The ‘Burgh absolutely took my breath away from the moment I first stepped foot in the city. Voted one of the top eleven most liveable cities of the world, it was also voted either the most liveable or second-most liveable for five years now. Pittsburgh has lots to offer and it can be a bit overwhelming on where to start! Never fear, with this post I guarantee you’ll experience Pittsburgh to the fullest in 48 hours!
First things first, I highly suggest familiarizing yourself with the city. Pittsburgh is the city of bridges and they dazzle throughout the skyline. Did you know there are 446 of them in total? It’s no wonder Pittsburgh is dubbed the steel city! There are many great ways to see the city, and I suggest doing all of them if time permits. If not, choose what suits you best and enjoy the show!
Gateway Clipper’s Three Rivers Sightseeing Cruise
One of their newest cruises, this is the perfect way to fully enjoy Pittsburgh’s skyline. On board the Gateway Clipper, you’ll learn all about the city’s past, present and future while traversing the Allegheny, Monongahela and where they come together – the Ohio river. You’ll witness the beauty of over 10 of the cities iconic bridges, as well as iconic establishments such as Heinz Field, the Carnegie Science Center and PNC Park. Oh, and don’t resist the urge to do a Titanic impression if it comes over you – I embraced it!
Golden Triangle Bike Tour
Enjoy the sights with a workout as you explore Pittsburgh by bike. Golden Triangle Bike Tours are FANTASTIC and are full of fun tidbits of history. Zoom along the riverfront trails past landmarks and beautiful public art. They’re great for even a beginner like myself. If you don’t want to take a guided tour, you also have the option to rent a bike and explore the city yourself!
If you’re strapped for time, this is your best option to get a great view of the city. The Duquesne Incline is a Pittsburgh icon and full of rich steel city history. Now almost 140 years old, it is one of the few inclines that remain in the United States. Admire the history within the upper station and enjoy the skyline from the viewing platform on Mt Washington as Pittsburgh takes your breath away!
Whether you’re exploring for a few hours or a few days, it’s important to find a great place to eat! How can you experience Pittsburgh like a boss if your stomach is rumbling?
If you’re going to have just one meal while in town, it has to be a Primanti Bros sandwich. What began as a humble sandwich cart during the Great Depression has exploded into a steel city icon. While there are many locations scattered throughout Pittsburgh and beyond (in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Florida, Indiana, Maryland and Michigan to be exact!), head to The Strip District where they’ve been since 1933. I’m still drooling over their Pitts-burger!
Located in the Lawrenceville neighbourhood for 2 years now, The Vandal offers hearty dishes from morning til night. Their food is seasonally driven as many of the ingredients are sourced from local farms and co-ops around western Pennsylvania. The Vandal also offers a great coffee bar menu. If you can only stop for a quick cup of caffeine, I suggest their Rose Latte. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever had before – that just means I’ll have to return to enjoy it again!
While I didn’t actually visit this establishment myself, I did have the pleasure of experiencing Chef Rafael Vencio’s cooking at a special pop-up luncheon while in town. Filipino-born and a resident of the Smallman Gallery (a restaurant incubator in Pittsburgh), it would be a sin not to enjoy one of his delectable dishes. Experience his true culinary calling through pop-up dinner series Kanto Kitchen, where he hopes to introduce Filipino-style delicacies to the city.
While you may not immediately think of it, Pittsburgh is a hub for great bars and distilleries. Whether you’re looking to learn about the history of whiskey, an unlikely winery or a nice patio – you’ll love what the city has to offer!
Wigle Whiskey Barrelhouse & Whiskey Garden
What began as a wine-induced brain child in Niagara-on-the-Lake (no wonder I loved my time here so much!) is now a force to be reckoned with in the Pittsburgh craft whiskey scene. You can taste the passion and love that goes into each spirit with every sip you take. Why the name Wigle? To honour the history of American whiskey production as Phillip Wigle was one of the pioneers of whiskey distillation in the state. Not only this, but the Wigle Whiskey Barrelhouse makes their whiskey in the traditional style that Phillip Wigle did. Although if whiskey isn’t your style, they’re opening a cider house in the coming weeks just down the street! I’ll definitely be paying it a visit upon my return to Pittsburgh.
Carlo’s Garage Winery
A google search will only give you a Facebook page but never fear! What was an old mechanics garage is now where Carlo’s Garage Winery sits in conjunction with Enrico’s. Visit Pittsburgh’s 1st licensed winery within the city limits and enjoy one of their 6 wines! It may not look it, but all of the processing is done within the building. All of their wines are easy on the palette and perfectly paired with the delicious food that Enrico’s has to offer. Just try a glass of Petite Barbarian or Spaghetti Red with their Sicilian Sangweech and you’ll agree! Also get a bottle and a sfogadella (thank you Karyn for introducing them to me!) to go. Trust me, you’ll want to.
Butcher & The Rye
With over 600 whiskeys to offer, Butcher & the Rye is every whiskey lover’s dream. It’s also the first Pittsburgh bar to be nominated for the James Beard Foundation Award for Outstanding Bar Program since 2012 when the category was created. Enjoy the rustic Americana ambience while sipping on a craft cocktail – many of which can only be found here. I highly suggest their Kentucky Tea Party Punch, but beware. They go down a little too easy!
Founded in the 1700s, Pittsburgh is FULL of rich history. Many famous and influential individuals hail from the city, and there are plenty of places to learn about them. While I have yet to visit the following places myself, they will be some of my first stops when I return to the city.
What began in 1895 by Andrew Carnegie himself has now evolved into a series of four museums: the Carnegie Museum of Art, Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Carnegie Science Center and The Andy Warhol Museum. Whether you’re an art history buff or want to know more about how the world works, one of these four establishments will be sure to satisfy your thirst for knowledge. As I studied art history, my affinity lies with The Andy Warhol Museum as he was a pivotal piece in the Pop Art movement. Immerse yourself in all of the culture and history these museums have to offer.
In its 40th year, the Mattress Factory is home to brilliant site-specific installations. As a home to local and international artists alike, it has pioneered the advancement of alternative art forms through over 650 installation and performance works. Not only that but since its inception, the museum has revitalized 9 buildings which were where considered abandoned or non-contributing to Pittsburgh’s North Side. And no, there are no mattresses here… unless they’re an installation piece!
Senator John Heinz History Center
As an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, you know you’re in for a real treat. There’s plenty to learn with six floors and over 370,000 square feet of exhibition space! The Senator John Heinz History Center tells Pittsburgh’s greatest stories. From contributions to art, education, industry, medicine, sports, technology and more, you’ll see how many Pittsburgers have made their mark on history for the past 250+ years.
While there are many attractions, be sure to take the time to traverse the city. Pittsburgh has plenty to offer with 90 neighbourhoods so take the time to see a few of them!
Who doesn’t love exploring breweries as a way to get to know a city? Let City Brew Tours be your designated driver as they take you to four of nine breweries on either their Original or After Hours tours. You’ll enjoy a meal along with 16 varieties of beer – and the VIP treatment! From age-old breweries with plenty of history to the newest nano-breweries, you’ll see the people who brought craft beer to the ‘Burgh.
Enjoy the City’s Car Free Areas
For the budget traveller, this is a must-do when visiting Pittsburgh. With plenty of urban trails, it’s easy to see why Pittsburghers are so happy where they are. Take a stroll through Point State Park as you enjoy the beautiful fountain and views. Then head to the old P&LE Railroad hub which has been transformed into Station Square, a 52-acre entertainment complex with restaurants, shopping, and more. If you visit from May-November, be sure to catch the Waltzing Waters Liquid Fireworks show as the fountains dance to music.
Hunt for Street Art
Street art can be a point of contention among people, but it’s one of my favourite things to look for in a city. Luckily there is plenty to be found in Pittsburgh! If you’re not sure where to start, either head to The Strip District or check out this great PDF of the Sprout Fund murals.
It might be hard to experience all of these in the span of 48 hours. However, any combination of them is sure to be a recipe for a stellar weekend in the steel city. If you experience all of these in 48 hours, you’re my hero! Pittsburgh is a great destination for Canadians and Americans alike, especially since the flight is just over an hour! If you’d rather take the road trip route like I did, it’s only 6 hours from Toronto. Consider the drive, especially because the Pennsylvania interstate is a beautiful drive! If 6 hours seems a little daunting, then take a rest in Erie – you won’t be disappointed!
A huge thank you to Visit Pittsburgh for having me on their Cheers to Pittsburgh tour where I was able to enjoy the majority of these establishments to the fullest extent! You sure know how to make a gal feel special while being hosted in your beautiful city. Also I’m so thankful to Lauren of Justin Plus Lauren not just for her aid in taking some photos of me, but also as she invited me as her guest for this trip. As always, all reviews and opinions are my own.
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