The Gateway Clipper is an iconic Pittsburgh attraction. No matter the time of day, odds are good you can look to the rivers near downtown Pittsburgh and see these iconic blue, gold, and red riverboats ferrying passengers or giving a water-level city tour.
As Pittsburgh residents, we've seen these boats for many years but oddly enough had never taken one. Naturally, since founding this site we wanted to change that and finally made the trip down to Station Square to take a sightseeing cruise at the end of peak season.
But in being honest, I have to say that there are two very different experiences you can have on the Gateway Clipper fleet- one as a resident and one as a visitor. Depending on what category you fall into, this may change your approach to this tour significantly.
The Gateway Clipper Fleet – For Visitors
For visitors to Pittsburgh, a trip on the Gateway Clipper is one of the top attractions you can do in the city. This 60-minute tour traverses the three rivers and is narrated to highlight the city's unique history, beautiful architecture, and other facts you may not hear anywhere else (excluding this blog, of course).
During each tour the guides ask who is a visitor and who is a local, and we were some of the only residents who were out for the day- something the guide suggested was fairly common.
The tour plays out much like you'd expect a 60-minute boat cruise to do. You do a quick loop around the rivers, learn a few facts about the city (some of which were sadly, incorrect), receive a few bad restaurant recommendations, and go on about your day. A typical tourist boat cruise, and in Pittsburgh one that has a fairly incredible backdrop to enjoy.
If we were from out of town and took the trip, we would have enjoyed it immensely; however, in being locals to Pittsburgh and making it our mission to go explore as much as possible, we were a bit let down as the tour fell short of what we think is its full potential.
Gateway Clipper Cruises – For Residents
The reason for our lackluster response to the hour-long sightseeing cruise on the Gateway Clipper stems from the fact that it offer residents little to no new experiences or knowledge other than enjoying the view of the city from the water.
At some point, listening to the narrator talk is not so much a treat, but a distraction from why you're taking the tour in the first place (which for us was to simply experience the views).
This disconnect is where the problem of the Gateway Clipper comes into play. If you sign up for their standard sightseeing cruise, you're going to have a fairly typical sightseeing experience. As a visitor, 60 minutes out on the water is a pretty great tourist activity. But as a local who knows the waterways around Pittsburgh inside and out, we simply wanted more.
That being said, those who live in the city may want to take a trip out on the longer dinner cruises instead (many at sunset, for an added bonus) to appreciate the city we all know and love the way it should be enjoyed- for a very long time.
Looks like another Gateway Clipper cruise is in our future to try it out!
The Gateway Clipper fleet is docked at 350 W Station Square Drive right next to the Sheraton Station Square hotel. Cruises are offered multiple times per day; however, starting in late October the frequency of departures decreases for the winter.
For more scenic viewpoints of Pittsburgh, check out our Pittsburgh skyline views guide which has an assortment you may never have seen before, or sign up for a Pittsburgh helicopter tour! Or if you'd rather see the city from the water, check out Just Ducky and Rivers of Steel boat tours!