Planning Your Trip
- The Two-Day Best of Pittsburgh
- Fun and Cheap: Pittsburgh on a Budget
- Pittsburgh’s Hidden Dining Gems
- Bar Hop Like a Local
- Pittsburgh with the Parents
- Tour Andy Warhol’s Pittsburgh
- A Rainy Day in Pittsburgh
- Pittsburgh Performs
- Pittsburgh’s 16:62 Design Zone
- Vegging Out in Pittsburgh
- Pittsburgh’s Holiest Houses of Sin
- Pittsburgh Recreation for the Anti-Jock
- Explore the Penn Avenue Corridor
Thanks to Pittsburgh’s convenient mid-Atlantic location, a decent number of major metropolitan cities are located within an easy day-long drive, or less. Visitors from Cleveland, Washington, D.C., or Baltimore can reach Pittsburgh in three to five hours, while the borders of Chicago, Detroit, Buffalo, Toronto, Philadelphia, and New York City all sit somewhere within the six- to 10-hour range. Keep in mind that if you’re already in or near a large North American city, round-trip airfare may be less expensive than the gas required to drive.
While planning your visit, don’t make the common mistake of assuming that because Pittsburgh isn’t a top tourist draw, hotel rooms will be easy to come by. On the contrary, because of the many universities and top hospitals scattered throughout the city, accommodations are quite often scarce.
Unless you’ll be arriving with your own transportation and plan to stay at a chain hotel somewhere off a major highway, you’ll want to do a bit of pre-trip research so as not to be unpleasantly surprised upon your arrival. And should your visit coincide with the beginning or ending of a college school year (August and September or April and May), booking well in advance is strongly advised, especially if you’ve got your heart set on a central Oakland location.
Although carefully choosing a neighborhood in which to hang your hat will undoubtedly improve the quality of your experience in Pittsburgh, it’s worth noting that within the actual city limits, no one neighborhood is really all that far from any other. The fact, however, is that most visitors and nearly all business travelers end up staying in one of Downtown’s nine hotels or at nearby Station Square, which has one hotel.
Aside from Downtown, the university district of Oakland is Pittsburgh’s other major hotel district. If nightlife and typical urban conveniences are what you’re after, Oakland is a far smarter choice than the Downtown area. Much like the financial districts of larger cities, Pittsburgh’s entire Downtown is largely abandoned on weekends and after-work hours on weekdays. Out-of-towners in search of the action should hop in a taxi and ask to be taken to the South Side’s East Carson Street (16th and E. Carson Sts. is a good place to begin).
Many visitors do arrive in Pittsburgh with their own transportation, and while it’s certainly possible—and sometimes fun—to traverse the city with nothing but a bus pass, it’s an undeniable fact that Pittsburgh is a driving town. If you’re planning to explore the outer suburbs or some of the city’s popular excursions, such as Fallingwater or Ohiopyle, definitely bring a car if you can manage to do so. Nearly every city B&B offers free parking, and many hotels have impressively large lots. However some of the chain hotels have the tactlessness to charge their own guests rather high rates for parking access, so it’s worth calling ahead to request that information.
Unlike some midsize cities, Pittsburgh’s major sites and most important neighborhoods aren’t all within walking distance of each other. But nonetheless, a relatively comprehensive survey of the town can be accomplished in three days, assuming you only intend to visit the most obvious sights. Allow five days if you plan to mix in a medley of creative entertainment and dining excursions. A full week should allow enough time to add in an out-of-town trip or two, and some leisurely shopping.
© Dan Eldridge from Moon Pittsburgh, 1st Edition