Survey results: What you like most/least about Pittsburgh and its activities

As some of you may know, I posted a survey on my Facebook page about Pittsburgh and its attractions. Besides some standard demographic question, I also asked people what they like most/least about Pittsburgh and about some of the more popular things to do here. After 25 respondents, I took the answers and made some pretty little charts and graphs to better visualize everything. People were allowed to pick more than one answer for most questions so a lot of answers add up to more than 25. Hopefully this gives me a better understanding of my readership and some ideas for future blog topics (which I am ALWAYS open to).

Pittsburgh Staycation: age chart

As far as demographics go, most people (16 out of 25) who answered were in the 18-25 age range, with 7 in the 26-35 range, and 1 each in the 36-45 and 46-55 ranges. I didn’t bother making a chart for the gender responses since they were pretty much equal: 13 respondents were female and 12 were male. The same applied for a question asking if the person was currently a college student: 13 said no, while 12 said yes.

Pittsburgh Staycation: location mapClick the map for actual, useful information!

I also asked people what areas of Pittsburgh they lived in, such as Downtown or the East End, and plotted them on this map (click on the image to see the interactive Google map). Important note: I didn’t ask for exact locations so the pins on the map represent the area, not that specific point, where someone is located. The number of people that responded for each location can be seen on a list on the left or by clicking on a pin. Four people were not from Pittsburgh (come on, yinz guys!) and their locations are plotted too. Most people were from the eastern areas of Pittsburgh, with, surprisingly, no one from the western side.
 

Pittsburgh Staycation: what do you like most about Pittsburgh chart

Not surprisingly, people said they liked the sports teams and parks and rivers the most, two prominent features of Pittsburgh, with restaurants and people rounding out the top 4. Some of the other answers written in were the geography, topography, history, location, walking distance, architecture and skyline. All super great stuff!
 
What do you like least about Pittsburgh?
As for what they like least about Pittsburgh, almost everyone said the weather and traffic, which is a shock to absolutely no one. I’m a little sad that someone said what they like least is the people. We love you, Mr. Grinch, whoever you are! One person said the construction is their least favorite thing (can’t argue with that) and the person from Durham said the fact that it’s 8 hours away. Good point.
 
Favorite Pittsburgh professional sports team
Expectedly, the Steelers were most people’s favorite professional sports team in Pittsburgh, with the Penguins and Pirates sharing second place.
 
What's your favorite Pittsburgh neighborhood?
The neighborhood love was pretty evenly spread out, with Squirrel Hill getting the most mentions. Someone (who lived Downtown) answered Station Square too but poor Bloomfield got nothing! Not sure what that’s about because Bloomfield is awesome, especially for Little Italy Days.
 
If you had to pick one "must-do" for a Pittsburgh visitor, what would it be?
Now onto the really good questions: Most people thought riding the incline, eating at Primanti’s, and going to the Strip District on a Saturday morning were musts for Pittsburgh visitors, and rightfully so. In terms of quintessential Pittsburgh-y things, those three (along with sporting events, which ranked 4th) are pretty indisputable. As for the other options, people said the bookstores, Phipps Conservatory, the Ducky Tour, and taking people Downtown to show them all the buildings.
 
What is something you haven't done in Pittsburgh yet that you really want to do?
Lastly, in a question semi-related to the previous one, the Warhol Museum came out the clear winner. Phipps, the Cathedral of Learning, the Heinz History Center, and attending a Penguins game rounded out the top 5. Three wonderful Pittsburghers had done everything on the list and I want to shake their hands. Other great suggestions were kayaking downtown and spending a spring day at Hartwood Acres. But wait, no one’s been dying to go to a Pirates game???  Maybe next year, Buccos.
 
Overall, this survey gave me some great ideas. The Warhol, Phipps, and the Strip District are definitely higher up on my list of places to check out, with maybe some more activities aimed at students. Thanks to everyone who participated!

Interview: Pittsburgh for dog lovers, restaurant goers, and, oh yea, Cowboys fans

Vanessa and I first met while working at Camp Bow Wow (doggie daycare and boarding), and her and her fiancé Matt have become some of my dearest friends here. Although they are both not originally from Pittsburgh, they’ve settled into life here easily and love exploring the city, especially with their shih tzu, Wesley. Vanessa’s new line of work means they’ll eventually be moving out-of-state but they’ve had some great memories here in Pittsburgh and hopefully will visit often after they leave! They answered a few questions about Pittsburgh and what they love about it, plus included a few pictures from their Facebooks of them doing “Pittsburghy” things.

Matt and Vanessa attend Pup Night at PNC Park for a Pirates game with their dog, Wesley.

Matt and Vanessa attend Pup Night at PNC Park for a Pirates game with their dog, Wesley.

Tell me a little about your background.

Matt – I’m originally from Lancaster (Lan-KISS-ter), Pennsylvania and came to Pittsburgh to go to Pitt to study Finance. I lived in Oakland during school and now live in the North Side with Vanessa. I currently work at BNY Mellon in the Corporate Actions department and process various corporate events as they occur for our clients. Vanessa and I started a pet tag engraving business a few years ago which is a secondary job for each of us (check it out at www.petidexpress.com).

Vanessa – I grew up about 30 miles south of Pittsburgh in the small town of Belle Vernon, and I made the move up to Oakland to study Neuroscience at Pitt. Once we finished school, Matt and I moved to the North Side and have been here for about two and a half years. I decided to go back to school for Air Traffic Control, which I just finished up this past August and am now waiting on a government job. Currently I work at Pittsburgh International Airport deicing airplanes (you know, spraying them with a glycol solution before they take off in the wintertime) as well as maintaining our pet tag engraving business that Matt mentioned. When we’re not working, we like to explore the city with friends, try out new restaurants, and go places with our dog, Wesley.

Matt and Vanessa in one of the planes Vanessa flew for her Air Traffic Control program.

In one of the planes Vanessa flew during her Air Traffic Control program.

What do you like most about Pittsburgh? Least?

Vanessa – One of the things I like the most about Pittsburgh is how its neighborhoods are set up. Downtown has a large city feel with its towering skyscrapers & daily hustle and bustle, but the city itself is actually pretty small and compact. You can literally walk from one side of downtown to the other in almost no time. Areas like the Strip District, Oakland, South Side, North Side, Shadyside, Squirrel Hill, etc are all not far from downtown, and each neighborhood offers its own unique feel. It’s nice being able to visit Pittsburgh’s different neighborhoods in the same day without having to drive far. And that brings me to what I like least about Pittsburgh – driving. I love to drive, but Pittsburgh is known for its terrible traffic (specifically 376). People around here seem to be “tunnel challenged” so the Squirrel Hill tunnel & Liberty tubes always create a huge backup. There are also a lot of potholes and never-ending road construction.

Matt – I love the architecture: the bridges, PPG Place, The US Steel Building, PNC Park (who plays there?), the Casino, the Cathedral of Learning, I could keep going. My least favorite thing about Pittsburgh is the Parking Authority and parking in general.

Enjoying an Incubus concert outdoors at Stage AE in Pittsburgh's North Shore.

Enjoying an Incubus concert outdoors at Stage AE in Pittsburgh’s North Shore.

What are your favorite things to do in Pittsburgh?

Matt – I really enjoy the Pittsburgh music scene which continues to draw better and better acts. I love going to Market Square during my lunch breaks; there always seems to be something interesting happening. I also enjoy going to different Pittsburgh area parks on nice days.

Vanessa – I love to try out new restaurants & bars (Groupon has been a great tool for finding new restaurants & getting great discounts!). I also enjoy strolling through the Strip District, catching some rays at Sandcastle Waterpark in the summer, & spending time outdoors with our dog. Earlier this year we discovered Riverview Dog Park, which is a hidden gem behind the Pittsburgh Observatory, and we find ourselves there a lot. If you have a dog, it’s a great place to spend an evening with lots of other people and their dogs!

Don't let that face fool you-- Wesley loves exploring the city parks!

Don’t let that face fool you– Wesley loves exploring the city parks!

What are your favorites places to eat in Pittsburgh? Drink? Go out at night?

Vanessa – Some of my favorite places to eat around here (and there are LOTS!) are Nicky’s Thai Kitchen, DiBella’s Subs, Lindo’s, Primanti Bros, Sushi Boat, Antoons, Fatheads, Taj Mahal.. the list goes on and on. I enjoy going out at night to Pittsburgh’s South Side and visiting the various bars along that strip (some favorites that come to mind are the Rowdy Buck, Locals, & Mario’s). I also like to visit the River’s Casino from time to time.

Matt – I like to eat at Nicky’s Thai, Mix Stirs, Monterey Bay, Madonna’s, Taiwan Café, and many more. I like going out to various bars in the South Side but can’t always remember their names. I also enjoy hanging out at friend’s places.

What is your favorite neighborhood in Pittsburgh and why?

Matt – My favorite neighborhood in Pittsburgh is Oakland because it is the first one I knew and I have a lot of good memories there including meeting my fiancé Vanessa!

Vanessa – I could say my favorite neighborhood in Pittsburgh is Oakland for the same reasons as Matt, but for a little variation I will go with the North Side because it’s where I live now, and I love it here. While Pittsburgh’s North Side is sometimes known for its somewhat “shady” areas, there are also some very nice areas here. I can honestly say that I have never felt unsafe living here. I think Pittsburgh’s North Side is turning into a beautiful part of this city, and I’d love to see how far it’s come in a few more years.

Wesley and his friend Fleury playing hard at Riverview Dog Park in the North Side.

Wesley and his friend Fleury playing hard at Riverview Dog Park in the North Side. Photo by Kent Noble

Matt- What’s it like being a Cowboys fan in Steelers country?

Other than the death stares I get when walking downtown wearing my jersey, it’s not that bad. The Cowboys haven’t been very good for a while now so I don’t think Steelers fans feel threatened. At work, I am constantly defending Tony Romo (I think Steelers fans are jealous). [Editor’s note: HAHAHAHA]

A photo Vanessa took of Pittsburgh while flying for her Air Traffic Control program.

A photo Vanessa took of Pittsburgh while flying for her Air Traffic Control program.

Describe your perfect day in Pittsburgh from start to finish.

Matt – Wake up and watch the sunrise on Mt. Washington then head down the incline and go into the Strip to enjoy breakfast and coffee while walking around the shops. Next, stop by the Furry convention [?!] and then head out kayaking on the river. After kayaking, grab some sustenance at Primanti’s and then head to Soldiers and Sailors to lie down before the food coma sets in. After I awake, travel to the North Side for a show at Stage AE and then back home to my warm cozy bed.

Vanessa – My perfect day in Pittsburgh would begin by sleeping in a little and then going out to breakfast somewhere (I’d say Lindo’s because their breakfast is awesome, but I’d prefer to try somewhere new). After breakfast, I would spend the afternoon out on a boat on the river with some friends & some brews. Once evening starts setting in, we’d get dressed up and go out to eat somewhere fancy on Mt. Washington, and then maybe go catch a show downtown at the Benedum before heading home.

Top 5 Historic Sites in Pittsburgh to Visit Today

Pittsburgh is a city rich and alive with history. From its settlement in 1717 to its rise as the steel center of the US in early 20th century, from the French and Indian War to the American Revolution, the city has been integral in the development of the US. Besides checking out the fantastic Heinz History Center and Sports Museum, here’s a list of the top 5 historic sites in Pittsburgh, in no discernible order, that you can still visit today.

Point State Park and the Fort Pitt Museum

Point State ParkView of Point State Park, the former location of Fort Pitt, from the Duquesne Incline. Photo by chrisinphilly5448 on Flickr.

Located where the three rivers meet, Point State Park was a strategic hub during the French and Indian War between 1754 and 1763. After visiting the Point, George Washington wrote in his journal that it would make a great place for a fort, and soon one was partially built. The French and British traded occupancy of the location and its forts throughout the war, with the British finally maintaining Fort Pitt at the site. In 1763, after the war, local Indians tried to drive out the British settlers by attempting to siege Fort Pitt, but they failed due to the strength of the fort and the distraction of additional British troops nearby. During the American Revolution, the Continental Army used Fort Pitt and the Point as its western headquarters to gather troops and supplies to fight against the British. The first peace treaty between the United States and the Indians was also signed there in 1779. However, the fort’s purpose was soon lost thereafter and it was abandoned to poor conditions in 1792.

Fort Pitt's "Redoubt" Blockhouse

The Fort Pitt Blockhouse. Photo by bridgevillepennsylvania on Flickr.

Today, all that’s left is the Fort Pitt Blockhouse, which was built to address a weakness in the fort’s design. It is considered the oldest structure in Western Pennsylvania and is open to the public for free. All of this information and much more is expanded upon in the Fort Pitt Museum located within Point State Park. The park itself has riverfront walkways, grassy hills, and fantastic views of the city and rivers, although the iconic 100-foot fountain at the tip of the Point is currently closed for construction.
(References: Fort Pitt Museum; Point State Park)

Kennywood

Kennywood Park - The Areo 360The Aero 360 at Kennywood. Photo by Alan Jakub on Flickr.

While an amusement park may not seem historical, Kennywood is one of only two listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Founded in 1898 as a small trolley park, it found itself struggling to stay open as it competed with dozens of other trolley parks and amusement resorts in the area. The park underwent new management in 1906 and grew tremendously from then until 1930 as they built five large roller coasters (two of which are still operational today- the Jack Rabbit and the Racer) and a large swimming pool.

Jack Rabbit rollercoaster at Kennywood Park, West Mifflin, PA

The Jack Rabbit, built in 1921, is still in operation at Kennywood. Photo by Brian Butko on Flickr.

The Great Depression of the early 1930s hit the park hard yet they managed to stay afloat by having numerous great dance bands play from 1930 to 1950. New rides were added as the country crawled out of the Depression and the park bought a ferris wheel and a miniature train during the Second World War. During the 1950s, Kennywood prospered as more schools began bringing their students to the park for designated Kennywood Days. The park continued to grow through the later part of the century. They added many new rides, especially in Kiddieland, were named “The Roller Coaster Capital of the World” from the late 60s to the 90s, and opened up Lost Kennywood, which was a replica of parks from the early 1900s. Today, Kennywood prides itself in mixing tradition with modern elements and lives up to its moniker of “America’s Finest Traditional Amusement Park.”
(Reference: Kennywood)

The Cathedral of Learning

Cathedral of Learning

 Photo by AxsDeny on Flickr.

The second-tallest university building in the world, this iconic landmark is located in the heart of the University of Pittsburgh’s campus in Oakland. Construction of the 535-feet, 42-story Gothic cathedral began in 1926, with classes first being held in 1931. It was commissioned by the University’s tenth chancellor, John Gabbert Bowman, as a dramatic educational symbol. The Cathedral was partially funded during the Depression in a unique way: local school children were encouraged to “Buy a Brick” for a dime, with over 97,000 sold. The building has been used mainly for education purposes since its inception, housing classrooms, theaters, computer labs, libraries, a restaurant, and administrative and departmental offices.

Cathedral of Learning at night

The Cathedral of Learning’s Commons Room decorated for the holidays. Photo by LugerLA on Flickr.

The stunning Commons Room on the main floor features grand Gothic-style architecture and is used as a study area. The Cathedral also has 29 Nationality Rooms, each celebrating a different culture that has influenced Pittsburgh, from Chinese to Czech to Early American. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, tours are conducted in order to gain entrance to the Nationality Rooms.
(References: Cathedral of Learning; Nationality Rooms)

The Monongahela and Duquesne Inclines

Pittsburgh Reg Mtg Aug 09 (448)

The Duquesne Incline. Photo by Hannaford on Flickr.

At one point in history, Pittsburgh had 15 operational inclines providing easy access between the riverfronts and the hills that frame the city. Today, only two remain, both providing service to Mt. Washington. The Monongahela Incline, built in 1870 and located near Station Square, is the longest continually operating incline in the US. At the top, riders can admire the views of Pittsburgh from the south or venture to several nearby restaurants, some also offering spectacular city scenes.

incline decline

Inside the Monongahela Incline. Photo by Brian Siewiorek on Flickr.

The Duquesne Incline, located further west than the Mon Incline, opened in 1877 and briefly closed in 1962 due to financial concerns. However, a group of local residents created a non-profit to preserve, restore, and operate the incline and it reopened just a few years later. The upper station contains a museum on Pittsburgh history and inclines around the world, as well as a tiny gift shop. Traveling at 6 miles per hour, both inclines provide spectacular views from atop Mt. Washington and are considered historical structures by the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation.
(References: Station Square- Inclines; Duquesne Incline; Port Authority- Inclines)

Allegheny Cemetery

allegheny cemetery1

Photo by Chris Collins on Flickr.

One of the largest cemeteries in the United States and the oldest west of the Allegheny Mountains, the Allegheny Cemetery is located on 300 acres in Lawrenceville. Founded in 1844 and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980, almost 130,000 people are buried here. Included are many famed Pittsburghers, such as congressmen, senators, professional baseball players, war veterans, and other notable members of Pittsburgh’s history. The oldest graves come from soldiers of the French and Indian War, who were transfered from their original burial sites in a downtown cathedral to the large cemetery once it opened.

She Watches Over Pittsburgh

Photo by Matthew Niemi on Flickr.

Allegheny Cemetery aimed to get rid of the common conception that cemeteries are creepy and uninviting by beautifying the grounds and welcoming groups and individuals to enjoy the natural landscape and historic landmarks. Large monuments and statues decorate the spacious grounds, which feature rolling hills, stately trees, over 15 miles of paved paths, and numerous species of birds to watch.
(Reference: Allegheny Cemetery)

Interview: What do you love about Pittsburgh?

PittsBurgh

Photo by Sakeeb Sabakka on Flickr.

This week I asked two dear friends what they love about Pittsburgh. One, as expected, is a born-and-raised Pittsburgh girl with nothing but the best to say about the city and the other… a life-long Cleveland resident. Who, surprisingly, also had great things to say. See? Pittsburgh is pretty great no matter who you ask.

Music: “The Happiness of Larry” by radiotimes.

Jessica is a resident of Shadyside and employee at the Pittsburgh Zoo. She loves to dine out, go dancing, and destroy a cup of Razzy Fresh as much as I do. Craig, sadly, still lives in Cleveland but is looking to make the move to the better city. Both have lists of their favorite places in Pittsburgh that they gladly shared.

PNC Park Pittsburgh View

Although he loves the Cleveland Indians, as an avid baseball fan, Craig is impressed by PNC Park. It’s a great venue with picturesque views, wonderful food options (for a stadium), and maybe, if you’re lucky, some decent baseball too. Mt. Washington also features spectacular views, especially via the incline, that even a Cleveland resident can enjoy. He also likes visiting the city parks in Pittsburgh, having spent quite a few afternoons exploring the trails in Schenley Park.

1106 Strip District_31

The Strip District. Photo by Devon Christopher Adams on Flickr.

Jess loves the Strip District for the variety of activities they offer. From speciality food stores, tons of places to buy Steelers gear, delicious restaurants and cafes, flea markets, and clubs and bars, there’s literally something for everyone. She also loves how supportive and active the LGBT community is in Pittsburgh, with her favorite bar being 5801 in Shadyside. Also a big salsa dancing fan, she usually can be found dancing up a storm at Mexico City, Cabaret at Theater Square, or Emiliano’s.

Fat Head's Pittsburgh Headwich

Head Brewben and PCI (Pretty Cool Italian) Headwiches at Fat Head’s. Photo by Craig Zeltner

Of course, I had to ask about their favorite restaurants in Pittsburgh. Jess had quite the list: Church Brew Works, especially for their pierogie pizza; Emiliano’s for great lime margaritas and flautas; Harris Grill, particularly on their famous bacon night; and Mercurio’s for fantastic wood-fired pizza and dozens of flavors of gelato. She also goes nuts at Crazy Mocha for chai lattes and Prantl’s Bakery and Oakmont Bakery for their sweets, which she says she’s an unofficial expert on. Craig will be the first to admit that he’s slightly obsessed with Fat Head’s for their superb beer selection and gigantic, delicious sandwiches. Both of them also said they enjoy the lively atmosphere and large, tasty beers at Hofbrauhaus, although Jess prefers Penn Brewery for a more authentic German experience.

So give it a listen and hear what a long-term Pittsburgh lover and a recent convert have to say about our lovely city!

Unique activities to entertain every group of friends imaginable

Simon Sky Diving

In their April 2011 issue, Pittsburgh Magazine featured a list of a dozen fun things to do in Pittsburgh with friends and it was nothing if not unique. From drag queen bingo to exploring a local cemetery, they featured varied activities for any group of friends to enjoy. Adventurous pals can go skydiving up by Grove City, Pa., while more laid-back groups can sit back and enjoy smoking hookah at The Sphinx Cafe in Oakland. And there’s plenty of suggestions for friends who prefer their memories together to be a bit hazy: downing steins of homemade beer at Hofbrauhaus in the South Side, enjoying the craft beer offerings of The Church Brew Works in Lawrenceville, and helping East End Brewing Company deliver their beer by bicycle in the Pedal Pale Ale Keg Ride.

This list, along with the three others they did in a series linked within this article, presents many surprising and previously-unknown pastimes (apparently there is a manor in Swissvale full of bizarre taxidermy animals). Their suggestions are so different from each other while still being unique to the city of Pittsburgh that residents and visitors alike can find something to easily entertain themselves.