Bridges, fries on your sandwich, and the twirl of a Terrible Towel make every list of Pittsburgh things. But there are a quite few things those lists overlook.
Pittsburgh is a city of hard-earned sweat, lush green spaces, riverfront trails, bike lanes, and runners of steel. There are endless places to break a sweat and eat well… you just gotta know where to look.
Oh, right. That’s what we do.
It’s not Portland, but Pittsburgh is certainly becoming more bikeable. Whether you’re commuting or just trying to see the sights, there are public bike lanes, a handful of urban trails, proudly independent bike shops, and a little thing called city-wide bike share program offering access to one of 500 bikes at 50 stations in 12 neighborhoods. For two bucks, you can take two wheels from Point A to Point B. But if you want to ride all day, your best bet is a rental from Golden Triangle.
From the Great Lawn to the Water Steps and Heinz Field to PNC Park, there’s no shortage of reasons to hit the Three Rivers Heritage Trail on the North Shore. Try the 10-mile there-and-back walk between the Carnegie Science Center and Washington’s Landing. Here’s how: Start at the Carnegie Science Center, then hop on the trail and make a left towards Heinz Field. From there, it’s a straight shot to the Landing. So keep walking, stop and splash around at the Water Steps, take a lap around PNC Park or a break at Redfin Blues.
What locals call Mt. Washington is more like “Hill Washington.” Sure, it’s good for prom photos and popping the question, but it’s not really hikeable. Instead, you should head to Frick Park. It’s the site of Mac Miller’s semi-famous Blue Slide Park, but the real draw is the hiking trails. Want to see it all? Hop on the five-ish-mile Frick Park Tour Loop for some forest, some foliage, and more than a few friendly pups. Fitt tip: If you want a little hiking daycation, take the short road trip to McConnells Mill or Ohiopyle.
Here are some fast facts for you: Pittsburgh has three rivers, six rings, four cups, and five baseball titles (but who’s counting!?). Sitting at the confluence of the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio Rivers, Pittsburgh is primed for aquatic action. Boating is popular, but unless someone’s friend has one, your best bet is something self-propelled. And why not? Kayaking the waterways is awesome. Kayak Pittsburgh will rent you a bright yellow kayak and put you in right at the Point. But if you’re tired of sitting, pop up on a Stand-Up Paddleboard and cruise the city (or flow to some SUP Yoga)
If you go for a run in Pittsburgh, you’re guaranteed to encounter one (or all) of the following hazards: hills, a bridge, or set of city stairs. For paved paths and sights of the city, hit the Three River Heritage Trail for 24 miles of riverfront running. Or, you can go off-road at Frick Park, where you’ll find 644 acres of all-terrain running. And if you hate running alone join the Steel City Road Runners, Pittsburgh’s largest run club. Love our running scene? Then put your training to the test at the Pittsburgh Marathon each May, where crossing the finish line means you’re officially a Runner of Steel.
Out-of-towners might be surprised to learn that Yinzers love their yoga. Standout studios like Amazing Yoga offer dynamic, heated, powerful yoga sessions in four Pittsburgh locations — South Side, Shadyside, Lawrenceville, and up north in Wexford. Meanwhile, if you like a traditional Bikram and like it HOT (temperature + minimal clothing), Yoga Factory in Lawrenceville offers 105° fun. Don’t worry — once you’ve sweat out all the bad, soak in the good at the on-site Pittsburgh Juice Company.
In Lawrenceville, Arsenal Strength (home of CrossFit 1812) offers 8,000 square feet of all things fitness. The facility’s industrial vibe is next-level, and so is their equipment stockpile — they’ve got all the rings, rigs, and bumper plates you could ever need. On top of that, the instruction and training are on-point, and man do they know how to have a good time. The community here is like family, and while just about every CrossFit gym claims to boast that, it’s real here. You haven’t lived until you’ve attended a PRs and Pizza, Squatober Fest, or WOD & Wine. Oh yeah, and they’re neighbors with Hop Farm Brewing Co.
New to Pittsburgh but already stealing the show, ASCEND Pittsburgh is fan favorite. It’s the perfect place to just Hang. Out. …it’s a climbing gym. But it’s so much more. The massive facility in the South Side has multiple crags for you to boulder, and a climbing pillar that’s worthy of your top-roping problem-solving. Complementing that, it also is packing a strength training area, AND yoga studio to limber up those sore climbing muscles.
When it comes to sweating, Mecka Fitness knows there’s more than one way to drench a shirt. Just a few miles outside the city, this Mt. Lebanon neighborhood gem offers the Mecka Cycle experience, plus they have HIIT Boot Camp, TRX classes, and RowFit too. And let us not forget the BodyLab — a fitness adventure that splits time between running treadmills and playing with all the fun toys they drag out that day (kettlebells, sandbags, or your own body).
If every day is meatless Monday to you, you’re not without options in Pittsburgh. First and foremost, entering Apteka is like walking into a different planet. On this planet, they make vegan-friendly everything. Sounds nice, right? If you want all that AND a mean cup of coffee, maybe B52 in Lawrenceville is for you; Mediterranean and Middle Eastern-inspired scratch-made eats for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But, between us, if you really want to impress your friends, climb Polish Hill on Sunday mornings for the somewhat hole-in-the-wall-ish Lili Cafe and their vegan brunch that will knock your socks off.
You need Paleo eats? Meat you at Gaucho. Puns aside, if you’re going to eat like a caveman (or woman), the wood-fired steak, chicken, chorizo, shrimp, and veggies of the Strip District’s Gaucho Parilla Argentina are legendary. A few tips for your feast: 1) There’s always a line, sometimes out the door — plan your meal for an off-hour. 2) Bring friends — most items are a la carte, and the best way to get a bite of everything is to share. 3) Refrain from licking the homemade sauces off your plate — they have vats on vats of them at the serving station.
We’ll just put this to rest right now: It’s worth the squeeze in Pittsburgh. There. Joke made. But Pittsburgh’s juice game is, in fact, as strong as a ginger and turmeric concoction. Newcomer to the scene, Lawrenceville’s Reed & Co. has all of the goods for the go; cold-pressed juice, superfood smoothies, vegan bites, and even something for you to carry them in. Meanwhile, Shadyside’s (and Sewickley’s) Salúd are stuntin’ with acai bowls, smoothies, health shots, and juices… like the really, really thirst-quenching Cocomosa.
There’s more than one place to get your daily perk in Pittsburgh. Take Espresso a Mano for example. Their delicious espresso drinks and specialty coffees are made by hand (that’s literally what their name means). And on a nice summer day, they’ll open their Lawrenceville garage doors wide open. Though, if you happen to walk past a Commonplace Coffee, especially the Voluto location in Garfield, you’ll need to stop. Amazing coffee, plus a line-up of food trucks on warm days.
Summer Sunday mornings in the city of Pittsburgh are pretty special (emphasis on pretty). Birds chirp, temps creep into the 70s, and the whole town is set to “chill mode”. Truth be told, there’s no better way to experience it than with Yoga in the Square in Market Square. There, we host the Burgh’s top yogis who lead hundreds of our neighbors through invigorating flows while the sun peeks over the city’s skyline. Bring your sunglasses!
Disobeying moms everywhere, Pittsburgh plays in the streets. It’s called OpenStreetsPGH, and three times per summer, the city shuts down major roadways in downtown neighborhoods for one very active block party. In one consecutive, three-ish-mile route, you can bike, rollerblade, play hopscotch, schmooze over local eats, take free fitness classes on the asphalt, pet dogs — really, the possibilities are endless. And being Pittsburgh, expect to explore a bridge or two.
Everyone’s got one, but the Pittsburgh Marathon is a big deal. Each May, 30,000 runners and twice the amount of spectators pack the city to watch normal racers become Runners of Steel. After a bit of a course shake-up this year (thanks to some classic PGH bridge construction and a Pirates home game), you’ll tour 14 Pittsburgh neighborhoods and get to buzz past PNC Park and Heinz Field, all to the tune of 60 local bands playing on the sidelines. Don’t worry — you’re still guaranteed a notorious Pittsburgh hill.
Preaching love for your body (and having a hell of a time while doing it), the Pittsburgh Underwear Bike Ride draws more than 400 cyclists wearing nothing but their bloomers on warm summer nights. And you can be one of them when you join the crew for a nighttime ride through Lawrenceville on the last Thursday of the month from May to October. Even better? Most rides end up at a local bar. Fitt tip: Fanny pack for your cash and ID.
Some people will tell you that Lawrenceville is “hipster territory”, but you don’t need a beard or a bicycle to enjoy its many offerings. For small plates and big tastes, you should eat at The Vandal — their hyper-seasonal menu is always fresh, and weekend brunch is a must. Next, door, Arsenal Lanes will keep you busy all night; old-school bowling meets nightclub. Need a bev? Directly across the street, Industry Public House serves up creative cocktails, one looooong draft list, and super snacks. But if you’re gluten-free, Arsenal Cider House isn’t far.
It seems like no one can really put their finger on where the Shadyside ends and East Liberty begins, but who needs borders? The good vibes, great nightlife, and unbelievable food stops know no bounds. And if you’re looking for a heading, South Highland Street is a goldmine. In one short stretch of street (in order), you have spicy Thai street noodle bowls from Noodlehead (BYOB), the all-natural, all-awesome Millie’s Homemade Ice Cream, a novel-sized beer list from The Urban Tap, and the open, caffeinated gathering place of Adda Coffee & Tea House. Sunrise to well-past sunset, Shady and S’liberty are must-visits.
When in Pittsburgh, you’re going to be tempted by some devilish eats and drinks, like Burnt Almond Torte from Prantl’s Bakery and Bacon Night at Shiloh Grill. We know, in times like these, sometimes you just have to dial up another cheat day. First off, everyone knows Primanti’s, but just down the road, we have a Fitt favorite, Smallman Galley. Here, four restaurants share one roof and serve up inspired, creative dishes — from artisan toast to Creole flavor explosions. But if you want to drink your calories, Grist House Craft Brewery in Millvale will pour you a draft from one of their locally-forged tap handles (steel, if you had any doubt). Take a seat in their outdoor biergarten and watch as the many friendly dogs (bring your pooch) swarm around you.
To us, there’s no question where you should shack up when in Pittsburgh; it has to be one of two places. You could hit up the Ace Hotel in East Liberty. This boutique hotel hijacked an old, old YMCA building and transformed it into gathering place for trendsetters and go-getters, complete with food, drinks, bright and open decor, and a bed you’ll claim was heaven. Meanwhile, but also similarly, Hotel Monaco took up in the century-old James H. Reed Building downtown and did just a little bit of redecorating. Now, you get a modern, artsy-fartsy vibe unlike anywhere you’ve stayed before. Seriously, these rooms could make cargo shorts look cool. And if you’re hungry, The Commoner is downstairs.
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