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10 Things to Love About Pittsburgh

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If any city has had trouble shedding its old image, it's Pittsburgh. It can't seem to shake it's dirty steel town rap. There are, at least in my mind however, many more reasons to love the former Steel City than to hate it. Whether you're a potential transplant, a curious sightseer, or just planning a visit, here are some of the many great Pittsburgh sights, traditions, and reasons to come, stay, and live in the 'Burgh.

1. Topography & Neighborhoods

© Kimberly Powell
I gasped, much like everyone does, when I caught my first glimpse of Pittsburgh coming in through the Fort Pitt Tunnel back in 1987. The city's geographical location is definitely one of its most stunning features, with rivers, hills and valleys coming together to form a remarkable tableau. The topography is also a big reason for Pittsburgh's interesting patchwork of neighborhoods - 88 in the city of Pittsburgh alone. Defined by hills, separated by rivers and bridges, and demarcated by ravines, Pittsburgh's neighborhoods are each small towns where families live for generations. Squirrel Hill, Polish Hill, Brighton Heights, Southside Slopes -- these are all distinct communities, each with their own ethnic heritage, personality and charm.

2. Mount Washington & the Inclines

It's Pittsburgh's Eiffel Tower, and just as amazing. The stunning view from Pittsburgh's Mount Washington, once called Coal Hill for its generous coal seams, was ranked the second most beautiful place in America by USA Weekend's 2003 Annual Travel Report. Several overlook pods situated along the edge of Mt. Washington's Grandview Avenue offer breathtaking views of downtown and the surrounding area, as do most of the restaurants that line the street. Getting up the mountain is a big part of the fun, with two working 1800s inclines to take you both up and down again. The Monongahela Incline from Station Square is the most tourist oriented, but the Duquesne Incline features more beautiful cars, a historic museum, and the better view.

3. Arts & Culture

© Andy Warhol Museum
Pittsburgh is ranked #1 among mid-sized cities in American Style Magazine's 2007 "Top 25 Arts Destinations," for a reason. Thanks to the Andy Warhol Museum, Carnegie Museums of Art & Natural History, the University of Pittsburgh's Nationality Classrooms, and the always funky Mattress Factory, Pittsburgh is on the map when it comes to art. A nice selection of musical and theater performances can also be found in downtown Pittsburgh's thriving cultural district, home to five major theaters and even live Cabaret.

4. The Steelers

The Terrible Towel of the Pittsburgh Steelers
© Kimberly Powell
Pittsburgh is a city that bleeds black and gold, the colors of our three professional sports teams. But much as Pittsburghers love the Pengins (2009 Stanley Cup Champs!) and Pirates, the Steelers -- proud winners of six Super Bowls -- are more akin to a religion here. It's not just in Pittsburgh either. Just about every town in America boasts an oasis of yinzers and twirling terrible towels - a true Steelers Nation.

5. Bridges & Steps

© Beth Conant.
Pittsburgh has more bridges than just about any city in the world, including Venice, Italy, and more steps than Cincinnati and San Francisco combined! Three rivers and hundreds of hills will do that to a place. Most downtown bridges are painted a distinctive golden yellow (the official city colors are black and gold).

6. Plenty of Green!

If you like your cities on the green side, then Pittsburgh is for you. The city's four regional parks offer thousands of acres of wooded escape from the city, while a multitude of rivers and streams, and a beautiful network of rail trails offer additional opportunities for recreation within the city limits. And no Pittsburgher will let you miss the festivals, fort and fountain at tiny little Point State Park. It's no wonder Pittsburgh was tagged as the top Urban Adventure City in the country by National Geographic Adventure magazine in 2006. Another plus is Pittsburgh's role as a pioneer in green technology -- the 22nd largest metro area in the nation ranks seventh for the number of LEED-certified structures.

7. Affordable Housing

Compared with many large cities, home prices in Pittsburgh are refreshingly affordable. Recent surveys indicate an average home price in Pittsburgh of ranging from about $110,000 to $162,000 for a 3/4 bedroom, 2 bath home - about 40% below the national average. Where else can you find a 1903 schoolhouse or a former ketchup factory converted into luxury loft apartments? Or glorious, turn-of-the-century houses available in almost every neighborhood? City views, waterfront, rolling farmland, or cozy neighborhoods - Pittsburgh has it all.

8. Primantis & Pierogies

Primanti Brother's Famous Sandwich
You haven't truly experienced Pittsburgh if you haven't been to Primantis. The local Pittsburgh chain is renowned for its unique sandwiches, stacked high with meat, a pile of coleslaw, and an unhealthy helping of French fries - all between the bread. Many locals claim that Primanti's developed these sandwiches for mill workers who didn't have the time for plates or silverware...

If a Primanti's sandwich doesn't already have your arteries shrieking in pain, the pierogies will. Here in Pittsburgh we eat more than 11 times the pierogies of any other city in the nation, according to a recent survey. The stuffed pasta creations are served up at church picnics and fairs all over the city.

9. Saturdays in the Strip District

pittsburgh strip district
© Jeff Greenberg, courtesy Pittsburgh CVB
No, it's not the Red Light District despite the way it sounds. Once the center of Pittsburgh’s wholesale produce industry, "The Strip" has grown into a marketplace of specialty groceries and restaurants, coffee shops, street vendors,and unique antique and gift shops. It's also the place to be on Saturday mornings in Pittsburgh. Stop by for a great breakfast, local produce, or an interesting perspective on our eclectic city. .

10. Pittsburghese

How could a city this unique not have its own language? Of course, lots of cities can boast funny accents and unusual words. But Pittsburgh definitely has a language all its own. The first thing you notice when you listen to the locals is that words with an "ow" sound such as house, down and sauerkraut are sometimes pronounced with an "ah" sound (dahntahn for downtown). A few other sounds are changed as well, such as Pixburgh (Pittsburgh), warsh (wash) and Stillers (Steelers). And then there are the colloquial words and phrases: Gumband (rubber band); Slippy (slippery); Nebby (nosey); Redd up (tidy up); Jimmies (sprinkles); Jagger (thorns or briars); Yinz (you guys); N'at (and that, etc.).
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