Sitting where the mighty Ohio River splits into the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers, Pittsburgh looks like no other city with its sweeping mountain vistas and waterways. The dozens of bridges, steep, streets, and tunnels offer their own navigational challenges to visitors. Anchoring the east end of the Rust Belt, Pittsburgh has shed its steel mills for museums, parks, and inviting neighborhoods. Visitors will find an amazing array of activities for all ages to fit any type of vacation itinerary. The twenty places listed here merely scratch the surface of Pittsburgh’s attractions.
20 Attractions to Visit in Pittsburgh
Carnegie Science Center
Though Andrew Carnegie and his steel industry may be in the past, his influence lives on in Pittsburgh. Chock full of science displays both children and adults will enjoy. Learn about river science, space, robotics, and more. Highlights include a huge model train diorama, planetarium, and the USS Requin WII submarine.
Carnegie Museum of Natural History
Within there halls visitors will find dinosaur bones, Egyptian mummies, and precious gems and minerals on display. Discover the wonders of life on Earth through the eons in well designed exhibits on Native Americans, botany, ocean life, and more. Kids can grab some tools and help unearth faux dinosaur bones to learn about archeology.
Carnegie Museum of Art
Connected to the Natural History Museum, guests can view art including ancient Greek sculptures, oil paintings by the Renaissance masters, and contemporary photography. Hands-on art activities are available to keep kids interested.
The Andy Warhol Museum
Explore seven floors of the world’s largest Warhol collection. Unlike ordinary art museums, this one encourages visitors to engage in various ways. Paintings, photographs, films, sculptures and hands-on exhibits draw visitors into the the artist’s creative world. Try your hand at creating art through screen printing, and other methods for a one of a kind souvenir. Check out Travel Dad Boyd Roger’s Top Five Things to Know about the Andy Warhol Museum.
The Frick Collection
Discover a bit of art, history, and culture on the grounds of former Industrialist Henry Clay Frick. Tour the old Clayton mansion and see how the uber wealthy lived at the turn of the 20th century. The estate also houses an extensive art museum, car and carriage collection, and conservatory and gardens.
The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh
Children are encouraged to get their hands on the displays in this museum. Kids can tinker, play in the water, and even create digital media. Special exhibits and activities are always on the schedule, so make sure to check their website to get the most out of your visit.
Senator John Heinz History Center
Over two centuries of local history awaits visitors. Learn about the pioneers, rise of the steel industry, and more at this Smithsonian affiliated museum. Fans of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood will appreciate the endearing collection which includes the original TV show set.
Pittsburgh Glass Center
Glass making school and studio offers free tours. Watch live glass blowing classes and demonstrations daily. Glass works are on display for all to see. Check the schedule for live demo times or drop in to watch whatever is happening that day.
Roberto Celemente Museum
Housed in a restored fire engine house in the Lawrenceville neighborhood, the collection focuses solely on famed former Pittsburgh Pirates Roberto Clemente. His life and baseball career are told through photographs, artwork, and artifacts including World Series rings and Golden Glove awards. Tours by reservation only.
If you like music boxes you’ll love this one of a kind museum,. Housed in the 19,000 square foot former home of Charles Brown III, the collection features antique music boxes and other automatic musical machines and artworks. Visitors will encounter secret passages, a cave, and unbelievably decorated rooms. Call ahead to set up a reservation for a tour of this eclectic house turned museum.
Point State Park
Enjoy stunning views from this 34 acre park right at the confluence of the three rivers. The outlines of forts Duquesne and Pitt are outlined on the ground in granite, which is also lit up at night. The large fountain sits as a calling card for the city behind. Interpretive programs about both the natural surrounds and history of the area are provided by the State Park service.
Fort Pitt Museum and Blockhouse
Learn about Pittsburgh’s role in the French & Indian War and later the American Revolution in a reconstructed bastion of Fort Pitt. Two floors of displays detail life on the 18th century frontier. A second museum in the Point State Park, The Fort Pitt Blockhouse, was originally built in 1764. Pittsburgh’s oldest structure was part of the larger fort at the confluence of the rivers. The blockhouse offers free tours of the last remaining part of Fort Pitt.
The University of Pittsburgh’s observatory dates back to 1912. The historic building has three domes containing modern telescopes and other specialized sky watching cameras. The observatory is used for both astronomical research and public outreach. Free tours of this historic observatory are offered April through October.
Cathedral of Learning and National Rooms
Rising over 500 feet above t Pittsburgh, this impressive college tower immediately catches your eye. The University of Pittsburgh holds classes here, but tourists are welcome to enjoy its beauty. Upon walking inside you’ll feel as though you’ve been transported into the halls of an old European cathedral. The highlight, though, are the Nationality Rooms. Over two dozen classrooms has been designed to mimic the cultural architecture of different places across the world. For example, the French room is reminiscent of a grand palace while the Early American room has the feel of a timber Colonial building. Visitors can take a self-guided audio recorder tour when classes are not in session. Group tours can also be arranged. The University provides short videos of each room on their website.
This historic conservatory has been overhauled in recent years to become of model of green energy efficient design. Stroll through 14 garden rooms containing various floral gardens, glass art, and interactive displays for kids to learn more about the environment. Historic sculptures highlight the outdoor gardens.
Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium
Dating back to 1898, the zoo brings the natural world to Pittsburgh. The zoo houses a diverse array of habitats including the African savannah, tropical islands, local farms, and a 5 acre indoor rain forest. Guests can easily spend a whole day touring the zoo.
The largest aviary in the US features around 500 exotic and local birds from over 150 species. Visitors walk through lush habitats surrounded by birds, some often coming right up to you. A live bird show and opportunities to hand feed the feathered residents are available. Read more about the National Aviary here.
Also known as funiculars, these cable cars served as the primary mode of transportation from the neighborhoods on the south side of the Monongahela river to reach the shoreline far below. Only two lines are in operation today shuttling both visitors and locals daily. The Duquense incline takes visitors up to an elevation of 400 feet for the most stunning views of Pittsburgh. At the top, guests will find a city welcome center, gift shop, and can watch the cable machinery in operation.
Dating back to 1870, this incline features the nation’s oldest cable car in operation. The three level car takes visitors up 369 feet above the river. Station Square, at the bottom of the incline, has plenty of restaurants, a concert pavilion, and dancing fountain to keep visitors busy. The Gateway Clipper and Just Ducky boat tours both leave from Station Square.
Grand Concourse Restaurant
The gem of Station Square is built within the old railway station. This elegant eatery features fresh seafood and beautiful river views. Originally built in 1901 as a train for the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad, it was renovated in 1978 to become a restaurant. The grandeur of the interior has been well preserved and you may just spend your meal time looking at the surroundings.
Pittsburgh is an amazingly versatile destination for both families and adults looking for an affordable getaway. This steel town turned modern city is packed with unique museums, art, and parks; not to mention a thriving food scene. Take a look at what the city has to offer next time you’re scouting for a new vacation destination. Visit Pittsburgh’s tourism website for links and details on all of the interesting attractions mentioned in this article.
For more fun activities, read “Off the Beaten Path: 5 Cool Things to do in Pittsburgh” over on Traveling Mom.