From meeting new people to experiencing new sights, sounds, and smells – is there anything more exciting or rejuvenating than a break from the day-to-day mundanity? Traveling is an excellent way to immerse yourself in a new culture, setting, or way-of-life, but the best part is this: you don’t have to venture far from home to enjoy what this world has to offer.
Whether your journey takes you across your own city, to an unexplored part of your state, or even to the other side of the world, there’s no doubt you will still learn a lot about your surroundings – and yourself – along the way.
While the culture an hour away from your home might not be drastically different from what you’re used to, you can still gain a deepened sense of appreciation for where you’ve laid your roots. Plus, traveling locally has a lot of benefits:
More cost-effective. Local travel is certainly a budget-friendly way to explore! Many activities and parks are free or have a low cost of entry. For day trips, you can also pack your own meals to save.
Eco-friendly way to travel. Travel is hard on the environment, but putzing around your area is more sustainable than air travel.
Quick trips. Getting out locally means you can do it more often! Long weekend trips are a lot easier to take when the destination is a short drive away.
Easy to plan. Preparing your itinerary for a local getaway will likely save you some time and stress.
More convenient. Especially if you have little ones, sticking close to home may be much more convenient than far-off destinations. If you forget something, have an emergency, or need to cut the trip short, being closeby definitely has its benefits.
“The Steel City” or “The City of Bridges,” as it’s sometimes known, is a total gem — as anyone who’s spent more than a few minutes there knows.
But no matter how long you have (or haven’t) been in Pittsburgh, chances are you’re missing out on at least some of what this incredible city has to offer. Here are our favorite things to do and places to explore in Pittsburgh!
*Note: Some of the suggestions may not be doable due to coronavirus closures, but keep this list handy for when things start opening back up more! Be sure to check individual pages for specific operation details.
Western Pennsylvania is chock full of incredible natural landscapes to discover and explore. Here are some of the best state and national parks and preserved greenspaces in the vicinity of Pittsburgh, PA.
Allegheny Islands State Park stands apart from many others in not just the state of Pennsylvania, but the country: these three alluvial islands that dot the Allegheny River are only accessible by boat, making for a uniquely wild experience. Those who make their way to this 50-acre undeveloped wilderness will discover untouched lands that are home to many species of plants, animals and birds. While there are no developed trails, several footpaths wind their way through the tangle of trees and underbrush.
Imagine running away from the rush of Pittsburgh to enjoy a 1,200 acre swath of beautiful Pennsylvania countryside. Keystone State Park makes it possible, thanks to its location just 45 minutes east of town. Open year-round, the park’s network of trails is great for hiking and biking in the summer or snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in the winter, and both warm- and cold-water fishing opportunities abound.
Resting on almost 17,000 scenic acres, Moraine State Park is truly a getaway in every sense of the word. Although it’s only 40 minutes or so north of Pittsburgh, these rolling green hillsides and picture-perfect lakeshores make for a great opportunity to hit the reset button — and there are plenty of developed amenities to make your stay that much more comfortable.
Despite the first part of its name, Ohiopyle State Park is situated in the rugged countryside of southwestern Pennsylvania, covering about 20,000 acres of gorgeous forest and a long stretch of the Youghiogheny River. Popular amongst whitewater adventurers, this park is also chock full of hiking trails, mountain biking paths, and campsites. You can even zipline through the trees!
Located at the confluence of three mighty rivers — the Allegheny and the Monongahela, which together form the Ohio — Point State Park offers a unique natural perspective you can access in very few places in the world. This 36-acre green space is a day-use-only facility, but is well worth the effort to visit, including both a stunning fountain and a unique and informative museum.
One of the largest and most-often-visited public parks in the state of Pennsylvania, Raccoon Creek State Park encompasses more than 7,000 acres of beautiful countryside in the Hanover and Independence townships in Beaver County. Along with the Creek, the park also provides access to the sprawling and beautiful 100-acre Raccoon Lake, making it a popular spot for fisherfolk.
Thanks to its scenic location in the rugged foothills and valleys that characterize western PA, Pittsburgh is close by to some of the best hiking trails not just in the state, but in the nation. Here are our top spots for those looking to get their boots on the ground.
If you’re looking for a beginner’s trail, check out the Meeks Run and Oil Well Trail Loop, which runs just less than two miles in length through the Montour Woods Conservation Area. Seeing less than 150 feet in elevation change along the way, this trail is approachable even for those without much experience, and still offers views that more seasoned hikers will find worthwhile. Dogs are welcome, too, though they must be kept on leash at all times!
A great combination of both countryside and urban views, the Emerald View Trail offers hikers panoramas of Pittsburgh as well as beautiful woodlands, and is a great place to spot local wildlife including deer. Seeing about 350 feet of elevation gain over its two-ish miles, this trail is a moderately challenging one which does involve some uphill climbing, but not enough to leave you feeling exhausted.
Located in the Montour Woods Conservation Area, Hollow Oak Loop is just over three miles long and sees about 400 feet in elevation gain along the way, making for a gently undulating trail that fits into the easy-to-moderate category. Featuring creekside views and even a small waterfall, this trail is a great place to see the changing fall foliage if you’re there at the right time of year!
A great way to get familiar with Frick Park, the Frick Park Tour Loop Trail runs just short of five miles and sees a little less than 700 feet in elevation gain, making it a moderately challenging hike that will get your blood pumping without making you feel totally wiped out by the end. Offering beautiful forest views and ample shade, keep in mind that portions of this trail are also used by mountain bikers — be sure to give them their space if you see them zipping along!
If you’re in search of a more serious adventure, the Great Allegheny Passage — otherwise known as the Allegheny Highlands Trail — beckons. Less often used by hikers than long-distance cyclists, this incredible journey winds more than 145 miles from Pittsburgh, PA to Cumberland, Maryland, and is locally known as the “GAP.” Of course, even if you’re not ready to ride a century, you can utilize this path for an afternoon walk; flat, paved portions make it an excellent choice for those pushing strollers or utilizing wheelchairs.
If you’re truly going to experience this one-of-a-kind city in all its glory, you’re going to need some fuel along the way. Here are some of the very best restaurants in Pittsburgh, whether you’re craving Italian, Mexican, or something else entirely.
Considered one of the best restaurants in Pittsburgh of any variety, Dish Osteria Bar focuses on simple but delicious Mediterranean and Sicilian dishes, offering housemade pastas, ocean-fresh seafood, and a long list of noteworthy wines to wash it all down with. Be sure to save some room for dessert so you can enjoy a classic tiramisú or rich limoncello cheesecake, along with a snifter of something elegant!
For those in the mood for something spicy and satisfying, La Palapa delivers: one of the best Mexican restaurants in the area, this spot is known for its fresh and original takes on south-of-the-border traditions. From chips and salsa at the start to specialities like enchiladas and tamales, you can’t go wrong with anything on this lengthy but well-curated menu!
Think plant-based eating is boring? Onion Maiden shows the vegan and vegetarian crowd are anything but! One part haut cuisine, one part punk rock, this spot is beloved by both omnivores and plantivores alike. Serving innovative dishes for both lunch and dinner, come see why animal-free is the way to be.
A fast-casual indian restaurant that knows how to bring the spice, Choolaah is a great option for those looking for a quick and affordable (yet absolutely delicious) lunch or dinner option. Enjoy engaging some culinary creativity of your own by building a bowl from scratch, or wrap it all up in freshly made naan. Yum!
If you’re looking for the best Asian food in Pittsburgh, you have quite the task ahead of you — but Ginza Japanese Restaurant should be toward the top of the list. A small and relaxed yet elegant space, this restaurant is known for its fresh sushi, delicious teriyaki, sumptuous hibachi dinners, and mochi ice cream for dessert.
The great outdoors and great dining options are just the start in Pittsburgh, PA, which is teeming with fun things to see, do, and discover! Here are some of our top picks for getting out on the town this weekend — or whenever.
Pittsburgh is known for its plethora of family friendly activity options. Here are a few to consider.
Young wildlife enthusiasts will be chuffed to explore creatures both aquatic and terrestrial at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium. Home to more than 4,000 animals representing almost 500 species, this zoo offers unique wildlife encounters and classes as well as the opportunity to simply meander through and learn a few things while making some exotic new friends.
We live in a beautiful and astounding world — and one trip to the Carnegie Science Center will help your kids understand just how fascinating our Earth is and how important it is to preserve it. Offering a wide range of both permanent exhibits and rotating installations, the Science Center is also home to a planetarium as well as a host of live shows and interactive programs for both adults and children.
Edu-tainment is great and all… but sometimes, you just want to get out there and have some fun. If you’re looking to spend a thrilling family afternoon, we recommend Kennywood Park, which brings all the magic of high-flying rides and fair fun right into the backyard of Pittsburgh. Along with its seven roller coasters, tot-friendly Kiddieland section, and one-of-a-kind attractions, the park also offers several on-site dining and shopping opportunities. Enjoy!
It’s easy to keep busy in Pittsburgh during the daytime hours… but what about at night?
Have no fear: these incredible after-hours options are here.
One of Pittsburgh’s most cherished event spaces, Arcade Comedy Theater is nothing if not intimate: those lucky enough to inhabit one of its 75 seats are often treated to some of the very best comedy specials and shows in the country, to say nothing of the organization’s roster of comedy classes for those looking to get onstage themselves!
What better to do on a late, dark night in Pittsburgh than take a look at that beautiful starry sky? University of Pittsburgh’s Allegheny Observatory is one of the most major astronomical research institutions in the entire world, and does offer public events and lectures. Feeling small by looking at big objects through a powerful telescope is a surprisingly romantic activity, putting this toward the top of our list of things for couples to do in Pittsburgh.
Want to enjoy yourself in town without worrying about wrecking your budget? Here are some of our favorite affordable to-dos in Pittsburgh.
Encompassing 15 well-manicured and uniquely curated acres, including 23 distinct gardens and a 14-room greenhouse, the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens is an idyllic place to take an afternoon stroll with your sweetheart, your family, or yourself. If you’re local to Pittsburgh, consider a membership, which will get you in free for an entire year — but day passes are affordably priced as well.
Dedicated to one of the most famous Pittsburgh natives in the register, the Andy Warhol Museum is a one-of-a-kind way to celebrate this legend’s artistic genius and get up close and personal with pieces you may only have seen in textbooks. Your admission grants you access to all seven floors of exhibits as well as rotating installation and free daily events, and you can receive half-price entry every Friday from 5 p.m. - 10 p.m.!
It’s true: there are some incredible attractions in Pittsburgh that don’t cost a single dime to enjoy. Here are some of our favorites.
Fascinated by what life was like behind bars in the old days? The Old Allegheny County Jail Museum offers free half-hour guided tours on Mondays, and along with the brief brush with incarcerated life, visitors will have the opportunity to enjoy one of the best-preserved examples of work by famed architect Henry Hobson Richardson.
Along with the many state parks and preserves mentioned above, Pittsburgh is also home to a wide array of local parks, which are free and open for public enjoyment. Schenley Park is known for its meandering network of footpaths as well as a sportsplex and visitor center, while Frick Park is preferred by pet owners for its off-leash dog park area. There are plenty more to choose from, too!
Everyone needs some R&R from time to time. Here are the best day spas and salons for those in Pittsburgh in need of some pampering.
Tucked into the trendy neighborhood of Shadyside, Evolve Wellness Spa is a one-stop oasis for all things relaxation and rejuvenation. From massage therapy in a wide range of styles and modalities to skincare, facials, waxing, and even eyelash extensions, one thing’s for sure: you’ll walk out feeling better than you did when you walked in!
Looking for professional beauty and wellness treatments performed with safe, natural, organic ingredients? Metamorphosis Organic Salon & Day Spa can help you achieve transformation both inside and out, offering everything from hair and nail care to massage, skin treatments, and a range of naturally healing CBD products available for purchase.
Staying in shape does far more than ensure your clothes fit well: it keeps you grounded and prepared for whatever life has to throw at you. Here are some of the best gyms and yoga studios in Pittsburgh for those looking to get in a sweat session.
It doesn’t get more comprehensive and definitive than The Gym Pittsburgh, which offers a wide and varied floor filled with all the cardio, strength training, and flexibility-enhancing equipment you need, not to mention a full array of free weights. No matter your goals, the knowledgeable and friendly staff can help you make it happen at this fitness center.
Whether you’re there for a deliciously hot class, a flowing vinyasa, or something more slow-paced and relaxing than heart-racing, Yoga Factory Pittsburgh is a place that’s open to everybody — and every body — who wants to find their place on the mat. If you’re really into your practice, you might consider their work trade program, which allows some members to trade hours worked at the studio for free classes.
While there’s no shortage of things to do in Pittsburgh, there are also some incredible day tripping opportunities just outside of town. Here are our top picks!
Just a two hour drive and a quick trip across the border from Pittsburgh, Cleveland offers a whole new taste of the midwest. Meander along the sprawling shoreline of Lake Eerie or take in one of the jazz or burlesque shows the town is famed for. Plus there’s the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the wide array of restaurants… on second thought, you might want to make it a whole long weekend.
The rugged Blue Ridge Mountains feel about as far away from the urban adventure of Pittsburgh as it’s possible to get, and yet, they’re all just a few hours’ drive away. Shenandoah National Park is a sprawling preserve filled with hiking, cycling, rock climbing and camping opportunities — and a great chance for Pittsburgh denizens to get away from it all.
As a final reminder, some of these activities may need to wait until businesses fully reopen from coronavirus closures. However, there is still much to see and experience in Pittsburgh that you can enjoy today! What are your favorite spots in Pittsburgh? Send them our way to [email protected] or by tagging us on Instagram @rvshare and using the hashtag #rvsharelocal.