Pittsburgh, PA. Places to see, things to do?

I'm going to have to spend a couple of weeks (working) in Pittsburgh, PA in late August this year. I'll be working at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary (http://www.pts.edu)

I will have some (but not much) time off and it'll be the first time I've been in the USA. Any recommendations as to places to go, things to see?

Preferably places that don't involve driving there - I won't have a car or enough money to hire one for long.

I've seen enough steel mills and closed steel mills to last me a lifetime - we have plenty of those here in Scotland.

Make sure you try their famous Philly cheese steaks. mmmmmmm.


Take lots of pics and post them so we can check them out.

Who's taking care of your assistant?

It's gone from a dirty steel town to a pretty and somewhat interesting little town .I don't know it very well But I'm not that far away , been there a couple times .I remember driving thru downtown and thinking that pittsburg looked much better than I'd remembered .Definately pretty and rolling landscape fairly hilly like lots of penn. towns .let me look for some info . and i'll PM you with what I know ...Should be a short PM ..:p

Having never been there, except on layovers at PIT, I'm afraid I can't help you much in terms of recommendations. But do bear in mind that Western and Eastern Pennsylvania tend to be very different - almost to the point of being different states, with Philly being a microcosm to itself. I'm sure there are more than a few people who'd happily redraw a the state lines between NJ, NY and PA, but that's no different from what you have in other parts of the country. So, it's probably a good idea to rent a car, even if it's just for a few days to check out different parts of the state.

Rentals cars tend to be cheaper here than in Europe anyway and if you book well in advance online, you should be able to get a good deal if you're not too picky about your choice of vehicle (IOW, you might get a PT cruiser or some other fleet car nobody wanted; just in case that happens, I'd like to apologize in advance on behalf of the country and the US motor industry ;)).

I'm sure others with more knowledge of PA will chime in with more tips. Hope you have fun.

Oh, and speaking of tips: like I said, I don't really know Philly but looking at the data from the FBI Uniform Crime Report, it seems like violent crime is still a major issue there so it's probably a good idea to err on the side of caution and avoid the bad parts of town.

Edit: And while we're on the topic of apologies: sorry about the TSA. Seriously. There's a reason why the TSA is about as popular as the government agency responsible for collecting federal taxes in this country (and that article is from 2007; things have become much more ridiculous since then).

IMHO, Pittsburgh is one of the most depressing cities in the USA. I'm not an expert, and haven't been there recently, just from what little I've seen (talking about the city--not the nice countryside/environs). Then again, I'm not a fan of cityscapes to begin with. Dated someone who loved it, so tastes are different (just like how you like reverse clickies ;) . A different close friend agrees with me however; he calls it "Piss-turd". And yeah, if you eat meat, the Philly Cheesesteak would be a must-do. Report back on what you think, lol.

If I lived there, I'd get you out of there and see the nice forest and countryside. Even away from the Appalachian mountains, probably a lot of nice views. Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio (Pittsburgh is near the border of western Pennsylvania) both have a lot of that, but, then again, much of the USA has a lot of that beautiful terrain. I'm sure Scotland does too. Obviously you appreciate that kind of stuff from the pics of your cabin (or whatever you call it), and actually I thought the outdoors there looked pretty similar, but again I'd be interested in hearing any thoughts of how our countryside is different, if you look. Oh--Pennsylvania food can resemble what you've described in Scotland, and those who don't value their arteries; what was it--Pounder? A pound of flour, pound of butter, and a pound of salt or something? The German-folk in PA aren't much better. You're getting near the epicenter of Pretzels: merely white flour and salt (and water, cooked away of course). You can't get a "purer" pennsylvania dutch food (probably too cheap to use all that butter yous do). In parts of PA they have "soft pretzels", sold fresh, usually streetside, and those do have fat in them (pretty tasty, too, for white flour and salt anyway).

I think there is a famous art museum there (not big on that, either). Lots of 'culture' stuff in the city (probably opera or play type stuff too), if you're into that and need to take a bus. You'll be missing "state fair" season (autumn/harvest time), but that can be a culture shock even to me. There may still be some weekly local markets ["farmer's markets", but imbued in local culture] there if benign culture shock is what you're into. I guess if non-benign culture shock is your gig, you'll find plenty in "da hood", LOL ('the neighborhood'--bad neighborhoods). There will be plenty of American fast food 'joints' to sample to your heart's/arteries' content, cheaper than in Europe (always found American fast food joints to be expensive to me in Europe). OH--make sure you have some GOOD PIZZA. Dang, pizza is so expensive in Europe (what's up with that!), but they seem to try to 'fancy it up' then. There should be some serious pizza joints in Pittsburgh. There you go. Now THAT, I would do if I were in Pittsburgh. Cheesesteak, pretzels, pizza, and fast food. Good luck with the arteries. And Harley-Davidsons. That's basically what the Pennsylvania 'Dutch' (really Deutsch, but they can't even write their own ethnicity properly--and that doesn't mean I'm racist) have to offer. I could go on, but it would start to get less nice, so I'll save it.

If you're interested in trying to pick up local college women while you're in seminary, the local big university is called "Pitt", by the way (LOL). It's quite popular, however I can't help but think it's a descriptive name! Do you see a trend here. I guess I'm racist against everyone, even myself.

Renting cars can be pretty cheap here, BTW, if you book in advance online. If you book for a week and in advance, easily $20 a day if you shop around, and sometimes $15 (I don't know how they make money on the latter). Try hotwire and/or maybe the other ones like (just pulling this out of my butt) travelocity, expedia, or other brokers, go with the cheapest/economy model, and try different dates (I think weekends are cheaper). The further in advance, the cheaper it is, and vice versa (if immediate, it'll be about $40 a day--yeouch). You can usually get unlimited mileage, and occasionally unlimited distance (they sometimes limit your range to certain large regions). Gasoline/petrol is 'expensive' here right now, but will be probably shockingly cheap to you, roughly $0.88 per litre to you. Depends where (how far) you want to go, or if you want to do a 'road trip'. Hard to have a better country for road-tripping. I would encourage you get a friend to take you shooting (especially outdoors if possible) if that's not something you've ever done or are likely to do again. That could be a two-fer for seeing the countryside and doing something cool, and--hey, 'cultural'; three-peat.

By the way, NOMB but since you mentioned it, I admire you for going through the theological seminary, but heh I've heard it's pretty common for people to lose their faith when they go through those things... or, if not 'lose it', get their points of view quite subdued by being baffled and challenged. I'm not saying that's a bad thing necessarily, but I wonder if you've considered that, or how much consideration you gave it (just to get into YOUR mind). When you look at the Catholic Biblia (and its history) under a microscope, there are a lot of... uh, warts which many didn't notice before (kind of like the LED solder splatter close-up thread recently). As a side topic, guys who become atheists during seminary, and then still continue on to be priests... that's a head-shaker.

BTW if you wouldn't mind as a favor to me, try to get these Christian types in America to stop thinking circumcision is part of their religion. Met too many people who claim to read the Bible 'daily', who have no clue that the New Testament is even 'anti-circumcision', much less exactly how anti-circumcision it is--from Paul's pejorative names of the sacrifice which don't translate well (translated into English as "mutilation"), to going so far as (the way I read it) telling people the Atonement doesn't apply to them if they believe circumcision is religiously attached to Christianity. I'm not talking about non-Christian denoms, that's a whole other can of worms, just Christians in particular. People who get their kid's penis partially amputated in a hospital, alone with a medical tech, strapped to a circumcision board, and think that was 'religious' somehow... well it disgusts me, what can I say, as a victim of such religious wrongness. Christianity doesn't involve any blood sacrifices or sacrifices of humans, virgins, children or infants, all of which categories babies fall under. While not universal, it's pervasive, in some denoms more than others, but it's there. The history of circ in our country dates back to the 1880's or 1890's where it was a punishment for children who were caught or 'suspected' of masturbating. Medicine was very willing to cover for religion, and both were twisted. The lie kept changing, and at some point religion actually backed off to a point, but by then the poisoning was enrenched in culture and medical thinking. When the UK came to its senses (somewhere around the mid-1900s) and abandoned this insanity, we ignored you guys, perhaps because here, medicine is generally thought-of as a (for-profit) business, not a service, so there's a huge conflict of interest and naturally all the slanted "objective" brochures at hospitals to go with it, and nurses who get in trouble for lowering the circ rates of their units when they talk truthfully to parents, etc..

I would add Priceline to that list. It's still pretty much my "go to" site when I am paying for a rental car myself. You're probably going to be fine regardless of what mid-class car they give you. I'd respectfully disagree with going with the cheapest option because you might very well get stuck with a Kia if your pick-up is an airport location when you could get a Civic, Camry, Taurus or Accord (all the exact opposite of exciting, but reliable, cheap, comfortable and unlikely to get you carjacked) for a couple of bucks more a day. Just avoid the cars tourists usually pick (convertibles, what the rest of the world would call "a big truck", anything German except the Jetta, which you're unlikely to get as a rental anyway and anything made by Lexus) and you should be fine.

If this is your first trip to the US why not check out an example of Americas favorite pastime...

A baseball game :)

PNC Park is the home of The Pittsburg Pirates (hopefully they are playing an exciting team to watch)

Whenever I get a chance to travel to a city with a ballclub I try to catch a game. It's kinda cool to visit another teams home field. Still have not been to PNC Park yet but it is one of the newer stadiums which some offer more activities than the older stadiums.

I would think Pittsburg is pretty walkable/mass transit (buses) friendly. Two things I have learned in traveling out of country is this, (1) try to know some of the native language (no problem here) (2) Try not to look like a tourist.

there are more sites online that can help you find out more about the place you will be visiting but I cant post them now (working).

OxyMoron I know you meant the Priceline tip for Don but I appreciate that as well.

Good point about the cheap upgrade, and I'd agree when it actually lets you know what the model be. But the one time I tried that very tactic (this was through Hotwire), it told me that my car would be one of 4 or 5 potential models, just that I could not know which one. Most of them were pedestrian like you mentioned, but one was a Mustang. I thought that would be the one LEAST-likely for me to get--and, since this would be a long trip, I definitely didn't want that. Well, what do you know. Picked up the car, and it was a Mustang. 6 cylinder. I have no idea why that car wasn't in the "Sports Car" category, but perhaps because of the 6-cyl, ha. Anyway: terrible gas mileage, cop magnet (cherry red--we drove close to the speed limit the whole way, and I've never driven through more length of "fines doubled" construction zone in my life), very little luggage room, and a seating h-point akin to a nursery schooler's chair (almost on the floor), for a road trip halfway across the country and back--with a passenger. Not a good road trip car. That ended up being Hertz, BTW. I settled on that reseller because that was the only one I could find which not only didn't limit mileage, but didn't mandate that you stay within a "region". Don wouldn't have to worry about that.

I suggested econo class because it sounds like Don may be on a shoestring budget, but perhaps more importantly the cheapest ones will also probably get the best gas mileage, and... after all, we are budget oriented are we ;) . Good point again, and it comes down to personal circumstance and how much info they give you.

Does Priceline let you know for sure what model you'd get? I've always been afraid to go with them, because at least in the late 90's, they made you commit to purchase, BEFORE you actually saw prices (if it accepted "your" price, you were committed)--which is a non-starter for me. And the "name your own price"--uh, you tell ME what your best offer is, and I'll say yes or no. I thought they changed both of these, but haven't been able to confirm? What kind of deal did you get with Priceline (can you remember model, approx price, and weekend/weekdays/weekly)?

Don was probably really looking forward to seeing Pittsburgh until he read that.

You haven't seen Coatbridge! Or just about anywhere else on the A89.

Armadale has the highest lung cancer rate in the EU courtesy of a now defunct steel mill.

Bathgate used to make cars, trucks and vans. And as you go farther west it gets worse.

It is easier to buy heroin than bread in Clydebank. (Admittedly not on the A89) but is way west of the rest.

Post-industrial is what the A89 does. Badly...

Like most mid/large size cities in the US, Pittsburgh has dramatically improved over the last 10-20 years. You will enjoy it

Thanks folks for all the information and ideas. Please do keep it up. This is the sort of stuff I really want to know. I hope I can do the same for anyone coming to Scotland. If you happen to be around Aberdeen, don't even think about a hotel - if I'm around, you can have a place to stay.

The study bit is easy - I've been doing this stuff for around 25 years so have no worries about the work bit. It will be a lot of fun looking very much harder at what I do and how I do it, but that is for work - looking to do some fun stuff while I'm a long way outside where I usually am. I'm probably only going to have a couple of days to do stuff other than work but I plan to make the most of those days. If necessary, sleep in the free time is optional.

It'll be fun seeing how other folks do the job. Seminaries can be a hoot. I've been there and done that - first time was in 1986. Then 1989, then 2003. Hope is all there is - all the rest is bravo sierra aimed at making those who sell it more important. And I can and do get rather vehement there. My favourite theologian used to share an office with me. And i argued almost every word of his PhD thesis with him. I recognise a lot of his language as I shouted it at him. We agree on little, but we do agree totally on what I consider to be the important stuff. John is a lot smarter than me though - and certainly writes a lot better.

I've not travelled that much and almost all of my travelling has been to work at the other end. Lived and worked in southern Africa for a couple of years, spent a while as an army chaplain on the E. German border when I was a student but apart from that I've not travelled far at all. So looking forward to my first visit to the US. This is travelling to work as well - but I do plan to make the most of it.

Yes, my and Don's subtle sense of humor and loving cynicism of our Heimat--I mean, homeland... kicked in there. I expected an 'outdoing', which is kind of what I was 'fishin' for... :) and got one. Not that I'm happy about how things have eroded over there (and, financially--here too, to a lesser extent), but I do find quite humorous Don's wry sense of humor on his area.

'Tis really gratifying to hear of such improvement. I don't know the area well, but have had close friends and more acquaintances who've lived there--all quite awhile ago I guess now. Some people obviously know the area better than I, so:

someone tell Don where to get some good 'murricun Pizza!

If there's one thing good about America, it's the Mexican food. (Oh wait, that's California.)

Yeah, Pennsylvania types are into burgers, and pretty much anything you can cut off a cow or hog. Carbohydrates shall consist of white starch, preferably white flour or potato. Local famed historical cultural dishes include "Hog Maw", which is vegetables cooked inside a cow stomach (who needs a pot?), and Head Cheese... which... I believe the Scots may are be familiar with! They are also known for their thrift. And often marginal awareness of the Internet, lol.

There is a Scotland, PA, but not close to Pittsburgh. Closer to McConnellsburg--the 'real' Scotland, PA, LOL. And that's two C's, two N's, and two L's to you. Knew a girl from there, who spoke with a detectable trace of a Scottish accent. She did verify a lot of Scotch (if that's the proper term? Scottish? Scots?) people settled in her area.

Scottish is the proper term IMO. The English usually get this wrong. After all those guys are slow and they've not yet figured that out - we did unite our parliaments in 1707 so any century now...

Scotch comes in bottles though I prefer the term "whisky". Other nations' variations on that get prefixed with the nation so you get Spanish whisky (Just don't. Really don't), American whisky (Spelling it with an "e" is just wrong! - At least it is here), Japanese whisky (some of which is as good as it gets though they've never got the Islay varieties right), and so on.

Great lumps of cow or pig sound great to me. Who needs coronary arteries anyway? (One of the advantages of socialized medicine :) )

Take some happy pills... the weather sucks, all the time. Haven't seen the sun in weeks. Rains here all the time. I almost ended up back in the psych ward after this winter. (lifelong hx of depression) Ditto on the FBI crime report... P'burg has a divershitty problem like every other city. Do some Internet homework!

In Pa., you're pretty much screwed if 1) you don't have a car and 2) if you eat a healthy diet. (Healthy to me = being vegetarian) At least around here (where the women in the supermarkets are 300 lbs. easy) it's like that but I'm a good 170 miles east of P'burg.

These roads here are bloody dark at night... bring plenty of lights!


If I were you Don, I would talk to some of your contacts in PA for some guidance as well. There are certain places even here in NY that if you asked me I would tell you bring a hammer, but they are not the places you would think of based on internet msg boards or stigmas attached.

In my experience some of the suburbs I have lived in were worse crime wise than the cities. Sure you can use data FBI or whatever, but you have to remember that the burbs are less populated so the numbers are generally lower.

All in all talk with those that are on the ground where you are going. Thats what I have done in the past when I would go to Czech Rupublic, Austria, Dresden Germany, and many more..

You are doing the right thing inquiring about it this early, If it was NYC, Chicago, Or Norfolk VA I could be more help as I have lived in these places (came back home to NYC).

Here is a forum on citydata, might get some input here


Hope you have a good trip :)

Ok first off ...damn brjones Writing anything after you is pointless ..No one can plow thru your wall of text and live ..Did you read war and peace alot as a kid ??

Sorry...I think I forgot what I was gonna say

... oh yeah ..oxymoron pittsburg and philly have nothing in common other than they are 462 miles apart ..eating philly cheese steaks in pittsburg is like eating fish n chips in ireland .Pittsburgs crime rates have very little to do with Philadelphia ...

Ligonier is fairly close by , home of R.C. Sproul / Ligonier ministries http://www.ligonier.org/learn/series/what_is_reformed_theology/catholic-evangelical-and-reformed/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DEtZnxqC_fM&feature=related not from pittsburg but I like him so ..a link

eastern ohio /wertern PA.all down the river was pottery .. not terrible expensive pottery either so you might pick something up to remember your trip by if you see something you like . ( a bowl for your assistant )

pittsburg was the home of Andrew Carnegie a steel magnate and huge philanthrophist . lots of libraries , colleges etc .. he had a lot of money and did nice things with it too ..You know how nice scots are .... 2nd richest man in the world ..< these guys never met bill gates )...Carnegie was born in Dunfermline, Scotland


Boaz RULES!!!

Sounds just like home then! Though we have had something that could be construed as Spring this week. The assistant isn't too happy about this as she's just about to get herself bathed. The sun is out and the temperature has just reached a whole 54F!

Would I go anywhere without lights?

If you are a hockey fan, it's still the season. Probably be playoff time when you arrive in Pittsburg, but that is another option.