Many of Pittsburgh's neighborhoods were established by the waves of workers who came to the city for jobs during the industrial explosion and settled into ethnic enclaves along the banks of the three rivers. The City Planning Department officially defines these neighborhoods, but you'll find plenty of Pittsburghers who disagree about the boundaries. Don't be surprised if you hear an argument about where The Strip ends or the intricacies of the Northside. There are also a number of unofficial neighborhoods. It all depends upon whom you ask. Regardless of the technicalities, there are many areas where you can have a lot of fun.
Pittsburgh’s downtown is located between the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers, occupying the corner where they intersect and become the Ohio River. This area (also known as The Golden Triangle or The Central Business District) is the city’s main financial center, where Carnegie, Mellon, Frick, Westinghouse and many others made their fortunes. Here, you’ll find the Cultural District, a former red-light area now home to the world-renowned Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, the Pittsburgh Public Theater, the Pittsburgh Opera, the Pittsburgh CLO Cabaret and the August Wilson Center for African American Culture. Point State Park and the David L. Lawrence Convention Center are also in Downtown, as are the mainstream shopping and world-class dining options you'd expect in any major city. And, for a city with a reputation for pollution, you'll find it surprisingly clean.
Just north of the Allegheny River from downtown, the Northside is a must-see in Pittsburgh. This neighborhood includes the tree-lined Mexican War Streets (named after battles and generals from the Mexican War), the Andy Warhol Museum, the National Aviary and the Children's Museum. The scenic, historic area is an architectural showcase of row houses and a much sought-after place to live. In addition to the residential enclaves and museums, the Northside is also where Pittsburgh keeps the sports: Heinz Field, home of the Steelers, and PNC Park, home of the Pirates, both have fantastic skyline and river views.
The Strip District
The Strip lies just east of downtown along the south bank of the Allegheny River. Back in the 1920s, this neighborhood was the economic heart of Pittsburgh, filled with produce and meat sellers, shops, restaurants, auction houses and warehouses. Tenants included U.S. Steel and the Westinghouse and Heinz companies. To this day you can visit a reduced version of the historic produce market and pick up fresh meats and seafood. The once-abandoned warehouses have largely been converted into restaurants and nightclubs, making The Strip a classy place to hang out at night—and you'll love browsing the ethnic food stores and coffee shops during the day. Don't miss a gander at St. Stanislaus Kostka Church, a brick Romanesque and Baroque landmark built in 1891 with magnificent stained-glass windows.
Beyond The Strip is Lawrenceville, one of the city’s largest and oldest neighborhoods. This was once the site of the Allegheny Arsenal, which famously exploded during the Civil War in 1862. Here you'll find the city’s hipsters, their excellent vintage clothing stores, fascinating art galleries, handcrafted goods, cafés and design companies, mostly concentrated along Liberty Avenue. The area has undergone a recent revitalization and many of its warehouses have been transformed into condominiums and lofts with low rents that attract young creative types.
Shayside & Squirrel Hill
If you're looking for nightlife, cafés and beautiful people, head to Shadyside and Squirrel Hill. These architecturally handsome neighborhoods east of downtown feature magnificent Victorian mansions. Some of Pittsburgh’s best shopping and dining caters to the well-educated, affluent residents of these neighborhoods. Ask to be dropped at Walnut Street and Bellefonte Street, then meander through the upscale boutiques and cafés. Alternatively, you can wander through Schenley Park from Boulevard of the Allies, which runs from Downtown into Squirrel Hill, a historically Jewish neighborhood full of family-owned shops, ethnic restaurants and enviable homes.
Oakland is the center for medicine and higher education. The neighborhood is home to the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University and Carlow University. Some of the nation’s best medical facilities can be found here, as well as some of the city's finest cultural institutions, such as the Carnegie Museum of Natural History and Art and the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. Some consider Oakland a microcosm of Pittsburgh, as its abundant shopping and dining options render it virtually self-sufficient. You can find a little of everything here, and a lot of students.
Bloomfield, also known as "Pittsburgh’s Little Italy," is located in the city’s East End. This urban neighborhood of narrow streets was settled first by Germans, then Italians. Visitors can still see their influences and experience the cultures (and eat homemade tortellini from the mom and pop shops). This is one of Pittsburgh's most racially diverse neighborhoods, and a number of students live here due to relatively low rents. Liberty Avenue comes here from Lawrenceville (to the north), and is the neighborhood's main thoroughfare. You'll find art galleries, taverns and more Italian food than you'll ever need in Bloomfield.
Located in northeast Pittsburgh, Highland Park is best known as the home of the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium. A 500-acre municipal park in the area serves its residential population of over 6,000. Though Highland Park lacks its own major shopping district, the area is close enough to Shadyside to be attractive to families. As a visitor, you probably won't need to venture outside the Zoo and Aquarium—unless you're interested in mingling with locals at occasional park events that include live music and guided walks.
Greentree is a borough between Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh International Airport, connected to the city by the Fort Pitt Tunnel. This suburb is a hub of restaurant and hotels with significantly lower prices than you'll find in Downtown. The hotels do quite well with prospective students visiting the city's college campuses and business travelers looking to save money. Green Tree is a relatively small and quiet community, but the lights and attractions of Pittsburgh are just a short drive away, and many of the hotels offer a complimentary shuttle service throughout the day.
This neighborhood atop Mt. Washington, once known as “Coal Hill” for its many mines, has panoramic views of the Downtown Pittsburgh skyscrapers, bridges, and the conjunction of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers at the Ohio River. Originally settled by Germans, the steep hillside neighborhood was once accessed by four “inclines,” or cable cars (in some places called funiculars). Two remain, and the famed Duquesne Incline is one of Pittsburgh’s most spectacular attractions.
The South Side is a vibrant neighborhood south of the Monongahela River, two miles from Downtown and easily accessible by foot or by bus. It’s an area of Victorian rowhouses that’s packed with restaurants, bars, music venues, cafes and art galleries. The neighborhood contains both the “South Side Flats” and the hillside “South Side Slopes.” The land and hillswere given to Major John Ormsby in 1763 for his assistance in building Fort Pitt, and many of the streets are named after his descendents. The South Side is anchored by two big shopping and entertainment complexes, Station Square and South Side Works. Station Square encompasses a massive former railroad freight depot, and the South Side Works a former steel factory.
Homestead is located just below the Monongahela River, south of Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill, and is the former site of the Homestead Works Steel Mill. The mill closed in 1984 and has since become both a shopping and entertainment destination, The Waterfront. Today, you can still see the mill’s smoke chimneys prominently displayed as a reminder of the area’s former life. Homestead was also home to the Homestead Grays, one of the best-known and most successful teams of the Negro League in the years pre-1950. The Homestead Grays won the Negro League World Series three times.
Sewickley is about 20 minutes northwest of Downtown by car, along the Ohio River. In Sewickley and neighboring Sewickley Heights, you’ll find some of the Pittsburgh area’s largest and most expensive homes. The downtown area provides a fabulous shopping experience, with high-end merchandise and interesting antiques. Some of the regions most notable figures, both past and present, reside in the area, including former Steelers Franco Harris and Lynn Swann; as well as former Pittsburgh Penguins star Mario Lemieux and its current star Sidney Crosby. Sewickley is a Native American word for "sweet water."
West Mifflin is an Allegheny County borough southwest of Pittsburgh. The 14.4-square-mile suburb is best known as the site of Kennywood Park, one of the oldest amusement parks in the USA, which is full of fun family activities like live shows and thrilling roller coasters. There's also Century III, the region's fourth largest shopping mall, which includes a Macy's, a J.C. Penny, a Sears and a Dick's Sporting Goods. There's little else to do in West Mifflin, unless you have cause to visit the Allegheny Airport (not Pittsburgh's main airport).
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