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First Time Visitor’s Guide to Pittsburgh: Everything You Need to Know About Visiting the Steel City

As someone who grew up a short one hour drive from Pittsburgh, we appreciate and love what the city has to offer! Pittsburgh is definitely one of the underrated cities in the United States. Pittsburgh is full of museums, outdoor activities, gree space, and unique food and cultural festivals. In our opinion, visiting Pittsburgh for the first time will certainly be a fun experience for you! In this first-time visitors’ guide to Pittsburgh, we are sharing our inside scoop on the top things to do in Pittsburgh and how to plan your trip to Pittsburgh so your trip to the Steel City will be unforgettable!

First Time Visitor’s Travel Guide to Pittsburgh: Visiting Pittsburgh for the First Time Travel Guide

Planning Your Trip to Pittsburgh: Practical Information about Pittsburgh

How to Get to Pittsburgh

Getting to Pittsburgh can be quite easy because it has a growing international airport. Direct flights are available from Washington DC, Atlanta, Denver, Philadelphia, and New York, making it very easy to fly into Pittsburgh from other major cities. One of the nicest things about the Pittsburgh airport is it’s very easy to get around!

Pittsburgh also has bus and Amtrak services that arrive in downtown Pittsburgh.

Getting Around in Pittsburgh

Driving in Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh is a driving city. We will be honest, driving in Pittsburgh can be horrible even if you’re a local. With overpasses and underpasses overlapping one another, the GPS will often get confused and think you’re on the wrong road. So, you have to carefully follow directions and watch street signs. Have a good co-pilot in your car!

Also, there are a few bridges where you have to cross four lanes in 100 yards or you’ll end up on the wrong side of town. Even locals struggle with this. And these parts of the city tend to be the topic of memes and jokes. And for some reason, everyone hits their breaks when entering a tunnel so traffic forms for no reason. Don’t let this scare you away from visiting! Just a word of caution!

Because driving is the main mode of transportation, Uber and Lyft are readily available all around the city. Like with most cities, Uber and Lyft rates vary depending on the time of day and if there are major events going on in town.

Public Transit in Pittsburgh

Even though Pittsburgh is a driving city, public transit is available in Pittsburgh. We have both a public bus and a limited subway system to get you around town!

Where to Stay in Pittsburgh

Annual Events in Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh hosts plenty of annual events throughout the year. Many of these annual events in Pittsburgh revolve around food and booze, which is perfect for our foodie travelers. Picklesburgh, an event celebrating the local food scene and pickles, has been rated as one of the top food festivals in the country! Some of our favorite events include:

Top Things to Do in Pittsburgh for First Time Visitors: A Pittsburgh Bucket List

If you’re visiting Pittsburgh for the first time, there is quite a list of things you have to do before you leave the city! It wouldn’t be a successful trip to Pittsburgh if you didn’t do one of these 10 things!

10 Major Attractions and Sightseeing in Pittsburgh for First Time Visitors

  1. Ride the Incline and See the Best Skyline
  2. Visit the Point and Fort Pitt Museum
  3. Eat a Primanti’s Sandwich
  4. Visit the Heinz History Center
  5. Go to a Sporting Event
  6. Visit Phipps Conservatory
  7. Visit the National Aviary
  8. Go on a Gateway Clipper Cruise
  9. Visit the Pittsburgh Zoo
  10. Explore Pittsburgh’s Industrial History at the Carrie Blast Furnaces

More Information About Visiting Pittsburgh

Click through to the different topics to learn more about how to spend your time in Pittsburgh!

Unique Things to do in Pittsburgh

Hiking and Walking in Pittsburgh’s Parks

Why You Should Visit Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh Museum Guide

Date Night Pittsburgh Activities

Explore Pittsburgh’s Neighborhoods

Pittsburgh has a lot of interesting areas of town that demonstrate its rich history. Each of these neighborhoods in Pittsburgh offers visitors different things to do. In this section of our guide, we show you what you can do in each neighborhood and why each is worth visiting! We include the top things to do in each of Pittsburgh’s most popular neighborhoods and some suggestions of where to eat!

Downtown Pittsburgh, Cultural District, and Market Square

Downtown Pittsburgh is a blend of a cultural district, business district, and touristy area all in one! Downtown Pittsburgh is located right at the point where the three rivers meet, so there isn’t much space! But there sure is a lot of things to do in downtown Pittsburgh

Market Square is an area of town where you can go to events and eat some local food. Throughout the year, numerous events are held at Market Square. The square was home to Pittsburgh’s first courthouse, first jail (both in 1795) and the first newspaper, the Pittsburgh Gazette. Modernization in the late 2000s has re-established the square as a social and cultural hub for Pittsburgh.

By Chris Light – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=45367378

Where to Eat in Market Square and Downtown

Want some childhood nostalgia with a twist? Visit The Yard where you can get gourmet grilled cheeses that are named for movie and TV references. Not far from Market Square is Condado, the best build your own taco place. The queso is amazing! Millie’s Ice Cream at Market Square is a lovely ice cream shop with homemade flavors. Emporio

Top Things to Do in Market Square and Downtown

Southside

Like many Pittsburgh neighborhoods, iron and steel mills and glass factories in South Side became the workplaces of various immigrants, mostly from Eastern Europe. Today, Southside is more known for its bar scene, but there are great finds for food! Benny Fierro’s is known for their massive slices of pizza. Local Bar and Kitchen has great happy hour specials on food. Their food and brunch are some of the best in the South Side! Carson City Saloon also has a great happy hour and food. If you’ve never been to Pittsburgh, experience a local favorite, Primanti Brother’s. Here you can get sandwiches with fries served on them!

The Giant Clock on the Southside is the Duquesne Brewery Clock and was the largest single-face clock in the world when it was installed in 1933. It was mostly used to advertising and today it still functions!

Where to Eat in the Southside

Things to do in the Southside

  • Go Shopping at the Southside Works
  • Feel like You’re in College at the Bars
  • See the Duquesne Brewery Clock
  • Play Old School Games at Games n’at

Strip District

The Strip District is historically known for being home to mills and factories because its location along the Allegheny River made transportation of goods very easy. Early industrial companies of the Strip District included U.S. Steel, Westinghouse, The Pittsburgh Reduction Company (ALCOA), and later The H.J. Heinz Company, the famous ketchup manufacturer. By the early 20th century, the Strip District became a hub for fresh produce, meat, and poultry dealers. By the 1920s, the Strip District was the economic center for Pittsburgh.

By Perry Quan from Oakville, Canada (Pittsburgh-2011-08-15-005Uploaded by scillystuff) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By the mid-to-late 20th century, because of the interest in highway transportation and expansion, many produce sellers and wholesalers began to leave the area. Today, many of the abandoned warehouses have been renovated as small specialty shops, restaurants, nightclubs, and bars.

Where to Eat in the Strip District

Gaucho and Penn Fish Co are our two favorite restaurants in the Strip Districts. Gaucho is known for their steak and Penn Fish Co is a BYOB fresh seafood restaurant. Pamela’s Diner is great for breakfast! The Pittsburgh Winery is a great urban winery with a speakeasy vibe.

  • Roland’s Seafood
  • Luke Whooley’s Alaskan Grill
  • Klavon’s Ice Cream

Station Square

Station Square is one of the more touristic areas of Pittsburgh, but it has very nice restaurants including a Hard Rock Cafe, Grand Concourse, and Bucca di Beppo. Station Square is also where you can catch a Gateway Clipper Cruise or see the Pittsburgh Riverhounds Soccer Team play!

By Alexander Klyuch – User: (WT-shared) Aklyuch at wts wikivoyage – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=23238158

Station Square gets its name from its history as a railroad station for the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad that connected Pittsburgh and Youngstown Ohio. Since the rise of air and motor traffic in United States railroad passenger traffic began to disappear. In 1976, the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation developed Station Square as a historic adaptive reuse site. Since then, Station Square has continued to grow and develop into the place it is today!

Top Things to do in Station Square

Where to Eat in Station Square

  • Texas De Brazil
  • The Melting Pot

The Waterfront and Homestead

Located in Homestead, The Waterfront is a nice place to visit for dinner and a movie or for some shopping. This area was formerly occupied by a steel mill headed by the US Steel Industry. Today, only a few of the smokestacks remain.

For more shopping, you can visit the main shopping street in Shadyside.

Things to Do at the Waterfront and Homestead

Arts and Cultural District

The Arts and Cultural District near downtown is where you can go if you want to see a show! The Benedum Center and Heinz Hall of Performing Arts hosts numerous shows throughout the year. This area of town is basically in the downtown of Pittsburgh!

Mount Washington

The view from Mount Washington might be one of the best in Pittsburgh. This steep hill has two of the oldest operating inclines in the world. The Duquesne Incline gives a better panoramic view while riding, while the Monongahela Incline goes up to Mount Washington’s panoramic view from Station Square. The inclines served as an easier way to travel up and down the hill. Historically, Mount Washington was known as Coal Hill because of the Pittsburgh coal seam’s outcrop at the base of the hill. After visiting the Inclines and taking in the views, take a walk down the Shiloh Street shops and grab something to eat!

Where to Eat in Mount Washington

  • Micro Diner
  • Redbeard’s

Lawrenceville

Lawrenceville is an up and coming part of Pittsburgh. It could be considered the “hipster” area of the city. Here you’ll find the quirky coffee shops and stores. Visit their homepage to see more things to do in Lawrenceville.

Top Things to Do in Lawrenceville

Where to Eat in Lawerenceville

  • Franktuary
  • Condado Tacos

North Shore and North Side

The North Shore and North Side of Pittsburgh has a wide variety of things to do, especially for family-friendly activities. On the North Shore, you’ll find both the football and baseball stadiums, which are always teeming with action throughout the year. If you travel further north, you’ll come upon the National Aviary and the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh! The North Shore also makes for a lovely space for a walk throughout the seasons!

Top Things to do on the North Shore and North Side

Where to Eat in North Shore

  • Jerome Bettis Grille
  • Southern Tier
  • Burgatory

Oakland

If you visit Oakland, you’ll find yourself among students from three different universities scattered between restaurants, museums, some of the most beautiful green spaces in and around Pittsburgh. In this neighborhood of Pittsburgh, there’s always something going on!

Top Things to Do in Oakland

Where to Eat in Oakland

  • Prince of India
  • Pamela’s P&G Diner
  • The Orginal Hotdog Stand
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Pam & Kathrine

Hello! We are sisters for southwestern Pennsylvania who love to travel locally and internationally. Join us in exploring the world around us while balancing the 9-5 life!

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