Monday, July 25, 2011

Fun things to do in Pittsburgh

 Outside the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Garden

Pittsburgh has been described as many things but not what it is now - a really fun, photogenic place to spend a few days. I was surprised how much fun and so was everyone else who attended a recent conference there. We couldn't stop snapping pictures either.

Here's a very short list to consider.

Tour it. 

I tried three ways - paddle wheeler, hop on-hop off bus and  Just Ducky Tours - four if you count the Duquesne incline.
Pittsburgh skyline from the double decker bus.

The double-decker bus is good for getting the lay of the land and for sight-seeing later. The narration was fast and fun, thanks to a guide from Bristol, England.

 On the riverboat.

The riverboats of the Gateway Clipper fleet are hard to resist and Pittsburgh's rivers offer a totally different viewpoint of the city.
Tip: There are 13 steps from deck to lounge and 13 more steps from lounge to the open upper deck where photographers will want to be.

                                    A Lucky Ducky
For fun and some really nifty shots, the amphibious Just Ducky Tour is a kick. Kids will like this one best and chances are so will their parents. You will tour both city and rivers and the kids get to steer for the river portion.
Tip: There is one handicapped-equipped craft with lift. For Levelers, it's eight steps up to the boat, two steps down to the covered seating area.

Whichever one you take, you will learn about the city's three identical bridges, named for Pirates great Roberto Clemente, native son artist Andy Warhol and native daughter author/environmentalist Rachel Carson, and a lot of other Pittsburghisms.

Downtown Pittsburgh from the Lucky Ducky.
The Duquesne Incline, originally built in 1877 to get workers from the top of Mt. Washington to the factories and back, is on most natives' Must-do lists, but Levelers may want to think twice.

Warning: On the city side there are 35 steps up from the parking lot to street level (no stopping on the busy thoroughfare) and another 28 steps up to the overpass then 8 steps down to the station. Which you will have to repeat upon the return unless you have someone pick you up or drop you off at the top where the station is at street level.
Duquesne Incline.

Meeting of the rivers seen from atop Mt. Washington.

The views are spectacular on a clear day - they say even more so at night -  and the history lesson you get on the city's early days is interesting but if steps bother you, save your energy for something else.

A Chihuly just like Mother Nature would make.

Like a walk through the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens for example. From creative uses of foliage to themed rooms, a kids' interactive area and tropical rainforests, this is a horticulturist's dream even brown thumbs will enjoy.

Tip: Short stairs, easy ramps, elevators and benches make this pleasant for Levelers.

       Mannequins wear foliage at the Phipps Conservatory.

A Chihuly sun or cactus? See it at the Phipps.
Art lovers will appreciate the Dale Chihuly glass sculptures that look right at home among nature's exotic blooms. There's a massive Chihuly chandelier in the entrance but I much preferred the ones peeking or thrusting out from the leaves and stalks.

The orchid "room" is pretty spectacular, too.

     Chihuly makes a Peace Lily form on brilliant steroids. 

Orchids at the Phipps Conservatory.

Be a Sport

Kayak Pittsburgh will put you at the water's edge literally for an up close and personal cruise through the city's rivers or around its lakes.

                      The Steps are a great playground.

Walk the Rivers Take advantage of the wide, mostly paved paths along the river and ramble along the shore for a bit. If you have kids in tow, don't miss "the steps,"  a kid-friendly waterfall playground just down from Mr. Rogers' statue and neighborhood.

Pittsburgh is Mr. Rogers' neighborhood.

         Heinz Field, home of the Steelers.
Take in a game. Between the Pirates, the Steelers and the Penguins, pro sports are a year-round treat in Pittsburgh.

Visit Lady Luck. She'll be at The Rivers Casino 24 hours a day.

Then there's the Zoo and PPG Aquarium, the Kennywood Amusement Park, Trolley Museum, Senator John Heinz History Center, Carnegie Science Center, Children's Museum, August Wilson Center for African American Culture, Frick Art & Historical Center and The ToonSeum. Just to name a few.

On second thought, make that visit at least a week.


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