Discover fun things to do in Pittsburgh PA, plus tips on where to eat and stay, during a getaway to this hip city in southwestern Pennsylvania. Once an industrial steel town, Pittsburgh has transformed itself with a visitor-friendly waterfront, cool neighborhoods, unique museums, and delicious local restaurants.
Pittsburgh sits at the confluence of three rivers—the Allegheny, the Monongahela, and the Ohio. Happily, the city takes advantage of that location with restaurants, stadiums, parks, and trailways that take in river views. 446 bridges cross the rivers within Pittsburgh’s city limits, the third most bridges of any city in the world. The combination of rivers, bridges, and buildings old and new offer great views and photo-friendly spots all over the city.
We were guests of Visit Pittsburgh for many of the experiences and restaurants included here. As always, all opinions, photos, and text are our own. Our list of things to do in Pittsburgh PA is also based on our own family and couple visits to the city.
Fun Things to Do in Pittsburgh PA
You’ll find plenty of fun things to do in Pittsburgh PA, whether you’re planning a family vacation, foodie tour, or solo getaway. We’ve highlighted some of our favorite Pittsburgh attractions and activities below, followed by suggestions on where to eat and stay in the city.
Gateway Clipper River Tours
Stop at Station Square, next to the Gateway Clipper dock, for more great skyline views. There are several shops and restaurants, including the beautiful Grand Concourse (details below), at the square. Kids will enjoy the huge industrial sculpture featuring water jets choreographed to music. The fountain show is free and runs daily, April to November.
The Duquesne Incline is also located at Station Square. One of two inclines in Pittsburgh, a ride up Mt Washington on the Duquesne Incline offers some of the best views of the city. At the top, visit the small museum to see photos of Pittsburgh through the years. Displays highlight fires, floods, and the thick smog that once filled the city. It’s hard to choose whether to ride the incline by day or night to capture stunning city views. If time and budget allow, consider doing both.
Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens
When it was built in 1892, the glass house at the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens was the largest in the country. Ongoing restorations retain the beauty and drama of the 14-room greenhouse, which houses 23 distinct gardens. Phipps is committed to green practices, and it’s Center for Sustainable Landscapes, located behind the greenhouse, is recognized as one of the greenest buildings in the world.
Guests enter the Botanical Gardens through a Visitor Center, which was added in the 1990s and built into the hillside so it does not block views of the Glass house. The VC is also home to a cafe, shop, and a lovely Chihuly glass piece custom built for the space.
The Phipps hosts four seasonal shows per year, including holiday lights, trains, and more festive fun. In 2019, the gardens celebrate their 125th anniversary with a year of celebrations and special exhibits. Admission to the Phipps is $17.95 for adults, $11.95 for children 2 to 18, and the garden is open daily. Follow the link for special event dates and extended hours.
Enjoy a big shot of happy art with a visit to Randyland, in the Mexican War Streets area. Artist Gilson created his eclectic artworks to bring happiness and smiles to his neighborhood. Visitors can explore the repurposed junk-to-art creations, and capture fun selfies and group pics. Randyland is open daily except Monday, 10:00 to 5:00, and it’s all free.
The Mattress Factory is a cool Contemporary art museum in the same Mexican War Streets area. A mix of permanent and temporary exhibits feature artists from around the world. The mirrored spaces in the Repetitive Vision and Infinity Dots Mirrored Room exhibits are perfect for a fun selfie.
Point State Park
Stop at Point State Park and stand at the confluence of Pittsburgh’s three rivers. Visit the Fort Pitt Museum to learn about the forts that once stood here. The park is also home to a network of biking and walking trails and a large fountain, and scenic views.
Three Rivers Heritage Trail
The Three Rivers Heritage Trail offers 24 miles of riverfront trails in downtown Pittsburgh and beyond. We hiked a nice stretch on the north side of the Allegheny river, stopping for lunch on the deck at Redfin Blues. Park in the small lot near the Heinz buildings, and take a look at the historic brick factory complex that has been transformed into upscale loft apartments.
There are 90 Pittsburgh neighborhoods to explore, each with their own vibe. The Strip District is a favorite for delicious food and unique shops. The streets are lined with repurposed warehouses filled with old school grocers, modern restaurants, and casual shops. While you’re there, stop in Wholey Market to check out the maze of food counters, sample craft spirits at Wigle Whiskey, and have a meal or a drink at one of the many restaurants and bars. The first Primanti Brothers is located in The Strip, and that line outside Gaucho Parillo Argentina is there for good reason. See our suggestions below for where to eat in the Strip.
Early in his presidency, George Washington faced a Pittsburgh uprising known as the Whiskey Rebellion. That crisis is the inspiration behind Wigle Whiskey. The team at Wigle creates a broad range of whiskey, bourbon, and other spirits with some unique flavorings. Visit the casual Slack District location for tours, tastings, and to pick up a bottle or two. The Afterglow whiskey flavored with ginger is one of our favorites.
St. Anthony’s Chapel
Saint Anthony’s Chapel, in the Troy Hill neighborhood, has the largest collection of religious relics outside the Vatican. Over 5,000 relics, from tiny to large, are displayed in custom cabinetry in the church. Tours highlight the history and importance of relics in the collection.
Tasty Places to Eat in Pittsburg PA
Pamela’s Diner, Slack District
Step into the past and enjoy a tasty, filling breakfast at Pamela’s Diner in the Strip (and four other locations). Pamela’s is known for their crepe style pancakes, with soft centers and crispy edges. We also loved the homemade chorizo hash, and the classic diner decor is fun and friendly.
Grand Concourse, Station Square
The Grand Concourse is one of the most beautiful interiors in Pittsburgh. The former train station boasts a unique barrel ceiling, highlighted with skylight and stained glass. Benches from it’s days as a train station dot the space. For 40 years, Grand Concourse has been a popular destination for seafood and Sunday brunch. The popular brunch was voted one of the 100 best brunch spots in America. Choose from an array of classic dishes at stations throughout the space, and don’t miss the freshly made donuts with toppings in the bar.
Head to the tree-lined streets of Shadyside for upscale shopping and a meal at Acorn. Locally sourced beautiful, and delicious dishes draw a steady stream of diners to this casual but refined space. The charcuterie platters and salads are tasty works of art. And we highly recommend one of the lovely, creative cocktails.
Eleven, between Strip District and Downtown
Upscale dining and a fantastic wine list are the hallmarks of Eleven, located in a rehabilitated warehouse between Strip District and Downtown. We suggest the beautiful seafood dishes, like the sea scallops with pork belly on a red yam puree, and the perfectly delicious Wild Alaskan Halibut.
Fl.2 in the Fairmont Pittsburgh
Hotel restaurants can be hit or miss, and Fl.2 in the Fairmont Pittsburgh is definitely a hit. We enjoyed breakfast with a view of the kitchen In the bright, open space. Avocado toast topped with farm fresh tomatoes, and a Coconut Chia Parfait with mango and granola were two of our favorites.
Or, the Whale in the Distrikt Hotel
Another good restaurant hotel pick is Or, the Whale in Pittsburgh’s Distrikt Hotel. The seafood and steak restaurant’s playful decor is inspired by Moby Dick. We visited for breakfast and enjoyed the Quinoa Oat Granola topped with blueberries, and eggs paired with crispy bacon.
Food halls are growing in popularity and they’re especially welcome when you’re traveling with a group. Head to Federal Gallery, one of two restaurant incubators in Pittsburgh, to sample dishes from four rotating chefs. Take some time to explore all of the menus before making your choices. On our visit, our group sampled colorful salads, tasty tacos, and indulgent pan pizza, all of them delicious.
There are so many more Pittsburgh restaurants to try, with new options popping up all the time. Visit the website Discover the Burgh for more ideas on where to eat, drink and play in Pittsburgh.
Where to Stay in Pittsburgh PA
Stay at the Drury Plaza Hotel in Pittsburgh for a comfortable room and a convenient downtown location with a dose of history.
The historic marble and limestone building retains elements from its high security days as a Federal Reserve Bank Building. Decorative metal bars cover first floor windows. Hotel valets are stationed behind a a bullet proof entrance where guards once stood. The indoor pool was once a target practice area for those guards. And two downstairs vaults have been turned into conference rooms.
Our room at the Drury was comfortable, spacious and modern, and included excellent free wifi. At the lobby level, generous breakfasts and happy hour meals are served in an open dining area with a lovely art deco ceiling and banquettes. The rooftop lounge area is a perfect spot to relax when the weather cooperates.
There are many more downtown Pittsburgh hotels to choose from, and many Pittsburgh AirBnb rentals if you’d like kitchen facilities.
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Getting There: Pittsburgh PA from Washington DC Area
Pittsburgh is about a 4-hour drive from the Washington DC area, as long as you avoid rush hour traffic. The drive follows Routes 70 and 76, entering Pittsburgh from the east. We prefer an alternate route that takes a little longer but is more scenic. Just continue further west on Route 70 and enter Pittsburgh from the south on Route 43.
If time and budget allow, you could stop for a night of two at Nemacolin Resort and explore the beautiful Laurel Highlands area. A Laurel Highlands stopover is ideal for touring the many Frank Lloyd Wright homes in the area, including the UNESCO World Heritage site, Fallingwater. Alternatively, you can book a Fallingwater group tour with Viator that includes round-trip transportation from Pittsburgh.
If you prefer to fly, United offers daily non-stops from Dulles Airport, and American flies non-stop from Reagan National. Your drive from the airport into downtown Pittsburgh includes a spectacular view of the city as you emerge from the Fort Pitt Tunnel.
Whether you fly or drive, try to spend at least 3 or 4 days in the city. You’ll want plenty of time to sample all of the tasty places to eat and fun things to do in Pittsburgh PA.