The Travel Channel recently named Pittsburgh among the 10 best “All-American Vacations” for 2014, calling it “one of the hippest cities in America,” an arts destination in recreation-rich western Pennsylvania that’s “bubbling over with young people helping to redefine the city.”
They’re not the only ones. Ruben Rincon, a native of Popayan, Colombia who has been working in northern California for several years, is pursuing a master of science in software management at Carnegie Mellon University’s Silicon Valley campus. He won a free trip to Pittsburgh as part of a sweepstakes last fall tied to a Silicon Valley-focused business investment and talent attraction mission organized by the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance and ImaginePittsburgh.com. A project manager at Microsoft, Rincon had this to say about his visit.
55,889: that’s the number of steps my Fitbit counted during three fabulous days that my wife and I spent in Pittsburgh over Memorial Day weekend. It was an enriching experience in which we learned about the city, its people and a little bit of history too – as well as enjoying weather in our favor with sunny blue skies.
The first things you notice when you get to Pittsburgh are the gold and blue bridges along the three rivers: the Allegheny, the Ohio and the Monongahela. It makes for a pretty, scenic view of what once was one of the biggest industrial spots in the country.
We were welcomed in the Westin Hotel with a basketful of goodies and suggestions for things to do in the city – a surprising amount considering its population is just 350,000. Scheduling all of the activities in one weekend was going to be a challenge, so we started with a visit to the nearby Cultural District, enjoying the Broadway show at Heinz Hall. It’s amazing how many cultural activities Pittsburgh hosts, including shows and concerts. I have never seen such a variety of shows in northern California. We spent the rest of the afternoon admiring the bridges, watching grooms and brides take their pictures in iconic city spots and walking around the popular PNC Park where the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team was playing. After a couple of non-alcoholic cocktails at Seviche, a downtown Latin American restaurant, we enjoyed dinner at Butcher & the Rye before taking the short walk back to the hotel.
Coming from California, we quickly noticed the low cost of living in Pittsburgh. Income is also lower, but it doesn’t take an accountant to see that the city offers affordable, decent living. For instance, the cost of living in Los Angeles is 31 percent higher than Pittsburgh, but average salaries in L.A. are just 12 percent higher. [Use ImaginePittsburgh.com’s cost-of-living calculator to figure out how much further your money would go in Pittsburgh.]
Our second day started with a couples’ massage at the Fairmont Hotel. Afterwards, we visited downtown spots like PPG Place – a courtyard amid a castle-like building made of glass and featuring fountains where kids played and dads ran behind them to avoid getting wet. Afterwards, we headed to the university district [Oakland] and entered the Carnegie Museum of Art and Natural History, where we appreciated the largest dinosaur skeleton we had ever seen. This creature called the Diplodocus Carnegii and measures is 90 feet (27 meters) horizontally! We were also impressed by the architecture of the two universities near the museum – the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University. We especially loved the Heinz Memorial Chapel on Pitt’s campus. At first glance, it gets overshadowed by Pitt’s towering, impressive Cathedral of Learning, but the chapel offers a mystic blue interior that must be seen.
As a student at CMU’s Silicon Valley campus, I was looking forward to visiting my alma mater in Pittsburgh and getting to know the acclaimed campus. I was impressed its buildings and big halls. We took pictures in the Hamerschlag Hall to show my colleagues back in Silicon Valley. We were impressed by the campus’s beautiful arts building and extensive lawns. To end the day properly, we went for a stylish dinner at downtown’s Grit & Grace where we enjoyed the American dim sum and other tasty and full-of-flavor dishes. (Tip: if you go, ask for the hidden sweet and sour dessert!)
Our last day was the shortest due to return-home travel plans, so we decided to visit some spots near downtown like Point State Park. There we visited the Fort Pitt Museum and took pictures with the massive fountain beside the river. It’s one of the greatest photography spots in the city. We headed to Station Square where we rode the incline – a funicular used to ferry people up and down the startling mountainsides that surround the urban core — to Mount Washington. From the top, you enjoy an astounding aerial view of the downtown buildings, the three rivers and, of course, its many bridges, many in shades or blue or gold.
Then it was time to catch the 28X bus to the airport. On our way we ate some remaining chocolate and pretzel popcorn made by the Pittsburgh Popcorn Company and recalled memories of a trip we will never forget.
We expect to come back soon to see the places we missed during our short stay. This city offers so much to do that three days went by like a breeze. We are truly thankful to ImaginePittsburgh.com for granting us this wonderful experience.
Come visit! You will not forget it.
Check out Ruben’s Instagram account for more of his photos.