The charming city of Pittsburgh, situated in Western Pennsylvania, belongs both to the East Coast and the Midwest. Nestled amongst two dozen state forests, 3 historic rivers and beautiful canopy of up and coming technology, Pittsburgh has gained massive attention the past few years for being on the top lists of America’s most livable cities.
Enticing giants like Google and Uber to open offices in Pittsburgh has given this gorgeous city a facelift in the eyes of the rest of the country. What a lot of people don’t know is that Western PA is a hidden gem for foodies and nature lovers alike; a mini PNW with access to hiking, backpacking, camping, and a plethora of Air BnB’s.
I am excited to share some of my favorite spots I have found both in and out of the city, but don’t forget to check out my full guide to adventure, Instagrammable spots and the best places to reconnect with yourself in Western PA
Out on the Town
Waking up on a Saturday morning and heading down to the Strip District is a quintessential Pittsburgh activity. The Strip District is home to some of the best food markets, restaurants, coffee shops and shopping. You will find most of the hot spots located between 12th St and
31st St. From there I recommend heading to the Point, hang by the fountain, watch the boats and if you’re there in June be sure to catch the Three Rivers Arts Festival. Just across the river on the North Shore you can take in a baseball game at PNC Park, check out the Andy Warhol Museum or head under the Roberto Clemente Bridge, rent a kayak, and have your own adventure on the river.
A lot of people have heard of some of the well-known Pittsburgh foods, but this city goes well beyond the expected when it comes to cuisine.
My Top 10 Spots:
1. Pho Van, Strip District
● This little spot has the best Pho in the city, hands down! The fresh rolls are absolutely delicious and if you’re a Boba tea lover, you’re in luck here.
2. Alihan’s Mediterranean Cuisine, Cultural District
● Baba, Hummus, and the best falafel you will ever taste, located in the heart of the Cultural District. The perfect place to eat before taking in a show downtown!
3. Lula, Sewickley
● The village of Sewickley is a must-see for shopping and Lula’s is the perfect place for a great bottle of wine and delicious eats. They close down the alley and have live music and outdoor seating every weekend too!
4. Slippery Mermaid, Sewickley
● Another Sewickley favorite is this sushi spot! It’s not just your typical sushi, they have rolls for non-fish lovers too. Don’t forget the Pineapple Mojito!
5. Gus & YaYa’s
● Popcorn & Iceballs, this North Shore food cart staple has been around since 1934! It’s one of my favorite spots to take a stroll and just enjoy the people watching.
6. Giovanni’s, Cultural District
● The perfect late night slice of pie, their sauce is legendary and they even have a gluten-free crust option that’s delicious!
7. Red Find Blues, Washington’s Landing
● A quaint little spot right on the water at the Marina at Washington’s Landing, sit on the deck overlooking the river and enjoy a spicy Bloody Mary with your meal
8. Gaucho Parrilla Argentina, Downtown
● This is a meat-lovers dream come true and they have a huge following for a reason! Make this a must-stop if you’re dining downtown!
9. Kelly-O’s Diner
● This old-school traditional diner has been a hot-spot in Pittsburgh for decades but when Jason Momoa was in town filming he frequented Kelly-O’s so often he got his line item on the menu. Ask for your breakfast Momoa style and it will come covered in sausage gravy.
10. Industry Public House, Lawrenceville
● The best spot in Pittsburgh for Whiskey and a Burgher. Order the signature Smoke Stack, choose your favorite whiskey, your preferred wood chip and enjoy the experience of this custom cocktail.
Getting Back to Nature
Growing up on the water on the East Coast of Maryland, I was spoiled and absolutely adored life on the Atlantic. I was worried that moving to Pittsburgh would mean less access to water, and therefore fun, but I could not have been more wrong. Here are some of my favorite spots for my other water lovers:
Lake Arthur, Moraine State Park- Paddle Boarding, Kayaking, Sailing, and Pontoon rentals. This is one of the most beautiful blue lakes you will find with plenty of opportunities for water sports, bike rentals, and even small lake-side sandy beaches.
North Park Lake-A suburb of Pittsburgh, you will find kayak rentals and a peaceful little lake with no motorized boats allowed. No swimming in this one but plenty to see as the gorgeous Blue Heron’s glide around the lake.
Kiski River Tubing, Leechburg-Head out of town a little along the Kiski River and you will find the cutest roadside building where they will put you in a van and shuttle you up the river. Spend your day leisurely floating down the Kiski in a tube!
Let’s Get Physical:
Whether outdoor spots or forest bathing are your thing, Western PA has it in spades. Here is a list of some of my recommended places and activities:
Hiking at McConnells Mills-There are a variety of hiking trails to choose from easy to difficult, a beautiful waterfall and covered bridges to check out.
Bike the Youghiogheny River Trail- Pronounced Yock-o-gain-y, this trail meanders along the river. There are a number of small waterfalls you can explore along the way. Bike rentals are available at the trailhead and white water rafting is also available.
Disc Golf at Moraine State Park- If you haven’t checked out the sport of disc golf, I urge you to give it a try! It’s hiking with a twist, and it’s wildly popular in Western PA with a growing community of women entering the sport. Solo or with a group of friends, you can check out one of the dozens of courses that surround Pittsburgh. My favorite pick is Lakeview Disc Golf Course and BONUS, it’s located at Moraine State Park which is one of our top spots for water sports and hiking! (You can learn more about the sport with tons of videos online or go to PDGA.com)
Day Trips and Accommodations:
You will find plenty of camping, glamping & Air BnB’s in Western PA. Here are some great areas to check out:
Presque Isle-Spend time on one of the most beautiful Great Lakes, Lake Erie. A beautiful stretch of trails, beaches, and a lighthouse make this one of the best day trips, just 2 hours outside of Pittsburgh.
Cooks Forest-a quick Google search of Cooks Forest will give you plenty of cabins and even The Gateway Lodge where they host lavish forest weddings and retreats
Laurel Highlands-The Laurel Highlands are known for their winter sports but you will also find thousands of trails, horseback riding, sporting clays, small towns, camping and architectural beauties such as FallingWater by Frank Lloyd Wright.
My Top Tips for Exploring Western PA:
There is something to be found for everyone in Western PA and my recommendation is to take the time to explore.
Check out my favorites above but also I have an adventure challenge for you! Pick a time of day and go to one of the spots on my list. From there, choose a direction (N, S, E, W), a random number of miles, and just go and see what you find! It’s a unique part of the country with so many hidden gems, a big city with small-town charm and an International Airport that can whisk you away anywhere you dream to go.
Enjoy your stay and be sure to download the full guide for my top Instagrammable spots and all the best places to play, eat, and enjoy the great outdoors!