Mr. Batch and I love to take road trips, and we adore exploring every nook and cranny of our destination — and stopping to sightsee, en route to our destination and back! We didn’t get away for Spring Break this year, but we made up for it with a drive to Pittsburgh for the long Memorial Day Weekend. Here’s what we enjoyed:
Day 1: We drove through the Southern Tier of New York and then through the Allegheny National Forest to get to Pittsburgh. Shortly after crossing the border into Pennsylvania, we came to the Drake Well and Museum — which chronicles the birth and development of the petroleum industry. I had no idea that Western PA was home to the first drilling for oil **in the world.** The first oil drill also acted as a pump, and operated at SIX horse-power, which is half of the power of a modern riding lawn mower! They struck oil at 69.5 feet!
Onward we drove until we got to the ‘Burgh and checked in to our AirBnB. We had the entire third floor of this lovely Colonial Revival house, located in the Friendship neighborhood, just steps from Shadyside. This is the link to the rental — we highly recommend you consider staying there when you visit!
As soon as we were unloaded and settled in our digs, we headed to The Andy Warhol Museum. Seven floors showcase the impressive breadth of Andy Warhol’s work, making it the largest museum in North America devoted to a single artist. Rather than posting any iconic photos of Andy Warhol and his pop art, I thought I’d share a young picture of Warhol, just out of art school and having moved to New York City (below). And a photo of Mr. Batch in the Silver Clouds exhibit.
Filled with inspiration, we departed the museum and decided to walk along the North Shore of the Allegheny River to admire the skyline, as we made our way to the original Primanti Brothers restaurant in the Strip District for a Pittsburgh Sandwich (the fries and slaw are IN the sandwich). We love their mission: serve high quality food to industrious people who appreciate a good value.
We fell into bed that evening, exhausted from our travels and having walked 4.5 miles!
We’re early birds, so we decided to get out the door and walk the three miles back to the Strip District for breakfast, and to peruse the many shops and markets, as seen in the photos below. There’s lots of Pittsburgh pride in “Stillers” country (how Steelers is pronounced with a Pittsburgh accent). S & D Polish Deli was a visual feast (first two pictures below) but we decided to dine at Enrico Biscotti Bakery & Cafe (last 4 pictures below).
Stuffed from our biscuits & gravy and green eggs & ham breakfast, we waddled a mile to the Senator John Heinz History Center, a very well-laid-out and enjoyable journey through the history of Western Pennsylvania. We loved learning about the coal mines & steel mills and other innovations from the area, demonstrated in part from the collection of personal historical photographs in the #Pixburgh exhibit. Heinz is from Pittsburgh! And the exhibit of words pronounced with the Pittsburgh accent was one of our favorites! “Gum bands” (rubber bands), “jian-neegle” (Giant Eagle grocery store), “yinz” (you-uhns / you-all) and more!
We continued our walk through the city to our next destination: the SouthSide to meet our Molly’s Trolley “Culture to Ketchup” Tour. This was not only a fantastic break to sit down after all of that walking while being driven around the city to see the sights, but the tour was informative and enjoyable! Highly recommend this tour, which concludes with a ride up Mt. Washington on the Duquesne Incline. The two middle pictures below are taken from the observation deck on Mt. Washington, overlooking the “Stillers” stadium, where they wave the “Terrible Towel.” The last shot below is at the base of the Duquesne Incline after we de-boarded our car.
Slightly rejuvenated, we decided to walk through the South Side neighborhood after our tour. We rewarded ourselves with local beers at Urban Tap. Then took an Uber to dinner — but didn’t get a self-driving car. Pittsburgh is the test-market for Uber’s self-driving car fleet! We enjoyed traditional Polish food for dinner at the Bloomfield Bridge Tavern – pierogis, tolabki, haluski & kluski! YUM!
We walked back to our AirBnB, concluding the day with 7.5 miles walked!
Fully rested, we began our day by walking to Carnegie Melon University’s campus, passing through the Shadyside neighborhood for coffee and breakfast along the way. The pictures below show some cool artwork on CMU’s campus; and buildings on CMU’s campus with buildings from Pitt’s campus in the background.
Very close-by to CMU is the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, which begged a visit from us. What an enjoyable experience! Made even more dazzling with the exhibit of Jason Gamrath glass interspersed among the gardens!
Traveling onward, we walked to Pitt’s campus next, for a stop at the Cathedral of Learning. On the first and third floors, there are 30 Nationality Rooms (28 of which are used for classrooms), designed by members of the Pittsburgh community in the styles of different nations and ethnic groups. The pictures below show, in clockwise order, the Cathedral of Learning, the massive gothic Commons Room, the Armenian Room interior, the door to the Armenian Room, the Switzerland Room and the India Room:
All that walking and sightseeing merited hot dogs from The Original Hot Dog Shop — or “O’s” to yintz! 🙂
We’re starting to show our age a bit, and had to have a quick siesta after all that walking! Upon awakening, we headed back to the North Side to see the famed City of Asylum, “a grass-roots organization that provides exiled writers from around the world with housing — and turns those formerly derelict homes into giant works of art.”
While in the area, we stumbled upon Randyland, Pittsburgh’s Most Colorful Landmark! I hope you’ll visit the website and read the story of Randy Gilson – especially the “Meet Randy” page. I like how the page concludes: “When you do more for others, you find that you do more for yourself. And that’s the story of Randyland.”
Our sightseeing finished for the day at Bicycle Heaven, the world’s largest bike museum, repair shop and parts store. They have close to 4,000 bicycles — vintage to new — under one roof. I especially liked the ones with holders for gear, pictured below: baseball bat, ball & glove and cowboy hat & gun holsters! Pee Wee Herman’s bike is there, and Pee Wee’s Big Adventure plays 24/7 in the background!
The day ended with a delicious Spanish dinner at Pallantia Restaurant in Shadyside. Sangria and rosé wine, ibéricos, yellow tomato gazpacho, potato omelet, mushrooms and shrimp … yum, yum, yum!!! My FitBit revealed that we had walked another 7.5 miles that day!
Time to return to Raaaaah-chester, so we did some sightseeing along the way home. We stopped in Braddock, PA which is home to one of Andrew Carnegie’s original steel mills, still in operation:
And a stop in Ross Township, PA where the first Big Mac sandwich was introduced, and the McDonald’s there houses a museum. We had recently watched the movie “The Founder,” the story of Ray Kroc’s creation of the McDonald’s fast food chain (highly recommend the movie, by the way), so had a particular interest in stopping here:
While stopped in Ross Township, we stumbled upon a Memorial Day Parade! It was very moving to watch the veterans drive by, and even more so to see the cars honoring the families of soldiers who had died, in service:
We drove through Harmony, PA to learn about the Harmony Society — alas, nothing was open. Then once over the New York State border, we stopped in Chautauqua to investigate a future trip(s). The pictures below are from the Athenaeum Hotel on the Chautauqua grounds — the first hotel in the world to have electric lights, installed by Thomas Edison’s daughter!
Then home to Raaaah-chester. We walked just 3.0 miles this last day. The trip kick-started our fitness program and we’ve been active almost daily since returning home. Yay!
We highly recommend the ‘Burgh! More to do than time! Great trip! Cool city! We hope Rochester follows suit with its renaissance!
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