On the first morning I awoke in Pittsburgh I felt well rested and eager to get out and see the city. The weather was even better than the previous day and we were looking forward to spending the day out in the fifty-degree sunshine. I put on a velour sweat suit and I was rearing to go.
I had a few things I knew we were going to do this day but the order kept changing. I sort of wanted to wing it as best we could. So I decided to start with the activity that I knew would take the longest, a riverboat cruise.
When I visit a major city I like to always make sure I get the lay of the land no matter how long I am in town for. Sometimes that’s on a bus, just walking, but more often than not it is on a boat. You get to see a city in a whole new light that you don’t get on land. You get to see all of the buildings that make up the skyline and parts of the city you may not get to. On a nice day there are few things that can top this.
The river cruise I choose was the Getaway Clippers sightseeing tour. It was an hour long and the first boat was leaving soon after I finished breakfast. The timing couldn’t have worked out any better.
The boat filled up pretty quickly but I pushed and made sure I got great seats up top so I would have a great view and get to take the pictures I wanted. The tour was very informative telling the history of Pittsburgh and of course pointing out all that we were seeing. I felt like a sponge absorbing as much as I could.
I feel like these pictures captured how truly beautiful Pittsburgh is. It is more gorgeous than I imagined. I don’t know what I was thinking, I new there weren’t all steel mills or anything, but I didn’t know about all of the bridges and mountains. They certainly popped out in my photos under that bright blue perfect sky. I feel like they look photo shopped they are so good. My favorite bridge is the yellow one with the round top known as the West End Bridge. I feel like no matter where I went I could find it in my eye line. Something about it was always drawing my attention. I learned on my cruise that Pittsburgh is known as “The City of Bridges” because it has 446 bridges. That’s more than there is in Venice, Italy- a city that is only accessible by water!
This tour was one of the best I have taken and I got to see literally every angle of this city. All of the famous buildings were glistening that day and I was pumped to move on to our next activity which I was eager to see because it is something that you can only do in Pittsburgh, take a ride on an incline.
An incline, there are two remaining here, doubles as a mode of transportation and tourist attraction. They are unique to Pittsburgh as cable cars are to San Francisco or streetcars in New Orleans. Both of which I had tried with more success in New Orleans than San Francisco but that was due to fear.
The very helpful crew at the Gateway Clipper told me that the Monongahela Incline was the closest and easiest to walk to. The other incline, the Duquesne Incline was further down but had restaurants when you reached the top. Since I had no preference and was just looking to experience it I went for the one that I could walk to.
The Monongahela Incline is the longest running incline and has been around since 1870. It is located in Station Square and is a national historic landmark. Originally this was only a mode of transportation and as a way to get to the top of Mount Washington. Mount Washington looms proudly over Pittsburgh and is largely the reason you drive through so many tunnels to get anywhere in the city.
I was able to get a great view of the incline climbing up Mount Washington from the river cruise. But is a whole other thing to ride one. An incline is essentially a cable car that goes dialogically up the mountain, not straight up and down. It reminds me of the terrifying elevator ride I took to get to the top of the Eiffel Tower.
About five people fit in each car of the incline and there were a few cars so to speak. The ride is $2.50 a way and needs to be paid in exact change.
I felt some hesitation when I climbed in but the ride was pretty steady. It was scary to look out of the window and see the pulley system working so hard to get us to the top. The view was great but when we got out on the top of Mount Washington there were no words.
There was an extended path that reached out over the city. The panoramic view was unbeatable. You can’t believe how high up you are and how seemingly fast you got there. You can walk into that town and explore. I just stood there taking it all in and then took a ride back down. So far I had two activities checked off.
Next we were off to see my neighbor, Mister Rodgers. Fred Rodgers was a TV legend when I was growing up. “Mister Rodgers Neighborhood” on PBS was a staple in every household. Each day he would begin by changing his sweater and shoes. Then we were off to King Friday’s world for a story. Fred Rodgers made a home in Pittsburgh and in his honor they created the “Tribute to Children” which is a giant statue of him overlooking the river. I had read about this moons ago, it was probably the first thing that ever made me want to go to Pittsburgh.
The statute has no exact address but is located directly across from Heinz Field. That is what I told my cabbie and we found it right away. You can tell because there is a semi brick wall in a circle that surrounds the statute.
I was so excited to get here. Its not that I was such a Fred Rodgers fan but he is just such apart of American culture. Plus you cannot see it anyplace else. The statue casts Fred bending down tying his shoelace. This statute gets a lot of flack for the material it is made out of. It makes him look lumpy but I still thought it was impressive. I was lucky to have someone walk by while I was there so I could get a photo of the three of us (my mom, me, and Fred). Then it was time to say goodbye.
The last thing I did in Pittsburgh was hit up the casino. I don’t care about gambling but it is a popular attraction and something for us to do at night. Rivers Casino is a moderately sized casino featuring slots, poker, and all of the usual table games. They had beverages at a station and even a gift shop. As a migraine patient it is not always an ideal situation for me with the flashing lights and cigarette smoke but I was good for a couple of hours. That’s all we needed. I didn’t win big money but I sure felt like I was on a winning vacation.
The only attraction that I wanted to see that I didn’t was the Allegheny County Jail. It was closed for tours on the day I was sightseeing. I heard that this is where they filmed “Silence of the Lambs” when Jodie Foster goes to see Anthony Hopkins behind the glass. That is one of my ultimate favorite movies. I would have liked to get that photo. This building is a historic landmark and one of the oldest in the city. I would have liked to see in from the inside. But I did see it from the outside. That would have to be good enough and it was as I had completed all of my “must-dos” for this trip.
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Up next is For the City of Bridges: Pittsburgh
Part III- Pittsburgh Eats