any planes, so when the United States announced that it would be opening its land border to us Canadians in the beginning of November, we planned a last minute road trip south of the border. And the first stop on our itinerary was Pittsburgh.

We drove down to Pittsburgh the night before and had no issues crossing the border. It was actually one of the easiest border crossings we’ve ever had. There was no line to get into the United States. We were asked a couple of questions about where we were heading and for how long, and then we were on our way. We weren’t asked to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test.

To start our day, we booked tickets to the Phipps Conservatory for the first available time slot. Since we arrived early, we decided to visit the University of Pittsburgh since it’s located nearby. It’s notable attraction is the Cathedral of Learning, a 42-story building that is the second-tallest university building in the world.

We walked through the main campus and went on a scavenger hunt to find some of the red painted doors on many of the various buildings around campus. Each one showcased a unique shape or design.

We then headed to the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. Every year, Phipps hosts an annual Holiday Magic! Winter Flower Show that includes elaborate displays of holiday trees, twinkling lights, poinsettias and other festive floral delights and decorations. There are several different indoor gardens with rotating seasonal exhibits, including a palm court, a tropical forest conservatory, an orchid room and a desert room. There are also a few outdoor gardens, including a Japanese Courtyard Garden with several bonsai, but most of these were closed or rather uneventful given the time of the year we visited.

Afterwards we drove to the Mount Washington neighbourhood to check out some of the viewpoints along the Pittsburgh skyline. It was a bit of an interesting drive since many of the roads are steeply sloped. Alternatively, there are two funicular railways to get up and down Mount Washington, the historic Duquesne Incline and Monongahela Incline. But since we had a car, we opted to drive. We walked along Grandview Avenue where there are several viewing platforms overlooking downtown Pittsburgh from across the river.

We hopped back in the car for a short stretch and stopped at Point State Park, which is located at the confluence of three rivers. This is where the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers join together to form the Ohio River. The park includes brick outlines and remains of Fort Pitt (built by the British between 1759 and 1761 during the French and Indian War) and Fort Duquesne (built by the French in 1754). The park also features a 150-foot fountain at the tip of the Point (which wasn’t operational when we visited), several monuments, and interpretive plaques.

On our drive out of the city we made one last stop at The Frick Pittsburgh, which contains a complex of various museums and historical buildings spread across six acres that provide more information about the Frick family. Henry Clay Frick’s claim to fame was that he founded the H.C. Frick & Company which at one point produced almost 80% of the coke used by Pittsburgh’s iron and steel industries. He also financed the construction of the Pennsylvania Railroad, owned a lot of real estate and had an extensive collection of art and fine furniture.

We started at the Frick Art Museum which showcased a temporary exhibit on Victorian Radicals: from the Pre-Raphaelites to the Arts & Crafts Movement. This included a collection of paintings, sketches and decorative arts by three generations of revolutionary British artists and designers that offered a radical artistic and social vision inspired by the pre-industrial past.

Afterwards we walked through the Car & Carriage Museum which houses the Frick’s collection of historic carriages and automobiles dating back to the turn of the 20th century and the Greenhouse which once served the Frick family from 1897 through the 1970s. There are a few other historical buildings scattered around the grounds, including the Clayton, the restored home of the Frick family from 1882 to 1905, but these were unfortunately closed at the time we visited due to COVID.

We then hopped back in the car and continued our drive through Pennsylvania.

L

87 thoughts on “Pittsburgh

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It was nice to head south of the border and to visit a few states and cities that we’ve never been to before. Pittsburgh was much nicer than I expected and I enjoyed the views of all the various bridges over the river. The botanical gardens were also very beautiful and festive. It was a great start to our road trip.

      Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I was blown away by how charming Pittsburgh is with all the various bridges along the water and its winding narrow streets. It was a bit treacherous to drive through the city and I’m glad we weren’t visiting in the winter. Thanks for reading. Linda

      Liked by 1 person

  1. kagould17 says:

    Fascinating Linda. So much more than just steel in this city. A lot of history and a beautiful site. Thanks for sharing. Glad you managed a trip out of the norm. Allan

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The timing of our road trip worked out well as a couple weeks later the Omicron variant started to spread more widely. This was our first time visiting Pittsburgh and it definitely exceeded my expectations. The views along the river were beautiful and the botanical gardens were a great way to get into the Christmas spirit. Thanks for reading and have a wonderful weekend. Linda

      Liked by 1 person

  2. babsje says:

    Thanks for showcasing my home town – Pittsburgh. The Phipps Conservatory is truly awesome, and the Cathedral of Learning at the University of Pittsburgh is majestic, especially the International Rooms. Point Park was a favorite place during the days of the Bridge to Nowhere, when the northbound and southbound lanes of a double-decker interstate bridge were misaligned badly leaving a huge gap over the river. Delightful post!

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment. Visiting the Phipps Conservatory was one of the highlights from spending the day in Pittsburgh. It was nice to see the festive display of poinsettias and holiday decorations. That’s too funny about the Bridge to Nowhere. How useless and embarrassing, but it sure makes for a good story!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Rose says:

    Thanks for the wonderful tour, and I really enjoyed your descriptive writing! These are exactly the kinds of things my husband and I like to see – nature, history, architecture, skylines…

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Pittsburgh exceeded my expectations and it was much more scenic then I thought. Granted, I wouldn’t want to drive along those steep winding side roads on the regular, but it wasn’t so bad for a day. It was nice to have a good balance between spending time indoors and outside.

      Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The city did an excellent job with all the viewing platforms and walkways along Mount Washington. It’s a great area to enjoy the views of the Pittsburgh skyline and to see many of the various bridges cross the river.

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It was neat to see so many of the bridges from the overlooks on the other side of the river. I love how each bridge has a unique design, shape and colour. Visiting the Phipps Conservatory was a great way to get into the Christmas spirit and was one of our highlights from our day in Pittsburgh.

      Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Pittsburgh exceeded my expectations. The city is surprisingly charming with all the rolling hills and narrow roads (although I’m sure that would get real old if we stayed for longer). Plus the views overlooking the river and all the various bridges is beautiful. We actually found out about all these different red doors from some guy we passed by while walking through campus. Naturally we had to check it out and I’m glad we did.

      Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Pittsburgh wasn’t high on my list of places we planned to drive through during our road trip south of the border, but it definitely exceeded my expectations. It was also much more scenic that I thought with all the rolling hills and various bridges that cross the river. The Phipps Conservatory was also another highlight and a great way to get into the festive spirit. Take care. Linda

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      There’s a lot of interesting features and facts about Pittsburgh. The driving was a bit nerve wracking with all the narrow streets and steep turns, but I guess that’s all part of the experience. It was a great start to our road trip and set the bar pretty high.

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words. Back when the value of a Canadian dollar was much higher, I used to take family shopping trips to Pennsylvania with my mom and sisters. This was my first time visiting Pittsburgh and checking out some of the main attractions. Steel City is much more beautiful than I had imagined.

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  4. Ken Dowell says:

    I think Pittsburgh is a greatly under-appreciated city. I’ve always had a great time there. In addition to the attractions you’ve highlighted there are some great art museums like the Carnegie and Warhol and it’s my favorite place to go to a baseball game.

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I couldn’t agree more about how Pittsburgh is very underrated. It wasn’t high on my list of places to visit during our road trip, but was rather a necessary stop to break up the drive. Needless to say it exceeded my expectations and we had a wonderful time. I wish we could have stayed for longer to more fully explore the city.

      Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      We’ve driven through Pennsylvania before, but this was our first time visiting Pittsburgh. The city is quite beautiful and I love how it’s surrounded by the river and that there’s so many unique bridges. There’s a lot of great viewpoints and other activities and attractions to keep you busy.

      Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment. I can see why Pittsburgh is high on your list of cities to visit in the US. I have a feeling we’ll be back someday. We were only here for a day and I feel like there was still a lot we have yet to explore.

      Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The Phipps Conservatory was such a delight to visit towards the end of November when many of the rooms were transformed into a festive display for the holidays. I can’t even begin to imagine how much work it would take to set up all the seasonal displays of poinsettias and Christmas decorations. It was very well done and a lovely way to spend our morning. Thanks for reading and leaving a comment. Linda

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Little Miss Traveller says:

    This is really interesting Linda. I never knew this steel city had so.much going for it but of course I’ve learnt from travelling that almost everywhere has its own story to tell. When I was researching my family history a great grand parent had emigrated there and was an accountant at the steel works. Have a great weekend.

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I know what you mean. With a name like Steel City I wasn’t expecting Pittsburgh to be so scenic. But it turns out that there’s a lot of greenery and nice viewpoints of the skyline. That’s neat that you’ve researched your family history and know more about their background. Hope you’re enjoying your weekend as well. Take care. Linda

      Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      That’s totally understandable. One of our biggest concerns was getting COVID while we were away. We tried to be as careful as we could and we wore masks the whole time. A couple weeks after we returned home the Omicron variant started to quickly spread. The timing worked out well for us and we managed to stay safe, but we don’t have any plans of leaving the country anytime soon as it was quite stressful.

      Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words. Pittsburgh is an interesting city filled with lots of great activities and attractions. It was a great start to our road trip. Hope you’re enjoying your weekend as well. Linda

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  6. BrittnyLee says:

    I usually don’t comment before I read but I’m super excited to read this. I’m going to be spending a week here in the summer with my fiance as a bday treat 😁😆. We have never been here yet so I’m so excited to explore the area. I’m going to read this now and then comment again haha 🤣😆

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  7. BrittnyLee says:

    Ohhh !!! This trip is going to be so awesome. You’ve gotten me so excited . Matt and I love museums and anything to do with history . I’m really happy to read that they have a lot of museums and also botanical gardens. I have been to a really beautiful botanical garden in Washington DC. The pictures you took remind me so much of it. I hope that these places will be open. I’m really grateful that your trip to Pa was pleasant and that you weren’t given a hard time coming through during the COVID breakout. It’s always nice when you read about someone coming into your country without drama or rudeness. Things like that can ruin a vacation for you. I am really excited about all the lookouts, too. You have taken some great shots. You make Pittsburgh look even better than I could think it would look :). I am about 4 hours away from Pittsburgh and I live in Pa! Pennsylvania is a huge state, as is Virginia. This was very enjoyable and helpful for our planning. Great timing my friend 💗:) beautiful photos, Linda. I hope you’re having a great week and have a good weekend 🙂

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      If you are a fan of history, you will not be disappointed with your visit to Pittsburgh. The Phipps Conservatory was one of my favourite attractions in the city and it was lovely to see such elaborate display of holiday themed plants and flowers. They regularly host different exhibits through the seasons which is a nice way to shake things up. We were only here for a day and I wish we could have spent more time here to fully explore the city.

      We were lucky that we were able to visit before the Omicron variant became cause for concern, otherwise I doubt we would have gone. Best of luck planning for your trip to Pittsburgh. You’re going to have so much fun! Hope you had a great weekend as well. I can’t believe it’s already almost over.

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      • BrittnyLee says:

        I know! Weekends go by too quickly. I hope you’re enjoying what’s left of yours. 🙂 I’m on wordpress trying to get sleepy for waking on the morning for work haha . I always struggle falling asleep on Sundays. That’s awesome how much historical places they have to visit there. Matt and I will be set 🙂 the photos you posted from the lookouts were gorgeous too. We’re going to check out this theme park there called Kennywood. I will be sure to fill you in about it in case you ever come back to Pittsburgh. 🙂 Too bad I didn’t know you then, we could’ve met up and explored. I know it’s scary about omicron and covid. Through all of this, I was mostly concerned for my clients and my family. It’s scary stuff. I’m glad you got to go and enjoy Pittsburgh before it. 🙂

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      • WanderingCanadians says:

        A theme park sounds like fun. I’m looking forward to hearing about your adventures and experiences in Pittsburgh. I can see ourselves returning to Pittsburgh someday. It’s only about a 5 hour drive from where we live, which isn’t too bad. Next time I’m in the area I’ll let you know!

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  8. thehungrytravellers.blog says:

    This post has taught me more about Pittsburgh than the rest of my life had! But then at home in the UK it’s nit a particularly well known city. All I remember hearing (years ago) that it was Ameruca’s most polluted city – the steelworks I guess. I now know quire a bit more!

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Pittsburgh has long had a bad rap because of its industrial past and air pollution. It’s certainly come a long way. I was pleasantly surprised at how scenic the city is with all the various bridges and views of the river. Thankfully we had nice clear views of the skyline when we visited late in November.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Bama says:

    I had no idea that Pittsburgh has the most bridges of all cities in the world! I love that shot of the city’s skyline you took from Mount Washington. I hope my city has a hill like that, but it’s all flat! It’s nice that you decided to go to Pennsylvania for a change of scenery. After getting stuck in our own city/province/island since the beginning of the pandemic, an excursion across the border seems like a good idea. Did you go all the way to Philly?

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Pittsburg has a bad reputation for having some of the worst air pollution in the country. I’m glad we enjoyed such clear skies to appreciate the lovely views of the Pittsburgh skyline and all the various bridges. I love how each one has a unique design, colour and shape. As much as we’ve enjoyed exploring more of our home province during the last two years during the pandemic, it was so nice to get a change of scenery. We ended up driving south towards Georgia so we didn’t end up visiting Philadelphia.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Ab says:

    What a lovely change of scenery. I bet you really needed it by that time!

    I never really thought of Pittsburgh as a place I’d ever be interested in visiting but your photos and report back was interesting! I didn’t know the factoid about the bridges and the conservatory and those red church doors are lovely.

    It’s a good thing you got to visit and cross the border while things were still fairly closed down. I can imagine crossing the border to be busier these days!

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I feel so fortunate that we were able to squeeze in a last minute road trip to the United States. The timing worked out well as a couple weeks after returning the Omicron variant started to spread more quickly. And yah, I imagine now with most restrictions eased that there’s a lot of people eager to start travelling again.

      To be honest, I had such low expectations for Pittsburgh. The only reason we stopped here was to break up the drive. It was much more scenic than I was expecting and there was a nice range of activities to keep us entertained. I wouldn’t mind returning and staying for a little bit longer to more fully explore and enjoy the city.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. leightontravels says:

    This is a city I would love to explore. Love the bridge statistic, that would make a good quiz night trivia question. Would put all the stops you’ve mentioned here on our itinerary, the Cathedral of Learning is just spectacular! Great skyline views from Mount Washington too.

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment. It was neat to see so many bridges from the viewpoints of the Pittsburgh skyline from across the river. I love how each one has a unique design. It’s too bad the Cathedral of Learning was closed when we visited as I bet it looks impressive from inside too.

      Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Pittsburgh was much more hillier than we were expecting from the other side of the river, which made driving around interesting. I’m glad we were visiting in the offseason so traffic at least wasn’t too bad. The views of the Pittsburgh skyline with all the various bridges were beautiful. It’s a nice area to walk around too and to soak in the views.

      Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I don’t blame you. New England is one of my favourite areas, especially in the fall when all the leaves are changing colour. My husband worked in Boston for a few years so we’ve spent a bit of time here. It’s very charming.

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  12. harveyclicker says:

    Thanks for the review of our great city 🙂 It’s a nice place to live, though difficult to get around in sometimes.
    And the air pollution has gotten much better. It’s tricky with the geomorphology of the city—even smaller amounts of pollution get stuck between the mountains and caught by the low pressure system due to the rivers. And with the steel industry largely exported from the city, the foliage bounced back tremendously since the 80s, no longer wrecked by the acid rain and ash.

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      We had a wonderful day in Pittsburgh and it certainly exceeded my expectations. I wish we could have stayed for a bit longer to more fully explore the city. I can see why it would be tough to get around given some of the narrow and steep roads. I’ve heard that the air quality in Pittsburgh has improved considerably. We’ve had issues with acid rain too in Ontario, but I’m glad that it’s not really a thing in North America anymore.

      Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Pittsburgh has had a bad reputation for being dirty and having a lot of air pollution. But they’ve made significant improvements in recent years and the city looks quite scenic with all the different bridges. We actually found out about the red doors from some random dude that we passed by and he highly recommended it.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. usfman says:

    You’re getting close to my boyhood region of Northern Ohio. It seemed you get lucky with weather in Pittsburgh. Based on your rustic previous blogs, I’m a bit surprised you are visiting our big cities.

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I know! We spent the past two years roughing it in the wilderness and exploring a lot of different campgrounds and parks. It felt weird to trade in our tents for a bed and the trails for a wide sidewalk. It was nice to get a change of scenery though. Pittsburgh was a great way to start our road trip.

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words and for commenting. This was our first time visiting Pittsburgh and I was blown away by how charming the city looks with all the narrow winding streets, the views overlooking the river and all the various bridges. I just wish we could have stayed for a little bit longer. That’s always the issue, there never seems to be enough time (or vacation days).

      Liked by 1 person

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        For sure. I’m glad we were able to go away on a last minute road trip south of the border as a couple of weeks after we returned, the Omicron variant became cause for concern. I doubt we would have gone then if we had put it off until later. Take care and have a wonderful weekend.

        Liked by 1 person

  14. P E B says:

    Great descriptions and trip visits! I’d add the following!
    – PNC Ballpark during season (cheap, great views, entertainment, sport)
    – Andy Warhol museum, born & raised in Pitt (I’ve gone monthly in the past)
    – The Strip District for good, innovative yet affordable restaurants (+ markets on Weekends)

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      For sure. The timing of our US road trip last November worked out well as a couple weeks after we returned, Omicron became cause for concern. It seems like travel everywhere is opening back up again, which is nice. Let’s hope it stays that way!!

      Liked by 1 person

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