48 Hours in Pittsburgh

by  Teresa Bitler | Oct 13, 2016

Pittsburgh has undergone a renaissance recently, evolving from the soot-covered Steel City to a cultural and foodie mecca that has earned it accolades from travelers around the world. With 90 distinct neighborhoods, four Carnegie museums, and countless five-star dining experiences, a visit can be a bit overwhelming. Here’s what we'd do if we had only 48 hours in Pittsburgh.

Day 1

Check into your hotel. For downtown accommodations, try the Hotel Monaco Pittsburgh, a charming bird-themed Kimpton hotel (from $230) within walking distance of PNC Park, the Andy Warhol Museum, and Senator John Heniz History Center. If you don’t mind a short, driverless Uber ride -- Pittsburgh is piloting the program -- consider staying at Ace Hotel in the East Liberty neighborhood (from $180). A bike share station in front of the YMCA-turned-hip-hotel makes it easy to explore the the popular restaurants and bars around the property.

After getting settled, kick off your trip with a visit to the Senator John Heinz History Center ($16) for an overview of Pittsburgh’s past, its sports teams, and the Heinz brand. And don’t miss the “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” exhibit, featuring authentic items from the nostalgic Pittsburgh-produced TV show for preschoolers.

Lined with family-owned groceries and restaurants, the nearby Strip District is the perfect stop for lunch. For a Pittsburgh classic, try the signature sandwich piled with meat and topped with coleslaw and fries at the original Primanti Brothers ($6.50). Or sample pierogis at the S&D Polish Deli (four pierogis for $5). More of a foodie? Book with ‘Burgh, Bits & Bites Food Tour ($39) for a culinary overview of the Strip District.

Even if you’re just a casual fan of the Pittsburgh native, the Andy Warhol Museum ($20) is worth an afternoon visit to see several of his iconic celebrity portraits, Campbell soup can renderings, films, and travel memorabilia. Depending on how much time you spend there (plan on at least an hour), you can add a trip to the Mattress Factory, a renovated factory filled with rotating installation art pieces ($20).

For dinner, try the Smallman Galley, a launching pad for chefs hoping to open their own restaurants after a year-long residency. Diners order directly from one of four open kitchens, each helmed by a chef with his own concept and menu (average item $9), and receive a text when their meal is ready. While you wait, order a cocktail, wine, or beer, from the bar.

Day 2

Start with breakfast at Pamela’s Diner -- President Obama loves the crepe-like pancakes (from $6) so much that he invited the owners to the White House to prepare them for his staff. Then head to University of Pittsburgh; when class is not in session, take a self-guided tour of the Nationality Rooms: 30 rooms located in the Cathedral of Learning, each representing a different culture from Irish to Korean ($4).

You could easily spend the rest of the day exploring the adjoining Carnegie Museum of Art and the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, located across the street ($19.95 for same-day admission to both museums). Highlights in the history museum include one of the nation’s largest dinosaur collections and 1,300-specimen gem collection. In the art museum, don’t miss the collection of plaster casts of ancient sculptures.

Break for lunch at Conflict Kitchen, a food stand serving the traditional dishes of a country or region that is in some way in conflict with the United States. (Think Iran, Cuba, and North Korea.) The country rotates every few months. Small plates start at $3 with main dishes averaging $10.

If you’ve had your fill of museums, stroll the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens ($15) after lunch instead of returning. A self-guided tour of the Victorian-style greenhouse takes about 90 minutes and is a breathtaking exploration of nature.

Plan for extra time to photograph the city skyline after riding Duquesne Incline, a 400-foot funicular traversing up Mt. Washington ($5 round-trip) before walking to dinner at Monterey Bay Fish Grotto. The white-tablecloth restaurant serves fresh seafood (from $30) and has arguably one of the best views in Pittsburgh -- a perfect ending to your weekend trip.

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