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Welcome to Pittsburgh


Built by hard-bitten immigrants who were drawn to her steel mills, the city of Pittsburgh is now sitting back on its laurels and offering a more leisurely and aesthetically pleasing lifestyle to residents and visitors alike. Once dubbed 'the Smoky City', Pittsburgh's mills have closed down and the emphasis now is on making the most of the city's natural beauty. Pittsburgh is finally doing justice to its situation, lying between the Ohio, Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers with the Allegheny Mountains in the background. No wonder the city and environs now boasts the largest concentration of pleasure boats in America, while its thriving ethnic neighbourhoods surround a clean, friendly metropolitan centre filled with trees, shops, restaurants, museums, galleries and theatres. Attractions abound in this scenic city from the world's fastest continuous track roller-coaster to the largest single-artist museum in the United States; and from an eerie Gothic mansion to free summer concerts in a beautiful park.

Information & Facts


Pittsburgh winters are not usually extreme, temperatures staying a few degrees above freezing. In spring things warm up quickly and summers are hot and sunny, with fairly low humidity. Pittsburgh receives heavy rainfall, which is fairly evenly distributed throughout the year, but late spring and summer tend to be wetter.

Getting Around

Downtown Pittsburgh is compact and designed to be enjoyed by pedestrians, with parks and plazas spaced out between the office towers and shopping streets. If you need to travel a little further, however, descend to the subway, known in Pittsburgh as the 'T', a small but clean and reliable light rail system that covers a four-stop loop. A branch of the subway also crosses under the Monogahela River and emerges above ground to serve the southern suburbs. The city has an extensive bus network with multiple routes connecting downtown to the attractions on the north side, Oakland and the surrounding neighbourhoods. The Central Business District is a Free Fare Zone and buses are free from 4am to 7pm daily, while the 'T' is free 24 hours a day. Visitors are always particularly keen to ride the historic Duquesne and Monongahela Incline cars up Mount Washington for a breathtaking view. Pittsburgh's taxi cabs need to be called by telephone or hired at a taxi rank.

English is the most common language but Spanish is often spoken in south-western states.

The US Dollar (USD) is the unit of currency and is divided into 100 cents. Only major banks exchange foreign currency. ATMs are widespread and credit cards and travellers cheques are widely accepted. Travellers cheques should be taken in US Dollars to avoid hassles. Banking hours are Monday to Friday 9am to 3pm.

In 1895 Pittsburgh industrialist Andrew Carnegie established an Institute, which he intended to improve and educate local people. Today his ideal has been realised in the form of a collection of four museums funded by the Carnegie Institute: a Museum of Art, Natural History, a Science Center and The Andy Warhol Museum. The Carnegie Museum of Art on Forbes Avenue has a notable collection of contemporary art that includes film and video works. The adjacent Natural History Museum takes visitors time-tripping through the wonders of planet earth. The Carnegie Science Centre at Allegheny Avenue offers planetarium and laser shows and a variety of hands-on activities and exhibits for old and young. The final museum in the Carnegie bouquet is the Andy Warhol in Sandusky Street, featuring extensive permanent collections of art and archives relating to one of the most influential American artists of the 20th century.

Just 60 miles (about 95km) south-east of Pittsburgh on Interstate 76, Fallingwater is an absolute must-see attraction. The house, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1935 for retail giant Edgar J. Kaufman, is situated among the waterfalls and woods of the beautiful Bear Run Nature Reserve, and remains the world's best example of what has come to be known as 'organic architecture'. A stupefying achievement, Wright managed to design a fully-functioning personal residence that blends fluidly and harmoniously with its natural setting: the sound of rushing water is a constant, susurrus presence in the house; a boulder juts out into the living room and doubles as a hearth; the windows open outward from the corners of the walls, leaving no panes to obstruct the natural view. Ayn Rand was so inspired by this triumphant feat of individualistic artistic expression, that she largely based her novel The Fountainheadon Wright's ingenuous creation. Fallingwater has been included in Smithsonianmagazine's list of '28 places to see before you die' - and visitors to Pennsylvania would be sorely remiss to pass up such an opportunity! Make sure to book well in advance.

Situated in historic West Park on Pittsburgh's North Side, a few minutes from downtown, is the National Aviary, America's only independent indoor non-profit bird zoo. The Aviary is home to more than 600 birds of more than 200 species, many of which are threatened or endangered. From hummingbirds to Andean Condors there are birds from just about every corner of the world, with particular emphasis being placed on rainforest and wetland habitats. The birds are all kept in natural planted exhibits, which allows for close up views of our feathered friends.

Since its opening in 2001, PNC Park has awed all those who've entered it, and has led many disgruntled Pittsburgh Pirates fans to complain that if only their team's performances could start to match up to the grandeur of their stadium, they'd have a shot at winning the league some time! Consistently voted in the top three of all baseball stadia in America, PNC Park is a breathtaking example of how sports stadium architecture can be concomitantly artful and spectator-friendly. A relatively small stadium (with a capacity of just under 40,000), even the cheap seats command perfect views of the playing diamond; while beyond the bleachers, views of the river, the Roberto Clemente Bridge, Pittsburgh's skyline and towering Mount Washington catch the eye. While daytime tours of the stadium are thoroughly rewarding, visitors to Pittsburgh should do their best to attend a Pirates game, where - as evening descends, and the city lights start to sparkle in the distance - a magical atmosphere is created inside PNC Park.

Pittsburgh's Point State Park, formerly a slum land, has been turned into a recreational delight and declared a National Historic Landmark for the strategic role played here during the French and Indian War in the mid 1700s. The site features paved promenades along the Ohio riverfront, overlooking dramatic views of the city with its busy waterways, scenic hillsides and many bridges. The park has been naturally landscaped and a 150ft (46m) tall fountain enhances the aspect. There is a biking trail, outdoor amphitheatre and in-line skating route. The Fort Pitt Museum is housed in one of the five original bastions of the ruined historic fort, devoted to displaying local history. The Fort Pitt Blockhouse, the oldest authentic building in Western Pennsylvania, is also open to the public.

Looking for something a bit different?  Check out our selection of cultural & adventure holidays or if you're looking to go it alone then see our selection of solo holidays.

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