Pittsburgh has many lovely scenic roads for biking and running, but many of us just don't like the hills, or could do without having to worry about being hit by a car. If this sounds like you, then check out one of Pittsburgh's great rail trails, most of which have grades of no more than 1-2%. One of the most popular is the Three Rivers Heritage Trail, which covers nine different trail sections in and around downtown Pittsburgh, including the North Shore Trail, the Southside Trail, the Eliza Furnace Trail and the Pittsburgh Riverwalk. Out in the suburbs, the 40+ mile Montour Trail and the 29-mile Panhandle Trail are easily accessible from a large number of Pittsburgh neighborhoods. If you live near McDonald, where the two trails cross, you're especially blessed!
And then there is the Great Allegheny Passage trail, completed in 2013 and running 150+ miles from Pittsburgh to Cumberland, Maryland, The Savage Tunnel which closes for the winter is scheduled to reopen on April 3, weather permitting, so the full trail will once again be open. This trail is especially beautiful as it runs through the Ohiopyle area and up into the mountains, and it connects in Cumberland to the C & O Canal Towpath if you want to continue on all the way to Washington, D.C.
There is a lot of time and cost of upkeep of the trail surface for these great local resources - a big effort for volunteer-led organizations. If you have time, there are a number of ways that you can volunteer to get out and help clean up or even participate in construction - check out the Web sites for the Montour Trail Council, Friends of the Riverfront and Steel Valley Trail Council. The Panhandle Trail is maintained primarily by the communities through which it passes, but the Collier Friends of the Panhandle Trail is a good place to start for more information. If you don't have time, you can always just make a donation!
You can get in free to the Carnegie Museums of Art & Natural History this weekend, thanks to Bank of America/Merrill Lynch which offers free admission the first weekend of each month to more than 150 museums around the United States. Present your Bank of America or Merrill Lynch credit or debit card and picture ID for one free general admission (a $17.95 value) on Friday, April 5 or Saturday, April 6. The Carnegie Museums in Oakland are open every day except Tuesdays from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Open late on Thursdays until 8:00 p.m.
In the Carnegie Museum of Art, a large collection of paintings, prints and sculpture by old masters, such as van Gogh, Renoir, Monet and Picasso, shares space with works by contemporary artists in the Scaife Gallery. For something a bit different, the Hall of Architecture steps back in time with more than 140 life-size plaster casts of architectural masterpieces and sculptures from around the world. The museum also features ARTventures activities for families for extra weekend family fun. Next door, at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, the Dinosaurs in Their Time exhibit features scientifically accurate, immersive environments from the Age of Dinosaurs, arranged chronologically with actively posed dinosaurs and other fossil specimens. The Hillman Hall of Gems and Minerals is always a favorite, and a new exhibit exploring RACE: Are We So Different? just opened on March 29th.
For more information on the Bank of America offer, please visit their Web site.
The CONSOL Energy Center has plenty to keep us all busy over the next several months. There is awesome Pittsburgh Penguins hockey, of course! But a variety of other sporting events, plus shows and concerts are also on the calendar. Next weekend, the Shrine Circus will entertain fans of all ages. April brings with it Stars on Ice, as well as concerts by Cher, Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, Lady Gaga, and Rod Stewart and Santana. Not enough? The Pittsburgh Power Arena Football League team kicked off its 2014 season at CONSOL earlier this month with games scheduled through July. In late July, the Walking With Dinosaurs Arena Spectacular makes its appearance. In August, the USA Gymnastics' National Championships will be held in Pittsburgh for the first time. And in October, all five members of Fleetwood Mac are back together for the first time since the late 90s as they stop in Pittsburgh with their On With the Show tour.
Thirty-five years ago America experienced its worst commercial nuclear accident - an "impossible" partial meltdown of the reactor core at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant near Middletown, Pennsylvania. During the tension-packed week that followed, sketchy reports and conflicting information led to panic, and more than one hundred thousand residents, mostly children and pregnant women, fled the area.
Did you know that Western Pennsylvania ranks 5th in the nation for maple syrup production? Or that while maple season might last eight to 10 weeks, sap flow is heaviest for about 10-20 days in March? Even with this year's unusual cold spring, most southwestern Pennsylvania sugar producers have already started tapping their trees and boiling syrup.
PNC Broadway Across America, which recently announced their 2014-2015 season, still has one show left on their 2013-2014 schedule -- "Peter and the Starcatcher" at Heinz Hall in late May. The next two broadway shows up in Pittsburgh, however, come to us courtesy of Pittsburgh Musical Theater with the always popular Les Miserables opening next weekend, followed by Seussical the Musical in May. For the summer months, Pittsburgh's CLO promises to keep us entertained with a 2014 summer season packed with fan favorites, from Footloose and Spamalot, to Legally Blonde The Musical and Singin' in the Rain.
Despite this year's record cold and higher than usual snowfall, crocus and daffodils are finally starting to push up through the leaves in our backyard -- a perfect time for the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Garden's 2014 Spring Flower Show which opens this Saturday. While the tulips, hyacinths, daffodils and other spring blooms are still the stars of the show, music also takes center stage for the 2014 show, with whimsical sculptures made out of up-cycled instruments, plantings designed to portray the rise and fall of musical notes, and unexpected musical planters, such as an upright piano.
Phipps Conservatory & Botanical Gardens is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and until 10:00 p.m. on Fridays. Admission is $15 for adults; $14 for seniors (62 and over) and students with ID; $11 for children ages 2-18; and free for Phipps members and children under 2.
The Pitt men's basketball team is in the NCAA Tournament for the twelfth time in thirteen years, seeded No. 9 in the south region. Its first matchup is today in a second round game against the No. 8 Colorado Buffaloes. If they win that game, Pitt will next play Saturday against the winner of the second-round game between No. 1 seed Florida (32-2) and No. 16 seed Albany (19-14). It's a tough draw for the Pittsburgh Panthers, as many are picking Florida to win the entire tournament. All of Thursday's games will be nationally televised, with games on CBS, truTV, TBS and TNT. You can also find much of the NCAA action available free on the Web. Other include the NCAA March Madness app and NCAA action on SiriusXM Radio.
The third round will be played on Saturday, with teams and game times to be determined following the Thursday matchups.
Are you wearing a sweater today? Not only is it the first day of spring, it's also Fred Rogers' birthday. The creator of "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" would have been 86.
Born Fred McFeely Rogers in 1928, he grew up in nearby Latrobe, Pa., and went on to establish WQED in Pittsburgh where he would launch the popular public television children's show, Mister Rogers Neighborhood. While he was a "neighbor" to millions of children's across the country for decades, here in Pittsburgh he was much more.
His work and legacy continue to live on here through the work of the Fred Rogers Company, which now produces the hit PBS Show Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood here in Pittsburgh, based on the Neighborhood of Make-Believe from Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.
We all know that Pittsburgh still evokes in some minds the images of a smoky, soot-filled town -- a reputation that hasn't applied for decades. Instead it is a small, friendly city, filled with people who love their traditions, from kielbasa to Kennywood. A city that boasts an arts scene that would make many larger cities jealous. A city with an amazing array of diverse neighborhoods where everyone can find a place that feels like home. A city with several state parks within an hour's drive. A city with the best sports fans in the nation. Here are just 10 Things to Love About Pittsburgh. What else do you love?