Times have changed and so has Pittsburgh—dramatically! Although it didn’t happen overnight, Pittsburgh has evolved into the post-industrial city that so many cities hope to become—a city that happens to have an abundance of family tourist attractions and activities. Pittsburgh’s reputation has literally been forged in steel—steel mills that is. It was known as the steel capital of the United States, but today, the steel mills are gone and the area’s environment is improving. The waters in Pittsburgh’s three major rivers have improved so much that in 2005 the city played host to the Bassmaster Classic, a premier fishing tournament that airs on national television.
As a first time visitor to Pittsburgh, I was expecting scenes similar to the lyrics of Billy Joel’s hit “Allentown,” the song that tells the story of a struggling industrial northeast city. What I found instead is a city with a vibrant downtown surrounded by rivers and rolling hills. Here are some of the city’s top attractions.
Just Ducky Tours
The best way to learn the story of the incredible transformation of Pittsburgh is to experience what is known as a duck boat tour. These WWII amphibious boats/vehicles start by driving the streets of Pittsburgh while a guide provides information about the city’s past and points out highlights. The vehicle then drives down a downtown boat ramp, and with the flip of a switch, converts to a boat. The tour continues on the water, where impressive views of Pittsburgh’s skyline as well as its two largest stadiums are served up.
Heinz Field Tour
A friend of mine who is a rabid Pittsburgh Steelers fan told me to be sure to experience the hallowed ground of Heinz Field. Although using the word hallowed might be exaggeration to some, for many the Heinz Field tour is virtually a religious experience. From stepping on the playing field itself, seeing the press box, and even visiting the locker room, tour participants get to do it all during the 1.5-hour tour. A unique feature of the stadium only accessible during game days or with the tour is the Coca-Cola Great Hall. The Hall serves as a veritable museum of Steelers memorabilia, including a team bench from the former Three Rivers Stadium. Prices for the tour vary from $4 to $6.50 per person.
PNC Park Tour
Built to resemble a ballpark from day’s gone by, Forbes Field, the PNC Park Tour shows almost all there is to see of the home of Major League Baseball’s Pittsburgh Pirates. The tour costs $5 to $7 depending on your age and lasts 1.5 hours. The only downside of the tour is that you don’t get to visit the locker room. If you are visiting Pittsburgh and are able to take in a Pirates game, park downtown and walk over the Roberto Clemente Bridge to the stadium. The bridge closes to vehicular traffic prior to and during the game. There are ample eating opportunities downtown and parking is much cheaper than parking adjacent to the stadium—I paid $6 compared to $20-$30 near the stadium.
Ft. Pitt Museum
For history buffs, the two-floor, 12,000-square-foot museum located downtown describes Western Pennsylvania’s role in American history.
Carnegie Science Center
Located across the street from Heinz Field and directly on the Ohio River, more than 700,000 people per year visit this world-class museum that opened in 1991. Besides hundreds of interactive attractions for children, the museum hosts the WWII submarine USS Requin, which is permanently moored at the back of the museum on the river.