When it comes to travelling in Ontario and the Northeastern United States, I have a soft spot for the smaller rust belt cities. New York City, Chicago and Toronto are all incredible places to visit, with so many well known landmarks and attractions, but it’s the smaller cities that always seem to have the most interesting history, best food and unique local culture.
Last weekend, we visited my favourite of these places.
This was our second visit to Pittsburgh. Our first had been a few years ago, when we drove down for a weekend to see Fallingwater. It’d been a short weekend trip, and we didn’t get to see much. This time, we came with a few friends, and although this was also a short trip, this time, we experienced so much more.
A lot of people visit Pittsburgh for their sports teams. PNC park, their outdoor baseball stadium, is known as one of the best places for watching a baseball game, and the community’s love for football was evident on Sunday. Their local team wasn’t even playing in town, yet everywhere you looked, people were decked out in team swag. Pittsburgh has more to offer than sports though.
Pittsburgh sits where the Allegheny River from the northeast and Monongahela River from the southeast join to form the Ohio River.
To get around the city, surrounded by water at every angle, there are bridges. Bridges, bridges and more bridges.
The Smithfield Street Bridge (above) is the oldest steel bridge in the United States.
Aside from endless waterfront, it’s also hilly. Mount Washington, which overlooks the city’s skyline, was rated the best urban vista in the United States by an American travel magazine. We didn’t get up there this time around, but we did see it on our last visit, and it really is a fantastic view.
I thought the landscape here was beautiful when we were here in the spring, but it’s even more incredible with the autumn colours.
When we visit a new city, we always love to do a boat tour. Pittsburgh has a few tour operators and Just Ducky Boat Tour worked best with our tight schedule.
The captain and tour guide asked for a volunteer from one of the Canadians (referring to us) to drive the boat for a while. Jeremy gave them a flat out no, while our friends, Katie and Nik both shook their heads in rejection while avoiding eye contact with our hosts. So, that left me. I reluctantly agreed to go up and steer the ship for a bit.
Under the watchful eye of the captain, I managed to avoid shipwrecking a boatload of tourists in the river.
The ducky boat was a converted WW2 amphibious vehicle, so they also drove us around downtown. Along with the beautiful old skyscrapers, Pittsburgh has some amazing modern architecture, including this mirrored glass castle built in the early 1980s.
Other highlights of our trip included some amazing food. We had a great feast at Emiliano’s Mexican Restaurant, complete with some very strong sangria. On both days of our trip, we ate Primanti Brothers sandwiches for lunch. What’s unique about Primanti Brothers, is that your fries and slaw are served on your sandwich, rather then on the side. It might sound a little nasty, but it actually works. It’s an inexpensive and quick place to get a bite, if you don’t have a lot of time to linger over your meal, but don’t want chain fast food.
We also spent half a day at the Grove City Outlets, where we enjoyed some tax free bargain shopping. For those of you who live outside of Ontario, we pay 13% sales tax on pretty much everything. Meanwhile. Pennsylvanians don’t pay sales tax on clothes. I’m sure the state government gets their money somehow, but that’s not my problem. I just took my tax free purchases and headed back to the border like a bandit.
Until next time.